A longtime Lee Highway seafood shop has closed its doors.
America Seafood Corp., a standalone store located in the Lee Heights Shops parking lot at 4450 Lee Highway, served its final customers on Dec. 31. Owners Gary and Martha Royce were clearing out the last of the store’s equipment today.
The shop has been open for nearly 35 years — a sign in the window sign says 44 years, but that’s a typo, Gary says — and has served legions of locals seeking the freshest seafood and Key lime pies around.
Royce said he his wife were planning to move back down to his native Key West within a month. He plans to stay there at least a year before potentially coming back up to Arlington and deciding what to do next.
“Just wanted to get out of here, we have been here for 35 years already,” Royce said. The response from customers, he said, has been one of shock and sadness.
“Two ladies came here crying,” he said. “The people love this place. I mean, we have been here longer than any shop in this whole place.”
The secret, according to Royce, was “good seafood, good banter.” Royce said he sourced his seafood primarily from New England and Florida fisheries, which set his offerings apart from those in grocery stores.
“We sold a lot of Florida fish: grouper, snapper, yellowtail, swordfish, tuna,” he said, listing some of his best sellers. “I sold two different size shrimp from Key West, Florida… we sold all different kinds of fish, some of them were not even the same week, sometimes we sold trout, Chilean sea bass, we sold salmon.”
“I think I sold quality stuff, that’s why the people want to know where can they go buy quality fish around here,” he continued. “I bought it all direct, nothing from around here… that’s all CO2 [carbon dioxide] treated. They inject it with stuff and freeze it then you thaw it. That’s what they sell at grocery stores.”
So where should customers go to find fresh seafood now that America Seafood has closed down? Gary wouldn’t say for publication, but he did suggest that customers weren’t happy with the recommendation.
“I tell them and they say, ‘that place is terrible.'”
Hat tip to John B.
CEB Being Acquired — Arlington-based CEB Inc., one of the county’s biggest private employers, is being acquired by Connecticut-based Gartner in a $2.6 billion cash-and-stock deal. CEB is set to anchor one of the under-construction Central Place towers in Rosslyn once it is completed. [Reuters, Gartner]
Fisette Still Mulling Reelection Run — Jay Fisette, who is serving as Arlington County Board Chair for 2017, has not yet decided whether he’ll run for another four-year term. Fisette says he’ll make a decision in February, the Washington Post’s Patricia Sullivan reports. [Twitter]
What County Board Members Did for New Year’s — With the County Board’s traditional New Year’s Day organizational meeting moved to Jan. 3, what did County Board members do on Jan. 1 instead? Nothing too interesting, it turns out. [Falls Church News-Press]
Obama’s Military Farewell Ceremony — It tied up some traffic in Arlington, but yesterday afternoon the country’s armed forces bid farewell to President Obama and Vice President Biden on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The event went well, minus one Army honor guard member fainting during the ceremony. [NBC News, Daily Mail]
Couple Married After 20 Years Together — An Arlington couple that first met 20 years ago in a D.C. nightclub finally tied the knot over the summer. Bob Kenney, a real estate agent, and Mark Treadaway, an airport executive, were wed in the backyard of their Woodmont home in front of 75 guests. [Arlington Magazine]
Nearby: Alexandria Flips Out Over Taco Bell — Residents in the West End of Alexandria are really worried about a proposed Taco Bell. In letters to the city’s planning commission, residents decried the potential for “late night riff raff,” “the devastating effects of an accident,” and “lowered home values.” One resident also relayed her personal experience of going to a Taco Bell that had run out of forks. There are four Taco Bells in Arlington County, including one on the Alexandria border and another in the Pentagon. [Washington Business Journal, City of Alexandria]
Va. Legislator Proposes N.C. Style Bathroom Bill — Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) has proposed a “bathroom bill” similar to the controversial bill that because law in North Carolina. The bill would restrict transgender individuals from using certain bathrooms and would require school principals to “notify all parents if a student at their children’s school asks to be treated as a member of the opposite sex.” [Washington Post]
A fan of Cherrydale’s House of Steep is buying the business to keep it from closing.
Lyndsey DePalma, who founded the tea house and “foot sanctuary”at 3800 Lee Highway, announced last month she planned to close the business and “lovingly serve our last cup of tea” by Dec. 30.
Though the business did close its doors last weekend, it’s only temporary thanks to longtime House of Steep customer and Arlington business owner Patrick Vaughan.
Vaughan, a regular runner of ultramarathons, said he was in the middle of a reflexology and foot massage session when he heard that the store was slated to shutter.
“I was really saddened when I heard it was going to close,” he recalled.
Then, he had an idea: Why not see if he could buy the business to keep it afloat? So, Vaughan called up DePalma, and within just 12 hours, they shook hands on a deal.
“I’ve wanted to get into a health and bodywork kind of business for a long time,” Vaughan said. “It just clicked for me. It just really made sense.”
For DePalma, the sale represents a kind of “fairytale ending.”
“I think he’s willing to take his ideas the distance,” she said. “He seems very passionate to begin with and willing to follow through.”
Although Vaughan said he doesn’t want to change the company’s atmosphere or culture, he does plan to add some new offerings and services to the menu.
“I’d like to be able to get beyond foot massage into full-body massage,” said Vaughan, who also owns a local information technology business. “I’m definitely looking to expand the techniques of massage offerings.”
House of Steep is scheduled to reopen Jan. 9.
Heavy Traffic, Metro Issues — Commuters were welcomed back to work and back to school with a soaking rush hour rain, heavy traffic and delays on Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Are We In a Restaurant Bubble? — At last count, more restaurants closed than opened in Arlington last year. There’s talk that certain parts of Arlington’s restaurant scene — sit-down restaurants in particular — are oversaturated. While there’s always room for top-notch restaurants, Arlington’s restaurant woes are seemingly consistent with the assertion that we are in a national restaurant bubble. [Thrillist]
Take Our 2017 Reader Survey — Once a year, we give our readers a chance to weigh in on how we’re doing and what we might do to improve. We also over-share potential changes that we’re considering (some more seriously than others). Now is your chance to share your insights and opinions about ARLnow. [SurveyMonkey]
Chris Farley is a native Arlingtonian who had a knack for running and turned it into a thriving local business.
Farley, the owner and co-founder of Pacers Running, talked with us about how he and his parents bought a local running store and worked hard to grow it to a small chain that also organizes local races.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast we also ask Farley about his podcast, Pace the Nation, and about some of his well-known clients. Be sure to stay tuned to the end for a discussion about the challenging retail climate in Arlington County and how e-commerce is impacting local businesses.
County to Buy Houses for Fire Station — The Arlington County Board last night approved the purchase of two houses on N. Culpeper Street for a total of $1.68 million. The houses are needed for the construction of a new Fire Station No. 8. One house will be torn down to make way for a temporary fire station, while the other will serve as quarters for firefighters at the station. [Arlington County]
Boeing to Move Defense HQ to Arlington — Boeing is moving the headquarters of its Defense, Space and Security unit from St. Louis to its existing regional HQ in Crystal City. The move will bring about a dozen top executives and fifty support staff to Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]
County Buying Bus Maintenance Site in Springfield — County Board members unanimously approved the $4.65 million purchase of 2.15 acre industrial site in Springfield, Va., to be used as a future heavy maintenance facility for Arlington Transit buses. After it is built, the facility will replace the current leased ART maintenance facility, located in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
ACPD Distributing Toys for the Holidays — Arlington County Police Department officers have been delivering toys to Arlington Public Schools families in need, after collecting the toys during the department’s Fill the Cruiser drive. [Twitter]
Recycling Center Move Approved — The Four Mile Run Drive self-serve recycling center will soon be moving to the Arlington Trades Center, as expected. The County Board unanimously approved the move at its Tuesday night meeting. “County workers will be better able to monitor recycling at this location, to make sure the site is maintained properly and remains litter-free,” said Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]
The Chamber is very much opposed to a proposed addition to the county’s towing ordinance that would require business owners to individually authorize each tow from their parking lots. The Arlington County Board is set to take up the issue this coming Tuesday, with the County Manager recommending against the so-called “second signature” requirement.
On Airbnb and other short term rentals, the Chamber has actively engaged its members on the county’s new proposed regulations, which are going before the Board on Saturday. With hotels in support of additional regulations, and apartment owners against (they would like the option of generating revenue through Airbnb while they lease up new buildings), the Chamber has declined to take a stance beyond encouraging its members to make their own voices heard.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Kate about those issues, about the current business climate in Arlington — including why so many restaurants and retailers have been closing lately — and about her ascension to the role of President and CEO of the Chamber at a relatively young age.
House of Steep, a tea house and “foot sanctuary” in Cherrydale, is closing after four years in business.
The well-reviewed business, at 3800 Lee Highway, is based around a number of relaxing offerings: loose leaf tea, foot soaks, massages and reflexology.
In an email to customers Friday evening, owner Lyndsey DePalma suggested that the store was not sufficiently profitable to justify remaining in business.
“The rewards are wonderful but unfortunately are not enough,” she wrote. The store is set to close on Friday, Dec. 30.
The full letter is below.
To our beautiful, loyal customers –
A deep, Steep thank you for supporting us over the past four years in our vision to spread peace and offer gentle reminders of health and wholeness to our community. Our mission has been successful and the TEAm is celebrating. The rewards are wonderful but unfortunately are not enough to continue on without innovation, which is more than our team has the capacity to do at this time. So effective December 30, 2016, we will lovingly serve our last cup of tea in our retail space.
Steep is a great company with great reviews and a loyal customer base. It’s quite difficult for small retail businesses to succeed in dynamic markets with growing real estate and workforce costs. A huge thank you for helping us defy significant odds in the start-up world and for taking the time to cheer us on along the way. Thank you for becoming our friends and for stopping in to catch up over a comfortable cup. The business has served many and created so many memories with couples first dates, moms spending cherished time with their children (or without), and so many people pausing to take advantage of the moment. Keep doing this!
A sincere thanks to the staff, as well. I don’t know of a more loved business in this area, and this is all thanks to the staff, especially Michael and his leaders who proudly served the mission and set great examples for the staff.
We wanted to give a month to anyone holding gift cards to be able to redeem for goods and services with ease (our reservation policy for foot massage/reflexology is still required). While we will serve our last cup of tea at the end of the month, a few staff members will continue to serve our wholesale accounts, as well as our online store, so you may continue to source our delicious, health-focused tea blends after we close the storefront. And we’ll continue to serve in the hearts and memories of those who appreciated us for the gentle, loving space we provided for so many years. All good things live on and we believe that to be true of Steep.
We hope you’ll come in for one last foot soak, hug, and/or a cup of healthy goodness to help lift your day. You’ve certainly lifted ours over the years.
Steeped in gratitude,
Lyndsey (and the Steep TEAm)
The Lee-Lex Service Center, a well-reviewed, long-time automotive business at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Lexington Street, has closed.
Lee-Lex’s website, which has remained largely unchanged for the past 12 years, says that the service center has “been a good neighbor in our Arlington community since 1978 and consistently receive[d] excellent ratings by consumer magazines.”
The service center was open for part of last week but closed just before Thanksgiving. This morning the shop’s technicians were clearing out their belongings and preparing to move to nearby service centers; signs were being posted on the windows, to let customers know who moved where.
Sources tell ARLnow.com that the property is being purchased by Southland Corporation, the parent company of 7-Eleven. It could not be immediately confirmed that a 7-Eleven store would be replacing the service center.
Photo (top) via Google Maps
It looks like a ramen noodle restaurant is coming to the former Amsterdam Falafelshop space in Clarendon.
Saul Centers, which owns the building, now lists “Hanabi Ramen House” on its leasing chart for the retail bay at 3024 Wilson Blvd.
No additional information was immediately available about the restaurant nor when it may open.
Separately, the leasing chart shows a portion of the space currently occupied by Pete’s New Haven Apizza — the portion at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Garfield Street — as available for lease, though Pete’s is still listed as the tenant for most of its existing space.
Peter’s co-founder Joel Mehr confirmed to ARLnow.com that it is planning to downsize its space while staying in Clarendon. He added: “We are still working out details with our landlord, so it’s not a done deal yet.”
Rumors had previously swirled in commercial real estate circles regarding Pete’s status in Clarendon and whether Chipotle might have been poking around for a potential Clarendon location.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Nick about the current state of Arlington’s restaurant business, why so many restaurants are closing, and why he’s decided to start investing in and advising new restaurants. Nick also discusses the ups and downs and strategy behind running a bar and restaurant.
There are a number of factors potentially at play: oversaturation of restaurants, a culling of less-compelling or outdated restaurant concepts, high rent, a national “restaurant recession” and even perhaps a local downturn in “disposable income” spending due to election-related anxiety.
There’s another intriguing theory that was relayed to us by our wine and beer columnist, Arash Tafakor, of Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church. Could it be that Uber and Lyft are hurting Arlington’s restaurant business by making it easier to head into D.C. for a night out?
Think of your own behavior: do you find yourself heading into the District to try new restaurants when you might have just stayed in Arlington before, had it not been for ride hailing services making it easy and relatively inexpensive to get into the city?
Let’s test the theory and see how many people would agree with that last question.
David Black Convicted, Sentenced for Wife’s Murder — An Arlington County jury this week found Arlington Ridge resident David Black guilty of murdering his wife. Bonnie Delgado Black was found stabbed to death in her home, which was just blocks from her estranged husband’s house, on April 17, 2015. Yesterday the jury recommended that Black serve two life sentences. [NBC 4, WTOP]
County Board Ditches New Year’s Day Meeting — Eschewing a long-standing tradition of holding its first meeting of the year on New Year’s Day, the Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to hold its 2017 organizational meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. “We still will start our year off with the community, but without forcing employees to give up their personal and family time on a holiday,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]
Retail Space for WeWork in Crystal City — The County Board on Saturday voted to convert 440 square feet of the WeWork and WeLive building in Crystal City to ground floor retail space, at the request of WeWork. No word yet on what kind of a retailer may be moving in. [Arlington County]
More on Park Protests — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark has tackled the dual controversies of the baseball field fence in Bluemont Park (the Board acted on that yesterday, article coming soon) and the proposed Williamsburg Middle School athletic field lights. Clark concluded: “Popular sports for kids, peaceful green parks: competing Arlington virtues.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Evolent Health Stock Soars — As of 10 a.m. the share price for Ballston-based Evolent Health is up more than 12 percent today and nearly 70 percent for the year. The tech firm reported a narrower-than-expected loss and higher-than-expected revenue in the third quarter of 2016. [CNBC, Yahoo]
Board Approves Loan for Apartment Renovations — The Culpepper Garden affordable apartment complex for low-income seniors will receive needed renovations thanks to a $9.9 million loan from Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The County Board unanimously approved the loan yesterday. The renovations are expected to begin in the spring and will require tenants to temporarily move to other units on site while their units are renovated. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Ari P.
The Board voted to advertise a series of changes — final approval is set for next month — but not before making some alterations to the County Manager’s recommendations.
The alterations were essentially intended to prevent towing malfeasance. Among them:
- The Board inserted a provision that requires towing companies to receive authorization from the property owner to tow a vehicle, which would apply only to non-residential properties during business hours.
- The Board kept the current requirement that tow truck drivers photograph the condition of a vehicle before towing it, and added a requirement that tow companies notify those who have been towed that they may view the photos upon request.
- While the County Manager recommended language stipulating that tow companies must notify police of a tow within 10 minutes, rather than “immediately,” as currently worded, the Board gave itself the option of requiring police notification prior to a tow.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce objected to the authorization requirement — also referred to as a “second signature” — on the grounds that it could cost businesses more time and money to remove trespassers who park on their lots.
The Chamber sent a letter to the Board expressing its “vehement opposition” to the requirement. Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates also spoke at the meeting.
“Nobody likes it when their car is towed but that is not justification for putting significant burden on property owners,” said Bates.
County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette proposed the addition of the second signature requirement. It passed, but with at least two County Board members saying they were unlikely to support it when a final vote is taken next month.
Fisette said that the low number of formal complaints against towing companies — there were 87 towing complaints and seven violations recorded by the county in 2015 — does not reflect the reality of widespread disdain for so-called “predatory towing” practices in Arlington.
As evidence, Fisette cited an ARLnow.com poll from last year in which 84 percent of respondents — nearly 2,300 people — said towing companies in Arlington were more predatory in their conduct than “just doing their job” for local businesses.
“It’s actually refreshing to have the Vice Chair cite an ARLnow poll,” said Board member John Vihstadt, to laughter in the County Board room.
Fisette also cited an ARLnow.com opinion column that recounted someone being towed from the former Taco Bell lot on Wilson Blvd in 2000 while eating at the restaurant — because a spotter saw him walk next door to get cash from an ATM.
A resident who spoke at the Board meeting agreed with Fisette’s assessment of towing practices.
“Many mom and pop restaurants are being harmed by aggressive and predatory towing… it’s driving business away,” said Sarah McKinley, a towing critic and the vice president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association. “A second signature creates a balance and gives retail owners some control over this situation so they aren’t so damaged.”
The Chamber, however, said towing companies provide a valuable service to local businesses. The Chamber supported the County Manager’s original proposal, which it described as a “compromise.”
“We… emphasize our vehement opposition to the addition of a second signature requirement for the removal of illegally parked vehicles or the prohibition of parking ‘spotters’ to monitor parking areas,” the Chamber wrote in its letter to the Board.
“The addition of either would present significant administrative and cost burdens to implement and would deteriorate the level of service provided by towing contractors to local businesses who must keep parking areas clear and available to their employees, visitors and customers to remain financially viable,” the letter said. “We appreciate the steps the County has been working towards to make Arlington a more business friendly community, and urge extreme caution to the Board in exploring proposals that would shift things in the opposite direction.”
A pair of long-time local stores are either closing or have already closed at the Lee Heights Shops on Lee Highway.
Bradshaw’s Children’s Shoes (4532 Lee Highway) is holding a going-out-of-business sale, offering 20-50 percent off remaining merchandise.
The owners, who are in their 70s, said that they’re closing the store because they’re retiring, but also cited rising rents and competition from online retailers and big box stores like Target.
According to the store’s website, Bradshaw’s is “one of the nation’s oldest shoe stores” and has been “serving Northern Virginia continuously since 1834.”
The store was the source of an unusual police dispatch earlier this year, after a drunk woman reportedly walked into the store holding an open bottle of wine, demanding adult shoes and refusing to leave.
Another Lee Heights store, meanwhile, has already closed.
Lemon Twist (4517 Lee Highway), which sold women’s clothing and accessories from brands like Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines, has closed but, according to a sign, will be reopening under new ownership.
“Lemon Twist Arlington will be reopening soon with a new name, ownership and look,” says a sign posted on the door. “Stay tuned for more information and an opening date for Lemoncello Boutique, Women & Children’s Apparel and Gifts!”
The store, part of a small retail fashion chain, opened on Lee Highway in the late 1980s, according to Arlington Magazine.