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The Nespresso store at the Pentagon City mall is closing (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) The Nespresso store is closing at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.

The international coffee brand announced it will be closing its Pentagon City mall location early next month with its final day on Sunday, February 5. The reason, per a company spokesperson, is “shopping trends.”

“Nespresso evaluates the marketplace and shopping trends regularly to determine how we can deliver superior customer service and a high-quality coffee experience,” the spokesperson wrote ARLnow via email. “Following our latest evaluation, we have decided to close the Pentagon City boutique.”

The decision to close this location is part of “our long-term business strategy and reflects evolving consumer trends,” said the spokesperson.

They also noted that all employees affected by the closure and are “in good standing” will be given the option of taking another role at Nespresso or a severance package. The Nespresso stores at Tysons and in Bethesda will both remain open, so presumably, employees at the Pentagon City location could be moved to those locations.

“While we are confident this is the right step for our overall business operations, this is a decision that affects real people and their families, and we know it causes challenges and uncertainties for our employees,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a new Korean corn dog eatery is coming to the mall.

Kong Dog is expected to open within the next two months, per a company spokesperson, though it’s unclear exactly where and when. The mall’s website initially said February 15, but that specific date has since been removed from the site.

Kong Dog serves up Korean-style corn dogs with toppings like cheese, fried potato, and ramen. With U.S. locations mostly centered in Illinois and New Jersey, the Pentagon City eatery appears to be the first coming to this area, though a new Georgetown location is also “coming soon” per the company’s website.

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A new D.C.-based coffee shop is opening a second location in Arlington Forest.

La Coop Coffee is moving into the Arlington Forest Shopping Center on 1st Street N., just off Arlington Blvd. The announcement was first made on the coffee shop’s social media channels earlier this month.

The hope is to open in the first week of February, co-owner Juan Luis Salazar Cano told ARLnow.

It’s filling a space that’s already been built out for a coffee shop by moving into the former home of Sense of Place Cafe, which closed this past summer because of the owner’s health. It’s next to Brick’s Pizza.

La Coop opened its first location in D.C. in July 2020 and has since started selling at regional farmers’ markets, including the Lubber Run Farmers Market. They got such a following, Cano said, that when a space opened at the nearby Arlington Forest Shopping Center, neighbors started messaging La Coop’s owners about the availability.

The owners have considered Arlington locations in the past, including in Rosslyn, but never made the move. But Arlington Forest offers a “community and supportive neighbors” said Cano, leading the coffee shop to open its first store outside of the District.

Cano owns the coffee shop with his wife, Stefanie Fabrico. La Coop is noted for providing “ethically-sourced” coffee from Guatemala that pays growers and framers up to 40% above the market rate.

What makes La Coop different, explained Cano, is that they are part of the process from “plant to cup.” His father in Guatemala is part of the cooperative and is also one of the farmers they work with.

“We are part of a family of farmers,” Cano said. “We are very conscious of the struggles that farmers have all over the world.”

La Coop had some issues with its D.C. landlord in 2020, but those have since been resolved. They are “definitely thinking” about opening more locations in Arlington and across the region but, at the moment, remain focused on opening its newest shop in Arlington Forest, said Cano.

“We are always looking for community,” he said. “[Arlington] has that.”

Image via Instagram/La Coop Coffee

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The Arlington location of Sweet Science Coffee in Lyon Village rang in the New Year with a new name, SIMONA Café, and more food and drink options.

Despite the new offerings, “the coffee program is still a really good program,” says owner Jad Bouchebel, who remains a partner in the business. Sweet Science continues to operate under the original brand in D.C.’s NoMA neighborhood.

The acclaimed Sweet Science Coffee opened the outpost at 2507 N. Franklin Road, near Courthouse, about two years ago, advertising some “all-day” offerings to differentiate the Arlington offshoot.

But Bouchebel says it took until last spring, with help from his associate Roberto “Tito” Peña, to get more lunch items on the menu and to put to use its ABC license for beer and wine. Last fall, the duo decided to rebrand, redecorate the coffee shop’s spartan interior and expand the menu and hours.

“We wanted to make it more of an all-day concept. That’s the reason we changed the name —  to separate from the D.C. location,” said Bouchebel, an Alexandria resident who named the cafe after his daughter. “We don’t want to confuse people. We offer totally different offerings.”

Bouchebel, still a partner at Sweet Science as well as Clarendon nightlife spot Wilson Hardware, says the cafe never really closed, but SIMONA Café had a soft opening in late December and its grand opening on Friday, Jan. 20.

Now, Peña says, the café’s interior gives people “a cool place to hang out in the afternoon,” and enjoy lunch and dinner options, charcuterie and cheese boards, beer, wine and weekend mimosas.

Like the coffee menu, Peña says the wine list is one that “people can delve into without much knowledge.”

The food menu, meanwhile, keeps the kitchen staff at SIMONA busy.

“We bake our own bread for our breakfast sandwiches,” Bouchebel said. “Everything we do in house: from salsa, to toppings, to bread and to our pastries — we bake them every morning here.”

Peña says the coffee comes from Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church, and his baristas aim “to provide really nice coffee that’s approachable.”

“We can get nerdy if people want, but the goal is to meet customers where they’re coming in,” he said.

For Peña and Bouchebel, the expanded hours and menu pay homage to the coffee shop’s history. The space used to be home to Java Shack, a community hub at one point owned by Commonwealth Joe, which closed the location in 2019.

“We still get a lot of clients who’d been coming for 20 years,” Bouchebel said. “Java Shack was a staple — a neighborhood cafe — so instead of just offering half-day hours, we kept it going whole-day for people looking for [that experience].”

Peña says he remembers going to Java Shack in the ’90s as a high school student.

“It was my first favorite coffee shop,” he said. “It’s kind of cool: the original owner, Dale, is now a regular for us. I talk to him every week… We have some regulars who’ve been coming for 20 years.”

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Items from Rāko Coffee in Courthouse were put up for public auction by Arlington County tax authorities.

ARLnow reported last month that Rāko Coffee at 2016 Wilson Blvd had closed, though a sign claimed the closure was “temporary” and blamed a broken espresso machine.

Several readers had reached out to ARLnow asking if the closure was, in fact, permanent due to how long the sign had been up. A couple of days later, green seizure tags were seen placed on equipment and furniture at the shop, suggesting the coffee shop owed the county money.

Now those items are being sold. The Arlington County Treasurer’s Office announced yesterday a public online auction for equipment and supplies left at the cafe.

“By order of Arlington County Treasurer all equipment, furniture, and fixtures will be liquidated from this location,” reads the auction page. The sale will go towards paying the business’s tax bill to the county.

Items like an espresso machine, food dehydrator, commercial refrigerator, patio tables, and five-pound bags of coffee were on the block. The auction ended this morning, providing would-be commercial fridge owners less than 24 hours to get bids in.

The cafe’s La Marzocco espresso machine sold for $17,350, according to the auction page, which raises the question of whether it was ever actually broken.

Meanwhile, Rāko Coffee’s opening of a planned location at Amazon HQ2 is in doubt. Just over a year ago, Amazon trumpeted that Rāko Coffee and several other local businesses had signed leases to move into the retail space at its second headquarters in Pentagon City.

ARLnow has reached out to Rāko Coffee representatives via email and phone but has yet to hear back as of publication. Amazon also has not responded to several inquiries about what this could mean for Rāko’s planned location.

Rāko Coffee, which started as a Lorton-based coffee roaster, opened the Courthouse cafe — its first brick-and-mortar shop — in August 2021.

The company was founded by sisters Lisa and Melissa Gerben. Their LinkedIn profiles note that they ended their tenures at Rāko this past June and August, respectively.

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Philz Coffee in Ballston is closing at the end of the week.

The San Francisco-based coffee shop located in the Ballston Exchange development is set to shutter on Friday, a note on the door confirms.

“We have loved serving this community over the last 4 years,” reads the note. “While this Philz location has permanently closed as of December 16, 2022, you can find other locations and shop our blends online at: philzcoffee.com.”

Philz is known for its pour-over coffee and specialty iced coffees.

The location along Wilson Blvd in Ballston first opened in early 2019, as part of the coffee chain’s expansion in the D.C. area. At one point, there were five Philz locations in the region.

With the Ballston one closing there will only be two remaining, in D.C.’s Adam Morgan and Navy Yard neighborhoods. The location in Dupont closed earlier this year.

Ballston still has a number of coffee options, including Compass Coffee, Good Company Doughnuts and Cafe and multiple Starbucks locations. Just down the street from the soon-to-be-closed Philz, D.C.-based Slipstream is currently expected to open early next year.

It’s not immediately clear why Philz is closing, with a manager saying they were “not authorized” to share the reason.

We reached out to the Philz marketing department but have yet to hear back as of publication. On multiple recent visits, ARLnow observed few open tables inside the coffee shop but a relatively lower volume of customers compared to Compass Coffee or nearby Starbucks locations.

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The former owner of a coffee shop in Rosslyn has been convicted of an extensive credit card fraud scheme.

Adiam Berhane, 50, was the co-owner of Caffe Aficionado in Rosslyn, which was open from 2013 until 2016, when the cafe was shut down following a police raid. Federal prosecutors said Berhane used the cafe to process fraudulent payments after obtaining stolen credit card information from the internet — and last week a federal jury in Alexandria agreed.

“A federal jury convicted a Washington, D.C. woman today on multiple charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, trafficking in unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft, unlawful possession of 15 or more access devices, and possession of access device-making equipment with intent to defraud,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a press release Friday.

According to prosecutors, Berhane used the stolen credit card info to create fake cards, which were then used in the cafe and to purchase gift cards as well as luxury goods from several local stores. While Caffe Aficionado might have been a front for illegal activity, it was also well regarded for its coffee, garnering 4.5 stars on Yelp and some critical acclaim.

“Caffe Aficionado sits all alone, atop Rosslyn,” one local critic wrote in December 2013. “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.”

Arlington County police were initially tipped off about the crime when someone from out of town, with no connection to Arlington, reported fraudulent attempted credit card charges at the cafe. Most of the fraud involving the coffee shop, however, involved redemption of gift cards purchased with cloned credit cards, according to federal prosecutors.

“More than a third of Caffe Aficionado’s income from June 2013 to July 2016 came from a pattern of highly unusual redemptions of American Express gift cards, with the pattern beginning several months before Caffe Aficionado actually opened in approximately October 2013,” said the press release.

Berhane’s business partner, Clark Donat, pleaded guilty to multiple financial crimes in 2017, including credit card fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Court records show he received a 25 year prison sentence with 11 years suspended. He was not charged in the federal case.

Berhane was initially charged in Arlington County, but a couple of years of legal wrangling — including accusations that defense attorneys had to process thousands of pages of documents by hand under rules set by then-prosecutor Theo Stamos — ultimately resulted in the local charges being dropped in 2019. Federal prosecutors then took up the case.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Berhane will face between 2 and 196 years in prison.

Berhane was previously convicted of a credit card fraud scheme in New York City in the early 2000s. She told ARLnow in early 2014 that what set Caffe Aficionado apart was the service.

“I think it’s all about service. Follow the Golden Rule, it’s not that hard,” she said.

The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office is below.

Read More

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Rāko at 2016 Wilson Blvd remains closed due to what a sign says is an “out of order” espresso machine.

The Courthouse coffee shop has reportedly been closed since at least early this month. A handwritten sign remains outside of the store noting it is “temporarily closed” and that the “espresso machine [is] out of order… we are sorry for the inconvenience.”

The cafe’s interior appears to be unchanged, with furniture set up and the suspect espresso machine still sitting on the counter.

A number of readers have written to ARLnow asking if the closure is permanent due to how long it’s been closed.

“Hi! I am desperate to know what happened to Rako coffee shop in Courthouse. They have had a sign up that their espresso machine is getting fixed for about three weeks?” read one email. “Seems like a bad sign. No phone number or notice on Google/their website. I love their business and it fills a much needed local coffee gap around here!”

ARLnow has reached out to the company and a spokesperson multiple times but has yet to hear back.

Lorton-based Rāko Coffee opened its first brick-and-mortar shop in August 2021. A year ago, the coffee shop signed a lease to open a new location at Amazon’s HQ2.

The row of shops and restaurants along the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd will be dealing with a notable challenge for the next couple of years: construction activity on the former Wendy’s lot, at the top of the block, potentially driving away some customers.

George Ishak, owner of Burger District at 2024 Wilson Blvd, told ARLnow this week that some safety measures are hurting business.

“There’s a new construction starting in the adjacent plot of land but the thing is that they have put a fence in front of my store and also fenced around the tree pit that is exactly in from of my store entrance,” he said. “I filed a complaint with Arlington County requesting to remove the fence in front of my store and around the tree pit since this is negatively impacting my small business.”

Update on 11/19/22 — It appears that the business may owe money to Arlington County, as seen in the photos below.

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Compass Coffee has opened its first drive-thru location.

The D.C.-based coffee chain has officially started brewing at its newest location at 4710 Langston Blvd in the Waverly Hills neighborhood.

The shop’s hours are 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

This is Compass’s third Arlington location, joining Rosslyn and Ballston. The company also opened a cafe in Fairfax back in March. Its first location was in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, opening back in 2014.

Compass’s decision to open its first drive-thru was driven by the pandemic and changes in locals’ working habits, per the Washington Business Journal. The location also has an indoor cafe, similar to the other 14 Compass locations spread out across the region.

Construction started earlier this year on the new, approximately 2,700-square-foot space that formerly housed a SunTrust Bank. The bank closed in 2020.

This is not the only coffee drive-thru on Langston Blvd. Just about a mile from the new Compass, Starbucks has its own drive-thru, also located in an old bank. It attracted long lines throughout the pandemic and closed for renovations earlier this month.

Hat tip to Mike W.

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Starbucks store at 5515 Lee Highway, prior to opening (staff photo)

Good news for coffee lovers who enjoy not taking extra steps to get their caffeine fix: Arlington’s lone drive-thru Starbucks is only closed temporarily.

The cafe at 5515 Langston Blvd, which opened less than three years ago in a former bank, recently closed and was removed from the Starbucks website and app. But the closure is for renovations, the company tells us.

“As a standard course of business, we continually evaluate our store portfolio, using various criteria to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers,” a Starbucks spokesperson wrote in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “We are happy to confirm that our store at 5515 Langston Blvd. in Arlington, VA is undergoing a standard renovation, and will reopen on October 10.”

Oct. 10 is next Monday.

“The store will reopen with an updated drive-thru to improve customer experience at the store,” the spokesperson added.

Those reading the tea leaves (or coffee beans) may take that to mean that Starbucks is addressing some of the long drive-thru lines that snake around the stand-alone store’s parking lot and sometimes extend out onto the street.

Starbucks will soon no longer have the vehicularly-accessible coffee market cornered in North Arlington, however. Compass Coffee is planning to open a drive-thru location, also in a former bank building and also along Langston Blvd.

Compass originally hoped to open its 4710 Langston Blvd location this summer but work is still ongoing and an opening date has not been announced.

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Coffee shop Slipstream set to move into Ballston early next year (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) D.C-based coffee shop Slipstream is looking to serve fresh cups of joe in Ballston next year.

Slipstream is opening its first location outside of the District on the ground floor of the Ballston Point building, at 4300 Wilson Blvd, down the street from Chipotle and near the intersection with N. Glebe Road.

While construction has yet to start, Slipstream co-owner Ryan Fleming told ARLnow, that the plan is to open in early 2023.

The coffee shop and cafe currently has three locations, all in D.C. It specializes in single-origin coffee, loose-leaf teas, breakfast sandwiches, toast, and rice bowls.

Fleming said they chose to expand Ballston because it’s a “great neighborhood that is growing and has a mix of business and residential buildings.”

The Ballston shop will be similar to the other locations, but “adapted slightly to fit the unique neighborhood.”

“With every location we open we strive to improve operations and service, and this location will hopefully continue that trend,” Fleming said. “We will have more details on the operational changes closer to opening.”

Slipstream will compete with a number of existing Ballston coffee shops, including Good Company, Dunkin, Compass Coffee, Philz, and multiple Starbucks locations.

Slipstream’s move to Ballston was noted on a retail leasing chart for the building viewed by ARLnow. Also included in the document is a new location for Japanese barbeque restaurant Gyu Shige, in the space formerly occupied by Bangkok Bistro, which looks to have closed sometime in the latter half of 2020.

However, Gyu Shige representatives told ARLnow that they are, in fact, not moving to Ballston and the only location they have and are currently planning to have in Virginia is in the Mosaic District.

The Ballston neighborhood has been in flux recently. Across from the new Slipstream, Silver Diner is finally set to open this fall five years after being first announced. Nearby, Buffalo Wild Wings is closing at the end of this month.

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The interior of Meda Coffee & Kitchen (courtesy of Meda Coffee & Kitchen)

Ethiopian cafe Meda Coffee & Kitchen has opened on Columbia Pike.

Visitors to the new restaurant, at 5037 Columbia Pike, can dine on traditional Ethiopian fare during its grand opening weekend, set to begin this Friday (July 15).

The cafe, which opened late last month, is open every day at 9 a.m., serving coffee, tea and espresso drinks, in addition to specialty food and baked goods.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Saturday at 1:30 p.m., during which several guests are set to speak. The cafe plans to play music and serve the traditional Ethiopian dish kitfo, a signature offering of the cafe that is made with beef, chili powder and sometimes with cottage cheese and collard green. It will also serve a vegetarian option.

During the event, owner Yohannes Getachew said he plans to serve the dish in a cone made of banana leaves, a way of serving typically for holidays like Meskel, a Christian holiday that is usually celebrated in late September in Ethiopia.

A flyer advertising the grand opening (courtesy of Meda Coffee & Kitchen)

The Columbia Pike Partnership helped set up the ribbon cutting ceremony, invite guest speakers and promote the event, Getachew said.

The cafe is the second Ethiopian restaurant Getachew has run. He used to co-own a similar restaurant in Alexandria, ZeMeda Market and Restaurant.

He chose Arlington as the new location for his cafe because of his familiarity with the place.

“I know Arlington, I used to work here,” Getachew said, adding he loves the environment and the people in the county.

The Pike has several new restaurants and gathering spots on the way, including a new empanada restaurant and “Nightbird Restaurant and Lounge” in the former P. Brennan’s Irish Pub space.

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