When James Sampson was 14, a few of his friends were hit with the red ring of death — the notorious Xbox problem that devastated gamers globally. Instead of buying new devices, they turned to Sampson — who soldered some of the wiring in the devices, along with some other tinkering, and brought them back to life.
He saved his friends hundreds of dollars, and his only training was a few hours spent watching YouTube video tutorials.
“It became a lot of people calling me asking me to fix their cell phones, laptops, just any device they had,” said Sampson. He began referring people to an actual electronic repair business — until he realized that the shop was making a lot of money.
The now 23-year-old has now gone into business himself, opening up Wireless Rxx last week at 2340 Columbia Pike. Sampson works alongside longtime electronics repairman Mario Vasquez, who has been in business for about 26 years. Sampson does the microelectronic repairs and soldering while Vasquez focuses on more traditional electronic appliances.
The pair complement each other technically and linguistically; the Chilean-born Sampson’s first language was Spanish, so he’s able to help the many nearby Spanish-speaking customers and Vasquez as he assists English-speaking clients.
By the end of the first week, Wireless Rxx made back their $700 rent without any marketing or advertising — and without the planned “old retro vibe” interior design changes, including new neon signs and flooring. The building itself, which Sampson calls “old and tattered,” stands out from the luxury mixed-use development across the street.
Wireless Rxx saw around 27 customers, and earned around $1,700 in the first week, with many flat-screen television repairs, laptop fixes, and cell phones that needed to be unlocked — though Sampson runs serial numbers and other phone identification numbers to make sure that he isn’t unlocking a stolen phone.
While many Arlingtonians might be excited to get a new phone and toss their older model, many low-income residents are finding value in the service, Sampson said, as they are able to pay significantly less for what is in most cases a relatively minor fix instead of buying an entirely new product or waiting weeks for a manufacturer repair.
“It’s a mix of what the market economy put up,” said the young entrepreneur. “You either have to wait for your fix — because if you break your phone and you go to Apple, it can be a $200 or $300 price tag — or if you take it here, it can be under $100.”
He has friends who are either recent immigrants or on college scholarships with less money to spare. They’ll go to Sampson with their younger sister’s iPads and $20 or $30, looking for a repair. It helps them maintain a decent standard of living without spending money that they don’t have for a brand new device, he said.
Sampson buys dead devices from customers, which he either fixes, sells, or recycles responsibly with a certified e-recycling company. Most electronic components aren’t safe for general trash collection.
He stressed the importance of proper electronic recycling, noting the dangerous chemicals in lithium batteries, which are found in many electronic devices. Poking one can result in chemical burns.
“If something’s broke, you can still fix it. You can still put maybe a third of the device’s [cost] into fixing it, and it’ll be a working device as opposed to buying a new one,” said Sampson. “Especially in our society right now, we just throw things away.”
Shaheen Hossini likes when Valentine’s Day is in the middle of the week.
When the holiday falls on the weekend or a Monday, her floral arrangements business, Crystal City’s Flowers With Love, scrambles to deliver sometimes hundreds of rose bouquet orders as early in the day as possible. The florists can’t encourage people to have their arrangements delivered a few days in advance, because people won’t be in the office to enjoy them for as long.
But when the holiday is later in the work week, it’s easier for Hossini to encourage customers to have early deliveries.
“A lot of times, people are not expecting the flowers on Monday or Tuesday, because they’re thinking Valentine’s is on Wednesday,” said Hossini, a Springfield, Va., resident. “It gives them an opportunity to enjoy the flowers earlier.”
Flowers With Love only has two full-time employees and a part-time employee, but several seasonal employees are hired each Valentine’s Day just to keep up with the high volume of orders.
Ranard Wood, a seasonal employee and resident of D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood, has been working with flowers for the last 45 or 50 years. He loves arranging flowers, preferably tropical bouquets or hydrangeas, but since retirement he rarely works except for at Hossini’s store around Valentine’s Day.
“She’s the only one who can bring me out to do this, because this is insane this time of year,” said Wood, pointing toward Hossini along the arrangement bar, where slews of Ecuadorian and Colombian roses cover the counter.
In the two or three days leading up to Valentine’s Day, Hossini’s store makes about 10-15% of their annual sales. Mother’s Day and the Christmas season are their next busiest times of year, but Valentine’s Day is another level. That demand leads to higher markup for roses in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, as rose growers stop cutting to prepare for the February 14 onslaught.
The markups can range from an additional 100% per rose to as high as an extra 140%, which leads to higher prices for the florists and, in turn, for the customers. Beginning in early December, the prices shoot up, incrementally raising higher and higher closer to mid-February.
The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend two billion dollars on Valentine’s Day flowers in 2018. Total planned Valentine’s Day spending is up nationwide, from $18.2 billion in 2017 to a projected $19.8 billion this year.
“There used to be a time where we would depend on the phones and at a certain point we would turn them off,” Hossini explained. “But now, with internet e-florists, we get so much business from that. We think we’re not that busy but the orders are coming through on the computer.”
“You turn around and there’s 10 orders on the computer and you’re like — ahhh!”
This is the only time of year that Flowers With Love, bought by Hossini in 1998 from the original owner, does a lot of walk-in business. Much of their business comes from party work for the businesses and hotels in Crystal City.
Flowers With Love is one of only a few florists in Arlington, according to Hossini, but having competition from elsewhere in the county is actually a good thing around Valentine’s Day, when there are sometimes just too many orders to fill at the last minute for one store.
“We can only do so much, and everyone wants flowers,” said Hossini.
A historic pharmacy in Nauck is closed, reportedly for renovations.
A sign on the door of Green Valley Pharmacy at 2415 Shirlington Road said it “will reopen in the near future” once work is done. A reader said it has been closed since the end of last year.
The pharmacy earned local designation as an Arlington Historic District in 2013, after a request by longtime owner Dr. Leonard Muse.
“When Green Valley Pharmacy opened, no other pharmacies in Arlington welcomed the black community,” county staff wrote. “Typically, black customers had to use rear entrances and were not treated well with their medical prescriptions. Green Valley served both black and white customers, and it was especially popular for its dine-in food counter, where breakfast, lunch, dinner and an abundance of ice cream desserts were served. In the early days, an order of two hot dogs cost just 25 cents.”
But Muse died in August at the age of 94 after operating the pharmacy since 1952.
A store in Westover Village that offers handmade and fairly traded products from developing countries has opened a new cafe.
Those behind Trade Roots (5852 Washington Blvd) opened the cafe, called Roots & Vines. It offers fairly traded coffees, teas and food items.
The café is run by chef Katia Reecer, who grew up in a Brazilian restaurant family and rounded her skills at the former Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda.
“Roots & Vines offers a casual and welcoming ambiance to relax over locally sourced and globally inspired coffee, tea, sweets & savories,” Reecer said in a statement. “We plan to keep the eclectic menu limited with weekly and seasonal changes, while always offering vegetarian and vegan options. My mother instilled in me the simple philosophy that when you cook with passion using both your hands and palate, the results will always be extraordinary.”
Trade Roots also sells soaps, food, jewelry and home products from local people, and prides itself on offering “beautiful and unique” items.
“I’m thrilled to have Katia as part of the team,” Trade Roots owner Lisa Ostroff said in a statement. “Trade Roots’ customers will now have fair trade coffee and tea options and an array of delicious foods and drinks from around the globe. Katia’s experience and philosophy lend perfectly to our vibe. She makes healthy morning treats like oatmeal and fruit parfaits and some amazing-but-not-as-healthy scones and croissants as well!”
Photos via Facebook
Pentagon Looking into Helicopter Noise Reduction — After pressure from residents who live near the Pentagon, along with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), “FOX 5 has learned the Department of Defense is researching ways to reduce helicopter noise and is ready to hear concerns from… neighboring residents.” [Fox 5]
Caiazzo is New ACDC Chair — The Arlington County Democratic Committee has elected Jill Caiazzo, a lawyer and policy advocate, as its new chair. She succeeds Kip Malinosky, who was lauded at last night’s ACDC meeting for his four years of service as chair. [Blue Virginia, Facebook]
Favola Pushes Highway Name Bill — In an effort to allow Arlington to change the name of its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway, and perhaps even Lee Highway, state Sen. Barbara Favola “is patroning legislation that would allow any Virginia county, city or town to change the name of any highway in its environs, so long as the original name was put in place prior to 1965.” [InsideNova]
Homeless Shelter Busy During Cold Snap — Some 80 people a night were staying at Arlington’s homeless shelter in Courthouse during the recent extended blast of frigid temperatures. The shelter, which relocated to an office building next to Arlington police headquarters in 2015, can accommodate up to 90 people during sub-freezing weather. [Arlington Connection]
History of the Sun Gazette — In his latest column, “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark recounts the history of Arlington’s Sun Gazette newspaper. [Falls Church News-Press]
Printing Business Offers Free Pizza — In a unique partnership, Ballston-area printing business ASAP Screen Printing is partnering with newly-renamed pizza restaurant Alto Fumo to offer customers who spend at least $100 a free pizza. [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Jim Harvard
Bar Owner Trolled By ‘Catfish’ Account — Someone is impersonating Scott Parker, co-owner of A-Town, Don Tito, Barley Mac and G.O.A.T., on social media, in an apparent attempt to damage his reputation. The “catfish” recently sent a journalist a profanity-laced rant that encouraged her to kill herself. [Washingtonian, Twitter]
Columbia Pike Water Main Break — Crews are currently working to repair a water main break on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike. The street is partially blocked and some 50-100 water customers have their service affected by the break. [Twitter]
Local Mother Grapples With Son’s Mental Illness — “The night of March 31, 2017, he became so inconsolable, screaming and weeping, that she called the police and had him involuntarily hospitalized at an Arlington hospital. He stayed two weeks, but because he is an adult, and because a hospital must release people from involuntary care when it no longer believes they meet commitment standards, doctors discharged him.” [Washington Post]
Wardian Strikes Again — “A little over a week ago, [ultramarathoner Michael] Wardian pulled off one of his most challenging back-to-backs yet, running the Pikes Peak Marathon, featuring 7,815 feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of loss on a rugged mountain course that tops out at 14,115 feet – in 6 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, mere hours after finishing tenth in the Leadville 100 in 20 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds.” [Medium]
County Testing New ‘ePlan’ Payments — Arlington County is seeking users to test its new electronic payments system for those filing Building Permits, Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) Permits and Civil Engineering Plans (CEP) online. The system is likely to be seen as progress by those who have previously critiqued the county’s cumbersome permitting process. [Arlington County]
Last Call for Christmas Tree Recycling — Friday is the last day for recycling Christmas trees via curbside pickup in Arlington. ‘Recycled’ trees will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]
The new Ten at Clarendon apartment building at 3110 10th Street N. has its first open retail tenant: frame store Italo Frame.
Open for about two weeks, owner Nasir Ester said it has a wide selection of frames as well as deeper shadow boxes for several photographs or other memorabilia.
Ester said he has been involved in the framing business for over 30 years. He previously owned Alna Art & Framing in Alexandria. The new store has frames from across Europe of all different colors and materials.
“You bring it, I will frame it for you,” he said.
The store is on the building’s westernmost corner, across the street from Fire Station 4.
Arlington Chamber Seeking State Help — Possibly in response to the push for housing conservation districts, “the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is asking the General Assembly to ‘serve as a backstop and a safeguard’ against overreach by localities on planning and zoning matters.” [InsideNova]
Reminder: SmarTrip Change Next Week — As of Monday, Metro riders will no longer be able to run a negative balance on their SmarTrip cards. [WMATA]
‘Meet the Chair’ Scheduled — Arlington residents will be able to meet newly-minted Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol on the evening of Jan. 18, when the Leadership Center for Excellence holds its annual Meet the Chair event. [Leadership Center for Excellence]
SoberRide New Year’s Record — A record 1,225 people used the free safe ride service SoberRide on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Thanks to its new partnership with Lyft, SoberRide’s organizer says it “has removed well more than two times as many would-be drunk drivers from Greater Washington’s roadways as compared with the previous year.” [PDF]
District Taco Continues to Expand — Five Guys may be given a run for its money as the most successful Arlington-born restaurant chain. District Taco is now opening a location in the Center City section of Philadelphia. [Eater]
Snow Shovel Contest Winner — “This is Susan. She won our snow shovel, writing that her favorite phase of snow treatment/removal is Phase 1. Brine makes her giddy. Susan’s old shovel is from Nebraska and cracking. Way to go, Susan.” [Twitter]
Photo courtesy @BoccatoGelatos
The ongoing uncertainty over the future of Virginia Square outdoor store Casual Adventure could be close to resolution, according to its owner.
Owner Eric Stern told ARLnow that after receiving several extensions on its lease at 3451 Washington Blvd, the company is now close to signing a lease on a new location. Stern declined to go into specifics, but said there could be more progress in the near future.
He added that television commercials noting Casual Adventure’s lease extension are correct, but he did not say for how much longer it will last. The long-time outdoor retailer had been set to close last spring after 61 years in business. It first announced its closure last April.
“We’re still in the process of getting it all signed and sealed,” Stern said. “We have a location in mind and a backup if it falls through.”
The store continues to be open as normal, with its winter stock marked down by as much as 70 percent off regular price. A sign also indicates that Casual Adventure is looking to hire new staff.
A deli and grocery store in Virginia Square will close today (Friday), but is expected to reopen next month.
A sign on the front door of Jen’s Kitchen (901 N. Nelson Street) said all its grocery items including beer and wine must go, with everything half-price.
But Jen’s is set to reopen in late January under new management, the sign reads.
The store between Starbucks and a dry cleaners, on the first floor of the Virginia Square Apartments and just feet from the neighborhood’s Metro station, sells hot food and fresh salad as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It opened in 2015, replacing the former Metro Cafe and Gourmet.
Chamber Calls for Pause on Housing Conservation District — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is calling for the Arlington County Board to pump the brakes on a proposed Housing Conservation District policy, set for a vote at tomorrow’s Board meeting. The Chamber says the policy would affect more than 450 privately-owned properties. “The County’s failure to provide any notice to property owners that would be affected by the Framework is inconsistent with Arlington’s established government process and the level of transparency the community has come to depend on,” said Chamber President Kate Bates. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Carlin Springs Bridge Work to Resume — Demolition of the Carlin Springs Road Bridge over George Mason Drive was curtailed by winter weather last weekend, but is set to resume this weekend. Drivers should expect a number of detours in the area. [Twitter]
Fisette Tribute Packs Local Church — “A Dec. 13 tribute to departing Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette was about 90 percent heartfelt thanks for his 20 years of service in elected office. And about 10 percent celebrity roast.” The event was so well-attended that the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington was filled to capacity by those whom Fisette has not yet convinced to take the Car-Free Diet. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Gossip: Britt McHenry Back on Local Airwaves? — A noted local Twitter user who goes by the name “Clarendon Bros” shared some local TV gossip last night, claiming that Britt McHenry was seen auditioning for a job at Fox 5. McHenry at one point lived in Arlington — it is unclear if she still does — and had a well-publicized run-in with local towing company Advanced Towing. [Twitter]
Fox Leaves Crystal City BID — “After more than a decade running the Crystal City Business Improvement District, Angela Fox is stepping down. The BID’s board of directors announced Fox’s departure Thursday, but has not named a permanent replacement.” [Bisnow]
Local Homebuilder Getting Bigger — “Arlington-based homebuilder CalAtlantic Homes is purchasing Home South Communities, a privately held homebuilder based in the Atlanta area. CalAtlantic itself is in the midst of a $9.3 billion merger with Miami’s Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN), expected to close early next year.” [Washington Business Journal]
Realtor Group Extends Clothing and Food Drive — “Despite the weather, the first community wide drop off for the Arlington Realtors Care (ARC) initiative, held on Saturday, Dec. 9 was a great success. ARC is sponsoring a second community wide drop off date scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 16 at RGS Title.” [Press Release]
Stepped Up Drunk Driving Enforcement — During the holidays, from Dec. 13-31, Arlington County Police will be increasing DUI patrols as part of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement campaign. [Arlington County]
Step Forward in Plan for Second Rosslyn Station — “Metro officials are taking a small but symbolic step in their hope of someday building a second station in Rosslyn. On Thursday, the Metro board is expected to approve an application to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to request $2 million in grant money that would help the agency study ways to increase capacity on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines in Northern Virginia.” [Washington Post]
More on Freddie’s Award — The Arlington Human Rights Commission is scheduled to present their 2017 Human Rights Awards today. Among the winners was Crystal City staple Freddie’s Beach Bar. Owner Freddie Lutz said of the award: “I’m just extremely honored having grown up in Arlington County and went from elementary school to high school in Arlington County to be recognized in this way.” [Washington Blade]
Grumbles About Delivery Trucks on the Pike — Delivery trucks often park on Columbia Pike, blocking one of two, including during rush hour. Frustration over delivery trucks parking on the Pike led one resident to tweet a short video illustrating the issue. [Twitter]
A longtime Mexican restaurant in Crystal City has closed its doors.
Cantina Mexicana at 515 23rd Street S. shuttered late last month. An employee who answered the phone at the restaurant’s location just off Columbia Pike confirmed the closure, which he said happened “a couple of weeks ago.”
He added that several employees from the Crystal City eatery had made the switch over to its other location, on Columbia Pike. That location has been open since 2013 and a sign on the door encourages patrons to continue visiting it.
“Thanks for the memories!” the sign reads. “It’s been a great journey. We sincerely appreciate your friendship and all your patronage the last 40 years!”
The restaurant served “fine Tex-Mex cuisine,” and had been in business in various guises since 1978. In 1995, former dishwasher Gloria Arias bought the restaurant, then known as The Taco House, and in 2005 changed its name to Cantina Mexicana.
Hat-tip to Michael H.
A tipster reported calling the Columbia Pike-based company last week, but getting a message on the phone saying they were no longer in service.
Calls to the company this week yielded the same result, while its website is “Temporarily out of service.”
“We are sorry to inform you that this service is no longer in operation. Thank you,” the message said. Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said Envirocab closed on November 1.
The 50-cab service was sold in 2013 to transportation conglomerate Veolia Transportation, which operates more than 2,400 taxicabs around the country. It began in 2008, and back then was the first all-hybrid fleet in the country. Since then, hybrid cabs have become more commonplace among local taxi fleets.
A Yelp review of Envirocab posted last month complained that the “service continues to deteriorate” and that “the last two times I attempted to use Envirocab, they failed to show up.”
Arlington Economic Development is hosting Arlington Premiere at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex (627 N. Glebe Road) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29.
Attendees can “welcome new business owners and network with other key business and community leaders as we celebrate our growing business community,” a blurb on the event, which is sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District, says. Registration is no longer available as the event has reached capacity.
Also at the event, AED will reveal the winners of the Arlington’s First Four competition. The contest honors locally-based businesses that have shown revenue growth over a three-year period.
“The Arlington Premiere is a great way for you to meet our new businesses and strengthen your relationship with other county and community leaders,” AED director Victor Hoskins wrote in an email to the public.