In March, things were going pretty well for Bearded Goat Barber Shop at (4201 Wilson Blvd). Just across the street, Scout and Molly’s Boutique in Ballston Quarter was having some trouble, but it was nothing compared to what was coming for both of them.
The owners of both businesses joined Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone for a candid conversation on the BID’s podcast about the sudden coronavirus-caused collapse in revenue and how both are working to recover.
Jane Abraham, co-owner of Scout & Molly’s Boutique, said that before the pandemic the store had some trouble getting customers to the upper floors of the mall. It’s a problem the store is still struggling with, but looking back it pales in comparison to trying to run an indoor shop inside a larger indoor space at a time when many customers are staying at home and other local businesses are trying to go outdoors.
“It took all of us by surprise,” Abraham said. “For those of us in small business to go from a vibrant business one day to being shut down for a good three months, if not a little bit more, it’s a hard thing to take.”
While businesses shut down, Abraham said that her bills didn’t. The company struggled to adapt and find new ways to stay active. Customers didn’t respond well to early attempts at reopening, Abraham said, so they doubled down on online sales.
“We did not get much traction with personal appointments,” Abraham said. “We expanded our online presence and people were appreciative — it was a way to stay connected — but as people were unsure about their own futures it wasn’t a time when people wanted to spend an awful lot of money.”
Abraham said support from the community, from customers to local business boosters, has been helpful but hasn’t erased the sting of the company’s losses.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Abraham said. “As a retailer inside a mall-like facility, we really couldn’t have anybody come in for a long time.”
Now, Abraham said her store is focused on trying to get the right kind of clothes for people transitioning back to the office but who aren’t quite ready to go formal again yet.
“The one thing that’s really different right now is so many people have been working from home, so they’re not that ready to have dresses and fancy things,” Abraham said. “Everybody still is in this transition phase. You’ll find a lot of really great things if you want to be cozy still at home or transitioning into the office.”
Eric Renfro, co-owner and operator of Bearded Goat, said the shop was starting to build a strong community presence as it was coming up on its one year anniversary.
“We were just hitting our stride, so it was tough having to shut down and being uncertain,” Renfro said. “No one had answers, no one’s gone through this. We were wondering how we were going to pay rent and utilities, and all our employees are on commission.”
Renfro said they set up an online store selling gift cards, and eventually merchandise, with the proceeds going to the employees who were unable to work.
“During the shutdown as a business, there was no income coming in,” Renfro said. “We were implementing things to stay connected, like FaceTime Fridays. We’d coach people through at-home haircuts with their spouse or roommate. We coached them through the process to make sure they didn’t get too awry.”
Now, the barbershop is back open — with social distancing, masks and frequent cleanings — and the boutique is starting to get more customers, but both business owners said they aren’t sure when — or if — things will ever get back to normal.
“People aren’t yet flocking to stores,” Abraham said. “We certainly are not.”
The details are scarce, but a new restaurant appears to be coming to Ballston Quarter mall.
Permits have been filed for a restaurant called Superette at 4238 Wilson Blvd, the mall’s address. The restaurant will seat somewhere between 1 and 100 people and will serve beer, wine and cocktails, the permit suggests.
No other details about the restaurant, which does not yet have a public web presence, were immediately available.
An LLC associated with the new restaurant, however, is linked to local restaurateur Sam Shoja, who owns Emile’s in D.C. and, according to Eater, “three D.C. area franchises of Jinya Ramen Bar and two locations of kebab Sheesh in Northern Virginia.” Shoja also previously owned a stake in Ballston Quarter eatery Hot Lola’s.
Noted chef Kevin Tien recently split from Emile’s, which he founded and co-owned with Shoja. Eater noted that in return for Tien’s stake in the restaurant, “Shoja has given Tien his 40 percent share in Hot Lola’s, the chef’s Sichuan-style hot chicken sandwich brand with a stall in a Ballston food hall.”
A retail broker whose contact information was listed on the permit for Superette did not respond to a request for comment.
Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd) has launched a pair of initiatives to try to help restaurants hold on through the pandemic.
Participating restaurants include Chick-Fil-A, Compass Coffee, Hot Lola’s, Mezeh, Sidekick Bakery, South Block, Ted’s Bulletin, True Food Kitchen, Turu’s By Timber Pizza. Ballston Quarter owner Brookfield Properties is conducting the same “Dine and Delight” offer at its Tysons Galleria property.
The receipts must include the restaurant address, the date of the purchase, and a list of items ordered. The Dine & Delight program is run through Sunday, May 31.
The second initiative is in support of Feeding America, a hunger-relief nonprofit, which has set up a special fund to support overburdened food banks during the pandemic.
“Share a photo of a meal from one of our restaurants on Instagram using #DineDelightDonate and we’ll donate $10 for every post between April 24-June 30 up to $100,000,” Ballston Quarter said on its website.
The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City closed last night and is expected to remain closed until at least the end of the month.
Mall owner Simon Property Group announced yesterday that it would close all of its U.S. shopping centers, including the Pentagon City mall, which has one of the company’s busiest and most profitable food courts.
More from the announcement:
After extensive discussions with federal, state and local officials and in recognition of the need to address the spread of COVID-19, Simon will close all of its retail properties, including Malls, Premium Outlets and Mills in the U.S. This measure will take effect from 7 pm local time on March 18 and will end on March 29*.
“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said David Simon, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Simon.
A day before the closure, an employee of one of the mall’s stores told ARLnow that he was worried about the risk of disease from keeping the mall open.
“I am writing to you from my store now (I am required to be open while the mall is open) and there are about 30-40 people sitting in the food court eating. Coming in and shopping. Raising the risk of spreading COVID-19,” the employee wrote. “We as employees are calling out for help as we are constantly at risk of exposure. Our complaints to management go unnoticed. They have limited business hours, but that has only concentrated the amount of people in the mall to a shorter time.”
Ballston Quarter mall, meanwhile, remains open, though as of earlier this week customers were few and far between. The mall said stores and restaurants were free to close if deemed necessary.
“We are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to provide updates via our website,” the mall said on its website. “Effective Monday, March 16, the shopping center will operate between noon and 7 p.m. every day except for Sunday, when the hours are noon to 6 p.m.”
“We recognize that, in light of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, retailers and merchants may implement their own corporate policies regarding modified hours or temporary store closures,” Ballston Quarter said. “Please make sure to check the restaurant or store hours prior to visiting.”
After a little more than a year in business, the DC Lash Bar location in Ballston has closed.
Located in the outdoor, open-air portion of Ballston Quarter mall, the salon’s second location — after its original Georgetown location — originally opened in November 2018. It recently closed because “DC Lash Bar has decided not to renew its lease with Ballston Quarter,” a spokesperson told ARLnow.
It is unclear what business might eventually replace the salon but the DC Lash Bar signs have been removed and the space appears empty.
Going forward, the DC Lash Bar wants to open another location but isn’t sure where, the spokesperson said.
Ballston is on the cusp of getting its second poke restaurant.
Go Poke is scheduled to open this Sunday, March 1, at the Quarter Market food hall in Ballston Quarter Mall. To mark the opening, the restaurant will be offering a 20% discount through Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the mall.
The restaurant will serve the increasingly ubiquitous Hawaiian raw fish dish. A full menu was not immediately available. It will be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays.
Existing poke spots in Arlington include Poké it Up in the Pentagon City mall food court, Poke Bar in Rosslyn and — soon — another Poké it Up in Ballston, at 4401 Fairfax Drive. Other nearby restaurants offer poke bowls among a broader selection of food options.
Photos courtesy Brookfield Properties
A pair of incidents at Arlington’s two shopping malls led to four arrests and charges against six people.
The first incident happened Wednesday afternoon at the Pentagon City mall. Around 3 p.m., according to Arlington County Police, two juvenile suspects shoplifted from a store and were soon thereafter located by officers at the Pentagon City Metro station. One of the suspects lashed out violently, spitting on and hitting officers, according to police.
More from an ACPD crime report:
ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2020-02190151, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 2:56 p.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of shoplifting. Upon arrival, it was determined that suspects allegedly entered a business, stole items of value, and fled on foot. A lookout was broadcast and arriving officers located the juvenile suspects on the metro platform. One suspect actively resisted by pushing, elbowing and spitting on the two arresting officers. Once detained, she continued to resist and kicked two additional officers. Petitions for Assault and Battery on Police (x4) and Obstruction of Justice were sought for Suspect One. Petitions for Petit Larceny, Fugitive from Justice and Identity Theft were sought for Suspect Two.
Later Wednesday evening, four juvenile suspects allegedly shoplifted from a store at the Ballston Quarter mall. A security officer who tried to chase after and stop the group was pepper sprayed by one of the suspects, police say.
In coordination with Metro Transit Police, two suspects were later taken into custody at the Rosslyn Metro station.
From the crime report:
MALICIOUS WOUNDING BY CAUSTIC SUBSTANCE, 2020-02190225, 700 block of N. Glebe Road. At approximately 7:26 p.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of an assault with injury. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was working as loss prevention for a business when he observed a group of juvenile suspects allegedly selecting and concealing merchandise. When he attempted to stop the group as they exited the business, they fled. The victim attempted to chase the suspects when one suspect allegedly dropped the merchandise he had, then pepper sprayed the victim. A lookout was broadcast and officers located and made contact with the suspects at the Rosslyn Metro Station and, with the assistance of Metro Transit Police, took them into custody without incident. Petitions were obtained for Suspect One for Malicious Wounding by Caustic Agent, Robbery, Grand Larceny and Possession of Burglarous Tools. Petitions for Conspiracy to Commit Felony and Grand Larceny were obtained for Suspect Two. Two additional suspects remain outstanding.
Ballston Quarterfest — the event that replaced Taste of Arlington last year — is coming back this summer with some new features.
This year’s festival — now dubbed the Quaterfest Crawl — has been scheduled for May 16, along Wilson Blvd. between N. Taylor Street and N. Randolph Street. The event is scheduled to run from 12-8 p.m. rain or shine, which are extended hours compared to last year.
Unlike Taste of Arlington, restaurants don’t come to Quarterfest’s main drag and set up tents. The Quarterfest Crawl is a for-purchase wristband that gets the visitor access to free tastings and special discounts on meals at dozens of restaurants around the neighborhood.
The event is free and open to the public, but a wristband is required to participate in the restaurant crawl and to get drink tickets for the street pub — a pop-up bar serving beer, cider, wine and cocktails. The Quarterfest Crawl wristband is $45 online before May 1, though there are other prices for other types of packages.
This year, the event is set to feature a new “culinary discovery” and expo pavilion at the center of the festival, also on Wilson Blvd.
“Think of the culinary discovery pavilion as a live cooking demonstration area with classroom seating and additional seating for people to stand and socialize,” Ballston BID spokeswoman Catherine Roper said said. You’ll also be able to try what’s being cooked.
“Think of this as Quarterfest’s Kitchen Stadium,” Roper said.
Meanwhile, at the expo pavilion, visitors can turn in a fully stamped “Crawl passport” to be entered to win two free tickets to a Washington Capitals game. Registration is now open for local businesses that want to sign up as exhibitors at the expo pavilion or as sponsors for the event.
In addition to food, drink and exhibitors, attendees will also be able to enjoy some live music. The following bands are scheduled to play throughout the event.
The restaurant is one of the last remaining pieces for the recently-renovated mall, which has seen numerous eatery openings over the last year. It will be located adjacent to the Quarter Market food hall, with a new outdoor dining area in the Quarter Market courtyard.
The restaurant offers a variety of tacos — with ingredients from portobello mushrooms to pork carnitas to tuna — on 4-inch corn tortillas or lettuce shells. Most tacos range from $2.50-$3.50 per piece. Bartaco also offers rice bowls, salads, and more.
The Ballston Quarter location plans to serve cocktails, tequila, wine and beer as well.
Workers at the site are still in the early stages of construction and said they do not know when the restaurant will open. The Ballston Quarter website only says the restaurant is coming soon.
Bartaco currently has nearby locations in the Mosaic District and Reston Town Center.
Fast-casual Mediterranean grill Mezeh is scheduled to open tomorrow on the Glebe Road side of Ballston Quarter mall (4238 Wilson Blvd).
The grand opening is scheduled to run from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with the restaurant then reopening from 5:30-8 p.m. According to a press release and signs around the restaurant, visitors can get a free bowl with purchase of a drink, though steak or lamb bowls are $1.50 extra.
A growing chain, Mezeh started in Northern Virginia and has locations throughout Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. The company’s first stand-alone restaurant opened in Crystal City (2450 Crystal Drive) in 2015.
In Ballston, Mezeh will face some stiff competition in the “fast-casual Mediterranean grill” market. Cava at 4121 Wilson Blvd attracts a consistently large lunch crowd and Arlington-based Lebanese Taverna’s quick-service concept LEBTAV opened at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Quincy Street last month.
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