(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Next month, the Bungalow Sports Grill plans to close its Shirlington location. Yesterday, the doors of Bonsai Grill were locked and the lights were off in the restaurant, indicating the Japanese restaurant has likely closed.
If Bonsai doesn’t reopen and Bungalow indeed closes on June 10 — when manager Carla Marquina tells ARLnow.com it will — the two businesses will be added to the growing list of Shirlington establishments that have fallen by the wayside, and more could be on the way.
Since last October, counting Bonsai and the Bungalow, seven businesses in the Village at Shirlington have closed: Bloomers, Periwinkle, Aladdin’s Eatery, Cakelove and The Curious Grape are all gone. Other than the Curious Grape, whose space was quickly taken over by an Italian restaurant, all of the spaces remain vacant.
With the vacancies have come less foot traffic and rising frustrations, business owners say. Some are blaming Village of Shirlington owner Federal Realty Investment Trust for their woes, saying the company keeps raising rents even as tenants struggle in a local economy that seems to be slowing.
“We are struggling to survive,” one Shirlington restaurant owner told ARLnow.com, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of landlord repercussions. “The landlord should reduce the rent or at least keep it the same. They don’t care about the business.”
Marquina, the Bungalow manager, said landlord problems are the reason that the neighborhood sports bar, which has occupied its large space off S. Randolph Street for decades, is shutting down.
“The owners have had disputes with the landlord,” she said. “They haven’t been fixing things that they should fix, and it’s not worth it to us to fix it.”
Bungalow owner Win Froelich spoke to ARLnow.com this afternoon and said Marquina “was not involved with what was going on,” and added “Federal has been lovely to work with.”
“We had an extended negotiation over renewing the lease, and the economics of renewing for us just didn’t work,” Froelich said. “There’s nothing that the landlord is obligated to repair that the landlord hasn’t repaired. The total package that worked for us and the total package that worked for them didn’t match up in price… They’ve been a great landlord and we’re sorry that we’re going to be leaving the Shirlington Village.”
While some vacancies have filled — the Extra Virgin space that has sat empty for two years will soon be home to an art-themed restaurant called Palette 22 — many others remain, and even store owners who say they have “a great relationship” with FRIT say they wish the Bethesda-based real estate firm would step up its effort.
“Walking down this really small area and seeing a bunch of empty spaces is depressing,” another store owner, who claims to be “doing fine” with no complaints about his relationship with FRIT, said. “[FRIT] could be doing a lot more to bring in new business.”
When Periwinkle closed, its owner told ARLnow the rent was too high, a refrain repeated by at least five business owners we contacted. According to multiple business owners, FRIT raises rent every year — a not uncommon practice for commercial and residential real estate — despite what they see as declining foot traffic.
Shirlington isn’t the only place FRIT is losing tenants either; in Pentagon Row, Denim Bar closed in April and another retailer is expected to announce its closure soon. When asked for comment, FRIT spokeswoman Jill Powell said she “was unable to reach the appropriate people at corporate.”
Along with Palette 22, FRIT is renovating Shirlington’s AMC movie theater and Powell said they are expecting to make “another exciting new lease announcement” soon. Regardless of Shirlington’s future businesses, some of its current tenants remain deeply dissatisfied.
The first owner said she’s not sure how much longer she’ll be able to stay open. She said she doesn’t take home a salary and works 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We signed a contract and agreed to the rent. We can’t blame [FRIT],” she said. “But people aren’t going out to eat anymore. If the landlord understood about the economy, they’d stop raising the rent every year.”
Kite Runner Cafe, the critically acclaimed Afghan restaurant at 3800 Lee Highway in Cherrydale, will close tomorrow afternoon.
Kite Runner owner Homayon Karimy told ARLnow.com this afternoon that he’s selling the business, which opened two years ago this month, to spend more time close to family.
“I need to spend more time with more 4-year-old daughter,” he said. “I feel like I missed three years of her life with one year of construction and two years in the restaurant.”
Karimy, a native of Afghanistan who came to Northern Virginia in the late 1990s and spent a decade at Lebanese Taverna before striking out on his own to start a restaurant serving the cuisine of his birthplace.
Now, he said, he’ll take a month off, then go back to school, hoping to graduate in a few semesters and re-enter the hospitality industry.
The ramen shop, he said, plans to do minor construction on the interior before opening.
Hat tip to @ZHitmanHart
Just over 13 months after opening with a mini-sandwich giveaway, 100 Montaditos in Rosslyn is now closed.
The Spanish-style restaurant at 1776 Wilson Blvd specialized in serving all different kinds of mini sandwiches, with a variety of ingredients like pulled park, Iberican ham, brie and chocolate. Its parent company declared bankruptcy back in March, which appears to have been the Rosslyn location’s death knell.
An anonymous tipster tells us that 100 Montaditos packed up the interior overnight last night, coinciding with the end of the month. The interior is bare and the door is now locked — there are splotches of missing paint on the walls where artwork used to hang.
S.H. “Doc” Friedman is a man of few words and less nostalgia. The 82-year-old pragmatist will be closing Public Shoe Store in Clarendon sometime this summer, closing the doors on one of the oldest businesses in Arlington.
Will “Doc,” a former podiatrist, miss the store that’s been a part of his life since he was five years old?
“No. It’s just a matter of time marching on,” he said. “Nothing stays the same.”
Friedman’s father, Sam, opened the business in 1938 across Wilson Blvd from N. Hudson Street, before the building was taken over to build the Clarendon Metro station in the late 1970s.
Friedman doesn’t remember exactly when his father’s store had to move, but when it did, it replaced a cadre of six Vietnamese businesses occupying the less-than-5,000-square-foot space. Before that, it had been a Kay Jewelers; Friedman still has the sign, well-preserved hanging over the stairs that lead to the basement.
When the store moved across the street, Friedman was still working as a podiatrist, with an office just a few blocks away. But when his father could no longer work in the store, he took it over. Doc had been working as a podiatrist in the neighborhood.
When asked where specifically his office was, he shrugged and replied “I don’t remember that far back.”
But keepsakes around the store provide more clues about its, and Doc’s, past. Friedman has photos from the original shop the year it opened, with employees dressed in suits and the shelves immaculately organized. He brings out a picture of his father, standing proudly in front of a Cadillac he won, pointing out that the car was the inspiration for a jingle his wife wrote for the store, long ago.
His memory extends to the surrounding community. Few, if any, are as familiar with the changes in Clarendon over the last three-quarters of a century. At one point, when it was considered the “Downtown of Northern Virginia,” there were a half-dozen shoe stores in the area, he said.
Public Shoe Store is the only one left standing, and soon it will be gone.
“That’s one stage in life,” he said. “But things change.”
Before the Metro came in, the area was known as “Little Saigon.” Now, as the years have gone on, Clarendon has transitioned again to the food and nightlife hotspot it is now.
“It just changed from clothing-type stores and furniture-type stores to alcohol,” he said. “There’s a bunch of restaurants because kids around here don’t cook, and they go out to eat, and they all have money.”
He doesn’t know what the storefront will become next. He owns the building and is working with a real estate agent to lease the space. He assumes a restaurant is likely, but doesn’t have a preference as long as it’s someone “who looks like they’ll stay and not give any trouble.”
Next door, the owner of Kabob Bazaar, Mohammed Kafi, said that’s exactly the type of neighbor Friedman has been for the 20-odd years he’s owned his restaurant.
“He’s a very nice gentleman, never had any problems with him,” Kafi said. “It’s been very nice knowing him. Once he’s gone, he’ll be missed.”
Friedman has children and several grandchildren, but none of them wanted to take up the mantle of Public Shoe Store the way he did from his father. His children are all at or near retirement, and the next generation are aspiring teachers and scientists.
“They don’t seem to be interested in it,” he said. “Kids today are into different things, it’s a different world.”
Although his loyal customers will miss coming into the shop and seeing him every day, shuffling deliberately across the store and trying his hardest to find the perfect shoe for each foot problem, he hasn’t thought much about what his next step will look like.
First, he said: tending to his Lyon Village home, which is just a few minutes ride from the store via his motorized red scooter.
“I’m going to clean out all my junk,” he said. He smiles when he’s asked what he’ll miss most about the store, and said only, “I don’t know yet.”
In less than a month, Jay’s Saloon in Clarendon will join the long list of Arlington dive bars forced to close to make way for new development.
The last day of Jay’s will be May 18, after which the building will be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use development called 10th Street Flats. The building will have 135 residential units, 3,660 square feet of retail, almost 5,000 square feet of office space and nine live/work units.
Two days before it closes, on May 16, Jay’s (3114 10th Street N.) will host an auction for the multitudes of memorabilia that have adorned the walls, in growing numbers, since the watering hole opened in 1993. Among the possible auction items: a sign that says “Our house wine is Jagermeister.”
Jay’s co-owner Kathi Moore wasn’t at the bar when ARLnow.com visited this afternoon, and the manager working said the date of the auction might change. But regular patrons know Jay’s hasn’t changed much in 22 years, still serving $8 pitchers of beer during happy hour and some of the cheapest food in Clarendon.
“You don’t get good food for this price around here anymore,” the manager, Sally, told ARLnow.com. “Everybody’s going to miss us.”
The most sought-after item in the saloon, Moore told us last summer, is the naked woman painting that hangs over the bar. Despite the amount of money that would go for in a customer auction, Moore said it’s not for sale.
File photo. Hat tip to John Fontain.
Manhattan Bagel, which has served bagels, coffee and sandwiches to Ballston for more than a decade, will close its doors after this weekend.
The small shop at 4201 Wilson Blvd remained a bustle of activity this morning, when the family who owns the franchise told ARLnow.com that they had “lost the lease” and were closing for good.
According to emails from customers, the bagel shop’s business has continued to thrive despite Dunkin Donuts opening up in the same building, two storefronts over, last summer.
The shop’s last day will be Sunday, April 26. The closest Manhattan Bagel franchise is in Vienna.
(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) The Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center has closed, apparently in a hurry.
Ice cream cakes are still in the freezer, cones are still on display and no signage has been removed from the location as of noon today, but multiple ARLnow.com tipsters have said the store has been closed since the beginning of April.
Eviction papers from the shopping center’s landlord were served to the business on March 26, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday evening.
The Baskin-Robbins corporate website no longer lists the Lee-Harrison shop, and the shopping center’s website lists the space as available. The two other Baskin-Robbins locations in the county are at 3520 Lee Highway and 3100 Columbia Pike.
Sweets lovers in North Arlington now have their options greatly diminished. Baskin-Robbins’ closure coincides with Mother’s Macaroons across the street closing last week.
Mother’s Macaroons Bakery, an institution in North Arlington for 28 years, will close on Friday.
Owner Kay LoMedico decided to hang up her apron this week after a trying year in which her husband — who owned the Sunoco gas station nearby — passed away and three longtime employees left the shop.
“It was a series of things, and it hit me like a bag of rocks,” LoMedico told ARLnow.com today from her bakery at 2442 N. Harrison Street, across from the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center. “When I opened this bakery I was in my 30s. Now with the stress of the bakery and owning the Sunoco, I sort of fell out of love with it.”
The bakery, which serves all kinds of cookies, brownies and sweets as well as coffee, juices, breakfast and lunch, was sold 10 years ago when LoMedico’s mother died. Two weeks later, she regretted the decision, and six months after that she was able to buy it back and reopen.
Through almost three decades of keeping her customer base plied with sugary goods, LoMedico said she will miss the community and independence the most.
“My favorite part was I was able to make what I wanted,” she said. “I’m going to really miss the community. They have been wonderful for me all these years and helped me to grow.”
Although the bakery is closing, LoMedico said she’s not sure what she wants to do next, and it may not be goodbye for good.
“I’m going out with my name and my recipes,” she said. “Who knows, I may be back.”
The FroZenYo in Ballston, which has been closed all winter to await the return of warm weather, now appears likely to not reopen at all.
The FroZenYo in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive) reopened this week, according to the D.C.-based company’s Facebook page. On that same page, the company posted in a comment that the Ballston location is likely closed.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we will be reopening the Ballston store this year, sorry about that,” the comment reads.
The Ballston FroZenYo store opened in 2012.
Eclectic Threads, the vintage consignment, furniture and clothing store in Lyon Park, is closing in June.
The shop, at the corner of Washington Blvd and Pershing Drive, has been open since 1982, owner Sheila Selario told ARLnow.com today. It’s combined with Corner Cupboard, and Selario runs the two stores with her daughter, Tara.
The building’s being sold, Selario said, prompting the closure. Everything in the shop — a mix of knick-knacks, furs, lamps and pretty much anything else that can fit through the door — is 20 percent off for now, but the sale could go up before Eclectic Threads shuts down.
“If the public hasn’t come in yet, now’s the time,” Selario said.
The store opened as consignment 33 years ago before growing in scope. Selario said she’s going to use her time now to “catch up on things” she missed while running the business.
“I’m really going to miss it,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
(Updated at 7:00 p.m.) The Curious Grape, the wine bar and shop in Shirlington, closed Saturday night, but a new restaurant will be taking its place shortly.
Coming in to the location on 2900 S. Quincy Street will be Osteria da Nino Cucina Italiana & Bar, an Italian restaurant that plans to start its soft opening on Thursday, its owners told ARLnow.com today.
The restaurant is being launched by a pair of couples and helmed by Italian chef Nino Pino, who has worked at a number of restaurants in Northern Virginia, including Palio Ristorante in Leesburg. Crews will be working around the clock until Thursday night, when Osteria da Nino hopes to get in a few practice runs before a planned Easter brunch on Sunday.
The turnaround might catch some by surprise — many restaurant openings take more than a year in Arlington. Even more so because The Curious Grape had been a Village at Shirlington staple for more than a decade.
“As most people know, running a restaurant is really a 24/7 commitment,” Curious Grape owner Suzanne McGrath said in an email. “Actively managing the restaurant has also diverted my efforts away from wine education, which is really my career focus. We have so appreciated all the support of our loyal customers and the wonderful people who enjoyed The Curious Grape.”
Osteria is looking for waitstaff, bussers and kitchen staff to join the team immediately, and is asking those interested to apply in person.
Sultana’s sign is gone, and in its place is a sign for “House of Mandi Middle Eastern Grill.” The phone number has been removed from the windows, which are covered in paper.
When Sultana first closed its storefront at 5515 Wilson Blvd, next door to Arlington Pharmacy, some suspected it was due to a lack of any alcohol being served, including beer and wine. When it reopened, the new management dismissed that as the reason. According to our tipster, it closed for good a few months ago.
It’s unclear when House of Mandi will open. It does not have an active application with the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
Hat tip to Daniel Manchester
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The Comedy Spot, the stand-up and improvisational comedy venue on the third floor of Ballston Common Mall, will shut its doors this weekend and move into D.C.
Tomorrow night (Thursday), The Comedy Spot will host its final standup show, a free showcase for comics who have performed over the last 10 years at the venue.
Saturday night will be the final shows for the regular Comedysportz and The Blue Show improv comedy shows, at 7:30 and 10:00 p.m. respectively. Each show costs $15 and a large cast of present and past performers will take the stage for the final time.
According to the host of the weekly open mic night, Kenneth Llewellyn, the Comedy Spot decided to let its lease run out, rather than renew before the mall undergoes its planned major renovation.
“The Comedy Spot is one of the longest running comedy mics in the DMV area,” Llewellyn said in an email. He’s hosted the free Thursday night shows, which have been held weekly for six years, since 2013. “After six years. the venue is closing so we’re having one last show featuring some of the all-time greats.”
The Comedy Spot’s owner, Liz Demery, told ARLnow.com in an email that her “rather expensive lease was up.”
“I adore the people and audiences at the DC Improv,” she wrote. “Instead of having to maintain a physical space, we get to show up and play at their excellent location.”
The Italian restaurant closed its doors today, after struggling to attract enough business to support its high-rent Clarendon location. The struggles followed a scathing Washington Post review that said La Tagliatella “makes a strong case for hazard pay for restaurant critics.”
We reported in January that rumors were swirling about an imminent closing.
The restaurant, owned by Polish company AmRest, was the third American location of a franchise that was popular in Europe, and was viewed as a harbinger for potentially hundreds of additional U.S. locations. In May, the Washington Business Journal reported those expansion plans were on hold, and theorized the Post’s review — which called La Tagliatella “a threat to our nation” and compared it unfavorably to Olive Garden — might have had something to do with it.
La Tagliatella had a planned location in the Village at Shirlington at the former Extra Virgin space, and still has signs up that say “coming soon,” but the manager we spoke to said those plans have since been scuttled.
No word yet on what might replace La Tagliatella.
(Updated Feb. 23 at 9:45 a.m.) A new Vietnamese restaurant plans to take over the space currently occupied by Toscana Grill in Courthouse.
The owners of Pho Deluxe, which has locations in Fairfax and Tysons Corner, told ARLnow.com that Toscana Grill is closing April 1, after which they will move in.
They hope to be open a month afterward at 2300 Clarendon Blvd, facing Courthouse Plaza.
Owners Hue and Dan Nguyen said the restaurant will specialize in the beef noodle soup, as well as rice dishes and noodle dishes. It will also have a full bar.
Toscana Grill had briefly closed in fall 2013, but reopened under new management.
Next door, meanwhile, Velocity Five’s conversion to Courthaus Social is about to get started. Co-owner Fito Garcia said this morning that the sports bar will be closing “in the coming week” to begin its remodeling to an “American beer garden.” Garcia said he expects the remodeling and staff training to be complete in time to open in April.
A previous version of this story stated Toscana Grill would close March 1. That has been corrected.