Press Club

Amazon has announced four more local businesses that will open at the first phase of its HQ2, known as Metropolitan Park, in Pentagon City.

HQ2 will be home to Arlington’s second Conte’s Bike Shop, a South Block, the second location of Vienna-based Social Burger and the first brick-and-mortar location of HUSTLE — a high intensity cycling workout business.

The businesses will join the two that were already announcedDistrict Dogs and RĀKO Coffee.

South Block’s Met Park spot will be one of four new planned locations that will open in the next two years, South Block’s Vice President of Marketing Lindsey Parry told ARLnow.

“For us, it’s always been about our community first and so the opportunity to build new blocks and to be a part of HQ2 to us is just really establishing those local roots, continuing to grow,” she said.

A common thread among the businesses is making an impact in their communities.

South Block owner Amir Mostafavi started nonprofit Fruitful Planet that gives fresh fruits and vegetables to food insecure communities and people in need. And at Social Burger in Vienna, 40 meals a week that its customers purchase go to Lamb Center, a homeless shelter.

Social Burger Owner Denise Lee said she’s looking forward to showcasing the business and bringing the burger spot to a bigger setting.

“I’ve been there several times through the construction phase,” she said. “It’s amazing. I’m excited to be part of that. It’s going to be a beautiful campus when the time comes.”

The restaurant will be larger than its original, with a planned 38 seats, and some outdoor seating, Lee said.

HUSTLE co-founder Sunny Miller started the online workout platform during the pandemic to continue connecting with the community she had built through cycling classes. HUSTLE later began pop-up classes at the Wharf in D.C., but to have a permanent space for the business is something special, Miller said.

“This space is going to mean so much for my team and the community because we finally have a place where they can come on a regular basis,” she said.

HUSTLE has already started running free strength classes in Long Bridge Park, Miller said. And they will also be starting cycling classes there every Saturday, beginning in June.

Conte’s Bike Shop co-founder David Conte said the approximately 4,000-square-foot space will feature a mezzanine with a studio for seat fitting, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a coffee bar similar to the one at its Navy Yard location.

“For us to have an opportunity to literally be on the ground floor with an organization like Amazon that’s going to serve the community and the county really quite fabulously, is really humbling and it’s a real privilege,” said Conte’s co-founder Wayne Souza.

“Amazon is excited to bring these businesses and more to HQ2, helping to build a vibrant, buzzing neighborhood,” the company said in a blog post this morning.

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Covid. Inflation. Labor shortages. Rising rent. A sinking stock market.

It’s not easy being a small business owner in 2022 — or any year, for that matter. Thus it should come as no surprise that some are seeking to sell their businesses.

The following come from listing aggregator BizBuySell, which generally doesn’t name the business that’s for sale, but the descriptions in each listing provide some clues. The asking price is also included below.

  1. Ramen Restaurant for Sale on the Main Road — $520,000 — “Well-established Ramen Restaurant with bar for sale in heart of Arlington. Turnkey operation. This authentic ramen restaurant is a local favorite. It has a 4.4-star online review. High-end finishes & well maintained in the very busy location. Owner built & operating since July-2015.”
  2. Established Dessert and Drink Store in Prime Location — $180,000 — “Easy to operate dessert store located in a very popular shopping center in Arlington, VA. Owner currently only visits the store twice a week. Delivery sales generates about $3K-4K per month from uber eats, postmates, and door dash. Clover POS data is available.”
  3. Pet Grooming and Organic Supplies in NoVA — $99,000 — “For health conscious pet owners in Arlington VA, this specialty organic pet food store offers other meticulously selected pet products and expert pet grooming services conveniently located near apartment buildings, offices and metro. Ample street parking in front of store. All-in rent including NNN indicated at roughly $3,000/month makes this an affordable space in an excellent location.”
  4. Highly Profitable and Growing Restaurant — (No listing price) — “Located along an active mixed-use commercial corridor in affluent Downtown Arlington, VA, the well-known franchise is located in a 3,700 square-feet space, completely modernized with a $1.7M+ buildout in the last 3 years. Lease goes thru October 2025 with 2 x 5 year options, an increasing year-over-year EBIDTA, this is a unique play to acquire a well-operated growing business generating over $3.068M per year.”
  5. Profitable BBQ Restaurant in Arlington — $169,000 — “Dine in and carry out BBQ restaurant for sale in Arlington VA. High end kitchen equipment and great build out ready to fit most concepts. This restaurant is ABSENTEE OWNED and profiting $50,000 annually. With a new hands on owner and an updated menu to include more items this turn key business can be extremely profitable. Very low rent for Arlington with a great lease.”
  6. Infrared Stretch & Sauna Biz — $295,000 — “Lowest rent in building, take over lease @ negotiated rate. This business is a franchised location of Stretch Smart in a highly affluent, well-educated area in Clarendon, 10 min from Amazon HQ2. As Amazon grows, so does the opportunity to grow our memberships!”
  7. 2Mill net Yr Absentee owner Super MKT safe Area — $12,500,000 — “Safe area, can grow better… Approx, Rent: 37,000. month (inc, Cam, taxes). Lease: 2.5 yrs + three 5 yrs option Open hour: 8 am-9 pm.”
  8. Established Nail Salon & Skin Care business in N. Arlington — $100,000 — “Great location & low rent. Recently remodeled. 4,7 star google reviews. Over 500 plus clients in database. High end products ( organic) and services. Free parking. Highly visible on major highway, over 12,000 cars daily. Once pandemic is over, this business has a great potential. Nail techs stay, if new owner desires.”
  9. $2.947M Allstate Agency — $899,000 — “Established 20 plus year agency is located in a very desirable location. This $3M plus earned premium agency consistent of a preferred auto/homeowner customer base with excellent opportunity for growth in cross sales as well as life/financial services. Good potential to increase revenues through new & renewal commissions as well as performance bonus based on growth, retention, etc.”
  10. Independent and Profitable Optician in NoVA — $695,000 — “Well-established optician in dynamic Arlington VA with decades of satisfied multi-generational customers and an excellent reputation for providing professional service and high-quality eyewear. Valuable referral network that includes several top ophthalmologists in the DC / Northern Virginia area.”

Note that some listings may be for businesses that already closed.

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A “Maker’s Market” in Pentagon City and a “spring fling” block party at Shirlington are both set to take place later this month.

Currently scheduled for Sunday, May 15 and Sunday, May 29, a “Marker’s Market” is set to happen in the plaza at Westpost (formerly, Pentagon Row) in Pentagon City. It will feature more than 30 artists and craft vendors, including local businesses Shop by Nancy, Fera’s Loft, Chase McClough, and Victoria Barnes Photography.

The event is free and tickets are not required. The market will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Then, on Saturday, May 21, the Village at Shirlington is putting on a “Spring Fling Village Block Party” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event will feature live music, a market, restaurant pop-ups, pet adoptions at Dogma, and a corn-hole tournament benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association. The tournament will start at noon and cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.

A number of restaurants are also participating in a “sip & stroll,” allowing customers to take their cocktails to go.

A featured pop-up at the block party will be Astro Doughnuts, the owners of which are bringing a beer hall to Shirlington. The beer hall is aiming for a summer opening.

The Shirlington block party is also free and tickets are not required.

The retail centers, both owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust, have seen a lot of turnover in recent months. Target and Nighthawk Pizza opened at Westpost over the past several weeks, while sushi restaurant Kusshi and “taco temple” Banditos are expected to start serving very soon.

At Shirlington, a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is replacing I-CE-NY. The Cookery closed earlier this year and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls is moving towards an opening later this year.

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Boeing office complex and the Crystal City and Pentagon City skyline (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Aerospace and defense giant Boeing is moving its corporate headquarters from Chicago to Arlington.

The move, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and since confirmed by the company, “would place the aerospace company’s senior executives closer to key government decision makers in the nation’s capital,” the paper reported.

“Boeing announced today that its Arlington, Virginia campus just outside Washington, D.C. will serve as the company’s global headquarters,” Boeing said in a press release. “The aerospace and defense firm’s employees in the region support various corporate functions and specialize in advanced airplane development and autonomous systems. In addition to designating Northern Virginia as its new headquarters, Boeing plans to develop a research & technology hub in the area to harness and attract engineering and technical capabilities.”

“We are excited to build on our foundation here in Northern Virginia,” Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun, in a statement. “The region makes strategic sense for our global headquarters given its proximity to our customers and stakeholders, and its access to world-class engineering and technical talent.”

Boeing had nearly 500 employees at its downtown Chicago headquarters in 2020, Reuters reported last year, noting that amid the pandemic the building has not been well utilized.

Per the October article:

Other top executives, like newly minted CFO Brian West, are also based primarily on the U.S. East Coast and a hush has descended on the exclusive but functional top floor, although the pandemic has also been a major factor, the people said.

“It’s a ghost town,” one of the people added.

The headquarters — a 36-floor, $200 million riverfront skyscraper — sits at the crossroads of a cost-cutting campaign that has seen Boeing shed real estate, including its commercial airplane headquarters in Seattle.

Several people close to the company say cost cuts and a more hands-on corporate culture have raised questions about Boeing’s long-term future in the city, and in turn the broad direction Boeing intends to take as it tries to regain its stride.

Boeing opened its East Coast headquarters in the Crystal City area about eight years ago. The approximately 450,000 square foot office complex is two blocks from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2 and adjacent to Long Bridge Park.

Boeing has its name on the county park’s fields and aquatics center after making a $10 million donation.

Boeing headquarters in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

An Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman declined to comment on today’s news before the formal announcement, citing “competitive reasons and to protect confidential company information.”

Local broadcast outlets also reported on the move following WSJ’s scoop, citing “a Virginia state official.” The official noted that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), a personal friend of Boeing’s CEO, both helped to woo the company, according to NBC 4.

Following the announcement, Warner praised Boeing’s move.

“For well over a year, I’ve been making my case to Boeing senior leadership that Virginia would be a great place for its headquarters, and late last year, I was happy to learn that my efforts were successful,” he said in a statement. “As the former Governor of Virginia, I was proud to secure Virginia’s standing as the best state for business and the best-managed state, among other honors, and I’ve been proud to work in my role as Senator to help continue to cultivate the kind of pro-business environment that world-class companies like Boeing need to grow and thrive.”

In a statement, Youngkin also praised the company and its CEO, while touting Virginia’s talented workforce.

Boeing is one of America’s great pioneering businesses and we are thrilled the company has decided to headquarter in Virginia. The decision to call Virginia home shows that the Commonwealth is the premier location for aerospace companies. I look forward to working with Boeing to attract even more talent to Virginia especially given its reputation for engineering excellence. From day one, our goal has been to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family. I want to thank Boeing, its CEO Dave Calhoun, and its leadership for choosing Virginia.

Boeing did not reveal where in Northern Virginia it intends to open the new research and development hub.

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Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.

With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.

Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.

Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.

But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.

This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.

Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.

Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.

This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.

“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.

Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.

Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.

At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.

This was all coming to a head as the Pike, in general, continues to grapple with redevelopment and questions of how to keep small, local businesses on Arlington’s “main street.”

But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.

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A grant program is providing cash to local businesses to help with expenses — and offering one day of discounts to those businesses this weekend.

The “Love Local” relief program is giving $100,000 to more than 30 Crystal City and Pentagon City retail shops, salons, and restaurants. The grants are to provide “financial and promotional support covering wages and operator-related expenses.”

The program is a partnership between the National Landing Business Improvement District and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

Each business is receiving the same grant amount, a spokesperson said, which works out to about $3,000 apiece.

“As National Landing continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, Love Local grants will help our local businesses continue to support their employees while providing our neighbors with important services,” National Landing BID Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a press release. “We are proud to be a part of this critical initiative and look forward to supporting our local businesses and seeing them thrive.”

The criteria for a business to be selected for the grant money included having a brick and mortar location within the BID’s borders and being open for at least a year.

Additionally, all grant recipients are being asked to participate in this weekend’s “Love Local Day.”

On Saturday, the businesses will be offering exclusive one-day discounts and promotions — from free engraving at Ship’s Hatch to 20% off high-end watches at Real Jewelers to 10-15% discounts at local restaurants like Saigon Saigon.

This is the second year of the grant program. In 2021, the program also handed out nearly $100,000 to 30 local businesses.

The list of the grant recipients is below.

  • Asia Bistro
  • Axis Rehab & Chiropractic
  • Bonsai Grill
  • Commonwealth Joe
  • Coqui Boutique
  • Crystal City Sports Pub
  • Crystal City Wine Shop
  • Enjera Restaurant
  • Extreme Pizza
  • Flowers with Love
  • Freddie’s Beach Bar
  • Frederico Ristorante Italiano
  • Gallery Underground
  • Garden Fantasy
  • Good Stuff Eatery, Crystal City
  • Highline RxR
  • La Bettola Italiano
  • Lily Bubble Tea & Smoothie
  • Mind Your Body Oasis
  • Nail Spa
  • Pentagon City Wine Merchant
  • Potomac Social Tavern
  • Portofino
  • Pure Barre Pentagon City
  • RASA
  • Real Jewelers
  • Saigon Saigon
  • Ship’s Hatch
  • Subway Crystal City Metro
  • Subway Crystal City
  • Synetic Theater
  • The Freshman
  • Urban Thai Restaurant
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Morning Notes

Amazon HQ2 under construction in Pentagon City, with the Pentagon in the foreground (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Construction Milestone for HQ2 — “Metropolitan Park, the first phase of our second headquarters’ development in Arlington, Virginia, is taking shape as we celebrate an important milestone: the ‘topping out,’ or completion of the highest floor of the building. So much has changed since we began construction more than two years ago in National Landing, and we can’t wait to welcome Amazon employees and the Arlington community to Metropolitan Park in 2023.” [Amazon, Twitter]

Covid Rate Low in the ER — From Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chief Dr. Mike Silverman: “This past week was the best COVID week we’ve had in a long time in the ER. We actually didn’t have any positive cases among our ‘symptomatic’ patients and just a handful or so among all comers to the ER. Our percent positivity rate was <2%. Hospitalizations remains low and we are returning to normal with in-person meetings and some options about mask wearing in non-clinical areas.” [Facebook]

Girl Found, Parents Eventually Located — “The parents of the little girl who was found unattended on the Martha Custis Trail in Arlington, Virginia, have been found on Saturday night. The girl was found behind a Giant grocery store on Langston Boulevard-U.S. 29 and Spout Run Parkway just before midnight Saturday.” [WTOP]

Arlington Gets HUD Grant — “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded more than $2.8 million in FY 2021 Continuum of Care (CoC) Competition Awards to Arlington. The awards will provide funding to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness move into permanent housing with access to supportive services, with the overarching goal of long-term stability.” [Arlington County]

Aircraft Company Opens Local Office — “California-based Stratolaunch, which is testing the largest aircraft ever built, has established a permanent D.C.-area office. It’s in National Landing, the Crystal City area of Arlington County, Virginia. Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.” [WTOP]

APS Students Serve as Pages in Richmond — “Two students at Swanson Middle School recently finished an 11-week program as pages with the Virginia House of Delegates. This selective program welcomes eighth and ninth-grade students to Richmond from across the commonwealth to learn about the legislative process and assist the House of Delegates. Chandani Rathod and Jacqueline Ake were the only two students chosen from Arlington County.” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]

Yes, Traffic is Getting Worse — “With more people returning to work, the D.C. region has seen an increase in drivers and that number could continue to shoot up. ‘It has been a steady climb,’ said Mary DePompa, WTOP Traffic anchor. Despite the rise in gas prices, the boom in the number of drivers appears to be a recent trend.” [WTOP]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 41. Sunrise at 7:11 am and sunset at 7:22 pm. [Weather.gov]

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TTT in Clarendon is rebranding, again, and offering all-you-can-eat Mexican fare starting next month, moving away from a more pandemic-friendly grab and go style.

The tacos, tortas, and tequila-focused (hence, “TTT”) eatery at 2900 Wilson Blvd closed earlier this month in order to become Buena Vida Restaurant & Lounge starting in April. It will offer an “unlimited tasting menu,” in much similar fashion as its sister restaurant Ambar across the street.

This switch is a bit of a reversal of sorts from summer of 2020, when the restaurant first switched concepts from TTT and Buena Vida (on separate floors) to just TTT — to become more pandemic-friendly.

In 2019,  TTT and Buena Vida opened on Wilson Blvd in Clarendon. With both owned by restaurateur Ivan Iricanin, who also owns Ambar, TTT occupied the ground floor while Buena Vida had the second floor and the rooftop bar. The intention was for TTT to offer a more casual experience with its assortment of tacos and tequila, while Buena Vida was to be more upscale.

Then, the pandemic hit and a casual, grab and go style eatery became a more viable option. Plus, as an employee told ARLnow, patrons were often confused with the branding. So, in August 2020, the entire complex became known simply as TTT.

But now, the entire operation is moving back to being known as Buena Vida, along with some other changes.

“We are optimistic that spring is going to be a season of revival for the dining scene, and now is the time to bring Buena Vida back to life,” Iricanin said in the press release. “Street Guys Hospitality pivoted this restaurant, letting the first-floor concept of Mexican-inspired street food, TTT, take over the reins during the pandemic to be a fast casual, grab-and-go option as it is what our patrons needed from us at this location. As we see increasingly repeat customers visiting the restaurant and requesting a more adventurous dining experience, it is time to bring our unlimited tasting menu here and revive Buena Vida.”

That means all-you-can-eat traditional Mexican dishes like tacos, ceviches, and carnitas, but also entrees that are reflection of Buena Vida’s “new culinary direction” including chicharrón prensado (pressed pork belly), tortilla aztec (described as a Mexican lasagna), and house-made mole de olla.

Disappointedly, to some, alcoholic drinks cannot be “bottomless” due to Virginia alcohol laws.

The decor and design are also being altered, though the layout, the kitchen, restrooms, dining room, and bar area will remain pretty much the same as in previous iterations.

There will be “new jungle-like foliage throughout the three levels,” notes the release, with the rooftop lounge being reworked to hold 124 seats.

Sticking with the jungle theme, “guests ascending the stairs will feel like they are climbing a tree in the jungle of Tulum as they absorb the twining and cascading greenery surrounded by dark, moody colors.”

With the re-worked rooftop, Buena Vida is also being marketed as a place for “late night fun.”

There was previously a TTT in Silver Spring, but that location shuttered in November due to the pandemic and media company Discovery shutting down its headquarters nearby.

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Two Arlington pie shops are baking up some surprises for Pi Day, now one of the biggest days of the year for their sales.

March 14 (aka 3.14) is Pi Day, honoring math’s greatest mystery  It has become a day of celebration for mathematicians and dessert enthusiasts alike. Locally, Arlington’s two dedicated pie shops have taken full advantage of this baked good boon.

Last year, Pi Day was “almost-Thanksgiving busy” for Acme Pie Company which opened a storefront on Columbia Pike in 2019. This year, owner Sol Schott is preparing for similar levels of business.

“March 14 is always huge for us,” says Schott, speaking via phone from Florida where he’s enjoying a vacation before heading back home for the big day. “And I think [sales] will be close to what it was last year.”

In 2021, he sold about 100 large pies, 70 small pies, plus “a whole heck of a lot of slices.” This year, he says he’s going to make 500 to 600 pies total for the occasion. While Acme Pie normally has a rotating selection of flavors available, on March 14, the shop is going to try having most of their flavors ready to order.

Schott calls Pi Day one of the “top 3 days of the year” in terms of sales, behind the day before Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas. Both of those days, though, require more lead-up and preparation.

“It’s more of a blip,” says Schott. “But it’s great and we will take it.”

Acme Pie is also participating in BikeArlington’s Bike for Pie event this Sunday, the day before Pi Day. The five-mile ride ends at the Pike pie shop.

Livin’ the Pie Life on N. Glebe Road is where the Bike for Pie event begins.

The 11-year-old shop in the Glebewood neighborhood also is expecting a surge in business on March 14. Normally the shop is closed on Mondays, but this week, it will be open on Pi Day with special sweet offerings.

That includes a “Pi Day sampler box” which will contain three “cocktail-size pies + one surprise equalling 4 sweet treats” (3.14, get it?). Additionally, five random boxes will contain a $20 gift card to make the numerical holiday extra sweet for a few.

They are expecting to sell more than a thousand pies, co-owner Heather Sheire tells ARLnow. That includes the 150 pre-orders the shop has taken already for the sampler boxes. There will also be a hundred or so boxes waiting for those who are walking into the shop looking for a Pi Day treat.

(It’s hard not to get into Pi Day’s numerical spirit. In honor of Arlington’s two pie destinations, for instance, this article and its photo captions are exactly 628 words, or 2 times 314.)

Sheire says it’s hard to compare Pi Day to a normal day since the shop will have offerings that aren’t typically sold.

Thanksgiving is “a different animal,” says Livin’ the Pie Life’s other co-owner Wendy MacCallum, that lasts a whole week in terms of preparation, baking, and sales. This past Thanksgiving, the shop sold about 2,000 pies, she says.

While Thanksgiving is big business, Pi Day is much more fun, the local pie shop owners say. Less stressful and more opportunity to be creative, they note.

“Businesses, schools, mathematicians, they all love Pi Day,” MacCallum says. “And so do we.”

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Morning Notes

ART bus in traffic in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Crashed Car Still Along Riverbank — “Two months after a man’s car careened two hundred feet off George Washington Parkway in Virginia, the National Park Service is developing a plan to remove the vehicle from an embankment next to the Potomac River… Police tape surrounds the car, which remains resting upside down. The driver’s papers and personal belongings are still scattered next to the car, which has graffiti painted on it.” [Patch]

February Rents Up Slightly — “The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,982 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,399 for two bedrooms, according to data reported March 1 by Apartment List. Compared to the period immediately preceding the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020, Arlington rents are up 0.5 percent.” [Sun Gazette]

Clarendon-Based Axios Expanding — “This year, Axios is pouring $30 million into expanding its footprint, said Jim VandeHei, the chief executive. It is spreading into cities (Axios Local), industries (Axios Pro) and workplaces (Axios HQ)… It now has more than 400 employees, with 150 in its newsroom in Arlington, Va., and 2.2 million subscribers across its 34 national and global newsletters.” [New York Times]

Arlington Man Arrested for Abduction — “Victim One stated that she had been at an establishment in the 500 block of 23rd Street S. with the known suspect when they became involved in a verbal dispute. When Victim One attempted to leave with Victim Two and another witness, the suspect approached Victim One and allegedly began physically assaulting her before being separated by additional witnesses. The victims then went to retrieve Victim One’s vehicle from a garage in the 500 block of 12th Road S., when the suspect approached them, brandished a firearm and made threatening statements… A struggle ensued, during which the suspect attempted to prevent Victim One from leaving.” [Arlington County]

Comcast Upping Broadband Speeds — “Comcast announced today that it has increased speeds for its most popular Xfinity Internet tiers, providing an extra boost for millions of residential customers across 14 northeastern states from Maine through Virginia and the District of Columbia.” [Comcast]

Va. Tornado Drill Today — “Join us for the Statewide Tornado Drill TOMORROW at 9:45 AM! Practice sheltering from a #tornado: Go to a lower level of your home or office, away from windows. Get under sturdy shelter like a desk if you can.” [Twitter]

Record High Temperature Set — “For the second day in a row, record highs were set across the area. Highs of at least 80 in Washington, 76 at Dulles, and 78 at BWI are all records for the date. That 80-degree reading in the city is 10th-earliest on record.” [Capital Weather Gang]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 56 and low of 41. Sunrise at 6:31 am and sunset at 6:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Union Kitchen in Ballston (staff photo)

(Updated, 5:00 p.m.) Employees at Union Kitchen in Ballston are looking to unionize, joining colleagues at other area locations.

The employees cite pay cuts, lack of sick leave, and staffing shortages among the reasons for organizing.

In late January, employees at three Union Kitchen stores in D.C. filed union petitions, as DCist reported. Within days, workers at the Ballston location joined those efforts, Union Kitchen union organizing committee member and Ballston employee Mckenna Willis tells ARLnow.

Now, employees at all five open locations have signaled their intent to unionize. That includes eight eligible employees in Ballston.

A mail-in election is set for Tuesday, March 8 with a count planned for March 28. Workers are holding a “pre-election rally” in D.C. this Saturday.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 would be the collective bargaining agent for the store’s employees if the vote passes.

Union Kitchen started as a food accelerator, helping food and beverage startups by providing business and technical expertise, and has since grown into a retail shop and restaurant. The Ballston location opened at 4238 Wilson Blvd in August 2020, offering a mix of packaged food, beverage and convenience items for sale as well as a takeout menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, melts and pizzas.

Many of the reasons for organizing are common across all of the locations, but Willis explains that a number of these grievances are acutely felt at the Ballston location.

Earlier this year, management stopped providing customers the option to tip on their payments. This has effectively cut employees’ pay by three or four dollars an hour, according to Willis.

In February, management sent a notice, which was provided to ARLnow by Union Kitchen CEO Cullen Gilchrist, to workers that they were “increasing compensation by almost 20% on average across all positions.”

Willis says that increase does not come close to making up for the lost wages from losing tips. She explains that the Ballston location has more “established” employees — those with families, mortgages, and long-term relationships — than the other locations and can not afford what is effectively a pay cut.

Union Kitchen management, which has said it won’t voluntarily recognize the union, wrote that employees’ compensation is “industry leading pay.”

“We pay a minimum wage of $18/hr with an average compensation in our Ballston store of $28.5/hr,” Gilchrist wrote to ARLnow in an email. “We are very proud of our ability to pay so well.”

As for why tips were cut, Gilchrist said this is what customers wanted.

“The vast majority of customers don’t tip, and many of those who did felt pressure to do so,” he told DCist. “We’re trying to make our customers comfortable.”

Sick leave is also an employee concern, with Willis calling Union Kitchen’s Covid policy “horrible.” During the pandemic, Willis says employees wanted to take sick leave as a precaution but didn’t want to risk not getting paid.

Willis says she lives with her father and when he contracted Covid, she told work she wasn’t coming in because “it was the right thing to do.” She was told it would be unpaid leave.

Additionally, “severe” staffing shortages have hit the Wilson Blvd location of Union Kitchen hard. While Willis acknowledges that this is an issue across the industry at large, she says management is not handling it appropriately.

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