Arlington, VA

A pie shop owner says an ongoing county construction project has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

About six weeks ago, Heather Sheire arrived to work at Livin’ the Pie Life at 2166 N. Glebe Road to find bulldozers tearing up the pavement in front of the shop.

“That’s how much notice I got from the county that there was going to be a disruption,” owner Sheire tells ARLnow, who opened the shop in 2016. She is now seeking financial compensation from county.

The construction was due to the ongoing Lee Highway and Glebe Road intersection improvement project which isn’t set to be substantially completed until the fall.

“Our parking was getting blocked and, then, 21st Road [N.] was getting blocked and, then, the sidewalk was getting blocked,” Sheire says, frustration rising in her voice. “Then, I started to notice our sales were down.”

The shop relies on walk-ups, she says, with about 90% of sales coming from walk-in orders.

Sheire even bought one of those feather-like flags as a way to catch people’s eyes from the road, but it was removed by construction crews.

March 3 was a tipping point. Again, Sheire saw a construction truck parked across the entrance of the shop’s driveway. So, she finally reached out to the county.

“[They] were sympathetic, but I need more than sympathy and friendlessness,” Sheire says. “This was having a very substantial economic impact on my business.”

She tells ARLnow, after comparing numbers from years past, that she believes the business has lost “tens of thousands of dollars” as a result of this construction project.

“I have a historical record from [March] last year to this year… we went from being down 10% to 46%,” she says.

Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, confirms that Sheire did reach out.

“Once we were made aware of the pie shop owner’s concerns, the project team responded by making every effort possible to accommodate the business during streetscape construction along their store frontage,” he writes to ARLnow.

According to Balliet, this included scheduling construction mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays (when the shop is closed), upgrading bike racks, installing a curb along parking spaces to prevent vehicles from damaging the building, and relocating street signs to improve visibility of the storefront.

Also, as part of the project, the county has upgraded the pie shop’s front walkway to concrete and expanded access to the store’s parking spaces for those driving northbound along N. Glebe Road.

Sheire agrees, for the most part, that the county has either already done the things promised or she believes they will — except for improving access to parking.

“It is trickier to get into the parking now than before. They added a short wall along the sidewalk on Glebe that now must be navigated to get into and out of the parking from Glebe,” she says. “It’s become a maze, a puzzle to get in there.”

But even fixing all of that will not change the financial damage that has already occurred to her business.

“[We] deserve some kind of financial compensation because they were literally blocking access to our business,” Sheire says. “It’s wrong for the county to initiate a project like this without taking into account the economic impact it has on a small business.”

In March, she received her business license tax bill from the county, which set her off.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says. “I felt like Arlington County had not given me value for my business license.”

She contacted the Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava and other top local officials about waiving the tax, or offering some sort of compensation, but was told that could not be done.

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James Moore at his barber shop on Lee Highway (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

A short, sweet, secret note handed to an Arlington barber earlier this week may perfectly encapsulate the hope that the pandemic could be nearing its end.

James Moore of Moore’s Barber Shop at 4807 Lee Highway posted on social media Thursday morning a note handed to him by a fully-vaccinated, 91-year-old client named Warren upon walking into the barber shop for the first time in more than a year. Moore’s Twitter post has since garnered nearly a thousand likes and retweets.

The note was written by Warren’s wife, Maria, and it was presented to Moore in a sealed envelope without Warren knowing its contents.

The note reads:

Hi JT,

I’m so happy to be relinquishing my barber duties — you have no idea! I don’t know what was worse — having to learn on the fly or taking instructions from my client! I’m having a celebration on this day! Here’s a little something so you can have a celebration too. I wish we could celebrate together but COVID still reigns.

Thankful,

Maria

Moore tells ARLnow that Maria wasn’t the only one thankful.

“[Warren] told me ‘Please, don’t tell my wife that you did a better job than her. She’ll be mad,'” he said laughing.

Moore says he opened the card when Warren had left and it came with a “substantial tip” as a thank you, for which he was grateful.

Moore immediately called Maria to thank her.

“She got choked up,” he says. “She explained how difficult it was to cut his hair… [Warren] wanted everything so particular, he made her a nervous wreck. She used YouTube to learn, but there were a lot of anxious moments.”

Moore says Warren has been a long-time customer, whose kids and grandkids have also come to the shop for hair cuts.

Husband and wife were both very much looking forward to the return to the barber shop, but they waited to be vaccinated.

“He got it, waited a few weeks, and got his wife’s permission. Then, he came in,” says Moore, who recently received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as well.

The customer relationship with the couple extends beyond the barbershop. Moore helped the couple pre-COVID with a few tasks around the house, like re-installing smoke detectors, when they lived in Rosslyn. They no longer live in Arlington, but Warren remains a loyal client.

Moore worked at the Arlington Fire Department for 32 years before retiring this past summer. He inherited the barber shop from his dad, who opened it as Arlington’s first integrated barbershop in 1960.

Moore says that business remains slow due to the pandemic, but he’s been getting customers from D.C. and Maryland due to his shop’s strict COVID protocols — like checking customers’ oxygen saturation levels.

The hope is that with more and more people getting vaccinated, come summer, things will return to normal.

“People still aren’t going to work, so getting haircuts is more about looking and feeling good for people they live with,” Moore said.

Or, in Maria’s case, no longer having to cut her husband’s hair.

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A crash in the East Falls Church neighborhood last night closed a portion of busy Lee Highway for an extended period of time.

The crash happened around 7:45 p.m. Thursday, a couple of blocks east of the Lee Highway and Washington Blvd intersection. A driver in a sedan appears to have run off the road, smashed through a brick wall and damaged a utility pole.

“Upon arrival, officers located a single vehicle crash into a utility pole,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. The driver was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Lee Highway was closed between Washington Boulevard and N. Sycamore Street and Dominion Energy responded to complete repairs.”

The crash knocked out power to a portion of the surrounding area. An exact cause of the crash was not given.

Utility work dragged on into the night, but all lanes were reopened by this morning, according to Arlington Alert.

Photo via Danny Shaw

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Passed Virginia legislation allows Arlington County to rename Lee Highway, but it’s unlikely to be “Loving Avenue.”

Yesterday (Feb. 23), HB 1854 passed the Virginia State Senate after passing through the House of Delegates late last month. The bill now goes to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, which will officially codify it.

The bill specifically authorizes the Arlington County Board to name the section of U.S. Route 29, known for decades as “Lee Highway,” located within its boundaries.

However, it’s unlikely to be renamed Loving Avenue in honor of the Virginia couple whose fight to get married went to the U.S. Supreme Court despite the recommendation of the Lee Highway Alliance work group in December..

This is due to the family’s objection, says Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. The Loving family has reiterated that the couple was extremely private and would not want a road named after them.

“I’m saddened but understanding that [the family] is strongly opposed to renaming [Route 29] in honor of their parents and grandparents,” she tells ARLnow. “Privacy is a prevailing value for them.”

Late last year, a task force put together by the Lee Highway Alliance recommended renaming Arlington’s section of Route 29 to Loving Avenue. However, they also suggested four alternatives: John M. Langston Boulevard, Ella Baker Boulevard, Dr. Edward T. Morton Avenue, and Main Street.

Ginger Brown, Executive Director for the Lee Highway Alliance, tells ARLnow that Langston Blvd is the “strong second” choice.

Cristol noted that there remains some follow-up to be done with the Loving family, but at this point, naming Route 29 in Arlington after Mildred and Richard Loving isn’t likely.

“At some point, I’ll have to take a vote on this,” she says. “With what the family has said, we know that it would be hurtful for them. It would be hard for me to vote for that.”

Either way, HB 1854 — first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) — will allow the renaming, though it only applies to Route 29 in Arlington.

The bill notes that while the Virginia Department of Transportation will place and maintain the appropriate signage, the county has to pay for that signage.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the legislation is a “shared priority” at yesterday’s Board meeting.

“We are enthusiastic about the success of Del. Sullivan’s bill, and the County continues to work with our regional partners to seek a regionally consistent name for Lee Highway,” de Ferranti wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “The legislature advancing this bill to the Governor is an important tool now available to Arlington County in the renaming of Lee Highway and we will continue to seek a common name with our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Cristol says the timeline for the change is being coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions that the east-west artery also runs through, including Falls Church, Fairfax City, and Fairfax County.

“We have a shared interest in settling on the same name, for obvious reasons,” she says.

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A small commercial building at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive has a pair of new tenants.

The building was briefly vacant, its future in question, after previous tenants TitleMax and Sam Torrey Shoe Service moved out last year. But the property owner, Virginia Hospital Center, has filled both spaces.

The old TitleMax space is being taken by Page Global Cyber Solutions, which bills itself as “an award winning industry provider of office solutions, strategic communications and information technology.” A sign on the building says the space will be a “neighborhood business center,” offering everything from private offices to nap rooms to drone video services.

The business center will also offer private mailboxes, office supplies and secure video conferencing rooms, according to the sign.

The former shoe shop, meanwhile, is being occupied by a roofing company called Augustine Roofing, according to VHC spokeswoman Maryanne Boster.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A new Arlington-based ghost kitchen from a pair of prominent restaurateur siblings is now smashing and slinging patties.

Gee Burger is a new delivery-only concept out of Cafe Colline, the eight-month-old French bistro at the Lee Heights Shops, opened by brothers Eric and Ian Hilton.

Serving up smashed burger patties, crispy chicken sandwiches, and fries, ordering is currently available through the usual delivery apps: UberEats (50% off first order), Doordash, Grubhub, and Postmates.

The delivery area includes Arlington and parts of D.C and Fairfax County, Ian Hilton tells ARLnow.

The idea for Gee Burger, Hilton says, came while “stranded” during the pandemic at Cafe Colline with his chef Brendan L’Etoile, who he’s worked with since 2007. They workshopped burgers that would deliver well, and focused on one similar to another they had previously served at the now-shuttered Gaslight Tavern in D.C.

“It is a very quick process of smashing two patties on a flat top grill, giving them a nice crispy edge,” Hilton says, “It’s a nice juicy burger that travels well and can be cooked very quickly so that you can get it to people in short order.”

In fact, he says the burger can be cooked so quickly that it only takes four minutes to fulfill an order, meaning “we can wait till that driver is basically at our doorstep before we even fire up the order.” Plus, with a relatively localized delivery area, burgers are able to arrive at home kitchen tables hot and looking as if they were just served by a waiter inside of the restaurant.

“The idea is… to make it so that once it gets to somebody’s house, we would be proud of of having our name on it,” says Hilton.

In October, Hilton was forced to close a number of his popular District bars and restaurants due to the pandemic. Even while adjusting to take-out, delivery, and ghost kitchens, Hilton makes a point to say that this is not going to change the brothers’ core focus of creating places where people can socialize and be together.

When the pandemic subsides, his hope is that he will be able to move back to providing those experiences.

“I know that people will return to restaurants,” Hilton says.

In the meantime, he understands that people have grown accustomed to getting pretty much any food delivered to their homes and knows that it’s on restaurateurs to adapt to that.

The hope is that Gee Burger outlasts the pandemic since it’s easy to make, portable, and, so far, popular.

As for his favorite order: “It’s definitely the Kickin [Gee burger]. I just love spicy foods,” says Hilton. “Chef Brendan has this house-made kimchi and housemade pickled jalapeños that goes on that burger that I just can’t get enough of.”

Then, he adds, “Unfortunately, I probably shouldn’t eat more than one week.”

Photo courtesy of Gee Burger

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The day has arrived: the former Alpine Restaurant is currently being demolished along Lee Highway.

The long-time local restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway is being torn down to make way for The Children’s School, a three-story daycare facility for the kids of Arlington Public Schools employees. The facility will also be home to Integration Station, a program for kids with developmental or other disabilities that intermingles with The Children’s School.

The new building is expected to house more than 200 children and will have both underground parking and a small amount of surface parking.

Alpine Restaurant served Italian cuisine and was in business for 44 years before closing in 2010 upon the owner’s retirement. It was acquired by the owners of the Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group, which ultimately decided against opening a new restaurant there.

Hat tip to Betsy Twigg

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A fracas at a local hotel on New Year’s Day prompted a large police response early Friday morning.

The incident happened during some sort of New Year’s Eve party at the Embassy Suites hotel in Crystal City, on the 1300 block of Richmond Highway. Police responded after a report of a fight, and encountered “a large crowd in the lobby of the building and multiple fights in progress throughout the hotel.”

A 21-year-old Dumfries resident was subsequently arrested for allegedly having a concealed gun without a permit.

From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

WEAPONS VIOLATION, 2021-01010006, 1300 block of Richmond Highway. At approximately 12:30 a.m. on January 1, police were dispatched to the report of a fight. Upon arrival, officers located a large crowd in the lobby of the building and multiple fights in progress throughout the hotel. While dispersing the crowds, officers made an observation consistent with that of a concealed weapon on the male suspect’s waistband and made contact with the individual. It was subsequently determined that he was in possession of a concealed firearm without a valid permit. Martine Neal, 21, of Dumfries, Va., was arrested and charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon and held on an unsecured bond.

At the same location, nearly two hours later, police responded after two people were reportedly attacked “by a group of approximately ten male suspects.” From ACPD:

ASSAULT BY MOB, 2021-01010038, 1300 block of Richmond Highway. At approximately 2:18 a.m. on January 1, police were dispatched to the report of a fight in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined a verbal dispute occurred between parties inside a hotel room. As the two victims attempted to have the other party leave the room, they were assaulted by a group of approximately ten male suspects. The suspects fled the area prior to police arrival. Both victims suffered minor injuries and were transported by medics to an area hospital for treatment. There is no suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.

Also in today’s ACPD crime report, a woman who was cleaning a room in a business had to break a window with a chair in order to flee a man who allegedly locked the door, took off his pants and touched her inappropriately.

The name of the business was not specified, but it happened on the 3300 block of Lee Highway, which is home to the Inns of Virginia hotel and several other businesses.

ABDUCTION WITH INTENT TO DEFILE, 2021-01020061, 3300 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 10:20 a.m. on January 2, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. Arriving officers located the suspect exiting a room and took him into custody without incident. The investigation determined that the victim was cleaning a vacant room within a business when the male suspect allegedly entered the room and locked the door behind him. The victim then attempted to unlock the door, however, the suspect got between her and the door and re-latched it. The victim attempted to unlock the door several more times unsuccessfully. The suspect began to touch the victim inappropriately, then removed his pants, at which time the victim was able to break a window to an exterior hallway outside with a chair and escape the room. She sustained minor injuries during the incident. Khalil Martin, 27, of Washington, D.C. was arrested and charged with Abduction with Intent to Defile, Burglary with Intent to Commit Larceny/Assault & Battery, Sexual Battery, and Drunk in Public. He was held on no bond.

For decades, Moore’s Barber Shop in Arlington has been known as a place where men go for friendships as much as good haircuts.

“The haircut is about a relationship, especially for men,” said James Moore, Jr., the second generation of Moore men to run the business at 4807 Lee Highway.

Community and conversations have drawn people in since James Moore, Sr. opened it in 1960 as Arlington’s first integrated barbershop. Its reputation as a community-serving local business has persisted. Last year, the younger Moore let a nonprofit distribute children’s books there.

While the coronavirus has stifled the sense of communion, his shop is now known for a different reason: COVID-19 accommodations.

Through word of mouth and social media, customers are coming in from Maryland and Washington, D.C. to check out his virus-resistant operations, he said.

“I had a barber shop from Delaware that called and asked me what my procedures and policies were, and who I was ordering supplies from,” he said. “They heard I’m doing it the way you’re supposed to do it.”

Once a hub for friendly debates while Moore moderates — in the event that tempers flare — Moore’s Barber Shop now only holds four people at a time: two barbers and two customers.

Everyone is masked, and the barbers are gloved. Like many businesses, Moore checks his customers’ temperatures, but he goes one step further and checks oxygen saturation levels.

Low oxygen levels can be an early indicator for COVID-19, he said, and Moore has turned away a few people with low levels and counseled them to go to the hospital.

“If you’re 94 or less, you’ve got a serious problem,” he said. “It’s documented that people say they feel great, but they have low oxygen saturation, and then [their body] crashes and they’re on a ventilator.”

Moore also accommodates customers who need extra precautions to feel safe. A select few feel more comfortable with just him in the room, so he opens at 5 or 6 a.m. to give them haircuts.

He uses a plastic-covered chair and a plastic cape, which are easier to clean, he said.

“The real extreme customers bring in their own clippers and cape,” he said. “Between those things, [business is] coming back strong.”

Moore attributes his near-medical-grade approach to his 32 years as an Arlington County firefighter, which gave him the knowledge and background needed to keep people safe.

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Morning Notes

Lovings Might Not Want Name Used for Road — “The problem with these efforts [to rename Lee Highway as “Loving Avenue”] is that the surviving family has strong feelings about these efforts, statues, renaming of roads etc. They do not want this and the attention it brings. We in Caroline [County] try to be sensitive to their wishes and how they view these efforts and the Loving story. I would like nothing better than to see her remembered in this way, but must defer to the wishes of the family.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Barcroft Field Getting Video Screen — “Tucker Field at Barcroft Park will have an enhanced look for the 2021 season, as it was announced on Friday, Dec. 16 that construction has begun on a new videoboard to be used by the GW Baseball program. The project, entirely privately funded, was made possible due to a lead gift from Joe and Leslie Barmakian, parents of current GW student-athlete and baseball team member, Steve Barmakian.” [GW Sports]

Jail COVID Tests Only Find One Case — “In partnership with the Arlington County Public Health Department and the Virginia National Guard, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office tested 196 inmates and 274 deputies, civilians and contractors for COVID-19. There was only one staff member who tested positive among the 470 people tested.” [Arlington County]

Beyer Proposes New COVID Research Funding — “Rep. Don Beyer this week introduced the COVID-19 Long Haulers Act, which would authorize and fund research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PICORI) to benefit so-called “long haulers,” people who experience long term effects of COVID-19 infections.” [Press Release]

Funding Available for Overdue Utility Bills — “Arlingtonians who are having trouble paying their water and sewer bills due to pandemic-related economic hardship may be eligible to have their bills paid through the County’s new Utility Relief program. The application deadline is January 15. The program is funded through a $383,338  state coronavirus relief grant accepted by the County Board at its Tuesday, Dec. 15 Recessed Meeting.” [Arlington County]

Strong Leasing for New Ballston Building — “I’m expecting revenue to increase next year because of [B.F. Saul]’s new project called The Waycroft delivered earlier this year. The project comprises 491 apartment units and 60,000 square feet of retail space in Arlington, Virginia, as mentioned in the business update. Around 353, or 72% of available units, are leased.” [Seeking Alpha]

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The interior of a salon on Lee Highway is set to be demolished and renovated, according to a permit filed with Arlington County.

The salon is New Image Hair Designs at 5800 Lee Highway, in Leeway-Overlee, across the street from Sloppy Mama’s Barbecue. All the finishes, plumbing and electrical fixtures will be removed and non-structural interior walls will be taken down, according to the permit.

The listed owner of the property is an LLC associated with Brian Normile, the president of Arlington-based home builder BCN Homes, which holds the demolition permit for the property.

Normile is also a partner in the Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group, which owns Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social.

Rumors on the local Nextdoor social networking site that the salon would be converted into a new restaurant could not be immediately confirmed. Multiple requests for comment from the Liberty Tavern owners were not returned, nor was a request for comment from BCN returned.

Image via Google Maps

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