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Morning Notes

Flag at Saturday's 9/11 Memorial 5K race (photo by maryva2)

Deputy Accused of Murder Again Denied Bond — Arlington County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Patterson, who is accused of murdering Julian Dawkins, has been denied bond for a third time. Patterson’s defense attorney argued that Dawkins may have been using and dealing drugs, and Dawkins’ previous dealings with police caused his confrontational nature the night of the incident. Patterson’s trial starts on December 9. [WUSA]

Home Sales, Prices Rise — The combination of higher sales and increasing average sales prices boosted Arlington’s total sales volume for August by 29.4 percent, to $173 million, compared to last year. The average price of all residential properties rose 8.1 percent to $594,479. Homes sold last month spent an average of 29 days on the market between listing and contract, compared with 50 days a year ago. [Sun Gazette]

Lost Dog/Stray Cat Profile — A Washington Post story profiles two of Arlington’s well known restaurants that help pets find homes — Lost Dog Cafe and Stray Cat Cafe. Co-founders Pam McAlwee and Ross Underwood describe how they started rescuing strays from shelters before the age of cell phones and the internet. Each year the duo, along with their 300 volunteers, helps around 1,800 dogs and 700 cats find homes. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by maryva2

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Introducing the 2010 ABBIE Award Winners

Congratulations to the 15 businesses that emerged as winners in the voting for this year’s Arlington’s Best Business Awards.

About 10,000 people participated in the online nomination and voting process, according to Arlington Economic Development, which sponsors the annual contest. That’s about twice as many nominations and votes as last year.

Among the big winners were Northside Social, voted Arlington’s Best New Business, and Lost Dog Cafe, the only business to win in two categories.

The winners, which will announced at the county board meeting that’s getting underway now, are:

  • Best Boutique: ShoeFly
  • Best Brunch: Carlyle
  • Best Community-Based Nonprofit: AFAC
  • Best Customer Service: Eventide
  • Best Dessert: Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
  • Best Late Night Spot: Bob and Edith’s
  • Best Performing Arts Organization: Signature Theatre
  • Best Place to Care for Your Pet: Ballston Animal Hospital
  • Best Place to Dance the Night Away: Clarendon Ballroom
  • Best Place to Learn Something New: Arlington Public Library
  • Best Happy Hour: Liberty Tavern
  • Best Neighborhood Bar: Whitlow’s on Wilson
  • Best “Bargain” Restaurant: Lost Dog Café
  • Best Family Friendly Restaurant: Lost Dog Café
  • Best New Business: Northside Social

The incumbent winners from 2009 had a particularly strong showing. Only the Best New Business, Best Happy Hour, and Best Customer Service categories changed hands this year.

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Lost Dog Café Becoming Lost Dog Empire?

What started out 25 years ago as a small neighborhood eatery in North Arlington is blossoming into a full-fledged local chain.

Lost Dog Café, which last year added a South Arlington location on Columbia Pike, is close to signing a lease for a storefront on Colshire Drive in McLean. And they’re not stopping there.

Lost Dog’s expansion is being undertaken not by the owners of the original restaurant, but by four friends who used to work there as teenagers.

Wes Clough, Mike Danner, Jim Barnes  and Mike Barnes are all graduates of Yorktown High School. Their devotion to Lost Dog Café started at age 16, when they started working there as drivers.

That dedication carried over through college, office jobs and marriages, and came full circle when Lost Dog owners Pam McAlwee and Ross Underwood gave their blessing for the friends to start the restaurant’s first franchise.

The Columbia Pike location, across the street from Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse, opened in May 2009. McAlwee and Underwood donated the franchise fee to their charity, the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.

The new venture has been a success, winning awards and gaining customers at a pace well exceeding the friends’ expectations. Even this past weekend, during the height of Snowmageddon, the restaurant was packed.

Part of the success, says co-owner Jim Barnes, can be attributed to Lost Dog’s focus on serving customers. During the snow storm, Barnes personally delivered phone-in orders in his Jeep Wrangler.

For Mike Barnes, Jim’s brother, the formula boils down to this: quality food at reasonable prices. That kind of universal appeal is why he believes Lost Dog will have no problem expanding outside the safe confines of Arlington. It’s also why he and his partners are setting their sights even further.

After the McLean location opens up, the group will start planning for their next expansion.  So far the likely candidates include Alexandria and Capitol Hill.

The friends may be moving quickly, but their planning is methodical. With take-out and delivery accounting for 50 percent of Lost Dog’s business, the McLean location was chosen specifically to provide a contiguous zone of delivery service. It also helps that nearby Tysons Corner has a huge population of office workers who need to eat something for lunch.

Opening up new stores is risky, especially for four young guys with relatively tight finances, but Jim Barnes is confident that once they find suitable locations, new Lost Dog Cafés won’t have trouble finding clientele.

“A family-friendly restaurant with good food,” said Barnes, “[is] a recipe that will work anywhere.”

For additional information: Check out Lost Dog Café’s absurdly long menu, including 90 different varieties of pizzas, sandwiches, and pastas. Also, take a look at the equally-impressive beer list. Or watch the Arlington Virginia Network’s recent “Food for Thought” feature on the restaurant.

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