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A long-time neighborhood restaurant serving the Cherrydale and Maywood communities is closing.

Portabellos: An American Cafe is set to serve its last meals on Saturday, Sept. 25. The restaurant, located within a small, one-story shopping strip at 2109 N. Pollard Street, has been open under its current ownership for 15 years.

In an email to customers, a version of which was also posted on its website, the restaurant cited pandemic-related business challenges and said it was “unable to come to an agreement with the landlord on how to move forward.”

To All Our Valued Guests

it is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Portabello’s an American Cafe. Our lease expired last year in June 2020 and this year we were unable to come to an agreement with the landlord on how to move forward both during and after the pandemic. We want to thank all of our wonderful guests and employees for supporting us over the last 15 years. What began as a little 54 seat restaurant on the corner of North Pollard street, tucked away grew into a place that had welcomed many guests that became like family to us . We are extremely humbled that so many embraced our restaurant and that we were able to succeed as long as we had. For a restaurant to survive and thrive right outside Washington, Dc for 15 years is an accomplishment of which we can be proud. We could not have done it without all of you! THANK you all for your love and support! We will be Officially close on Sept 25th, so please come through!

Nothing but LOVE for Arlington and the surrounding area!

Sincerely,
MJ, William, Jackie, Belldo, Mariono

A GoFundMe page, meanwhile, has been established by a local community member to help out the restaurant owner.

The pandemic “wiped out all of his savings,” says the fundraising page, which so far has raised more than $5,000 from 50 donors.

The extra cash could “lift spirits there a bit and help out,” notes a post promoting it on a local Facebook group.

More from the GoFundMe campaign:

Portabello’s has been around for 20 years and MJ has owned it for about 15 years. The Covid 19 pandemic, however, has taken it’s toll and the restaurant can no longer keep going. MJ Hussein says it has been very challenging during the Covid 19 pandemic and it wiped out all of his savings. He has not been able to pay his lease. The lease ran out last July and he and the landlord decided it’s best for them to part ways.

When MJ took over Portabello’s his youngest daughter was 6 month old and now she’s in 10th grade. He wants to spend time with his daughters and work on his mental health after a very trying 17 months. He is so thankful for Arlington and especially Cherrydale and Maywood, who have been like a family to MJ and his staff.

He mentioned he was going to try to sell the restaurant and would share the proceeds with his loyal staff who have been with him for many years.

I am skeptical he would find a buyer in the current climate of Covid. This GoFundMe is a gesture of good will to a restauranteer many of us have appreciated and enjoyed. MJ always made an effort to get to know his customers. He knew what people generally ordered and would stop by the tables to chat.

This GoFundMe page will be available until September 25, 2021.

Hat tip to Smiley456. Photo (2) via Google Maps.

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Cherry Blow Dry Bar in Clarendon (staff photo)

Cherry Blow Dry Bar, which has operated at 1041 N. Highland Street in Clarendon for just over six years, closed earlier this month, citing financial issues.

“We essentially closed because we used all the operating capital we had available,” said Jonathan Carver, who owned the Clarendon blow dry bar for the past two years, and closed it on Aug. 2.

Carver said the salon simply had more more costs — including the high rent in a prime shopping area — than it had revenue from the blowouts. The salon scraped by before COVID-19, but could not recover with the slow reopening rate mandated by the state, he said.

“There’s only so much people are willing to pay for wash, dry and style. It was a very simple service. You can’t charge $300 for that. I think it would have done better in a cheaper location,” said Carver. “I had really good employees and most of them were loyal. There was no way I was going to be able to pay them well and pay the rent.”

Kaleemah Woodward, a Cherry employee since the Clarendon location opened in 2014, says she has been dealing with confused and disappointed clients in the wake of the closure.

“People had over 40 blow dries left on their account and have no way to get that money back,” Woodward said. “I have the frustration of not having answers for them.”

Cherry charged $150 for four monthly blow dries. She said people were desperate to get the money refunded but have had no luck. That’s because there is simply no money to pay customers back, Carver said.

“If [customers] tried to get money out of the franchise, they could force it into bankruptcy, but it would cost more in legal fees because the franchise has no money,” he said.

Woodward said Cherry Blow Dry’s corporate office owns the lease until 2025, but is looking to sell to a local business owner.

Patrons aren’t the only ones out of luck — the employees are also in a tricky situation, as many don’t have cosmetology licenses, according to Woodward.

In 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam passed a law in Virginia allowing unlicensed stylists to work at salons as long as they didn’t permanently alter hair. That’s fine for blow dries, but not for more involved services, which means that many Cherry employees either have to get their cosmetology licenses or are faced with limited work opportunities.

Drybar, a similar blow dry salon with a location in Ballston Quarter, is temporarily closed.

Woodward is now freelancing and taking donations as she works to earn her cosmetology license. She aims to set up a studio in her apartment, offering the same deal Cherry did: $150 for four blowouts a month.

The closure also cuts deep for the stylist and for loyal customers.

“A piece of my identity is kind of gone,” she said.

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(Updated 5 p.m.) Arlington Children’s Center, a childcare facility that has operated in a county-owned building for 30 years, will close temporarily at the end of August.

Doors to the facility at 1915 N. Uhle Street, near Courthouse, will shut on Aug. 31, when the contract expires between Arlington County and the company operating the program, AA Daycare, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The two could not reach an agreement to extend the contract ahead of major renovations slated for January 2022, she said.

AA Daycare has managed the program, which enrolled children of Arlington residents and county employees, for the last 17 years, according to owner Anna Wodzynska.

“This is a dramatic situation for all of us,” she said in an email to parents.

According to a letter to parents from the county, shared with ARLnow, the county and AA Daycare were negotiating an extension up until a week before the news of the closure. Parents were notified of the changing situation last Wednesday.

Parents tell ARLnow they are under immense pressure to find an alternative while childcare is in such high demand. One said this “is a herculean task given that most daycare centers in the area have waitlists of at least 6-9 months. If the county is serious about solving the childcare shortage issue, this decision is baffling.”

AA Daycare was notified about the planned renovations to the space, which has not been updated in 30 years, in January 2020, Smith said.

“We offered alternative space to AA Daycare to continue operations for the period of planned construction,” she said. “This offer, along with an option to extend the contract, was declined.”

Parents said they had heard about the upcoming renovations early last year. The county letter to parents said the planned improvements include reconfiguring the space to meet current standards for daycare and to reach compliance with the Americans with Disability Act, as well as an interior refresh.

“We started at ACC in January 2020 when our daughter was 4.5 months old,” said one mother. “Shortly after starting, I do remember receiving a flyer from the center detailing that, at some time, work would need to be done on the building… But it was not worrisome at the time, and it was certainly not presented in a way that the center would unexpectedly close forcing families to find new care within 6 weeks.”

Smith acknowledged the parents’ frustrations.

“We recognize this is short notice and have offered to assist parents as best we can — this was not the outcome we wanted,” she said.

Wodzynska, meanwhile, has assured parents that their children who are two-and-a-half years old and older will have a spot in a sister facility in Ballston, at 3850 Wilson Blvd. She said the transition “will be as smooth as possible,” with some staff transferring to BCC.

“The only consolation is that less than 2 miles away from ACC, we own another beautiful daycare called Ballston Children’s Center and we have space for all our children that are 2.5 years and older,” she wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, BCC is not licensed for younger children, so we will not be able to enroll our youngest children.”

She declined to comment further on the closure.

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Morning Notes

YHS Lax, Other Teams Cap off Stellar Seasons — “The spring sports season was a busy and successful time, maybe the most accomplished ever, for high-school varsity teams and individuals in Arlington County, with many winning various championships. That spring campaign ended this weekend with some Virginia High School League Class 6 state championship games. One contest included the undefeated Yorktown Patriots in the boys lacrosse title match, which they won.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]

Neighborhood Leaders Don’t Like Route 1 Plan — “A coalition of civic associations representing surrounding neighborhoods suggests that a pending Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) report on improvements in the Route 1 corridor could turn out to be an ‘epic fail’ that does not address key issues. As a result, leaders of the organizations are urging the Arlington County Board to ask VDOT to go back to the drawing board and consider their concerns.” [Sun Gazette]

 A Bro Ode to Whitlow’s — “It’s the final few nights for Whitlow’s on Wilson, the venerable Clarendon bar where, for 26 years, 20-somethings have come to drink cheap beer and try to get lucky. This is concentrated Clarendon. Pure, unadulterated, un-adult Clarendon, a teeming room of recent grads absolutely wilding out after a year of epidemiological confinement.” [Washington Post, YouTube]

Long-Time Whitlow’s Patrons Bid Farewell — “As the days dwindled to hours before the closure of Whitlow’s on Wilson, some of those who had been patrons and boosters of the iconic Clarendon restaurant and watering hole gathered June 25 for one last hurrah.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Now Publishing Response Stats — “Check in each Monday to see our #Weekly Incident Summary, highlighting the total emergency incidents #ACFD responded to overall as well as by category. Last week our members handled over 600 calls for service!” [Twitter]

Amazon Funds Synetic Theater Initiative — “This spring, Isaac’s school gave students art kits through an Amazon.com Inc.-funded program called smARTies Art-in-a-Box, designed to jump the digital access gap. The box included a flat piece of cardboard student artists could fold to make a stage and blank puppet characters for decoration. The idea came from Synetic Theater, an arts and theater organization based in Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Steadfast Supply in Ballston (Staff Photo)

Steadfast Supply in Ballston will be closing this Saturday, June 27.

Last week, a handwritten sign was spotted on the glass doors noting the store’s last day and reduced, weekend-only hours. The store is located in an open-air section of Ballston Quarter mall.

Steadfast Supply’s founder and creative director Virginia Arrisueño confirmed the store’s closing in an email to ARLnow, noting that ownership made the decision to not to renew the lease.

“We have sincerely enjoyed our time at Ballston Quarter! We met so many new and wonderful customers. Sadly, we decided to not renew our lease and will be closing our doors on Sunday June 27,” Arrisueño wrote. “We are incredibly grateful for the warm welcome that we received in Arlington, and forever thankful for your support. ⁠Please feel free to visit our Washington, DC location at The Yards or online at www.steadfastsupplydc.com.”

The D.C.-based boutique shop opened in Ballston Quarter in July 2019, offering handmade goods from small vendors, including jewelry, home goods, clothes, and leather bags.

When Steadfast Supply opened two years ago, Arrisueño told ARLnow that she hoped the shop would be a supportive space for artisans to test out products and learn.

“My goal with Steadfast Supply was to create a cool retail setting where talented creatives can grow their brands,” she said. “As a designer myself, I know how tough and competitive the retail industry is, and I wanted to provide a supportive space where brands can ask us questions about line sheets, packaging, etc., receive direct feedback and suggestions on how to improve their products.”

The store started as a pop-up in Navy Yard in 2016 before expanding to a 3,000-square foot space in Southeast D.C. at The Yards shortly thereafter. That location remains open.

Ballston Quarter has had plenty of comings and goings just in the past month. Sloppy Mama’s BBQ closed earlier this month, while a 6,200-square-foot combination restaurant and art gallery opened just last week. A new dog daycare, grooming, and veterinarian business opened in late May.

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Morning Notes

Legendary Recording Studio Sets Closing Date — “For all the punk-fueled emotion packed into music recorded at Inner Ear, and social media angst that the Arlington, Virginia, studio will close Oct. 1, Don Zientara — as always — is the calmest one around. ‘We’ve been in that location for 32 years, it’s been a long run, and a good run,’ Zientara told WTOP, shortly after announcing the studio on Oakland Street in South Arlington will shut down this fall. ‘It needs to come to an end, at least at that location.'” [WTOP]

Mars Helicopter Company Moving to Arlington — “An unmanned aircraft firm is moving its corporate headquarters from Simi Valley to the Washington, D.C. area. AeroVironment, Incorporated announced last week it is relocating its HQ to Arlington, Virginia… The defense contractor created NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter that flew on Mars two months ago. It was the first powered flight of an aircraft on another world.” [KABC]

Conviction Upheld in Unlawful Filming Case — “Virginia’s Court of Appeals has confirmed the Arlington County conviction of a man for taking a nude video of a woman, rejecting his argument that she had no expectation of privacy because they were in a relationship.” [WTOP]

Old Local Newspapers Digitized — “Spanning the years from 1935 to 1978, the materials include historic articles, photos, and news clippings from four Arlington newspapers: the Columbia News, the Daily Sun, the Northern Virginia Sun and the Sun. Previously, these publications were only available in the Center for Local History as microfilm and digital scans, which were not easily searchable.” [Arlington Public Library]

Beyer Visits With ACPD — From Rep. Don Beyer: “I had a very productive meeting with [the Arlington County Police Department’s] recently appointed Police Chief Penn, Deputy Chief Cassedy and Deputy Chief Vincent today. I appreciate their commitment to transparency and collaboration to keep Arlington a safe community.” [Twitter]

Yorktown Hockey Wins Championship — “The Yorktown High School spring ice hockey club team won the recent Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League championship. Yorktown defeated McLean in the title match, 4-3 in overtime, finishing with a 7-0-1 record. The team was 2-0 in the playoffs.” [Sun Gazette]

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This is the final week for Whitlow’s, at least in its current Clarendon location, but you can now bring a piece of the iconic local business home.

The long-time watering hole is auctioning off much of its decor and equipment online.

“Fans can still own a piece of Whitlow’s to keep the memories alive,” auction firm Capital Online Auctions said today in a press release. “Nearly 300 pieces of décor that gave the popular Arlington watering hole its iconic ‘funky charm’ are up for auction.”

Among the items hitting the virtual auction block are:

Whitlow’s is closing for good after one last bash this Saturday, June 26, though its owners have floated the possibility of opening in a new location down the road.

The auctions are set to start closing Thursday morning (June 24).

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People walk past Whitlow’s on Wilson in the afternoon light (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Whitlow’s, the long-time watering hole on Wilson Blvd, is closing its doors for good on Saturday, June 26.

But first come the parties.

Earlier this week, the well-known Clarendon bar and restaurant hosted an alumni staff reunion and had a send off show featuring local 90s cover band White Ford Bronco. Tickets to that show sold out.

On Wednesday, June 23, there’s a “jam session” featuring members of the Grammy-nominated reggae band SOJA. The group hails from Arlington, with several members graduating from Yorktown High School. More live music is scheduled throughout this week and next, according to Whitlow’s website.

Then on its final day next weekend the local mainstay is hosting what it is calling the “Last Waltz,” featuring music from The Poprocks and KleptoRadio.

“One final blowout… Get here early,” says the website. “No one cuts the line unless you are Dave Grohl.”

An employee confirmed to ARLnow on the phone that Whitlow’s last day at 2854 Wilson Blvd is set to be June 26. They also noted that management was looking for a new location but haven’t found anything yet.

ARLnow has reached out to management about any further updates on the future of Whitlow’s, but has yet to hear back.

In late March, the restaurant announced it was closing after efforts to renew its lease were unsuccessful.

Whitlow’s had attempted to negotiate an extension on a lease expiring at the end of June, a social media post said, but talks proved fruitless. So, instead, it is set to close its longtime Clarendon space while “actively looking for a future home.”

Whitlow’s opened in 1946 as a greasy spoon eatery and bar in D.C. before closing in 1989 and relocating to Clarendon six years later. Opening in 1995, it has remained a neighborhood mainstay for more than two and a half decades. That is, until now.

ARLnow first reported in August 2019 that the space would be available for lease starting July 1, 2021 but management seemed confident that a deal would be brokered.

“We plan on being here for years to come,” manager Jon Williams told ARLnow at the time.

Currently, 2854 Wilson Blvd still appears to be available for lease at an undisclosed price.

“We don’t necessarily see this as a goodbye, but more of a see you later,” the March social media post read. “In the meantime, there are three months left and we are going to make the best of it!”

With now less than two weeks left, Whitlow’s does seem to be partying hard before the music stops.

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Buzz Bakeshop has closed in Ballston and a new cafe from some familiar local names will be replacing it.

Poppyseed Rye, which describes itself as “a craft sandwich and fresh flower café,” plans to open this fall at 818 N. Quincy Street, a block from Ballston Quarter mall.

“We’ll make tasty sandwiches, salads, toasts, and charcuterie… and serve beer, wine, seltzer, and champagne,” said Scott Parker, a partner in the shop who also co-owns a variety of Ballston businesses, including Bearded Goat Barber, BASH Boxing, and Bronson Bierhall, as well as Don Tito in Clarendon.

Also helming the shop is Alex Buc, who formerly ran Jetties sandwich shops in D.C., and Akeda Maerdan, who owns Farida Floral in Fairfax.

“At our shop Akeda will sell bouquets, vases, candles, and other household goods,” Parker said.

The cafe will be open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily and will focus on lunch and dinner. The sandwich-focused menu will be offered all day. A weekend brunch is possible down the road, according to Parker, who notes that there will be a small patio area outside.

The space was formerly occupied by Buzz Bakery, which opened in 2011 and offered coffee, baked goods and other treats. Now known as Buzz Bakeshop, the cafe has a location on Slaters Lane in Alexandria that remains open. The Ballston location is listed on the Buzz website as “temporarily closed.”

The ownership group behind Poppyseed Rye includes Parker, Lee Smith, Jon Rennich, and Gary Koh, who co-owns Bronson Bierhall with Parker. The group is also working with chef Johnny Spero and Aslin Beer Company on the forthcoming Pentagon City brewpub Nighthawk Pizza.

More collaborations with notable chefs, artisans and producers may be on the way from the group, Parker hinted. But for now, he’s focused on getting the new venture off the ground.

“As Ballston continues to grow and become more vibrant, we’re excited to bring our unique new sandwich and flower shop to Wilson Boulevard,” said Parker.

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Local barbecue spot Sloppy Mama’s has closed its outpost in the Ballston Quarter food hall.

The location closed last week after “operating costs became too much, especially with the recent meat pricing spikes,” owner Joe Neuman tells ARLnow. “The volume of sales just wasn’t there to sustain operations land we had to cut our losses.”

But Sloppy Mama’s is not going anywhere. Its primary, standalone location at 5731 Lee Highway is doing just fine, Neuman says.

“We’ve been staying quite busy at our Lee Highway location,” he said, adding that the Ballston Quarter closure “will allow us to consolidate some staffing and operate more efficiently to provide even better BBQ and service.”

Sloppy Mama’s Ballston and Lee Highway locations opened within a few months of each other in 2019. The latter is where the meats are actually smoked and cooked, whereas the mall location was simply a sales outpost.

In a bit of additional positive news for barbecue fans, Neuman said breakfast service on Lee Highway, launched 10 months ago, is “going well” and “here to stay,” while adding that “we might tweak our hours a little bit.”

For now, Neuman is focused on re-opening the restaurant for in-person dining.

“Our number one priority is getting the dining room open,” he said. “We’ve been doing some remodeling so even as Virginia opened up we weren’t able to open just yet — but I think we’re gonna be able to get it open next week.”

“Once we get the dining room open and get our feet under us with… we will possibly look to going back to seven days a week,” he added.

One additional focus: a program recently launched by Sloppy Mama’s to provide free meals as a thank you to local teachers. Community members are being encouraged to donate to the program, for which the restaurant subsidizes 40% of the costs.

This past fall the Washington Post ranked Sloppy Mama’s as the No. 9 barbecue joint in the D.C. area.

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Fans of pink patterned ladies apparel will have to travel a few extra miles to get their Lilly Pulitzer fix.

The fashion brand’s Clarendon outpost at 2871 Clarendon Blvd recently closed. A sign posted on the door encourages customers to visit the Lilly stores in Tysons, Alexandria or Georgetown instead.

“We will miss you, Arlington!” the sign says. No explanation for the closure was given.

The storefront was previously home to The Pink Palm, a privately-owned Lilly Pulitzer signature store that also sold items from preppy non-apparel brands.

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