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The owner of Arlington’s Wild Birds Unlimited is seeking to retire after 32 years in the birding business —  right after he finds a successor.

Michael Zuiker wants to make it clear: the long-standing storefront in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center in Yorktown isn’t going anywhere. But after more than three decades, Zuiker is looking for someone new to fill his role of chatting with customers, keeping up with change and encouraging busy Arlingtonians to take time to enjoy the natural world.

“I have loved owning this store and getting the chance to meet all of you while sharing my love of the birds,” the business owner said in an emailed announcement last week. “But we all reach new phases in our lives and I want to get the wheels turning to start my retirement years.”

Zuiker is ready to wait as long as it takes to find a new owner. He is confident he can find someone who understands the joy of connecting customers with nature by selling birdseed, bird feeders and other outdoor equipment.

“It’s a lot more than just making a dollar selling birdseed. It really is,” he told ARLnow. “It’s having the customers come back and say, ‘Look at what I got in my backyard! I’ve never had that bird before.’”

Zuiker is asking potential buyers to contact him at [email protected].

Adapting to change

Due in part to Arlington’s shifting demographics, Zuiker still regularly finds people discovering his business for the first time, though they view birding differently than avian enthusiasts 32 years ago.

“My first customers, they were in their little $80,000 house that was paid for,” Zuiker recalled. “They had their little retirement disposable income. Now, people are moving into these $1.8 million homes with two kids, two cars and four dogs and a cat. It’s kind of a lot of expenses.”

Today’s birders are younger and busier, often fitting birdwatching into crowded schedules.

“You’ve got to kind of slow people down to just stop for a second,” Zuiker said.

Different faces are just one of many changes the store has adjusted to over the years.

When Zuiker assumed ownership of the county’s Wild Birds Unlimited in 1991, his employees made $3.25 per hour. Most birdhouses were made of wood, and staff wrote down orders using a pen and paper.

These days, the wage is at least $15 per hour, employees record orders digitally and much birding equipment is made of recycled plastics.

“If you’re not willing to be flexible and constantly change, and rethink your store and redesign your store, and make it attractive to customers… people do lose interest from time to time,” Zuiker said.

For the birdseed salesman, part of the job’s allure is the personal responsibility he feels for his business’s success or failure.

“There’s only one person I can look at who’s been there 32 years, and that’s me,” he said.

Eager for the future

Despite Zuiker’s ongoing love for his feathered friends, he is ready to move on from the job of running a business.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I really am, because there’s so much I want to see and want to do.”

The birder has no shortage of ideas. He wants to go to music festivals. He wants to learn the accordion. He wants to visit Europe, tour national parks and write a book.

More than anything, Zuiker said, “I want to see new stuff. I want to find new lakes; I want to find new birds.”

Zuiker doesn’t intend to rush anything. He still has high standards for what the new owner will be like — someone as passionate about birds and business as he is.

“We won’t sell it to anybody, and the franchise won’t let me, unless it’s a very good person dedicated to backyard bird feeding,” he said. “That’s the key.”

Zuiker declined to speculate on how long that will take, but after 32 years, he says it is time to spread his wings and leave the proverbial nest.

“I’ve done it for so long,” he said. “I think it’s really time to say, ‘You did it. You did it really well.'”

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Lee’s Sandwiches, which bills itself as the “World’s Largest Bánh Mì Chain,” has temporarily closed its doors in Ballston but may reopen under new ownership.

The Ballston location at 801 N. Quincy Street appears to have been closed for at least a month and is listed as “temporarily closed” on Google Maps and on a sign posted inside the door.

It first opened on N. Quincy Street in August 2020, replacing a Subway which closed in 2019.

The Ballston spot was the second East Coast location for Lee’s Sandwiches — a California-based franchise — following the first such location opening in 2016 at 3037 Annandale Road in Falls Church.

Tamy Nguyen Duong, who owns the Falls Church franchise location, says she recently purchased the Lee’s Sandwiches store in Ballston. She told ARLnow that the Ballston shop will reopen soon, though she could not give an exact date.

Her nephew will run the shop and is still deciding whether to operate it under the “Lee’s Sandwiches” franchise, she said. Either way, 801 N. Quincy Street will eventually resume selling sandwiches and coffee, according to Nguyen Duong.

The chain has a variety of sandwich options but specializes in bánh mì, a popular Vietnamese sandwich with savory ingredients in a short, toasted baguette. Lee’s is also noted for its Vietnamese iced coffee.

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Screwtop Wine Bar at 1025 N. Fillmore Street (via Screwtop/Instagram)

Screwtop Wine Bar in Clarendon is under new ownership.

The wine bar, owned and operated by Wendy Buckley since 2009, was recently purchased by Linda Urbanski and Ryan Gesinski. The sale was finalized Jan. 2.

Located at 1025 N. Fillmore Street, Screwtop offers a full wine bar, brunch, lunch, dinner and a retail wine shop with hundreds of wines. It also carries a variety of artisan cheeses, meats and gourmet goodies.

Buckley, the original owner and operator, opened the wine bar after noticing few Clarendon spots geared toward wine lovers and women.

“I wanted to create a casual place where you could enjoy a really great glass of wine without having to go to a fancy restaurant downtown, and thus the idea for Screwtop was born,” Buckley said in a newsletter to customers. “With Screwtop, I wanted to take the intimidation out of wine and turn the enjoyment of wine into a lighthearted and approachable experience.”

That approach is in the bar’s name, which plays with the stereotype that finer wines only come corked while lower-tier options have screw caps.

“My goal was to create a place where no matter your knowledge of wine you felt at home here,” Buckley said. “And that our team treated everyone that came through our doors like a regular. A regular ‘Cheers’ of the wine bar scene.”

Urbanski, one of the new co-owners, said she doesn’t plan on making significant changes, only to “make enhancements of what is already currently in place.”

“I love that Screwtop strives to be an affordable wine bar, has an absolutely delicious menu, and hosts numerous wine tasting events,” Urbanski said in a separate emailed newsletter. “I am truly thrilled to have the opportunity to have Screwtop continue on as a go-to wine bar for the Arlington community.”

Urbanski grew up in Vienna and has lived in Clarendon with her husband for over a decade, per the email. She has a background in managing large business operations.

“We will continue to be committed to delivering an exceptional experience to every visitor, by providing unique wines and continuing the tradition of creating a warm and inviting atmosphere,” Urbanski said. “I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting so many lovely customers over the past couple of months, but I am genuinely looking forward to meeting even more of the wonderful people that Wendy has been telling me about that contribute to the vibrant Screwtop community.”

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Copperwood Tavern in Shirlington is under new ownership.

Viswanath Vasireddy, of Aldie, Virginia, tells ARLnow he finalized the purchase of the restaurant on Dec. 26, after learning the business was for sale from a broker with whom he had previously worked.

“I looked at it and it seemed like a good business,” he said of the New American restaurant at 4021 Campbell Avenue in the Village at Shirlington shopping center.

For now, just the ownership has changed and he retained the restaurant’s employees during the transition, he said. While the menu is the same, he has asked the chef to see if there are any new dishes to introduce.

Vasireddy says he is currently on-site 3-4 hours a day, applying for licenses — a liquor license application filed last week is currently pending, Virginia ABC records show — and transferring account ownership for various vendors.

The restaurant was formerly owned by Reese Gardner, whose Wooden Nickel Bar Company also owns Dudley’s Sport and Ale in Shirlington, Quinn’s on the Corner in Rosslyn and Brass Rabbit Pub in Clarendon. He has plans to open a new restaurant in Tysons while continuing to expand outposts of Greenheart Juice Shop.

“After 10 successful years with Copperwood, it was time to sell and move on,” says Gardner. “The industry has completely changed and the days of having two concepts within steps apart just isn’t realistic anymore. Cost of goods, staffing plus the annual rent increases make it tough enough with just one in each area.”

Wooden Nickel Bar also owned the now-closed Pinemoor in Clarendon, which opened not far from Brass Rabbit just a few months into the pandemic.

Gardner says he had also hoped for success with The Pinemoor and Brass Rabbit close together but the Pinemoor ultimately closed. He attributed this to a concept that did not quite connect with customers, the restaurant and landlord not coming to better terms, and being unable to sell.

This winter, Gardner aims to get his Tysons restaurant — Ox & Rye, next to the Capital One Hall — open soon and aims to open the Courthouse location of Greenheart Juice Shop in February.

Amid those new openings, he is also focused on his existing restaurants “and most importantly, being a dad.”

As for Copperwood Tavern’s new owner, Vasireddy, he already owns a trio of restaurants in Northern Virginia: New American spot Clarity in Vienna, pan-Asian place Inchin’s Bamboo Garden in Herndon and an Indian restaurant Bawarchi Biryanis in Ashburn.

He says he had experience in the restaurant business back in India, before immigrating in 2008 to the U.S., where he has since worked in information technology.

“I thought about pursuing my dreams a little bit,” Vasireddy said, starting at Bawarchi Biryanis in February 2022 and taking over Inchin’s Bamboo Garden and Clarity last year.

Around the time he was working to close the purchase of Copperwood Tavern, he quit his job at Capital One to focus on restaurant operations full time.

“Business is good,” he said. “I have some expansion plans for 2024 and 2025.”

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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.

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A longtime pizza restaurant in Clarendon is soon to shutter and reopen under new management.

Signs posted on the doors of Faccia Luna at 2909 Wilson Blvd show it will soon become Alto Fumo, another Italian restaurant. Faccia Luna first opened in Clarendon in 1992.

Permit applications filed with Arlington County indicate that the restaurant is under new management, but for now little is expected to change other than the name.

“Alto Fumo means ‘high-rising smoke’ in Italian, like smoke rising from a pizza oven,” the sign reads. “You will enjoy the highest quality customer service and foods and also enjoy our new additions.”

Faccia Luna also has locations in Old Town Alexandria and State College, Pennsylvania. A sign on the door at the Alexandria location thanked customers “for all the support.”

In 2015, co-owner Joe Corey said Faccia Luna has been a spot for successful first dates, with hundreds of couples ending up married after eating together at the Clarendon pizza joint.

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 La Côte d'Or Café in East Falls Church (courtesy photo)La Côte d’Or Café in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood is under new ownership.

Chef Jacques Imperato bought the restaurant in February, according to a press release, and has since set about adding “more authentic French food options.”

Now on the menu: escargots, frog legs and foie gras.

The restaurant, located at 6876 Lee Highway, has been in business for more than two decades.

The full press release is below.

The well-loved restaurant, La Côte d’Or Café in Falls Church, has a new owner and is more authentically French than ever before. The restaurant was purchased in February of 2016 by Chef Jacques Imperato, the past owner-chef of three other successful French restaurants in Northern Virginia. Chef Jeanmarc Drimille who has been with La Cote d’Or for the past 13 years will still head up the kitchen.

Imperato’s changes include adding more authentic French food options from the province of Burgundy, providing an enhanced wine list, and refining recipes already on the menu. Some of the classics gracing the menu include:

  • Burgundy Escargots
  • Charcuterie
  • Beef Bourguignon
  • Coq au Vin
  • Frog Legs
  • Fois Gras

Possibly the most exciting news is Imperto leading a return to excellent French wines at La Côte d’Or Café. The La Côte d’Or region in Burgundy is famous for some of the best wines in the world. The wine list has increased already to 22 wines, 14 of which are Burgundy, with more selections to come.

“I hope to educate people on real French cooking,” Imperto remarks in a classic French accent as pure as the day he arrived in the U.S. decades ago. “Everyone thinks of heavy creams in sauces when they think of French food, but there are many regions in France with different cooking styles. In Burgundy, we use olive oil and fresh herbs. Also, in La Côte d’Or Café we cook a healthier style of Burgundy cuisine using fresh seasonal ingredients, grass fed beef, specialty high quality fish and low calorie alternatives in our sauces.”

Some of these healthier sauce substitutes translate to a menu with many gluten free options. Also, everything on the menu is made from scratch, a practice that is a tradition in French cafe’s but not in typical North American restaurants.

The restaurant is perfect for date night with details that seem to be all too rare, like tables adorned with white linens and fresh flowers. During nice summer days, a wall of doors lining the sidewalk are opened, turning the atmosphere into that of a lovely Parisian cafe.

Imperato attended culinary school in Nice, France, and has worked with some of the most prestigious chefs known in the Côte d’Azur area today.

He has previously worked at Washington, D.C.’s Maison Blanche, Le Lavandou, and Tiberio. In the past, he owned Chalet de la Paix in Arlington as well as Mediterranee Restaurants in Great Falls and Arlington.

If you love La Côte d’Or Café, if you are a long-time follower of Chef Jacques Imperato’s flair for French cuisine, or if you would like to experience authentic cuisine from Burgundy, come and enjoy an exceptional dining experience. You can also contact them at [email protected] and ask to be put on the restaurant’s mailing list so you can receive a daily email with specials.

La Côte d’Or Café has been in business for over 20 years serving lunch and dinner daily from either à la carte or prix fixe menus. They alter the menu for certain holidays such as Mother’s Day. Saturdays and Sundays offer a special brunch menu. They can accommodate private parties up to 30 people in a designated party room. The restaurant provides catering as well.

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A Indian restaurant serving only vegetarian food has reopened on Lee Highway with new owners and new name, though its sign may not reflect it.

Sharan Indian Cuisine, formerly Saran Indian Cuisine, is now open for business at 5157 Lee Highway. While the sign above the restaurant says “Saran Indian Cuisine,” owner Ashraful Siddique said the missing “h” is due to trouble getting a new sign.

“Arlington County is taking [a] little time to approve the signage,” Siddique said.

Siddique took over the restaurant in July and closed it for renovations in order to comply with Arlington codes, he said.

“We just acquired a restaurant that has been at this same location very successfully for the last 16 years, it has a pretty niche clientele and a following, we will like to seamlessly maintain that reputation,” he said. “We had to do small renovation to be compliant to the new code, but we have kept the look and the feel almost the same.”

Sharan Indian Cuisine serves only vegetarian food, a decision made by the previous owners, Siddique said.

“We are a vegetarian restaurant, in the sense we do not serve meat, fish and eggs, we serve a little different menu from the other conventional ethnic Indian restaurants,” he said. “We did not decide on our own, this has always been a vegetarian restaurant and we want to keep the tradition.”

Siddique describes the restaurant as having a “niche menu” because it serves dishes not typically found at Indian restaurant, including Pani Puri, Bhindi Jalfrezi and Masala Dhosa. The restaurant strives to maintain a comfortable atmosphere with affordable, homemade food, he said.

“We will like to invite the clientele of this restaurant who have been coming for the last 16 years to the same old charm vegetarian Indian food and also the new customers to come and try our cooking,” Siddique said.

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Twisted VinesTwisted Vines Bar and Bottleshop at 2803 Columbia Pike has a new owner and with it, a new menu and more drink options.

“Our whole concept that we’re working for is casual elegance,” said Tony Wagner, who took over on Aug. 10.

Wagner wants the place to be welcoming, with good quality food at “neighborhood prices,” he said. With his new concept of “casual elegance” in mind, Wagner and his staff have added new small plates, dishes and craft beers to the restaurant’s menu.

In addition to the small plates, which include new crab cakes, Wagner’s kitchen staff has also added flatbreads.

“We overhauled the menu completely,” Wagner said. “[We added] small plates that are absolutely delicious and pair well with the drinks.”

Wine, and to a lesser extent beer, have been the main attractions of Twisted Vines since it was opened in 2010 by previous owners Sybil and Josh Robinson. Wagner is expanding the drink menu by adding whiskey and bourbon drinks, as well as a new Bloody Mary for brunch, he said.

Under Wagner’s leadership, the restaurant has also started opening on Mondays, from 4-10 p.m., according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Twisted Vines is the first restaurant Wagner has owned, he said. The restaurant’s foundation had already been established by the Robinsons, giving him a good base to build on, he said.

Owning a restaurant has been “a passion for a while and the opportunity presented itself,” Wagner said.

File photo

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New Ownership for Alpine Restaurant — Alpine Restaurant, the popular Italian eatery on Lee Highway in North Arlington, closed its doors on Sunday. After 44 years in business, owner Ermanno Tonizzo decided to sell the restaurant and retire. The restaurant will eventually re-open under new management. More from NBC Washington.

Small Fire at Reagan National — A scary moment for travelers at Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon. A small fire broke out at a McDonald’s restaurant past the security checkpoint in one of the terminals. The fire was extinguished within minutes, and airport spokesperson said. There were some minor flight delays, but the terminal was not evacuated. Crews from the Arlington Fire Department assisted airport firefighters on the call. More from the Associated Press.

Arlington Woman to Appear on Jeopardy Tonight — Local resident Liz Murphy, who advanced past the quarterfinals of the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions last week, will face two other returning Jeopardy winners tonight in the semifinals. The show airs at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (Channel 7).

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