Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

GMU to Expand Va. Square Campus — “George Mason University wants to transform its Arlington campus into an ‘innovation district’ as it kicks off an Amazon-inspired overhaul… Mason expects to use the expansion to add 3,000 to 4,000 graduate students to the campus by 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

Man Arrested For Assaulting Police in Ballston — “At approximately 8:32 p.m. on September 11, police were dispatched the report of a disorderly subject inside a restaurant who had allegedly been throwing items and threatening staff. Upon police arrival, the business staff requested the subject be banned from the property. While speaking with the subject, he threatened an officer and took a defensive stance. While placing him under arrest, the subject became combative, kicked and spit at the officers.” [Arlington County]

Home Inventory Tight in Arlington — “New listings in Arlington declined 16.5% in August compared with last year, said Chris Finnegan, vice president at Bright MLS. The median sale price for all home types in the 22202 ZIP code, where Amazon is building and staffing up HQ2, was $749,000 in August. It’s a 23% jump since the company made its HQ2 announcement in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, InsideNova]

Coffee Beanery Open in Va. Square — Coffee Beanery, a coffee chain with locations across the northeast, has opened a new location at 3444 Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square. [Facebook]

Tech Company Picks Arlington for U.S. HQ — ” Varjo, the technology leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced the opening of its U.S. headquarters… in Arlington, Virginia, located just outside of Washington D.C.” [Varjo via Potomac Tech Wire]

Potomac Kempo Now Open — Martial arts studio Potomac Kempo yesterday held a grand opening ceremony for its fifth location, at 3650 S. Glebe Road, in the Potomac Yard area. The studio started holding classes on Aug. 31, we’re told. [Facebook]

Video: USS Arlington Crew Welcomed at Fire Station — “Crew members from the USS Arlington were welcomed at Arlington’s Fire Station 5 before running in the The Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial Race. The USS Arlington honors the 184 victims and the thousands of emergency, fire and rescue personnel of Arlington County and localities in the National Capital Region who provided critical emergency assistance after the attack on 9/11.” [YouTube]

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It’s been a tumultuous road to recovery for two Westover stores devastated by this summer’s record-breaking floods.

Ayers Variety and Hardware and Westover Market and Beer Garden are local institutions that were unfortunately placed directly in the path of floodwaters. Waters flooded both stores and knocked out power to the block.

“Every week it gets better,” said Devin Hicks, manager of Westover Market. “This place has never looked so clean and the community support has been tremendous.”

As Westover Market approaches its ten-year anniversary, Hicks said he’s feeling optimistic.

“It’s been a fight the entire time,” Hicks said. “But everyone’s been remarking that they’re happy to see us persevere. It’s been a rough two months, but it gets better every day.”

Next door, however, recovery has not been as easy for Ayers. The local store has been in business for 70 years selling everything from gardening supplies to plastic toys. But Kristy Peterkin, a manager for the store, said the business was already hard-hit by recent tariffs from the ongoing trade war with China.

“At the same time as the flood, one tier of the China trade tariff hit,” Peterkin said. “Now the second tier is starting to take effect. That’s a big hit.”

Peterkin says the company tries to buy American, but most of the stock they sell is almost exclusively manufactured overseas.

“Probably about 75 percent of what we sell is not American-made,” Peterkin said, “and we’ve seen a 25 percent increase in the prices. Walmart absorbs that price, but we can’t.”

The flood heavily exacerbated what was already a not-so-great situation. Water poured into the Ayers basement, ruining thousands of dollars in merchandise and leaving the store with nowhere to put overstocked goods. Today, half of the basement remains unusable.

“Until that’s fixed, we have nowhere to store additional [stock] that comes in,” Peterkin said. “We’re out of money to spend paying people to fix things, so repairs are on us now, which takes a lot longer. My husband and I work evenings trying to clear the basement.”

The basement flooding has left the store with limited inventory, as Peterkin said they have to be more careful about what they purchase because there’s no room to store surplus and they can’t afford to take a risk on items that they aren’t sure will sell.

“We’re kind of in a rough place right now,” Peterkin said. “I don’t know how that will look in the long run. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Both stores said a GoFundMe campaign set up to support Westover retailers was a tremendous boon at a time of dire need. Hicks said Westover Market received roughly $30,000 and was particularly thankful to Whitlow’s On Wilson in Clarendon, which hosted a fundraiser event for the Westover stores.

“The event at Whitlow’s was great,” Hicks said. “It had a great turnout, there was great music, and everyone really rallied.”

Ayers received roughly $32,000 and Peterkin said the funding took a chunk out of the estimated $250,000 in lost sales and merchandise.

Peterkin also said there was an initial uptick in sales after the flood where members of the community came out to support the store, but since then numbers have dwindled back down and revenue is flat.

“In business, flat basically means down,” Peterkin said. “If business is flat, everything else still goes up, like rent and payroll and insurance. But to stay competitive, we can’t raise prices to accommodate.”

With winter on the way and a heating unit still out of service from the floods, Peterkin said there are still more costs looming on the horizon and no clear way to afford to pay for them.

There are also concerns that if heavy storms sweep through the area again, the same damage will happen all over. During the floods, Hicks said he saw the sewage pipes in the area become almost immediately overwhelmed and start spewing the water back up into the streets.

“The county needs to address this,” Hicks said. “They need to clean the sewage drains. They have to address it county-wide because it’s only going to get worse.”

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Local bookstore One More Page (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) will be able to pay the bills after all, thanks to its auction last month.

“We received donations of wine, window washing service, and many other items,” said owner Eileen McGervey, of the items the store auctioned off. “It was really quite overwhelming.”

In total, the online auction raised $20,374.32, passing its goal of $20,000.

The highest bid item was an original cartoon by the late Richard Thompson, which was donated by his wife Amy Thompson — it sold for $1,111.50. The item the fetched the second highest bit was naming rights to a character in the the Wine Country mystery series by Ellen Crosby, which sold for $725.

McGervey described the auction as a “wonderful success” to ARLnow and said the money raised was enough to cover the vendors she wasn’t able to pay after the building owner raised her rent by 30 percent in July. The spike in rent was caused largely by changes to the county’s real estate valuation method for the type of condominium building that houses One More Page.

The building’s property tax liability more than doubled this year, even after an appeal that knocked $700,000 off the valuation.

Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey tells ARLnow he has been working with the parties involved to try to make sure One More Page could meet its obligations and stay in business.

“Shortly after this issue raised itself in the public eye, I spoke with the owner and we tried to see what we could do and what would be available,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey encouraged any small businesses affected by the real estate valuation change to contact Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch division.

Dorsey said he was “deeply sympathetic” to the bookstore’s plight, noting that the establishment is one of his family’s favorites. But he added that the valuation changes was necessary because “for years we were not taxing at the appropriate levels, which create larger issues of equity.”

In the meantime, McGervey said that the bookstore is looking into holding more events to help it stay afloat. She’s also started a Patreon membership program after would-be auction buyers said they were interested in supporting the bookstore that way.

“The whole experience has invigorated us and our customers to make sure we stay here,” McGervey said.

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(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Vegan Americana has been making waves, from the new Impossible Whoppers at Burger King to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s vegan chicken buckets. But at one popular Clarendon bar, vegan options are a longtime specialty receiving a new focus.

Galaxy Hut is a small, dimly lit bar at 2711 Wilson Blvd with regulars huddled around tables with built-in arcade games or in the outdoor brick alleyway. The bar has a long history in the local punk rock scene, opening in 1990 in the nascent era of the Clarendon bar scene. It’s strictly for the over-21 crowd, opening at 5 p.m. every day and closing at 2 a.m.

The bar also has a Smithsonian-worthy collection of VHS tapes playing on a regular cycle. Last night (Wednesday), it was Pulp Fiction.

In early August, the Galaxy Hut adjusted its menu with a masthead noting — as it has since 2017 — that every item on the menu can be made vegan. This is not a small menu either. Sandwiches like the Reuben or meatball sub can all be swapped out with vegan imitation ingredients. Others, like the “big mock” — a vegan burger with pickles, onion, Russian dressing and non-dairy cheddar — are implicitly designed as vegan entrees.

Each of these items can be paired with tater tots or eggplant fries, which manager Joe Baker swears by. All of the condiments on the menu are made in-house, according to Baker, so traditionally egg or dairy-based aiolis or ranch are swapped with vegan ingredients.

“We used to carry honey mustard, but people pointed out that’s not vegan so now we use sweet mustard,” Baker said. “We listen to our customers and adjust. Personally, I’ve stopped saying ‘do you want normal cheese’ and switched to ‘do you want dairy-cheese.'”

The vegan menu was not a sudden change but a gradual evolution, according to Baker. Galaxy Hut’s owners are vegan and the bar has been making adjustments over time to cater towards the establishment’s “pretty consistent vegan crowd.”

“We’ve had a significant vegetarian customer base for a long time,” said Lary and Erica Hoffman, the owners, in a joint email to ARLnow. “Galaxy Hut went entirely vegetarian for 9 months in 2012, but decided to add meat options back to the menu due to customer demand.”

The veggie focus event landed Galaxy Hut as the Virginia standout on a “50 States of Vegetarian Food” list compiled on the Food Network website.

A handful of the beers also have non-vegan ingredients, but Baker said all of the bartenders know the taps well enough to let those ordering vegan food items know which of the beers to avoid.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

For both new arrivals to the United States dreaming of starting their own business and locals who need a place to work, Columbia Pike’s Enterprise Development Group (EDG) strives to give them solid footing.

The Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) works to help refugees and immigrants, and within that organization the EDG strives to help entrepreneurs launch their own businesses.

“Our business incubator is a program where EDG rents office space below market rate,” said Fikru Abebe, managing director of the EDG. “This program primarily offers new start-up business access to free internet, free training meeting rooms and free utility. Participants will eventually graduate and move out.”

The ECDC launched in 1983 and the EDG was incorporated as a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2001. Funding for the incubator comes from a variety of public and private sources, though Abebe said continuing to raise funds to manage the program has not been easy.

The incubator is based out of 901 S. Highland Street, just off Columbia Pike.

Successful graduates from the program include a few local healthcare professionals and attorneys, like the firm DC Metro Immigration Law, according to Abebe.

For those who aren’t successful and want to shut down their business concept, Abebe said the low cost and flexibility of their month-to-month lease can keep that from being a career-ruining collapse.

Members of the group also receive access to classes for creating business plans, handling taxes as a small business, and more.

There are currently 22 businesses in the incubator, ranging from lawyers, IT consultants, cleaning services and more. Abebe said the program is currently at around 85 percent capacity with four offices left.

A fact sheet for the program says it strives for low vacancy, but high turnover.

“A successful business incubator would have all space filled, but it would have a balanced rate of new clients, existing clients, and graduated clients,” the fact sheet notes.

Photo via EDG/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Arlington Companies in Inc. 5000 — “Inc. Magazine named 34 Arlington companies to its annual list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies, the Inc. 5000, while five were part of the exclusive Inc. 500.” [Arlington Economic Development, InsideNova]

Predator or Victim of Injustice? — “On Monday, the Circuit Court in liberal Arlington County will be the scene of a heavy-handed morality play, with prosecutors seeking lifelong incarceration for a young gay man who has already paid an extraordinary price for youthful, nonviolent sexual indiscretions.” [Washington Post]

DCA Construction Update — “Floor framing is underway on a new concourse to replace #Gate35X that will offer new shopping and dining choices and 14 gates with direct jetbridge access to your flight.” [Twitter]

Focus on County’s Vehicle Maintenance Shop — “At 2700 S Taylor St., you’ll find Arlington’s Recycling Drop-Off Center, Earth Products Yard, Inert Materials and Scrap Metal Drop-Off Facility (get your free paper shredding!), Fire Training Academy, and more. It’s also home to the Equipment Division, a full-service vehicle maintenance and repair facility that operates 17 hours a day.” [Arlington County]

Profile: HQ2’s People Person — “Despite being head of workforce development for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, Ardine Williams has yet to sit in on an interview with any potential HQ2 employees. While Amazon plans to have 400 workers in its Arlington offices by the end of this year, Williams appears much more focused on the 25,000 it looks to hire in the next decade.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy @artsytatiana

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Morning Notes

Now Might Be the Time to Sell Your Home — “‘Some sellers are thinking ‘gosh, why don’t I just wait until Amazon gets into full bloom before I sell my house, because maybe values will go up even higher,” Christine Richardson, president of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, told WTOP. ‘But I’m not sure that is necessarily the right way to think about it, because often that initial exuberance is actually higher than reality turns out to be.'” [WTOP]

Local CVS Sold Millions of Opioids — “The largest recipient of pain pills in Arlington, according to the database, is a CVS Pharmacy located at 3133 Lee Highway. A total of 1,465,700 pills were shipped to this pharmacy between 2006 and 2012, which would be enough for one pill per year for each of the 106,612 people who live within five miles of the pharmacy.” [Patch]

Lots of Booze Sales in Arlington — “The eight Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores in Arlington accounted for 2.8 percent of total ABC purchases Virginia-wide during the state government’s last fiscal year, which saw a new statewide record set in total sales volume. A total of $29,052,507 in sales (excluding tax) were made at Arlington’s ABC stores from July 2018 to June 2019.” [InsideNova]

Cristol on Kojo — Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol went on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on Friday. Among the topics she discussed: the federal government’s search for a new shelter for detained, unaccompanied immigrant children in Northern Virginia. [Kojo Nnamdi Show, Twitter]

Local Restaurants Coming to Memphis — A pair of local restaurants — Matchbox American Kitchen and Arlington-based Big Buns Best Damn Burger Co. — are opening new locations in Memphis, Tennessee. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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For some diners, Ballston ends at Glebe Road, and a handful of restaurant owners at the western end of the neighborhood are feeling left out.

As numerous businesses have sprung up in the central part of Ballston, the western edge has suffered a series of high-profile closures.

The epicenter of the new restaurant openings is the newly-redeveloped Ballston Quarter mall and the ground floor of Ballston Exchange, just across Wilson Blvd from the mall — both in the central portion of the neighborhood, where several new residential and office buildings are also under construction.

“The gathering place is on the other side of Glebe Road,” said Brian McBride, one of the owners of Mussel Bar and Grille (800 N. Glebe Road). He listed off a number of places near his restaurant that have closed.

Cheesetique, which closed in June, is the most recent example. The storefront is still vacant, with lingering signs advertising long-gone desserts. Applebee’s and Il Forno along the same stretch of Glebe Road have both also closed over the last few years.

Manny Tangle, owner of Filipino restaurant Bistro 1521 (900 N. Glebe Road), said the improvements and changes taking place across Glebe Road have had no discernible effect on his businesses — for better or worse.

Restaurateurs along the west side of Glebe Road almost unanimously agreed that the biggest challenges for local businesses all stem from traffic issues. McBride and Tangle both agreed it can be difficult for visitors to find the right places to park. The parking for Mussel Bar and Grille, for instance, is only available by making a somewhat complex set of turns behind the building.

For Bistro 1521, the big frustration is being stuck between the “No U-Turn” signs at Fairfax Drive and Wilson Blvd, so if someone misses their turn to get to the restaurant, it’s several more blocks before they can turn around and make another pass.

Even at Good Company Doughnuts and Cafe (672 N. Glebe Road), which had a stronger than expected first few months, co-owner Kate Murphy said most of their customers came from the residential areas west of Glebe Road. The sparse number of crosswalks and perpetual construction meant the eatery didn’t see as much foot traffic from people visiting the Ballston Quarter area across the street, according to Murphy.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for these restaurants. Mary Marchetti, owner of Stageplate Bistro (900 N. Glebe Road), said the challenges of the west side of Glebe Road also come with some unique opportunities.

“Our side of Glebe Road tends to be more affordable to the independent restaurateur,” Marchetti said. “SER, us, Mussel, Bistro… would any of us have been able to afford Ballston Quarter? No, the rents are too high and we don’t have that kind of clout. So here we are, on our little independent strip of restaurants.”

If anything, Marchetti said the biggest challenge for the archipelago of independent restaurants is overcoming the reputation that west-of-Glebe is where eateries go to die.

“Ending that stigma will help drive businesses here,” Marchetti said. “The dining scene in Ballston has so much to offer. Ballston should be a dining mecca.”

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Morning Notes

Arlington Man Sentenced for Hate Crime — “A 61-year-old Arlington man has been sentenced to 60 months in prison for committing a hate crime. William Syring was sentenced Thursday after threatening employees of the Arab American Institute ‘because of their race and national origin,’ the Department of Justice said in a press release.” [WUSA 9]

Westover Water Main Update — “The leak beneath 5800 block of Washington Boulevard was fixed overnight but per policy, two galvanized service lines need replacement. Friday night expect detours both directions beginning 8pm. Water service shutoff in the area after close of business.” [Twitter]

Man Who Survived on Coke Talks — “From his bed at Virginia Hospital Center, reluctant newsmaker Glenn Smith gave me his version of his widely reported mishap. The 77-year-old homeowner on N. Trinidad St. in the Williamsburg area made local TV and online news last week after he suffered a fall in his kitchen and survived alone on the floor for five days — taking nourishment from his nearby stash of Coca-Cola.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Firms on Inc. 500 — Four Arlington-based firms are on the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing U.S. companies. [Washington Business Journal, Inc. Magazine]

Case of the Misplaced Door — “Someone decided to leave this large structure reclined in the entrance of my house 2 days ago. My HoA manager @Associa is not providing any help. Can @planArlingtonVA come to the rescue?” [Twitter]

Rosslyn Startup Expanding — “Hungry, the Arlington-based food technology startup that has drawn investments from celebrities such as Usher and Jay-Z, is expanding into Boston.” [Washington Business Journal]

Citizen’s Police Academy Applications Open — “The Arlington County Police Department is now accepting applications for the 23rd Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA). The CPA is an educational program designed to create better understanding and communication between police and the citizens they serve.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Pence Visits Arlington, Again — Vice President Mike Pence again visited Arlington, this time the southern half of the county. The one-time Arlington resident gave a speech at an event for the “Alliance Defending Freedom” at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City hotel. As with his visit to Clarendon last week, the veep arrived via motorcade, accompanied by a sizable security detail. [White House, Twitter]

Arlington Company Facing Lawsuit — Employees of Arlington-based Evolent Health “have asserted in class-action lawsuits that the health care consulting company… has failed to pay them overtime for periods in which they worked more than 40 hours a week.” The company denied the allegations in court filings. [Insider Louisville]

Trans Events Coming to Crystal City — “An opening reception for people planning to participate in the [National Transgender Visibility March] will be held Thursday, Sept. 26, to be followed by a Friday, Sept. 27, Torch Award Ceremony in which prominent transgender and gender non-conforming leaders and activists will be honored. Both events will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Blade]

Nearby: Serious Crash on Route 50 — Westbound Arlington Blvd was closed near the Arlington border Tuesday afternoon for a serious motorcycle crash and a subsequent Fairfax County Police investigation. The crash happened near the intersection of Arlington Blvd and Olin Drive in Falls Church. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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