Mastercard, Mercedes-Benz of Arlington and a behavioral health clinic in Courthouse are among the latest winners of the annual Arlington Best Business Awards.
The event, organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, was held earlier this week at Army Navy Country Club. It also included three inductions into the Chamber’s Arlington Business Hall of Fame.
Mastercard is based in Purchase, New York, but has a technology hub in Ballston. Its ubiquitous logo tops the office building at 4250 Fairfax Drive.
More, below, from a Chamber of Commerce press release.
On May 16, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 37th Annual Arlington Best Business Awards at Army Navy Country Club, sponsored by Arlington Community Federal Credit Union. The Best Business Awards are presented to area businesses that consistently deliver exceptional quality of service to their customers, are industry leaders or offer a unique approach to delivery of goods or services, achieve significant growth or stability over the lifetime of their business, display an interest and concern for the success of the Arlington community, and demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
The 2023 Best Business Award Winners are:
- Home Energy Medics — 2023 Sustainable Business of the Year
- National Capital Treatment & Recovery — 2023 Nonprofit Business of the Year
- Mercedes-Benz of Arlington — 2023 Retail Small Business of the Year
- Arlington/DC Behavior Therapy Institute — 2023 Service Small Business of the Year
- Mastercard — 2023 Large Business of the Year
This prestigious awards dinner recognized businesses in the Arlington community that go above and beyond to serve clients and make Arlington a great place to work and live.
“We’ve been doing business in Arlington for 86 years, and we’re very proud of our history,” said Mark Zetlin, of Mercedes-Benz of Arlington. “We always aim to take the best care of our customers, and we are proud to be valued by this diverse community.”
Following the presentation of the awards, the Chamber inducted the late Bert W. Johnson, Lola C. Reinsch, and Robert H. Hawthorne into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame.
The inductees captivated the sold-out crowd as they shared inspiring tales of how their upbringing influenced their careers. From leveraging family connections within the Arlington Chamber to secure their first post-college job to joining a traveling circus on the weekends, the Hall of Fame speeches not only entertained the audience but also showcased the diverse paths that led these individuals to their success.
Mr. Johnson served as the first professional County Manager for Arlington, from 1962 to 1976. He had the insight to develop the Rosslyn neighborhood as an office center and was instrumental to the Metro subway system construction in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
Ms. Reinsch is the second-generation President and CEO of the Reinsch Companies. She noted that her father specifically wanted to develop properties along Columbia Pike, due to its proximity to the Pentagon and Washington DC. Her philanthropic efforts have led to her directing capital campaigns for VHC Health and Marymount University.
Mr. Hawthorne most recently was the Market President for United Bank, before retiring in 2021. Despite his monumental career in banking, Hawthorne never forgot the community that helped raise him. He noted that he first started with the Chamber, helping his bank at the time win the Arlington Chamber membership campaign, which lead to him initiating the first Membership Development Committee of the Chamber. Hawthorne would become the Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 1997. He also co-founded the Leadership Center for Excellence in 2000 and served as its first Chair.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve really seen the Chamber become is a place where there is a nice balance between small, medium, and large businesses,” said Robert H. Hawthorne. “I know that the business community will continue to help the Chamber, and keep up the good work!”
The Arlington Business Hall of Fame honors men and women with a connection to Arlington County who have demonstrated a long record of successful management, expertise, and business skills, along with notable achievements and exceptional civic and community involvement.
Just one month after both Loyal Companion stores in Arlington closed amid the chain’s bankruptcy, both locations are back as new pet stores.
In the Lee Harrison Shopping Center, Loyal Companion is still the sign above the storefront, but inside it has been converted into Wag N’ Wash, a pet store with a focus on pet hygiene.
Wag N’ Wash is a national chain with a few locations in the region, including one in Vienna.
As far as conversions go, the changes inside are fairly minor. Staff at the store, located at 2501A N. Harrison Street, said “it’s mostly the same stuff” with the same dog washing services Loyal Companion offered, just under a new name.
One of the few notable changes, staff said, is that eventually Wags N’ Wash will have a self-serve dog wash.
Meanwhile, a store manager at Dogma Bakery & Boutique said the new location near Clarendon — at 2509 Franklin Road — will have a soft opening later this week, perhaps on Wednesday, March 15, depending on when the shelves get set up. The store expects to be fully open next week.
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Amazon is putting the second phase of its second headquarters in Arlington on pause, Bloomberg and various other business news outlets are reporting.
“The construction moratorium will delay the online retailer’s full arrival at its biggest real estate project, and could create headaches for local developers, as well as construction and service workers banking on Amazon’s rapid expansion,” Bloomberg first reported.
It is a move that is not totally unexpected but yet will have significant local economic ramifications. Phase 2 of HQ2, approved by the Arlington County Board in April 2022, would have come with hundreds if not thousands of construction jobs, nearly 3 million square feet of office space, and the futuristic, nature-inspired Helix building.
That’s not to mention possible impacts on some of the development in the area spurred by Amazon’s arrival.
Amazon is still on track to complete the first HQ2 phase in Pentagon City this summer and told the Washington Business Journal that it still plans to eventually hire some 25,000 workers for its Arlington presence.
Thus far, this move is being described as a “pause” and not a cancellation. Amazon still plans to apply for permits associated with the project’s second phase, on what’s known as the PenPlace site, according to the Business Journal.
Amazon recently announced that it would be bringing most employees back to the office at least three days per week, after three years of working from home during the pandemic. Some employees, including those who work on national security-related business lines, have been working out of rented office space in Crystal City during that time.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to lay off more than 18,000 employees across the company. It also paused work on office construction projects in Nashville and in the Seattle area.
Arlington County issued the following statement about Amazon’s decision today.
Arlington County values the ongoing partnership with Amazon throughout the creation of its second headquarters – HQ2 has always been a multi-year project, and it continues to be a long-term commitment to Arlington and Virginia. We’re confident Amazon remains committed to the second phase of the project — PenPlace — and its benefits to the community, including affordable housing and the exciting partnership with Arlington Public Schools for the Community High School. We remain committed to working with Amazon in the years ahead, and look forward to the opening of phase one — Met Park — later this year.
At a virtual press conference this afternoon, County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said the HQ2 delay is “not exactly surprising” and “makes sense” given economic conditions and post-pandemic work patterns.
“It really doesn’t concern me, in fact i’m quite understanding,” Dorsey said. “Every [organization], from every sector, is thinking of its long term plans in a new light.”
“We’re going to ultimately see all of the benefits that we envisioned at the beginning, it’s just going to take longer,” Dorsey said, confidently predicting that the second HQ2 phase will still get built. “There’s no indication that I have that as Amazon expands, a central piece of that won’t be HQ2 and Arlington.”
In 1989, when Raffis Cleaners opened at 5119 Langston Blvd, the Berlin Wall came down, the Game Boy was released, and Taylor Swift was born.
Now, after 33 years, the owners of Raffis Cleaners say the business never fully came back post-Covid, forcing the alterations and dry cleaning service to close.
“We reached a point where we’re not covering our expenses,” said Eugenei Hovsepian, who owns the cleaner with her husband Harout. “We didn’t want to declare bankruptcy, we wanted to go out the right way.”
Eugenei said their landlord was a big help in keeping the businesses afloat as long as it has been: only paying half their usual rent for the last three years and getting several months in 2020 completely free.
The business also received support from the local community, with neighbors doing everything they could to help.
“We know people by their names here,” Eugenei said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood and people really tried to help out.”
Eugenei said her husband has retired, but she’s hoping to go to Fairfax County Public Schools to work as a classroom monitor. Eugenei is in the interview process for the schools, saying she heard they needed support and wanted to help.
Raffis Cleaners closed for good yesterday (Wednesday) but will be open for the next two weeks to clear the store and return cleaned garments to customers.
Tuna Restaurant in Cherrydale is on the market, one of several Arlington restaurants publicly listed for sale.
The restaurant at 3813 Langston Blvd, serving Laotian and Japanese cuisine, opened in September after taking over the former space of Maneki Neko Express.
First-time restaurant owner Sak Vong expressed to ARLnow at the time high hopes for the revitalization of the Cherrydale neighborhood, which had just seen the closure of the well-regarded Gaijin Ramen Shop across the street.
Vong told ARLnow last week that he is selling because of a “new business opportunity overseas.”
The listing for Tuna on a business brokerage website says it’s bringing in more than $40,000 per month, has positive diner reviews, and has “plenty of room to grow.” The new owners would be able to retain the staff of six, says the listing, which comes with a $195,000 asking price. The restaurant’s lease reportedly runs through September 2025.
Several other Arlington restaurants are currently listed for sale on the brokerage site, though the identities of each have not been revealed. Among them:
- Popular Restaurant & Bar for sale in Arlington — $225,000
“Restaurant & bar for sale on a high traffic road in Arlington VA. This restaurant was established in 2019 built out with all brand new furniture, fixtures and equipment which are all still in pristine condition. Excellent menu consisting of a variety of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads as well as an assortment of mouth watering specialty entrees. The highlight of this restaurant is the bar which serves numerous craft beers, wines, large whisky selection, liquor and specialty cocktails.”
- 5 Day Cafe in Prime Location — $89,000
“Prime location restaurant and cafe on a main road in Arlington opened only 5 days a week. Surrounded by office buildings, apartments and retail makes this a great location given the high volume walking traffic during work hours and evenings. This restaurant has been in business since 2016. The current menu consists of soups, salads, sandwiches and much more but can be converted to fit most menus/concepts.”
- Low Rent & Profitable Free Standing Restaurant — $279,000
“Profitable free standing restaurant in Arlington VA located on a heavy traffic road surrounded by residential. This restaurant has been in business since 1998 and has EXTREMELY LOW RENT for this area. The current menu and concept can be converted to almost any type of food or be kept the same. Very big kitchen great for catering and to accommodate large orders. With a rent of $5,700 per month and annual sales around $800,000 this is an excellent money making opportunity. 5 star google reviews.”
- Absentee Owned Franchise Sandwich Shop — $99,000
“Absentee owned national franchise sandwich shop/deli in Arlington. Conveniently located on a heavy traffic road surrounded by office buildings and residential. The menu consists of mostly deli sandwiches but can be converted to fit most menus. Large kitchen with high end equipment. Extremely low rent considering the location. MUST SEE!! Please inquire for more information. Current owner is ready to retire.”
- Fantastic Corner Cafe’ and Market — $145,000
“European café and market. Serving breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and deserts. All types of coffees, lattes, and teas. Pastries and bagels. Sandwiches, soups, and salads. Chips, candy, cigarettes’, and Ice cream, Refreshments, select micro beers, and fine wines. Inside and outside seating. A real must see.”
ARLnow reached out to Rebellion on the Pike, which opened in 2019, given the similarity between it and the “Popular Restaurant & Bar for sale in Arlington” listing. We have not heard back as of publication time.
Dogma Bakery & Boutique is expanding and taking over the Clarendon space that Loyal Companion is moving out of next week.
The Shirlington-based local pet store announced on Saturday that it was opening its third Northern Virginia location at 2509 Franklin Road in the Clarendon area. It’s taking over the space that Loyal Companion is leaving at the end of February.
Earlier in the month, Loyal Companion announced it was closing many of its pet stores across the country, including the two in Arlington, due to its parent company declaring bankruptcy. Both locations, in Clarendon and at Lee Harrison Shopping Center, were planning to close on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Within weeks, though, Dogma committed to taking over the space.
While it’s taking over the space at the beginning of next month, Dogma owner Sheila Raebel told ARLnow the plan is to reopen by Tuesday, March 7. She said one of the biggest reasons to move in was the desire to keep Loyal Companion’s staff employed.
“The decision was made when I met the staff there and saw how hard they were taking the closure of their store,” said Raebel. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
Dogma opened more than two decades ago in Shirlington and expanded to Reston in 2017, with the new location focused on grooming. The Reston outpost closed during the pandemic and then was open for appointments only.
Separately, Raebel also announced the Reston location will be fully reopening next month.
It used to be that we could just post article links to our Facebook and Twitter accounts and call it a day.
But each social network has been leaking users and reducing the organic reach of news publishers, so in order to connect with readers where they are we’ve been upping our game.
Two recent initiatives include a push to get email newsletter signups, to cut out the middleman between readers and our local news stories, and posting our top stories on Instagram.
As of today, something new: we’re going to be publishing business- and economic policy-related local news stories on our new ARLnow LinkedIn page.
Just click “Follow” on the page to get our links in your LinkedIn feed.
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) When Arlington Economic Development tried to help a local tech business take advantage of a county tax incentive program some 2.5 years ago, it hit a snag.
The Commissioner of Revenue denied the company’s application to be recognized as a “qualified technology business,” per a county report. Under this designation, as part of the county’s “Technology Zone” program, it would have paid half the rate normal rate for the Business, Professional, Occupational License (BPOL) tax.
“Technology Zone” allows qualifying companies in Arlington’s “high-technology business corridors” to pay $0.18 per $100 of gross receipts for 10 years, as opposed to the $0.36 that many companies pay for a business license.
AED says the program is one of its “most effective tools” to recruit and retain tech companies, and a spokeswoman for the division tells ARLnow that 105 businesses have been approved for this designation since its inception in 2014.
After talking with the tax assessor’s office, AED learned the business was denied because it used a third-party organization, known as a Professional Employer Organization, to manage company payroll. It also learned “several” other businesses had been turned away for the same reason.
To qualify for the tax break, businesses must show, and the Virginia Employment Commission must verify, they increased their full-time employees by at least 25% within the 12 months before applying for the program.
“PEOs report a company’s employees and wages to the VEC under the PEO’s federal employer identification number, and the reports indicate that the employees are affiliated with the PEO rather than with the company,” said the staff report to the Arlington County Board. “This leaves the company unable to demonstrate employment growth to the County via its own VEC filing and therefore unable to meet the Technology Zone program’s criteria.”
This affects between four and six companies interested in applying for the program every year, AED spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said.
Now, AED and the Commissioner of Revenue are asking the County Board to allow businesses that use these services to be eligible. The Board is set to review the request during its meeting on Saturday.
“The language does not align with current business processes and trends in the technology industry, specifically the increasing usage of third-party organizations to manage and process company payroll,” the staff report says, asserting that this is “inconsistent with the original intent” of the ordinance.
The proposed changes would also update the definition of “qualified technology business,” which the county says is “vague and outdated.”
County code currently says that a “qualified technology business” has a “primary function in the creation, design, and/or research and development of technology hardware or software.”
It adds that using computers, telecommunications services or the internet “shall not, in itself, be sufficient to qualify as a qualified technology business.”
But AED says this “does not capture many new business models” and recommend emphasizing proprietary technology instead.
Lastly, businesses would have 24 months, rather than 18, to apply to be “qualified technology businesses” after setting up a business in Arlington.
“The proposed amendments are minor technical changes to the ordinance language, not expansive policy changes,” the staff report says. “Together, these changes would enhance the effectiveness of the Technology Zone incentive as a business attraction and retention tool.”
Two bills that would have given online-only local news publications like ARLnow some of the same privileges afforded legacy media outlets failed in Richmond over the past few weeks.
In the House of Delegates, HB 1920 would have included online local news publications that employ at least one full time journalist in an exemption from local Business, Professional, and Occupational License (BPOL) taxes.
Current statute exempts radio stations, television stations, newspapers, magazines, newsletters and “other publication[s] issued daily or regularly at average intervals not exceeding three months.” Online publications are not considered an “other publication” in Virginia, in part because the state exemption was originally passed in the late 1980s, before the advent of the modern commercial internet.
ARLnow’s parent company, which is based in Arlington and pays a mid-four-figure BPOL tax annually — nearly 10% of the company’s net income for 2022 — appealed the exclusion from the media outlet BPOL exemption to the Arlington Office of the Commissioner of Revenue in the fall. The office rejected the appeal, citing a 2020 Virginia Tax Commissioner ruling against a food blog that was also seeking the exemption.
Introduced by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), the bill garnered support from other Virginia online-only local news publishers but Arlington County officials expressed concern about a loss of tax revenue. Several other online publications, including Axios, are also based in Arlington.
HB 1920 was ultimately “laid on the table” by a House finance subcommittee, with committee members expressing both interest in studying the bill’s financial impact and surprise that legacy media outlets are excluded from BPOL.
Also considered this year was SB 1237, proposed by state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), which would have given local governments and businesses the option of placing legal notice ads in qualifying online local news publications. Currently, such notices must be placed in printed newspapers to satisfy legal requirements.
Obenshain argued that numerous online-only local news publications have as many or more readers than their print counterparts, while citing the continued closure of print newspapers across the country, including the Richmond-area Chesterfield Observer earlier this month.
Here in Arlington, residents and County Board members have at times expressed frustration with the county placing its legal notices in the relatively lightly-circulated Washington Times newspaper. Board members, however, said that doing so is the most cost-effective way to meet state notice requirements and placing notices in the Washington Post, for instance, would be considerably more expensive.
Arlington County spent more than $37,000 with the Washington Times, an unabashedly conservative daily paper owned by an offshoot of the Unification Church, between fiscal years 2018 and 2019, according to a Freedom of Information Act response to a resident’s query in 2020.
The owners of ARLnow, Page Valley News and the MadRapp Recorder were among those to testify in favor of the bill last week. It was opposed by the Virginia Press Association and the publisher of InsideNoVa on the grounds that newspapers provide a permanent physical record of such notices and Virginia newspapers publishers already post notices online.
The state Senate’s judiciary committee ultimately voted 6-9 against the bill, after expressing concerns about which publications would qualify under SB 1237 and whether notices would be lost if online publications closed.
The vote was largely along party lines, with six GOP members voting in favor. Among those voting against it were members of the Democratic delegation from Fairfax County: Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Sen. Chap Petersen, Sen. Dick Saslaw and Sen. Scott Surovell. Previous attempts to pass a similar bill on the House side by Del. Hope have also failed in committee.
Online-only local news publishers who supported the bill — there are currently more than a dozen such local sites throughout the Commonwealth — have vowed to try again to gain bipartisan support for a modified version of this year’s bill during next year’s General Assembly session.
Separately, a bill from Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) to provide tax credits that would benefit both print and online local news publishers, also failed in a House finance subcommittee. The bill, HB 2061, had the support of the Virginia Press Association.
The Sun Gazette newspaper has not published new articles on its website since Friday and may have printed its last edition.
Several sources tell ARLnow that the free weekly paper, which has separate editions serving Arlington and parts of Fairfax County, has effectively shuttered, though no notice of a closure was published online.
Sun Gazette staffers, meanwhile, have been hired for a new local newspaper called the Gazette Leader.
Editor Scott McCaffrey, sports editor Dave Facinoli and advertising director Vicky Mashaw are among those hired for the new paper, with Mashaw assuming the title of General Manager.
Jim O’Rourke, CEO of Arizona-based O’Rourke Media Group, confirmed to ARLnow that his company had hired the Sun Gazette vets and would be launching the new local publication later this week. The goal is for the print edition to go out Thursday and a new website to launch then or shortly thereafter. Two-thirds of papers will be mailed to local addresses, the rest distributed by other means, he said.
O’Rourke declined further comment, saying that a formal announcement with more details would be published with the first edition.
An email sent by Mashaw, obtained by ARLnow, suggests that the Gazette Leader will have much of the same local news focus and coverage area as its predecessor.
“We are excited to communicate to you about the launch of the Gazetteleader.com and two new weekly print publications that will serve Arlington, Great Falls, McLean, Tysons, Oakton and Vienna,” the email said. “You can expect hyper-local community news coverage, original reporting, the most advanced local news website in the region, easy to read and access newsletters delivered directly to your inbox, an e-edition replica of the print products and so much more.”
The Sun Gazette was the successor to the daily Northern Virginia Sun, which ceased publishing in 1998. The paper is owned — at last check — by Northern Virginia Media Services, which previously owned but then sold two publications, Leesburg Today and Ashburn Today, in 2015, and sold the website InsideNoVa.com in 2018.
There’s no word yet on what might have led to the staff departure and possible closure.
Many drivers have circled around blocks in Arlington, looking for a quick parking spot to slide into and pick up a mobile food order.
Or they may have skirted around a car double parked in a bike or vehicle travel lane, hazards flashing, rather than waiting for a spot to appear.
During the pandemic, the county created temporary “pick-up, drop-off spots.” Coming out of the emergency, most of these spots were converted to short-term parking spaces, with input from business improvement districts and neighborhood stakeholders, Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien tells ARLnow.
Still, food deliveries and contactless ordering options are likely here to stay. Some businesses that are now more reliant on takeout and delivery are concerned they’ll soon lose revenue as curbside parking spots are repurposed for, among other uses, protected bike lanes.
The county says one solution could be adjusting parking times, armed with data that will be collected through new parking pilot program.
Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Courthouse (2055 Wilson Blvd), for instance, says it has lost four spots to a bike lane that developer Greystar agreed to install during construction for the “Landmark” block redevelopment project across the street.
(There is also a small private parking lot behind the retail strip.)
Speaking on behalf of Brooklyn Bagel — as well as neighboring businesses Courthouse Kabob, California Tortilla and TNR Cafe — Dawn Houdaigui asked the Board on Jan. 21 for a compromise.
“We believe in the protected bike lanes that have already gone in, that are blocking our spaces now, but we need to understand how we can share the space in front of us and how things can be reconsidered,” she said during the public comment period. “This is super important to the businesses who changed our business model after Covid. We have a lot of deliveries, we have people who come run in out front.”
She asked for more notice of proposed changes as well as notice when spots will be lost.
“A letter went out — supposedly it was hand-delivered by someone having lunch at our bagel store — and supposedly an email went out the same day,” she said. “We missed the meeting. Only one person from the businesses were there.”
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and County Manager Mark Schwartz referred her to the county’s ombudsman and constituent services.
In general, the county is looking into the twin issues of temporary parking and combatting double-parking both systematically and on a case-by-case basis, O’Brien said.
As for specific cases, like Brooklyn Bagel’s, the county follows a six-step public engagement process for projects that impact neighbors, businesses and property owners.