Arlington, VA

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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Don Zientara, owner of the legendary Inner Ear Studio — long the seat of Arlington’s punk rock scene — is at a crossroads.

This Saturday, Arlington County is set to consider buying two parcels of land near Shirlington — 2700 S. Nelson Street and 2701 S. Oakland Street — and the warehouse that sits on it, which houses Inner Ear.

The warehouse, which is also home to a Ben & Jerry’s catering outfit and part of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, is old and structurally worn down, he says, and county documents indicate it will likely be demolished to make way for an arts and industry district along Four Mile Run.

Arlington County previously announced its plans to one day buy the building, but Zientara said no specifics were laid out as to when he would have to relinquish his studio. Now, however, the county has set a deadline: Dec. 31, 2021.

“I could retire at this point,” he said. “I’m weighing a lot of options. Closing it down is probably a strong one… It all depends on what we want to do. I’m not ready, really, to move the studio.”

The business is picking up “slowly, very slowly,” since the pandemic started. Musicians anticipate live music opportunities this summer and want to have a record or a downloadable song to “get things going,” Zientara said.

Zientara has been recording for more than 30 years in his basement and the Shirlington location. The long list of those who have recorded at the hole-in-the-wall studio includes the Foo Fighters, Fugazi and Minor Threat.

“I’m sorry to see it go, but that’s the way that it is,” Zientara said. “So I’m OK with it — it’s just the natural evolution of things. You can’t stop progress. I hope what they do have is something that can complement the arts in the county.”

That is the county’s plan.

The purchase would “fulfill multiple goals of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan, the Public Spaces Master Plan and the County’s Arts and Culture Strategy,” according to a county report. “The property is uniquely positioned to host a variety of diverse programming such as musical, dance, and theatre performances, and a multidisciplinary arts festival, anchored by a weekly outdoor ‘Valley Market.'”

County staff said the 18,813 sq. ft. of land could be used for the following uses as early as summer 2022:

  • An outdoor market, similar to Eastern Market in DC, and inspired by the county’s holiday markets and Made In Arlington pop-up events.
  • A location for the county mobile stage for musical, dance and theater performances.
  • An outdoor movie screening spot, “possibly curated for audiences not otherwise being served.”
  • A space for county-sponsored multidisciplinary arts festivals, supporting “a diverse range of artistic and cultural expression.”
  • A parking lot for when the space is not accommodating the above uses.

This sale would culminate a nearly two-year agreement between the County Board and the building’s owner, South Oakland Street, LLC. In June 2019, the county agreed to one day purchase the property for $3.4 million on the condition it made three annual, non-refundable, payments to South Oakland Street to delay the final sale for up to three years.

For the last two years, the County Board opted to make the yearly payments. Now, county staff is advising the Board to buy the property. Staff also recommend that the county give tenants until Dec. 31 to relocate.

AFAC will not be moving far. The organization, with its main building at 2708 S. Nelson Street, is temporarily leasing the additional space while it renovates a warehouse next door, which it purchased last year.

“The building was in serious need of renovation which we began in January of this year,” AFAC Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng said. “Once our renovation is completed in September of this year we will be vacating 2700 and moving back to our renovated warehouse.”

Photos (23) via Google Maps, photo (4) via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Feds: Comfort Inn Hosted Gun Cache — “Members of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group likely stored weapons at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, as part of their plan to have an armed rapid-response force during the January 6 insurrection, federal prosecutors said. The new details flesh out previous accusations from prosecutors that members of the Oath Keepers assembled a ‘quick reaction force,’ or QRF, in Virginia that could deploy into the nation’s capital if needed.” [CNN, Politico]

Nature Centers Reopen — “Another sign things are returning to a semblance of normalcy, albeit slowly (this is Arlington, after all): The Gulf Branch and Long Branch nature centers, operated by the county government, have reopened. Hours and exhibitions are limited, but this marks the first time in nearly 13 months that Arlington residents have had consistent access to the nature centers.” [Sun Gazette]

Shirlington’s Past and Present — “This pet-friendly community five miles southwest of the District and adjacent to Highway 395 started off as a 27-acre former shopping center. Shirlington was one of the first strip malls in the country when it opened in 1944. For a while, it had the largest shopping center in the area and originally was named Chernerville, after automobile dealer Joseph Cherner, but the name didn’t stick. Instead, it was renamed Shirlington, a blending of Shirley Highway (395) and Arlington.” [Washington Post]

Amazon Not Abandoning Office Work — “As vaccines become more available, most companies may start to expect their workers back in the office and allow for just one or two days of teleworking a week — and Amazon is likely to be among them… That’s good news for many of the businesses and jurisdictions expected to benefit from the 25,000 to 37,850 employees Amazon has said it will bring to the D.C. region as it continues to build out its HQ2 campus in Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Company Donates to African School — “Washington Workplace, an award-winning commercial office furniture dealer in Arlington, teamed up with Business Furniture Installations and a nonprofit alumni association to donate unused office furniture to Pioneer Middle School in Senegal, in West Africa.” [Press Release]

Letter Writer: Don’t Hate on the Cicadas — “The message of the havoc wreaked on young trees and shrubs, and the month of constant shrill buzzing has sent home an idea of impending doom… Although the ominous message of cicada arrival is likely still in your head – and I can’t argue that cicadas aren’t a nuisance – I ask you to remember that they do have a role in our ecosystem and a purpose on our planet.” [Sun Gazette]

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After nearly three decades in business, local salon Illusions of Shirlington is closing its doors.

Owner Irma Wheeler said the business has struggled during the pandemic and recent lease negotiations with Village of Shirlington owner Federal Realty Investment Trust failed.

Illusions, located at 4033 Campbell Avenue, has been open for 28 years. Last May, ARLnow covered the salon’s reopening after a state-mandated closure at the outset of the pandemic.

“We’ve been very anxious and have been getting ready since the beginning of the shutdown,” Wheeler said at the time. “It’s been difficult to find supplies, even disinfectant. We have face shields and masks, and we’re taking the temperatures of clients and staff. We’re trying to take every precaution… it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll be ready.”

In a social media post last night, Wheeler said she made the difficult decision to close because it was “the only viable option.” Her Illusions of Georgetown salon in D.C. will remain open.

The full social media post is below.

To our loyal clients,

I wanted to personally let you know that I have made the very difficult decision to close Illusions of Shirlington – effective immediately.

As you know, our business has been severely impacted by Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed by lawmakers have made the last year a real struggle to say the least. In addition, I have been in lease negotiations with Federal Realty for the past year. I received their final proposal last week. After carefully reviewing the terms presented, closing the salon was the only viable option.

This was not an easy decision.

I can’t thank enough the many loyal customers and retailers that have supported me these past 28 years. You have become like family. That is why I want to tell you that you are all welcome to come to Illusions of Georgetown for your styling needs. We will be offering valet parking for the time being.

If you have an appointment within the next few weeks, your stylist will be getting in touch with you.

Keep us with us on our social media for updates.

Irma Wheeler

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Morning Notes

Changes for Patent Offices in Shirlington? — “The Alexandria-based gatekeeper for U.S. patents and trademarks is working with the General Services Administration on a plan to shed excess space in Northern Virginia previously occupied by employees now working from home under ‘maximum telework’ imposed by the federal government to slow the spread of Covid-19, according to sources familiar with the situation. That could include relinquishing as much as a combined 1 million square feet in Arlington’s Shirlington area as well as its main headquarters in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sun Gazette Revamps Website — “The Sun Gazette over the past decade or so has not had its own full-service Website. But if you’re reading this, you can see that has changed, as we threw the switch over the weekend on a site that, hopefully, will become the one-stop shop for the communities we serve.” [Sun Gazette]

Police Looking for Missing Teen — From Arlington County Police Department, as of Monday evening: “ACPD is seeking the public’s assistance locating 16-year-old Michael… Last seen ~3PM in the 2600 block of S. Kent Street. Described as a W/M, 5’8″ tall, 138 lbs, with blonde hair and green eyes. He was wearing a blue jacket, jeans and an orange backpack. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Michael is asked to contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.” [Twitter]

More Students Heading Back to SchoolUpdated at 8:45 a.m. — Additional @APSVirginia students will be commuting to the classroom as part of a phased return to hybrid, in-person learning. Our students depend on all of us to keep them safe. Slow down, remain alert & watch for students walking and biking.” [Twitter]

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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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Patrons of the novelty pasta vending machine in Shirlington rejoice: the restaurant behind the dinner dispenser, Stellina Pizzeria and Market, opens this afternoon (Friday).

After some holiday-season delays set the opening back two months, the pizza shop in the Village at Shirlington will start serving customers at 4 p.m.

The Arlington eatery and market is an outpost of the Michelin-recognized pizzeria in D.C. and is located in the former Cafe Pizzaiolo space at 2800 S. Randolph Street. But those who venture to Union Market for Stellina pizzas — heralded by the Washington Post and Washingtonian — will find a few variations on the flagship restaurant.

“We want to bring the Stellina experience to our guests in the region, while also being mindful of their specific needs and preferences,” said restaurateur and co-owner Antonio Matarazzo. “Knowing the South Arlington community as a resident here with my family, I thought that a retail element for prepared foods and ingredients to cook at home would be a nice addition to our curbside pick-up, delivery, and outdoor dining offerings.”

For now, guests can only dine outside in the heated, 20-seat patio; once the indoor dining room opens, the restaurant will seat 75 inside. Starting today, customers can also shop Stellina’s market, stocked with Italian pantry goods, deli counter offerings and frozen lasagne and pizza.

The Shirlington menu focuses on Chef Matteo Venini’s signature “neo-Neapolitan” pizzas. Customers can order the traditional Margherita pizza, the celebrated Cacio e Pepe pizza, or pies with any seasonal toppings. The menu also offers other Southern Italian street food, paninis, homemade pasta, classic desserts and coffee.

Both Matarazzo and Venini are natives of Italy who worked together at a trio of upscale Italian restaurants in D.C. before striking out on their own.

The Shirlington outpost is their first location to have a deli counter that offers fresh pasta by-the-pound, homemade sauces, pizza dough, cured meats, cheeses, olives and desserts such as panna cotta and tiramisu. Decorative details inside Stellina include tiles from the Amalfi Coast and murals of beloved Italian actors by D.C. artists No Kings Collective.

Unlike its D.C. sibling, the Shirlington location will not have a bar, but diners can still imbibe a glass of red wine or a Negroni with dinner. Bottled cocktails will be served tableside and Italian wines and beers will also be available.

Those who prefer a vending machine’s convenience and lack of human interaction can frequent it until the end of spring. Then, it moves to 508 K Street NW to preview Stellina’s third location.

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Two Arlington County library branches are reopening for “express service” next month.

The Shirlington and Westover branches will open their doors on Tuesday, March 9 for the first time in almost exactly one year.

Patrons will be limited to 15 minutes of in-person browsing, though there’s a possibility of expanding to 30 minutes depending on “patron demand.”

While only self-service checkout will be available, several library employees will be on-site at each branch to help with way-finding and account management. Holds pick-up will also be available.

Henrik Sundqvist, spokesperson for the Arlington Public Library, says this is a step in the library’s phased approach to reopening.

“With this express library service model, we are excited to reopen and reconnect with our communities,” he said.

In November, the Arlington County Board approved spending $170,000 to bring back temporary employees and fund the reopening of these two branches for express service. However, the original plan was to reopen in January and to allow up to 30 minutes of browsing.

Anne Gable, Arlington Public Library’s deputy director, says that in November the details were still being worked out. Staff thinks shortening it to 15 minute blocks meets patron demand better.

The delay from January to March, says Gable, was due to a spike in cases after the holidays and continued community spread of the virus.

For the express service, library staff on-location will be a mix of temporary and permanent employees. Due to the county’s hiring freeze enacted last March, the library has not been able to fill vacant positions. However, the allotted $170,000 will fund bringing back a number of temporary employees that were let go in the spring.

No Arlington County library has been fully open since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Only Central Library has remained open for limited pick-up of holds placed online, a “more labor-intensive model” than normal due to health and safety protocols, including quarantining returned books for 72 hours.

Sundqvist says that library staff have heard from the public about how much they want the libraries to fully re-open, but are remaining cautious.

“It was a hard, difficult decision for us to close [back in March 2020],” says Sundqvist. “It’s important when we do re-open that it’s sustainable and we don’t have to close down again.”

The express library service at two branches is a way to re-open safely while remaining pared down, he said. There’s no timeline yet for the reopening of the other branches in the system, though six locations are currently available for book-drop off only.

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Locals can now buy handmade pasta and sauces from a vending machine outside the future home of Stellina Pizzeria, a soon-to-open Italian restaurant and market in Shirlington.

The machine delivers food in a pandemic-friendly way and helps preview the opening of the restaurant in the former Cafe Pizzaiolo space at 2800 S. Randolph Street, co-owner Antonio Matarazzo said.

The second outpost of the Michelin-recognized pizzeria in D.C.’s Union Market was set to open at the end of 2020, but the holiday season delayed equipment and furniture shipments. It’s now slated to open “in a couple of weeks,” Matarazzo said.

Matarazzo and Chef Matteo Venini, both Italian transplants, got the idea for the vending machine in March. The pandemic had just hit the East Coast, and they were trying to find ways to deliver food to their guests.

“We did not want to just tape up a hole, but do something that could be good for the future,” Matarazzo said.

While vending machines in the U.S. just offer snacks and bottled drinks, Matarazzo said he has seen Prosecco vending machines in Europe and in Japan, “you can buy everything you want in a vending machine there,”

Granted, he said he has “never seen a pasta vending machine before.”

Like the restaurant, the vending machine was also delayed. It arrived from California — where it was custom-made — a few weeks ago, and six months late.

“It’s a tough time for everybody,” he said. “You have to be more patient these days.”

The machine will stay in Arlington until the end of spring. Then, it will move to 508 K Street NW to preview Stellina’s second location in D.C. Its flagship location opened in April 2019 at 399 Morse Street NE.

Right now, the machine has three kinds of pasta, sauces, dessert, merchandise and coffee.

Matarazzo recommends pairing the paccheri — a large, smooth tube-shaped pasta — with a bolognese sauce; the fusilli goes with ragus made with lamb and wild boar; and the tonnarelli pairs with a cacio e pepe sauce, literally, “cheese and pepper” sauce.

“That is a typical sauce from Rome, and a perfect dish for today’s weather,” Matarazzo said, referencing the recent snowfall.

For dessert, people can choose babà al rum, a 400-year-old dessert from France via Naples, or tiramisu. The coffee comes from Ready Set! Coffee Roasters, a Cleveland-based roaster run by some friends.

“This is just the start,” he said. “We’ll see what else we can put in there.”

After the pandemic, Matarazzo plans on installing 10 more in select office buildings.

He keeps tabs on the products through his phone, and said it seems like he has to restock the pasta and sauces “every two minutes.”

“People are excited about it,” he said.

Update at 10:20 a.m. — Stellina is planning to open on Friday, Feb. 12, the restaurant just announced.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez

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Shirlington Road bridge crosswalk (Photo via Google Maps)

As Arlington County prepares to build a new pedestrian and bike bridge in Shirlington — two decades in the making — some continue to express concerns about safety.

Late last week, the county brought advanced concept designs to the community for a new pedestrian and bike span between the Shirlington and Green Valley neighborhoods, and for maintenance to the existing bridge, which has only a narrow pedestrian sidewalk.

While incorporating previous public feedback into the design, questions still cropped up about safety and convenience, particularly regarding the crosswalks across busy S. Arlington Mill Drive and Shirlington Road, which provide access to the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails. Both are heavily-traveled by cyclists.

The first part of the project will be to improve and update the existing bridge. The bridge is in need of routine maintenance and resurfacing, and this project provides a chance for other needed renovations, the county says.

Based on public feedback, staff said they will widen the sidewalk to about 7 feet from a previous 3-5 feet. They will also coordinate the design aesthetic with the renovations to Jennie Dean Park, while adding new guardrails.

However, despite some urging it, the county won’t be removing the slip lane from the I-395 ramp. While admitting that it’s not bike or pedestrian-friendly, county officials say there isn’t much that can be done at present.

The lane is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Adding a crosswalk there would also increase risk for an incident due to traffic taking the right turn with speed, while the lane it could lead to traffic backing-up on the I-395 ramp.

“We, at the county, are very much interested in [removing the lane],” said Jason Widstrom, Arlington County Transportation Capital Program Manager. “Unfortunately… it is not within our authority to remove it.”

Construction for these renovations should begin in the late summer or early fall of this year and be completed prior to the end of the year.

Then, at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, construction will begin on a prefabricated, 15-foot pedestrian and bike bridge located 20 feet to the west of the existing bridge. It will parallel the existing bridge, will be multi-use, and have “enhanced pedestrian treatments.”

Additionally, improvements are being made to those crosswalks at Arlington Mill Drive and near the Four Mile Run Trail.

Based on feedback, the county is widening pedestrian ramps and the refuge median, redesigning curbs and the crossing to allow for better sightlines, and adding new rapid flashing beacons to improve visibility of the crosswalk. There’s also thought of trimming trees to further help sightlines.

Crosswalk safety, particularly near the Four Mile Trail, has long been a concern for residents.

“County staff is well aware of the history of the crosswalk and the troubles of trying to cross at this location,” says Widstrom.

Funding for these projects are coming from a state grant and will cost just over $1 million.

County officials said they would like to do a longer term study about adding a bridge that goes over Shirlington Road and thus separates vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

That study remains “down the road,” however, and costs to add that bridge could exceed $8 million.

In the meantime, said Widstrom, “we are trying to make the situation a bit better.”

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2) via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Day Laborer Site Now Closed — “Although not unexpected, mid-November nonetheless brought something of an end of an era to the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, better known as SEEC. The pavilion area in Shirlington that the organization had used since 2003 to connect day-laborers with contractors and homeowners who sought their services has been fenced off in preparation for changes to Jennie Dean Park, where it is located.” [InsideNova]

Tonight: Outdoor Art in Crystal City — “Walk along Crystal Drive on December 2nd from 6-9PM to see the words of Luisa A. Igloria, Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia projected onto the facade of 2011 Crystal Drive as the opening installation of Arlington Art’s Visual Verse. Their work will be brought to life by noted artist Robin Bell.” [National Landing BID]

Beyer Blasts Proposed Metro Cuts — From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.): “The proposed WMATA budget cuts would be apocalyptic for Metro service and devastate its workforce. This catastrophe must not be allowed to happen, and Congress can prevent it by passing a new aid package. WMATA is not alone in its massive funding shortfall, which is a direct result of the pandemic. Cuts like this will hit across the country without robust aid for state and local governments and specific targeted funding for transit.” [Press Release]

ABC Store Coming to Pentagon Row — “It’s official: you will be able to buy booze in the former local Bloomberg campaign office in Pentagon City.” [Twitter]

Rosslyn Tree Lighting — “Thanks @ABC7Kidd for starting the countdown at tonight’s neighborhood tree lighting!” [Twitter]

Library Director’s Xmas Playlist — “For the past 13 years, I have published a ‘Too Cool for Yule’ playlist, as my love letter to the County and the people we serve. And while (sadly) Spotify has replaced the cassette tape, making the process easier, like much of 2020, this playlist was more difficult than ever to create.” [Arlington Public Library]

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