Arlington, VA

Lorton-based and women-owned Rāko Coffee is opening in the Courthouse area later this spring or summer.

This is the coffee roaster’s first official bricks-and-mortar location, according to the Washington Business Journal, after focusing on wholesale roasting operations since opening in Lorton in 2019.

The plan, initially, was to open a retail location in 2020, but that was delayed to the pandemic and they shifted their business online.

The coffee roaster currently operates a pop-up during the day at plant-centric restaurant Oyster Oyster near the Mount Vernon neighborhood in D.C.

The new cafe is set to be located in the Courthouse neighborhood at 2016 Wilson Blvd, the former location of The Olive Oil Boom, according to a recently filed permit application. The shop is also looking to serve beer and wine as well, the application suggests.

Rāko’s Instagram account also recently touted an opening “in less than a couple of months” as well as recently becoming a member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. ARLnow was unable to reach the owners via phone or email for additional information.

Rāko is owned by sisters Lisa and Melissa Gerben and specializes in sustainability sourced single origin coffee.

The name comes from a trip to Ethiopia to source coffee, when the sisters took notice of a mountain called “Rāko.” This translates in English to “challenge.”

Their Arlington cafe will be 1,360 square feet and feature “high-quality, unique coffee beverages” like baklava latte and lion’s mane mushroom chai iced tea, the Business Journal reported.

It will also have locally-sourced food and will serve wine, cocktails, and beer in the evening.

Rāko is reportedly looking to open other locations in the area in the coming year as well, potentially including a shop in Logan Circle in D.C. The company is also “actively looking” for space in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Alexandria and Bethesda for more outposts, notes the Washington Business Journal.

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Arlington has long had a childcare shortage problem. During the pandemic, strangely, that helped its programs survive.

Although childcare programs across the nation have shuttered due to the coronavirus, in Arlington, only three licensed programs have closed, said County Board member and childcare advocate Katie Cristol. One is reopening in a new location better equipped for social-distancing, while two others closed permanently (one of those closures was virus-related).

“The good news is, what has been one of the biggest challenges of the landscape of Arlington has been an asset,” she said, adding that demand remained strong locally, buoying Arlington’s centers, “most of which have faired fairly well.”

Amid the three closures, Cristol — who helped launch the county’s Child Care Initiative in 2017 — helped welcome a new addition to Arlington’s stock of early education and childcare options this week. Looking to help address Arlington’s demand for early education options, two sisters, Saniya Dhala and Zahra Isani, opened Primrose School of Arlington in the Courthouse area yesterday (Thursday).

“There continues to be a great need for high-quality early education and child care options in our community and Primrose Schools delivers that in a convenient setting, close to neighborhoods and businesses,” Cristol said.

It is independently owned and operated by Dhala and Isani, who quit their jobs in the finance and food industries to open this Primrose School location, the 450th nationwide. The school at 2107 Wilson Blvd can accommodate up to 185 children.

“The pandemic has been devastating to so many businesses and industries, and the childcare industry is no exception to that,” the sisters tell ARLnow. “Some schools have had to shut their doors, and some have had to reduce hours and capacity. As we start to return to normalcy things are opening back up, many schools are ready to welcome families again and we are excited to be opening a high-quality option in an area where it’s needed.”

This location is one of five Primrose locations scheduled to open in the D.C. area — joining 11 existing outposts — in the middle of a pandemic that has shined a light on deep problems in the industry, such as a shortage of spots, high staff turnover and thin operating margins.

There are some signs of relief, however. President Joe Biden announced that $39 billion of the American Rescue Plan will help sustain these programs, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $203 million to expand eligibility for the Commonwealth’s Child Care Subsidy Program.

While Dhala and Isani said they started the process of opening their franchise location before the pandemic hit, the coronavirus did reinforce their decision to open a school.

“Being in the process of opening during the pandemic allowed us to be agile and adjust our space on the front-end to ensure we met and innovated around all the new safety guidelines,” they said. “Childcare is essential to our workforce and to our nation’s economic recovery, not to mention to prepare our next generation of leaders for the future.”

The pandemic made more people realize the dearth of options available, as waves of women have exited the workforce to take care of their children full-time, Cristol said. The county initiative she helped launch is still working to address the high demand and low supply of options.

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A new print shop has taken over a building in Green Valley that has housed a revolving door of bar and lounge spots.

An employee confirmed that ABC Imaging opened at 2620 Shirlington Road two weeks ago on April 12. ABC Imaging is headquartered in nearby Fairfax County, and the new Arlington location joins a roster of nearly 30 outposts across the U.S., in addition to four global hubs.

The opening marks a hard restart for 2620 Shirlington Road, which is across the street from a concrete plant and a self-storage facility.

Over the last 10 years, folks have tried and failed to establish a local watering hole at the quirky building that would replace Champion Billiards. The billiards spot had a two-decade run but struggled to stay on top of taxes in its later years.

Since 2011, three variations on the theme of a bar and lounge have come and gone in quick succession.

New owners reopened the spot in the summer of 2011 as Lucy’s ARL — where patrons could find “shrews, brews and cues” — but that closed two years later.

In 2015, Chester’s Billiards Bar & Grill set up shop and had a two-year run fraught with violations including an unsafe elevator and unsanctioned dance parties before it too closed.

Attempting to give the building a new reputation as a more family-friendly place, new owners opened Sydney’s Bar and Lounge in September 2019. Sydney’s had a brief run but the owners appear to have moved the restaurant to Delaware last year.

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Ballston Quarter is getting several new businesses, a new art installation, and a weekly bingo night.

The “Beer and Bingo” nights are taking place at the Quarter Market food hall on Wednesdays through the end of May. Registration is free on the shopping center’s website. Individuals or small groups will be sat at tables spaced apart, for safety’s sake.

“Guests can expect a safe and socially distanced night full of fun and amazing prizes for those lucky bingo winners,” says a press release. “The free ticket will guarantee 6-8 rounds of bingo with a prize available for each round.”

Meanwhile, the “Prismatica Kaleidoscope Experience,” fresh from a stint in Richmond, is being installed in the outdoor mews near CVS. It will open May 1 and run until the end of that month.

The art installation is “composed of 25 pivoting prisms standing at more than 6 ft tall, that will make for a colorful photo op,” according to a press release. The “towering rainbow prisms” immerse visitors in “an infinite interplay of lights and reflections,” says the Ballston Quarter website.

In addition to the art, three new businesses are set to open.

Heart + Paw, a full service veterinary center, groomer and doggy daycare, is also opening in the shopping center in May. This is the company’s first location in the area, with most existing locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Large windows will face out as to “allow pet parents to watch their fur babies being groomed,” the press release says.

Also opening is REWILD, the popular and trendy D.C.-based flower and plant shop. That’s expected to open between July 1 and August 1, the shop tells ARLnow.

“We also hear a lot of our clients who visit us at our D.C. locations say they’ve traveled to see REWILD in person, and many of those clients are coming from Virgina,” owner Lily Cox wrote in an email to ARLnow. “We pride ourselves on our selection of unique houseplants, and find that there’s a space to fill in Virginia for a shop like ours. We have already received so much positive feedback from some of those Virginia-based residents, that we’re anticipating a very engaged community in Ballston.”

Beyond selling house plants, REWILD also does consultations and workshops.

Finally, after being first announced in August 2018, Art Whino appears to be planning to finally open soon.

The D.C.-based art gallery, which once had a presence at Tysons, is opening up a new 6,000 square foot venue that will bring “art, food, cocktails and events under one roof.”

There will be a seating area for more than 150 guests, three bars with “full immersion mural installations,” and an art retail space. The venue is being described as a “multidimensional experience.”

The opening date is listed as “late spring 2021.”

Two other Ballston Quarter businesses have reopened or appear poised to reopen soon.

Cooking school Cookology “has finally reopened its doors to welcome those who want to learn everything about cooking in-person,” according to the press release.

“They will be hosting teen nights every Friday night and CRAVE @Cookology which will be a series of culinary experiences allowing visitors to drop in and participate in fun activities like making their own sushi & sake or competing in cake decorating competitions,” the press release notes. “CRAVE will begin April 3 and will be open Wednesday-Friday from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday 1-9 p.m.”

As ARLnow reported last week, three-story food, drink and entertainment complex Punch Bowl Social is also expected to reopen in the coming weeks or months. The company recently started hiring ahead of an expected reopening, after remaining closed during much of the pandemic and going through bankruptcy.

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Two foodies are opening a restaurant and bar called Ballston Local in the former location of Stageplate Bistro.

Co-owners Jonah Troth, a former Silicon Valley executive, and Jason Johnston, a Las Vegas chef, expect to welcome customers on Saturday, May 1, just in time for summer.

“Ballston Local is an elevated fast-casual restaurant, focusing on the conveniences of the ever increasingly popular service model, merging it with a vibrant cocktail bar and exceptional crave-worthy foods,” they said of the restaurant at 900 N. Glebe Road.

Troth left the tech world after 18 years because “it wasn’t crazy enough” and decided to pursue his dream of opening a bar and restaurant. He’s also a former beer brewer with a degree in biochemistry.

The restaurant will have to draw a sizable crowd to the foot traffic-challenged western side of Glebe Road in order to fill the large space, which can seat more than 150. The owners believe they have the formula to do just that.

In developing the menu, Johnston drew from his 30 years of culinary experience and his former roles as executive chef of the MGM at National Harbor and Bellagio. The menu boasts approachable and fast fare inspired by classic comfort foods, such as Brooklyn-style pizza, juicy burgers, loaded sandwiches and colorful salads, the duo said.

To drink, customers can pick craft cocktails or fan favorites, as well as “unique” beer offerings and wine, the duo said.

“Each dish will showcase the freshest possible ingredients and thoughtful techniques, while mindful of busy clientele who don’t want to exchange quality for efficiency,” they said.

“When I lived in Las Vegas, New York and LA we always had our go-to spot, and good pizza was the No. 1 requirement,” Johnson said. “I have been perfecting my own pizza recipe for the last 10 years, and I am excited to bring my passion for the classic NY style pizza my grandma use to make to Ballston.”

“We hope Ballston Local will be a place for our guests to experience a comfortable atmosphere, excellent fast service and most importantly, delicious food,” the chef added.

Additional details on Ballston Local’s food and beverage menu are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.

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A new local business owner is taking over the troubled, former Purple Lounge location and is pledging to make it family-friendly.

Layth Mansour will be opening a restaurant and hookah lounge called “Eska” at 3111 Columbia Pike, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) announced earlier today.

Mansour also owns Legend Kicks & Apparel several blocks down at 2609 Columbia Pike.

This new restaurant will be an “authentic celebration of Arabic culture,” featuring decor, seating, and a menu inspired by Mansour’s roots. He tells ARLnow that he’ll make the new establishment “more family-friendly” and won’t be serving alcohol.

“I just want to provide a different vibe to the Pike,”said Mansour, who was born in America to a family originally from Jerusalem. “Also, that’s just not me. I’ve never drunk liquor… It’s against my religion.”

Plus, he says, the customer base at Legend Kick is predominantly 19 or younger, so he wants an establishment that complements his other business.

“Literally, five feet from our back door are houses,” he says. “‘It gives the community a peace of mind as well. There’s not going to be a lot of chaos.”

Mansour noted that, instead of alcohol, traditional Arabic teas, coffees, and desserts will be served. In fact, he’s bringing in a chef from Ramallah to help build out the menu.

“The Chef is well known in the village of Ramallah,” Mansour said, as quoted by CPRO. “He’ll be here for six months to help us build the menu.”

Mansour is working on repainting the exterior from purple to a “beige, brick-color.” Interior renovations are ongoing, as well, but the work has been challenging since the building was not kept in good shape.

“The last people here really, really screwed this place up,” Mansour says. “The exterior of the building is damaged, the plumbing is messed up… they were never up to date with any type of inspection. They didn’t even have fire extinguishers in the place.”

For years, the nightlife venue Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge was the site of a number of incidents, including multiple shootings. The situation got so dire that a bill was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam that gives communities greater say over the issuance of liquor licenses.

Despite the building challenges, Mansour expects Eska to open by June 1, a prospect that excites local business boosters.

“CPRO is thrilled to have a new business coming to this location that embodies the spirit of Columbia Pike — a celebration of community, family, and the diverse cultures that make up our amazing corridor,” Kim Klingler, Executive Director of CPRO, tells ARLnow. “And we are proud to see a Columbia Pike small-business owner continue to grow and invest in our community.”

Mansour’s other business Legend Kicks & Apparel, a popular store focused on reselling high-end athletic gear, was a victim of arson and theft back in 2018. Later that year, the store reopened in a new location, a few doors down from the original one, which was severely damaged in the fire.

Mansour says that he’s currently looking for a new location for Legend Kicks, since a multi-use development is being planned for that block. He says his lease runs until January 2022, but expects to keep Legend Kicks in the Columbia Pike corridor

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A new fitness studio called SPENGA is set to open in Ballston in late April.

The studio at 4040 Fairfax Drive will teach a proprietary blend of spin, strength training and yoga — which are also blended together in the name “SPENGA.” The fitness brand has more than 300 franchise locations in operation or opening across the U.S.

“We are so excited to bring this amazing workout to my hometown of Arlington and to be a part of the incredible Ballston community,” said Sherry Ruffing, the owner of the forthcoming Ballston location.

The workout combines cardio, strength and flexibility to give clients 60 minutes of efficient, full-body workouts, according to the website.

“[SPENGA has] all of the burn with none of the burnout,” Ruffing said. “Not only will you transform your body, but you will join a network of like-minded, supportive friends. And no matter your fitness level, it’s you versus you.”

Ruffing is leaving her career in the aerospace industry and government relations after 30 years to introduce the boutique brand to the D.C. area.

She said she plans to open several studios across Northern Virginia, including two more in Arlington County, likely in Rosslyn and Pentagon City.

The studio, located on the ground floor of an office building two blocks away from the Ballston Metro station, will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Ruffing is offering a $50 discount to members who purchase unlimited monthly class plans before the gym opens.

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(Update at 11:50 a.m.) A new Bearded Goat Barber shop is opening in Shirlington this fall.

The full-service barber shop — from local entrepreneurs Eric Renfro, Jon Dodson, and Scott Parker — is opening its third location, at the Village at Shirlington. It will be located 4150 Campbell Ave, next to Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub and across the street from Damn Good Burger Co.

It’s opening in the former Hair Cuttery space, which appeared to have closed during the summer. The ice cream shop next door I-CE-NY, which opened in October 2018 ,was listed for sale late last year.

“The Village at Shirlington is the ideal location for Bearded Goat Barber to open its third location,” writes co-founder Scott Parker in a press release. “Having opened our first shop in Ballston in 2019, and our second location in Navy Yard in Washington, DC this year, we are focused on neighborhoods that are future-focused, while retaining a certain charm.”

The barber shop will, of course, adhere to strict CDC guidelines, according to the release.

This includes santaizing workspaces, tools, chairs, capes, and waiting areas in between all visits. Masks are also required to be worn at all times by both patrons and employees, through the entire grooming experience.

The first Bearded Goat Barber location opened in Ballston about two years ago in 2019. It temporarily shut down last March due to the pandemic and re-opened in May with new safety and health guidelines in place.

The second location recently opened in Navy Yard in Southeast D.C.

The upscale barber shop is a partnership between two barbers, Renfro and Dodson, who were previously working at Clarendon’s Hendrick Barbershop, and serial local entrepreneur Parker.

Scott Parker is perhaps most well-known as a co-owner of popular bars and restaurants, including Don Tito in Clarendon, Bronson Bierhall in Ballston, and soon-to-be-open Nighthawk Pizza in Pentagon City.

He’s also co-owner of Bash Boxing, which also has two locations in Arlington. Another of his ventures, Clarendon’s The G.O.A.T., closed earlier this year.

The 1,088 square-foot barber shop joins Stellina Pizzeria and Market among Shirlington’s newest businesses.

Photo courtesy of Bearded Goat Barber 

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A small commercial building at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive has a pair of new tenants.

The building was briefly vacant, its future in question, after previous tenants TitleMax and Sam Torrey Shoe Service moved out last year. But the property owner, Virginia Hospital Center, has filled both spaces.

The old TitleMax space is being taken by Page Global Cyber Solutions, which bills itself as “an award winning industry provider of office solutions, strategic communications and information technology.” A sign on the building says the space will be a “neighborhood business center,” offering everything from private offices to nap rooms to drone video services.

The business center will also offer private mailboxes, office supplies and secure video conferencing rooms, according to the sign.

The former shoe shop, meanwhile, is being occupied by a roofing company called Augustine Roofing, according to VHC spokeswoman Maryanne Boster.

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Morning Notes

Sexual Battery Suspect Arrested — “At approximately 1:12 p.m. on November 20, police were dispatched to the 4200 block of Wilson Boulevard for the report of a suspicious person matching the description of the suspect in the November 17 incident. Responding officers located the individual and took him into custody without incident.” [ACPD]

Local Attorney Accused of Sex Offenses — “A Northern Virginia attorney was arrested Thursday in Miami and accused of coercing underage girls into sexual activity. Matthew Erausquin, a founding partner of the firm Consumer Litigation Associates’ Northern Virginia affiliate, is charged in Alexandria federal court with sex trafficking involving six minors.” [Washington Post]

Hospice Worker Accused of Sexual Assault — A 57-year-old Arlington man has been charged “with sexually assaulting a hospice patient in October. Detectives were first notified on Nov. 11, that an 80-year-old Reston man disclosed to a family member that he awoke to [the man] performing a sex act on him in his home.” [Fairfax County Police]

Man Arrested After Incident in Park — “Arlington County Police say that a local man tried to kick a dog and then pepper sprayed its owner Thursday afternoon at Chestnut Hills Park.” [Patch]

SUV Fire in Westover — Washington Blvd was blocked around lunchtime Sunday due to a vehicle fire near Westover Village. The SUV was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. [Twitter]

MyEyeDr Opening Today in Ballston — The new MyEyeDr location in Ballston is set to open today, according to a press release. The chain bills itself as “one-stop shop to get an eye exam, buy new eyewear or even shop for sunglasses.”

Metro Making Budget Cuts — “Metro board members unanimously approved service cuts and a buyout plan Thursday aimed at avoiding as many layoffs as possible as the transit agency faces a $176 million budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic.” [Washington Post]

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A new Italian market is opening at Pentagon Row with a grab-and-go version of a beloved D.C. restaurant.

Napoli Salumeria (1301 S. Joyce Street) will have the sandwiches, pastas, salads and desserts of the Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated Napoli Pasta Bar in D.C. (2737 Sherman Avenue NW), but the Pentagon Row location is built around picking up food in the store and taking it home, according to owner Antonio Ferraro.

Ferraro said the location is planning to fully open on Tuesday, with the website going live Saturday night or Sunday morning for people to place orders.

“All the main dishes of Napoli Pasta Bar, we’re going to have them here, ready to go,” Ferraro said. “We can warm them up here. For now, we’re not offering sitting down yet, just picking up. But we’re going to get an outside plaza space, where ice skating is, so they can order and eat there.”

Ferraro said after the location is up and running, he plans to add delivery options at a later date.

The location was once home to A Deli, so Napoli Salumeria will be keeping a small Italian legacy alive on S. Joyce Street.

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