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Arlington Public Schools has been named the second-best district in Virginia for the second year in a row.

The education research firm Niche ranked APS behind Falls Church City Public Schools in its new 2022 rankings of Virginia public schools. Prior to the 2021 rankings, APS enjoyed two years as the top public school system in the Commonwealth.

Niche, which specializes in K-12 school data and rankings, also ranked APS the best place to teach and the second safest school district in Virginia for 2022.

“I am proud of our staff, students and community for making APS one of Virginia’s best school systems, according to Niche’s ranking,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff who are devoted to serving the diverse needs of our students. Every accolade that we earn is the result of their talent and dedication to student success.”

Among individual high schools, Fairfax County Public Schools dominated the list, with seven of the top 10 in the state. In Arlington, Yorktown High School has climbed up the ranks while Wakefield High School lost ground and Washington-Liberty High School fell a few spots.

Between the 2019 Best Schools list and this year’s, Yorktown High School climbed from 21st to 13th, while Wakefield High School dropped from 44th to 55th, and Washington-Liberty High School slid from 13th to 17th.

Niche uses ratings from students, alumni and parents and data from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources to award overall grades and category-specific grades.

APS earned an “A+” in college preparation and an “A” in academics, teachers, clubs and activities, health and safety, sports and resources and facilities, according to APS’s Niche report card. It earned a “B” in administration and food.

Some users, described by Niche as seniors, gave APS high marks and constructive criticism. An H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program student, for instance, praised the school and the arts programming but said APS has to work on diversity at W-L and Yorktown.

This year, Wakefield ranked the second-most diverse public school in Virginia.

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Morning Notes

Kadera Concerned By Test Score Drop — “Give Democratic School Board endorsee Mary Kadera credit for recognizing the elephant in the room. At the Sept. 8 Arlington Committee of 100 campaign forum, Kadera acknowledged the massive drops in scores on state Standards of Learning exams (SOLs) as Arlington students were locked at home over the past school year. And, she said, steps need to be taken to get back on track.” [Sun Gazette]

Ruthie’s Makes National ‘Gem’ List — Arlington Heights restaurant Ruthie’s All Day has made “OpenTable’s 100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America for 2021” list. The southern-inspired restaurant will soon be celebrating its one-year anniversary. [OpenTable, Restaurant News]

Metal Grid Near Airport Explained — “Fencing in part of Roaches Run near Reagan National Airport is designed to protect native plants put in by the National Park Service. The enclosures keep carp and turtles from nibbling on cattails, willows and alders.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Michael McCullough

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

(Updated 2:55 p.m.) Thirty Arlington companies made Inc. Magazine’s list of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies, including one advertising firm made the top 15.

The featured companies had a median 3-year growth of 181%. There were 31 companies on the list last year.

Rosslyn-based advertising agency Olympic Media led the way, placing 13th. The company was founded in 2018 and has grown by 20,330% over the last three years. Olympic’s explosion in growth makes it the fastest-growing company in Virginia and the D.C. area, as well as the No. 1 advertising and marketing company on the list.

“We are honored to be included in such an esteemed list which serves a ‘who’s-who’ of American business,” said founder and CEO Ryan Coyne in a press release. “We started as a one-man operation in an office the size of a closet. Now we have over thirty employees making up four departments, all dedicated to our diverse clientele and to each other.”

Olympic Media CEO Ryan Coyne (courtesy of Olympic Media)

Olympic chalks its success up to its team and its business model. The company’s clientele consists of businesses, advocacy groups and conservative political campaigns.

“There is no getting away from the talent and dedication of the team we have been able to build — as cliche as that may sound,” Coyne said in a statement to ARLnow. “We really do emotionally invest in the success of our clients. Second to that, I think it’s a combination of our unique business model that better aligns incentives between ourselves and our clients — as well as word spreading about the success our clients have had.”

The team deserves being recognized as 13th on the list, given their success and dedication, he said.

“We had gotten some indication that we would be fairly high on the list (including some fairly invasive financial disclosures) but being the No. 1 Advertising & Marketing company in the nation was certainly higher than I had expected,” Coyne said. “It’s both a validation of our business model and work quality as well as a challenge for the team to keep pushing boundaries, taking risks and raising the bar.”

Olympic Media made local headlines in Maryland politics earlier this year for a viral ad campaign it promoted for Kimberly Klacik, a Republican Congressional candidate from Baltimore.

Klacik raised $8.3 million in donations. Citing campaign finance filings and her campaign manager, the Washington Post said Olympic charged $3.7 million for its services. Klacik later said the fees were for advertising on YouTube and Facebook, the Daily Caller reported. Olympic told the Daily Caller that anyone arguing the company itself pocketed that much money from the race is “a competitor, a moron, or a writer for the Washington Post.”

Of the other 29 companies, some have been featured in ARLnow, such as HUNGRY, Ostendio, C3 Integrated Solutions, SweatWorks and ThreatConnect, most of which made the list previously. It was the debut, however, for Ballston-based Hungry, which managed to grow despite the pandemic being a major headwind for its office and events catering business.

“Not only is it an incredible honor to receive a spot on the Inc. 5000 list, it’s a true testament to the hustle, grit, and smarts our team has displayed over the last year and half,” said HUNGRY Co-Founder and CEO Jeff Grass said in a press release. “Despite all the challenges we faced due to the pandemic, we’ve defied the odds — relying on great teamwork, superhuman accomplishments by many people across the team, and by staying true to our Core Value #4: Positivity.”

Other repeat honorees include 540.co, Enterprise Knowledge, Sehlke Consulting and IDS International Group.

The full list of Arlington companies is as follows:

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Morning Notes

Peak Heat, Statistically Speaking — “Based on history, we are now at the hottest point of the summer. While it can still be brutally hot in the weeks ahead (and probably will be at times), we are about to begin our gradual descent into winter, using average temps.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Arlington Home Prices Keep Rising — “A total of 369 properties went to closing last month, up 62 percent from 228 in June 2020… The average price of single-family homes in the county was $1,217,376 last month, up 9.8 percent from $1,109,179.” [Sun Gazette]

Protected Bikes Lanes for HQ2? — “Amazon.com Inc.’s newest PenPlace design would add protected bike lanes along a key roadway adjacent to the 11.6-acre campus and a new bike share station near the planned ‘Helix’ tower. During Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee’s virtual meeting Tuesday, Amazon’s HQ2 landscape architect Scape presented its revised vision for the site’s 2.1 acres of open space and transportation networks.” [Washington Business Journal]

Woman Finds Bullet Hole in Window — “3900 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 6:09 a.m. on July 13, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was awoken at approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 12 to a loud pop sound. The following morning, she discovered a bullet hole in her window.” [ACPD]

Affordable Apartments Set for Renovation — “Arlington County is backing away from plans to buy part of the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington as the developers are instead pitching a full renovation of the affordable community. The county is set to deliver a $22.7 million loan to power the rehabilitation of all 293 units on the 15.7-acre parcel.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Is a ‘Top Digital County’ — “Arlington County is once again ranked among the top digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties has named Arlington to the No. 2 spot for their 2021 awards in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]

New Record for W-L IB Program — “W-L students surpassed their worldwide peers in diploma pass rate, average score pass rate, and the average points earned by diploma candidates. In addition, the overall pass rate for all W-L students participating in [International Baccalaureate] classes, including Diploma Candidates and Course Candidates, is the highest in the 25-year history of IB at W-L at 92.6%.” [Arlington Public Schools]

‘Arlington Tech’ Students Earn Degree — “Seven Arlington Tech Class of 2021 graduates are the first APS students to earn Associates Degrees by taking courses offered through both Arlington Tech and the Career Center.” [Arlington Public Schools]

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Arlington is once again “America’s Fittest City,” according to the annual American Fitness Index rankings.

The new 2021 rankings were released this morning by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation. It’s at least the third year in a row that Arlington ranked No. 1 on the list.

“Arlington, Virginia, earned its #1 designation by ranking first in eight indicators and scoring among the top 10 cities in 18 of the 34 categories,” the organizations said in a press release. “Residents reported the most physical activity with 85.7% exercising in the previous month. In the lowest-ranked city, Lubbock, Texas, only 64.2% of residents exercised in the previous month.”

Being a healthier place has benefits beyond just wellness, experts say.

“Beyond the health and wellness benefits of being a fit city, we know there are many economic advantages as well,” Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., the chief health officer for Anthem, said in a statement. “Cities designed to encourage physical activity have enjoyed higher home values, business and job growth, and more robust retail activity — leading to overall improved social drivers of health for our communities.

Separately, Virginia was again named America’s Top State for Business this morning by CNBC.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti is scheduled to be presented with an award by ACSM members at county government headquarters in Courthouse later this morning.

Rounding out the top 25 on the latest “fit” list were:

  1. Arlington, VA
  2. Minneapolis, MN
  3. Seattle, WA
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Madison, WI
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. St. Paul, MN
  8. Irvine, CA
  9. Portland, OR
  10. Atlanta, GA
  11. Oakland, CA
  12. Boston, MA
  13. San Francisco, CA
  14. Chicago, IL
  15. San Diego, CA
  16. Buffalo, NY
  17. Boise, ID
  18. Sacramento, CA
  19. Austin, TX
  20. San Jose, CA
  21. New York, NY
  22. Lincoln, NE
  23. Honolulu, HI
  24. Pittsburgh, PA
  25. Miami, FL
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Morning Notes

Preservation Battle Brewing — “The historic-preservation advocate who launched a community-driven, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, effort to save the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard, is on a new quest. Tom Dickinson has filed paperwork with county officials seeking historic-district status for an East Falls Church home, despite the likelihood that the current property owner aims to raze the home and redevelop the 0.29-acre parcel.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Ranks No. 39 Healthiest in U.S.Updated at 9:20 a.m. — “U.S. News and World Report, in its annual assessment of the ‘healthiest communities in the U.S.,’ has given a staggering third place finish to the City of Falls Church in its latest edition. That’s ahead of all other entities in the entire nation, except for Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Douglas County, Colorado. The magazine listed the top 500 entities in the U.S., and others in this area to finish near the top were Loudoun County at No. 4, Fairfax County at No. 14 and Arlington County at No. 39, the City of Alexandria at No. 124 and Fauquier County at No. 195.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tattoo Shop Opening New Clarendon Location — “Regency’s The Crossing Clarendon is excited to welcome Lady Octopus Tattoos to its second local storefront in the Arlington, VA area later this year. Run by artist Gilda Acosta and co-owner Jonathan Reed, the custom tattoo shop offers high-quality tattoo artistry in addition to selling brand merchandise including t-shirts, enamel pins and more.” [Regency Centers]

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Morning Notes

Arlington is ‘Best City for Road Trips’ in Va. —  “In each state, there are some cities with particularly novel and exciting opportunities to soak up some of the local history and culture without breaking the bank. From underrated smaller communities to large metropolises, these are the cities you want to hit on your road trip this summer in 2021.” [Insurify]

Attempted Art Theft from Garage — “4700 block of 36th Street N. At approximately 10:32 p.m. on June 23, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect on scene and detained him without incident. The investigation revealed the male suspect gained entry into the victim’s garage and attempted to remove paintings.” [ACPD]

W-L Softball Wins Regional Title — “It’s hard to lose if the opponents don’t score much, and that was the successful formula for the Washington-Liberty Generals en route to winning the 6D North Region Tournament championship. The girls high-school softball team (13-5) won the crown with a 4-0 record, defeating the host Langley Saxons, 4-1, in the title game. The region championship was W-L’s first in program history.” [Sun Gazette]

Pike Library Renovation Celebration — “The public is invited to attend the grand opening and community celebration of the newly renovated Columbia Pike Library on Thursday, July 8, 4-6 p.m. Join members of the County Board and Library Director Diane Kresh in the ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by family-friendly events, music and ice cream, and a tour of the transformed Library Branch.” [Arlington Public Library]

F.C. Cemetery Full of Arlington History — “An array of Arlington’s historic notables are buried across our southern border in Falls Church City. I received a tour of the open-to-the-public Oakwood Cemetery just off Roosevelt Blvd. behind Eden Center… Don’t miss the marker for Amanda Febrey, who died in 1913 of tuberculosis at age 14, and whose ghost is said to have haunted the clubhouse at Overlee swim club.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Metro Is Electrifying Its Bus Fleet — “Today, Metro’s Board of Directors.. took a major step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving local air quality with the approval of a new Metrobus fleet strategy that would create a 100% zero-emission bus fleet by 2045, with a full transition to electric or other zero-emission bus purchases by 2030.” [WMATA]

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Arlington’s own Pupatella was recently named one of the best pizzas places in Virginia by Food & Wine Magazine.

“The only thing more authentically Neapolitan than the pillow-like pizzas practically flying from the oven at Pupatella in Arlington is [owner] Enzo Algarme himself,” reads part of the story’s blurb.

Reached by phone while visiting their parents in Naples, Italy, owners Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg tell ARLnow that they are “incredibly grateful” and “honored” for the distinction. In fact, they were not aware of the story until ARLnow reached out.

The married couple opened their first restaurant in 2010 on Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood — from which they nearly moved last year — after getting their start selling pizza from a food cart.

Since, they’ve opened four more locations including another in Arlington along S. Walter Reed Drive, one in Reston, one in D.C., and their most recent in Richmond.

Expansion is continuing, the owners confirm, with additional locations in the Mosaic District and Springfield planned for the coming months.

Laufenberg says they owe their popularity and the ability to grow, even after a rough pandemic year, to their customers. While it was a challenge those first months, says Laufenberg, they’ve been able to gain nearly all of their business back recently and have rehired staff they had to let go.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the neighborhood,” says Laufenberg. “Our customers didn’t forget about us and have left huge tips for our staff.”

They’ve also recovered by focusing on delivery and take-out, but additionally realizing the need to shift to more outdoor seating.

“One of the biggest ways the pandemic changed us…is our commitment to building out nice, large patios,” says Laufenberg. “People are still scared to eat inside, so having big outdoor patios is a way to help with that.”

Both the locations on Wilson Blvd and S. Walter Reed Drive now have expansive outdoor seating.

Last year, 90% of Pupatella’s sales were from delivery and take-out, she says, but now that ratio is closer to 50/50 with more folks dining outside.

Of course, Pupatella’s popularity is overwhelming due to the quality of its pizza, which has earned it numerous other awards and honors over the years.

“Every region, city in Italy has their own pizza, but everyone knows that Neapolitan pizza is the original,” says Laufenberg about their style of pizza. And that has a lot to do with the wood-fired oven used to them.

All of the ovens used at Pupatella restaurants are certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, meaning they adhere to two-century-old Neapolitan techniques.

The oven bricks are even built using volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius, which last erupted in 1944.

The ash provides the bricks the ability to retain heat very well, explains Laufenberg, which allows the oven to heat up fast and cook the pizza very quickly.

“There’s still ash left… we don’t know when it’s going to run out,” says Laufenberg.

Back in 2010 when they first contemplated opening their own business, Laufenberg admits she and Algarme were scared. Building a Neapolitan pizza business is expensive and very labor intensive, after all.

Even training staff to use the ovens is difficult and requires a steep learning curve — hence, why a number of employees have been with them since nearly the beginning. But more than a decade later, even with a pandemic, it is paying off.

“You always wonder ‘is it worth it to go the extra mile? Will people know the difference?” she rhetorically asks. “Well, that extra work is worth it and people have noticed.”

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Many Arlington residents seem to be in the market for new furniture, according to Google Trends.

Perhaps after more than a year of sitting at home during the pandemic, your chairs are getting squeaky or your table is getting scratched. Whatever the reason, ARLnow averaged online rankings of every furniture store in Arlington and within two miles of the county on this side of the Potomac.

Our rankings are below.

1..Casa Furniture (5013 Columbia Pike) — 4.9 out of 5 stars

2. Gala Futons and Furniture (2622 N. Pershing Drive) — 4.65 out of 5 stars

3. Oriental Rosewood Imports Furniture (4050 Lee Highway) — 4.5 out of 5 stars

4. Hardwood Artisans (2800 S. Randolph Street) — 4.45 out of 5 stars

5. Lovesac (1100 S. Hayes Street) — 4.4 out of 5 stars

T-6. Furniture Max (6250 Seven Corners Center) – 4.05 out of 5 stars

T-6. Ethan Allen (2900 Wilson Blvd, Suite 102) – 4.05 out of 5 stars

8. Crate & Barrel Outlet (1700 Prince Way) — 3.8 out of 5 stars

9. Sweet Home Furniture (3501 S. Jefferson Street) — 3.6 out of 5 stars

10. Crate & Barrel (2800 Clarendon Blvd) — 3.5 out of 5 stars

11. Macy’s (1000 S. Hayes Street) — 3.4 out of 5 stars

12. Bob’s Discount Furniture (5845 Leesburg Pike) — 3.3 out of 5 stars

13. Value City Furniture (5516 Leesburg Pike) — 3.2 out of 5 stars

14. Pottery Barn (2700 Clarendon Blvd) — 3.15 out of 5 stars

T-15. Macy’s (685 N. Glebe Road) — 3 out of 5 stars

T-15. West Elm (925 N. Saint Asaph Street) — 3 out of 5 stars

17. Ashley HomeStore (5871 Crossroads Way) — 2.95 out of 5 stars

Photo via Furniture Max/Facebook

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Cuisine from Stellina Pizzeria (Photo by Rey Lopez, courtesy Stellina)

Some Arlington restaurants have been honored, by association at least, in the latest edition of the city-centric Michelin Bib Gourmand list.

A number of D.C. restaurants with Arlington outposts made the list, which highlights great but affordable during experiences.

Among them:

Arlington has traditionally been an also-ran to the District in terms of award-winning restaurants, but has lately been attracting more culinary sophistication. Four of the five restaurants on the above list — Jaleo is the exception — opened within the past couple of years.

Arlington has also recently upped its barbecue cred, scoring four spots on a recent Washington Post list of the top 10 BBQ joints in the D.C. region.

Of course, critical acclaim from professional reviewers doesn’t always equate to relative popularity. None of the above are among the top 40 diner-reviewed restaurants in Arlington, according to rankings on Yelp.

Photo courtesy Stellina Pizzeria

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Anecdotally, at least, restaurants seem to be getting busier around town.

That’s not too surprising, given the warmer weather and the fact that vaccinations are on the rise and now available to everyone ages 16 and up.

The pandemic has not been kind to the restaurant industry. In Arlington, more than two dozen have closed since March 2020. Nationally, some 10% of all restaurants have closed, according to one measure.

Rising vaccination rates point to a light at the end of the tunnel for the industry, though some challenges — including difficulty hiring — remain.

For those who are fully vaccinated and considering dining out, we’ve compiled a list of the top-rated restaurants in Arlington, according to Yelp reviews. Note that the order corresponds to that presented by Yelp, which seems to take into account the number of reviews in addition to the star ranking, and some of the following are actually food trucks.

If you’re not yet vaccinated, or not yet comfortable dining at a restaurant, most if not all of the following also offer takeout and/or delivery.

  1. Idido Coffee and Social House
  2. Paramount Cafe
  3. Tacos El Chilango Food Truck
  4. Superette
  5. Kaldi’s Social House
  6. The Celtic House
  7. Maya Bistro
  8. Good Company Doughnuts and Cafe
  9. Arlington Kabob
  10. Tortas Y Tacos La Chiquita
  11. Fettoosh
  12. McNamara’s Pub and Restaurant
  13. Ruthie’s All Day
  14. Ambar
  15. La Tingeria Food Truck
  16. Chill Zone
  17. El Pollo Rico
  18. El Fuego
  19. Pupatella
  20. Pa’ Tacos El Papi Food Truck
  21. Colony Grill
  22. Charga
  23. Palette 22
  24. Metro Halal Food Cart
  25. Dama Pastry and Restaurant
  26. Oby Lee
  27. Mezeh Mediterranean Grill
  28. Smokecraft Modern Barbecue
  29. Verre Wine Bar
  30. Cava Mezze
  31. Carlyle
  32. Namaste Everest
  33. The Italian Store
  34. Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
  35. Pho 75
  36. Enjera Restaurant
  37. Istanbul Grill
  38. Sushi 2 Go
  39. Galaxy Hut
  40. La Union Restaurant

File photo

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