Business is reportedly robust at Rappahannock Coffee (2406 Columbia Pike) despite a new Starbucks moving across the street.
The independent coffee shop, which once was the only cafe serving the portion of the Pike around Penrose Square, is so far not seeing negative effects from its newfound competition with the Seattle-based chain, according to owner Gi Lee.
“Our customers are loyal customers,” Lee said.
The new Starbucks opened at 2413 Columbia Pike in the middle of August, worrying some Pike residents that it would hurt Rappahannock and cause it to close. The local coffee shop had faced previous threats of demolition back in 2013 when a developer proposed building apartments on the strip of land where Rappahannock is located.
ARLnow.com observed 17 customers in Rappahannock this morning over a half hour period. At Starbucks across the street, we counted 27 customers over the course of 15 minutes.
Although the chain store sees more customers in the morning, it might not be due to customers defecting from Rappahannock. Lee said most regular customers are still coming in for their morning cup of joe, the beans for which are roasted in-house.
“Everybody likes our coffee,” he said. “It’s very fresh here.”
Rappahannock customer and vocal fan Jason Gooljar said the chain may have attracted new customers from the neighborhoods around the Pike while the local coffee shop kept its old customers. He professed his reverence for the small shop in a Facebook post, which he posted from Starbucks.
“So yes, I’m here at the Starbucks,” he wrote last Wednesday evening. “[Rappahannock] closes early.”
(Starbucks is also open three hours later than Rappahannock, which operates from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Starbucks is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is slow in the evening and Lee said he does not anticipate increasing the hours.)
Starbucks and Rappahannock offer two different environments, Gooljar said, and the two stores attract different types of customers.
Rappahannock has a more neighborhood feel, where customers interact with each other and the baristas, Gooljar said. Signs next to tables at the coffee shop encourage people to sit with their neighbors and meet new people.
“This store, people have made some really good friendships here,” he said.
On the other hand, Gooljar said, Starbucks is more individual — people typing away quietly on laptops or grabbing an espresso drink to go while on their commute.
One of the new Starbucks customers is South Arlington resident Kevin Keaty. He was already a loyal Starbucks customer and went to one of the chain’s stores in Pentagon City before the Columbia Pike location opened, he said.
“I really do like their products,” he said.
Horst Lummert, a new Arlington resident, visits both coffee stores and said he has noticed people in the Starbucks at night after Rappahannock has closed. On the other hand, Lummert said he sees about 20 customers in Rappahannock when he stops by in the morning. He has been a loyal Starbucks customer for many years, but he said there is something nice about visiting a local coffee shop.
“I come here because of the wonderful service,” he said. “And the coffee is pretty good.”
The manager of the Columbia Pike Starbucks referred ARLnow.com to the company’s corporate media relations department for comment.
Burn & Brew, a new shop that specializes in tobacco and coffee, is open on 23rd Street S. in Crystal City.
Owner Taha Humayun opened the doors to his new shop on March 18, just a few steps away from another smoke-themed store, Smokey Shope III. He said his shop sells the cheapest cigarettes in Arlington — $5 a pack — because of deals he’s supposedly worked out with a variety of cigarette and rolling paper companies.
In the five minutes an ARLnow.com reporter was in the shop, in the former expansion space of the Gossip boutique next door, a customer came in a bought a pack of Marlboro Lights. When Humayun told her the price, she said “wow, that’s crazy.” Most of the cigarettes sold in the county cost at least a dollar more per pack, we’re told.
Burn & Brew sells bags of coffee beans and drip coffee — “no lattes or shots of espresso or anything like that,” Humayun said — as well as vaporizers, vaporizer juice, “every rolling paper on the market” and all different kinds of pipes.
“A majority of the people who smoke drink coffee,” Humayun said. “And a lot of the people who drink coffee also smoke cigarettes.”
Humayun is still waiting for a number of products to come in. When he’s all stocked — he expects that to be complete by next week — he also will sell newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.
He wants to be a daily stop for the smoking and drinking crowd of south Arlington, many of whom, he said, are bartenders and waiters. The Crystal City location is his second shop — he’s operated the first store in Annandale for six years.
The vacant space at the corner of the Pike and S. Barton Street — where Bar TNT and Society Fair closed last fall — will be home to the coffee chain, the building’s management told residents today.
“We’re spilling the beans and we want our residents to be the first to hear the new,” said an email to the residents, which was forwarded to ARLnow.com. “Coming summer 2015, Penrose Square welcomes its newest retailer: Starbucks Coffee. Live, Work & Caffeinate at home in your very own Starbucks.”
The location is facing Penrose Square’s public plaza, next to the Giant and a block away from Red Rocks pizzeria. This will be the first Starbucks on Columbia Pike in Arlington; the closest location is in Pentagon City.
Next Thursday, March 19, members of the ACPD’s Second District team will be serving as baristas at Java Shack from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. The ACPD has pre-paid for $100 worth of drip coffee to give out to customers, and officers will be serving it as well as making themselves available to the community.
ACPD’s Second District covers from Ballston to Rosslyn, Crystal City and Pentagon City and the residential neighborhoods closeby. Capt. Kamran Afzal is the commander of the second unit, and he said the event is a way to talk to the community “with no agenda.”
“We’re just trying to engage the people that we serve over a cup of coffee,” Afzal told ARLnow.com over the phone today. “Anything goes, whatever people want to discuss, we’ll discuss, and maybe humanize each other.”
The First District unit of ACPD hosted a similar event at Metro 29 Diner in January, Afzal said. The Java Shack, under new management since January, will look to do more community-oriented events like ‘Coffee With a Cop’ in the future.
“‘Coffee With a Cop’ is a great example of the types of community events that have defined Java Shack’s growth over the years,” Java Shack manager Robert Peck said in a press release. “We are honored to host the Second District Team and look forward to giving our baristas a break while the police run the counter.”
Photo courtesy Sean Douglass
(Updated on 2/13/15) Clarendon residents will soon have another option to get their caffeine fix.
A Peet’s Coffee & Tea appears on its way, with signs up in the windows of the building at the corner of N. Highland Street and Washington Blvd. The store is expected to open this spring, but “our exact date is still to be confirmed,” according to a company spokeswoman.
When it opens, it will be the second Peet’s location in Arlington, following the coffee shop that opened in Shirlington last year.
Peet’s offers higher-end coffees and teas, and will compete with Oby Lee and the 7-Eleven across Washington Blvd. The location is also a long block away from Northside Social and a third of a mile from the Starbucks on Clarendon Blvd.
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Would you pay $25-30 for a day of unlimited coffee and snacks in a place that offers video games, board games, poker, foosball and the occasional standup comic or musician?
A husband and wife team are banking that the answer is “yes.” Vitaliy Hayda and Kseniia Shnyreva, immigrants from Ukraine and Russia, respectively, are planning on starting a new type of coffee shop, called The Third Place, in Arlington.
The pair has been blogging the travails of opening up a business, from the registering as an LLC to advertising to showing the initial renderings of the interior. They say they plan to open the business this summer in Arlington, but they do not plan to look for a location until April or May, the owners told ARLnow.com via email. They list “Rosslyn, Virginia” as the location on their Facebook page.
The name of the establishment refers to the concept of a “third place” where people can hang out and socialize.
“According to urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, the first place is your home, the second place is your work and the third place is your ‘great good place,'” The Third Place’s website says. “It’s where you go to relax, have a good time, and surround yourself with friends both new and old.”
Traditional coffee shops, where people work on laptops, meet friends and hold informal business meetings, are viewed as a type of third place. However, sometimes “third place” business can be challenging for coffee shops, where customers can buy a $4 coffee and occupy a table for hours while tapping away at a laptop and using the free Wifi.
It appears that The Third Place seeks to remedy that by encouraging people to spend the entire day for a flat fee. It could almost be compared to an airport lounge, minus the airport but plus occasional entertainment.
The website says The Third Place will have bottomless coffee, tea, milk, juice and snacks for a $25 a day fee online, and $30 at the door. It will also sell coffee and tea to go. Hayda and Shnyreva also plan to offer memberships, including a $300 a month option that allows for unlimited entrance, eight guest passes, 50 percent off coffee to go and a 50 percent alcohol discount.
The Third Place plans to have a bar, allow for food delivery and let customers to bring their own food and alcohol in. In one of their blog posts, Hayda writes that they will have edible coffee cups, milk shots, a circular wood-burning fireplace and outlets with USB chargers.
(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Java Shack, the locally owned coffee shop in Courthouse, will change ownership on Thursday after opening 19 years ago.
Commonwealth Joe is an Arlington-based coffee company that sells its roasted beans, coffee-infused desserts and other goods both online and at local farmers markets. It was started two years ago by four Arlington residents and has grown around the community.
Commonwealth Joe’s owners “are passionate about coffee, and dedicated to maintaining and building upon our neighborhood tradition,” Roberts wrote in his Facebook post. “I’ll still be around, but will be less visible on a day-to-day basis.”
Roberts is hosting a going away party of sorts at “The Shack” tomorrow (Dec. 31), when Roberts will be “solo behind the bar” serving coffee in his last day as owner.
Photo via Facebook
The fast food chain is offering its customers either a free small hot coffee or a medium iced coffee with their meal to promote its “new specialty-grade THRIVE Farmers Coffee,” and for International Coffee Day today (Monday).
Other establishments around the area are participating in giveaways for the “holiday,” with McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts both offering free coffee today (McDonald’s is giving away a small and Dunkin Donuts a medium). Peet’s Coffee’s new Shirlington location (4115 Campbell Ave.) is also offering a buy one, get one free deal for a coffee or espresso drink.
Chick-Fil-A’s weeklong promotion goes until Saturday, Oct. 4, and is intended to raise awareness for their “farmer-direct” coffee, which is bought from farms in Central America. The company says its coffee farmers are paid directly, up to 10 times more than farmers are paid via standard trade models.
Photo via Facebook
Arlington Wages, Employment Falling — The average weekly wage in Arlington was $1,588 in the fourth quarter of 2013, the eighth-highest wage among large U.S. counties. However, the average wage was down 2.4 percent compared to one year prior, and the number of people employed in Arlington was down 1.1 percent. [InsideNova]
No Arlington Winners at RAMMY Awards — Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington held its annual RAMMY awards gala at the D.C. convention center last night. No Arlington restaurants were among the winners, although three were among the nominees: Bayou Bakery, The Curious Grape, and Lyon Hall. Water and Wall’s Tim Ma was nominated for Rising Culinary Star of the Year.
Flickr pool photo by ArlingtonPhotos
Construction was being performed on the interior of the store today. That construction is expected to wrap up and the new Peet’s coffee shop is expected to open “in approximately 6 weeks,” according to Molly Hippolitus, a spokeswoman for the Village at Shirlington shopping center.
Minneapolis-based Caribou announced last year that it would be closing about half of its stores and converting the others to the California-based Peet’s brand.
The former Caribou location in Crystal City was originally expected to become a Peet’s store, but is instead becoming a new We, the Pizza location. The pizza shop from celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn is expected to open any day now.
(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Adiam Berhane can be seen almost every day at her independent coffee shop at 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn buzzing about, bussing tables, serving drinks and carrying on conversations with customers like she’s hosting a large Sunday dinner.
Berhane opened Caffe Aficionado with her partner, Clark Donat, in October, and ever since it has been drawing something rare in this age of online criticism — almost universally positive reviews. It has a full five-star rating on Yelp after 26 reviews, rare for even the most well-regarded restaurants. Local food critic Don Rockwell was glowing in his review as well.
“Well, I may change my mind after thinking about this some more… but for now, Caffe Aficionado sits all alone, atop Rosslyn,” Rockwell wrote in December. “Even if this ranking is temporary, hopefully it will draw attention to what is one of the finest coffee shops in the area. I love this place, and you will, too.”
When Berhane was asked about the positive reviews, she mentioned the one negative review she received on Yelp (there are 24 five-star reviews and one four-star, which she also mentioned), frustrated because she feels the customer was mistaken in her criticism. The chief complaint: a supposed lack of skim, soy or almond milk lattes — which the cafe does now serve.
“Those hurt the most, the bad reviews,” she said. After being pressed to acknowledge the positive reactions, she said, “We’re really happy with it. I think it’s all about service. Follow the Golden Rule, it’s not that hard.”
Berhane and Donat rarely go a moment in the shop without talking to someone in their New York accents, and Berhane is most excited about the neighborhood’s reaction. She added a lunch menu with just four sandwiches — with options like a tuna sandwich with olive tapenade and no mayonnaise — and started opening on Saturdays.
The pair refuses to use any artificial flavoring in their coffee and espresso, which they buy from Handsome Coffee in California. They just recently started offering honey cinnamon and vanilla lattes, recipes Donat took weeks to perfect.
“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the coffee,” he said. “People are in search of something a little special, so people come in and they’re happy to get special attention and a quality product.”
Caffe Aficionado is open weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Caffe Aficionado, at 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, is making its final preparations to open “within a month,” says owner Adiam Berhane.
Caffe Aficionado will specialize in American gourmet coffee and tea with an Italian flair. Berhane, who spent part of her childhood in Italy, will be shipping in coffee from Handsome Coffee in Los Angeles, which she thinks is better than many of the coffee brands other specialty shops in the area offer.
Berhane will also offer frozen drinks and blended beverages, made with a “Stealth” blender that’s quieter than comparable blenders, allowing a more serene coffee shop experience.
“I used to like to collect purses and stuff,” she said. “Now that I own a coffee shop, I like to collect equipment.”
The final month of preparations will include finishing the interior and hiring and training a staff, Berhane said. The store has already received its occupancy permit.
Berhane says the cafe will be open from early morning until 4:00 p.m. on weekdays, and will be open on Saturdays as well. Caffe Aficionado will sell only drinks and pastries at first, but Berhane plans to add sandwiches to the menu shortly after opening.
Thursday Night Throwdown, a monthly competition for local coffee professionals, will be coming to Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) on Thursday. The event opens to the public at 8:30 p.m. and the competition begins at 9:00. The restaurant is technically closed during the event, but spectators can still what the competition and drink some artfully designed lattes.
About 30 baristas are expected to compete in the throwdown, fashioning leaves, hearts and more designs into the foam that sits atop the coffee drink. The event occurs monthly at a variety of small, independent coffee shops around the region, but only comes to Northern Virginia every once in a while.
Baristas can sign up for $5 each, and the winner of the competition takes home the full pot of entry fees.
The new Sweet Leaf Cafe in Courthouse quietly opened its doors this past weekend and handed out free food to customers who stopped in. Now, the restaurant is officially open for business.
Sweet Leaf Cafe moved in at 2200 Wilson Blvd, formerly occupied by Hikaru Sushi. It is the third location, with others in McLean and Vienna. Owner Arita Matini said she’s been wanting to expand into Arlington for a while.
“I love the young environment here, it’s so refreshing,” she said.
Matini believes the cafe stands out because it doesn’t specialize in just one food item. Customers can pick up a little bit of everything, including sandwiches, smoothies, coffee or all day breakfast items. There is also a kids menu and a variety of freshly baked treats.
“We try to do a little bit of everything but also try to keep it simple. We care about providing really good quality food and being part of the community,” said Matini. “Customer service is really big for me. I want to be sure that everyone who comes in is really happy when they leave.”
Matini grew up in Northern Virginia and was an interior design major at Marymount University. She was inspired to get into the restaurant business during her commute to and from Marymount because she felt there were too many chain restaurants in the area. She sought help from her mom, who owns Sweet Stuff in McLean. Matini says all the members of her family now play some role at Sweet Leaf Cafe.
“It wasn’t really something that we thought we were going to do, it was one of those things that kind of just happened. We all loved it and it was successful and we wanted to open another one,” said Matini. “My parents definitely helped me out. Without them, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
From the couches in the lounge area to the doorknobs functioning as coat hooks to the pieces of an old chicken coop serving as a holder for bags of chips, Matini’s interior design education shows through. She travels around the area searching for unique antiques to adorn the restaurant. She describes the vibe as “farm fresh, country, like your mother’s home.” The free sunflower seeds placed on the table for customers to munch on also add to the country feel.
If things go well with the new location, Matini would like to expand into other areas of Arlington, such as Rosslyn. She hopes to have a grand opening celebration in a few weeks. Until then, the staff will continue serving the curious customers who have been steadily coming in.
“It’s been a good welcome to the neighborhood,” said Matini. “Everybody’s been really nice and welcoming.”
The Crystal City location of Caribou Coffee (2100 Crystal Drive) will be closing at the end of this week and the coffee shop’s Shirlington location will eventually be converted to a Peet’s Coffee and Tea store, ARLnow.com has learned.
According to employees, the Crystal City location will close its doors after Sunday, April 14. The store is currently offering merchandise like coffee, mugs and coffee makers for 50 percent off, we’re told.
The Shirlington location will remain open for now but will be converted to a Peet’s Coffee and Tea store “at some point this fall,” an employee said.
Peet’s, which opened its first store in Berkeley, Calif. in 1966, is majority owned by a German private equity firm that purchased the Caribou chain last year. Caribou announced on Monday that it’s closing 80 “underperforming” stores and converting another 88 to Peet’s locations.