The much-anticipated opening of The Italian Store‘s location in Westover has been pushed back again.
Owner Robert Tramonte told ARLnow.com today that delays in getting utilities installed in the 75-year-old building — water, gas, electric and Verizon FiOS — have been the cause of the delay. Now, he hopes the 6,000-square-foot location on Washington Blvd opens this spring.
“There is no competition for those companies,” Tramonte wrote in an email, “so they schedule as they see fit.”
When Tramonte announced that a second location of his popular grocery/takeout restaurant business would take over the Westover 7-Eleven in December 2013, he planned to open May 2014. Permitting issues held up the start of construction until the summer, when Tramonte said he hoped to be open before the holidays.
Construction was in full swing on the interior when ARLnow.com looked in on the shop this morning. When the new store does open, it will feature a seating area for customers to eat and drink, an expanded grocery section and an Illy espresso bar. Last August, Tramonte described his plans for the location as “The Italian Store on steroids.”
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) Arlington County Police have confirmed that the two people found dead in a Westover apartment yesterday died as a result of an apparent murder-suicide.
Police say the bodies of Kristy Flowers, 31, and Ray Savoy, Jr., 29, were found in an apartment on the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street on Monday afternoon. Officers were called to the apartment to check on the welfare of the residents, who had not been heard from for a couple days.
Police say they believe Savoy shot Flowers, then turned the gun on himself. The two were a couple, lived together in the apartment and posted photos together on Facebook as recently as November.
“Awesome weekend in NYC with my LOVE BUG,” Savoy posted, along with a collection of photos featuring Flowers, on Nov. 22.
“There was no history of domestic violence at this location nor did either resident have any previous domestic violence arrests,” police noted in a press release this afternoon.
“To me, they were like the perfect couple… there was nothing to indicate that he was a violent person,” Kristy’s mother Patricia Flowers told the Washington Post. However, the Post also reported that Savoy “drank a lot and talked of the gun he kept in his car.”
A window was open in the couple’s second floor apartment at the time of the shooting, which is believed to have happened over the weekend. There were no reports of gunshots in the area, despite the presence of several apartment buildings immediately adjacent to and across the street from the scene.
“Officers and detectives have canvassed the area… we find it very unusual that no one reported it,” ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm told ARLnow.com.
Flowers is originally from Elyria, Ohio and was studying law at American University, according to social media pages. She worked as an analyst at Reston-based Leidos, the defense contractor formerly known as SAIC, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Savoy’s Facebook page says he’s an Army veteran and a native of Aquasco, Maryland.
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 10:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a possible homicide in the Westover neighborhood.
A man and a woman were found dead this afternoon in a garden-style apartment building on the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street, three blocks from Swanson Middle School. Homicide investigators are on the scene, taking photos and gathering evidence.
Police believe the deaths are suspicious. It’s possibly a case of murder-suicide, but that has not yet been confirmed, a police source tells ARLnow.com. According to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm, “there’s no immediate threat to the community.”
Police initially responded to the scene around 4:00 p.m. for a call to check on the welfare of an apartment resident, Malcolm said. According to the building’s landlord, who declined to be identified, a window in the apartment had been open “for a few days” and the tenant had missed the last rent payment, which was “not like her,” he said.
It has been more than two years since the last murder in Arlington. The last confirmed homicide in the county was the death of 87-year-old Mack L. Wood on Oct. 13, 2012.
Police are not releasing the identities of the deceased nor the cause of death until family members can be notified. ACPD issued the following statement about the investigation Monday night.
The Arlington County Police Department’s Robbery/Homicide Unit is investigating the suspicious deaths of two Arlington County residents.
At 3:57 p.m., Arlington County Police received a “check on the welfare” call for a resident who resides in the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street. Responding officers were able to gain entry into the locked apartment utilizing a key. The bodies of two victims, a 29-year old male and a 31-year old female, were discovered inside. Detectives and crime scene technicians are on scene conducting the ongoing investigation.
At this time, there does not appear to be an immediate threat to the community.
Glencarlyn Park, Sewer Main Upgrades Approved — The Arlington County Board over the weekend unanimously approved a sewer main construction project for Old Dominion Drive. The Board also approved upgrades to Glencarlyn Park, including a rain garden, plaza and bicycle facilities. [Arlington County]
Arlington’s Per-Pupil Spending Tops Region — Arlington Public Schools spends $19,040 per student, the highest such figure of any Washington suburb. On a per-pupil basis, Arlington spends 24 percent more than Montgomery County schools, 41 percent more than Fairfax County schools and 84 percent more than Prince William County schools. [InsideNova]
Loan Approved for Senior Housing — On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $1.35 million loan to help keep the Culpepper Gardens I apartment complex affordable. The complex include 204 committed affordable units for seniors. [Arlington County]
No New Westover Middle School? — The Arlington School Board has informally voted to remove the Reed School site in Westover from consideration as a potential location for a new middle school. Many residents have said they would rather see the building used for a neighborhood elementary school. [InsideNova]
Board Updates Green Building Incentives — The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 to require higher sustainability standards for its Green Building Incentive Program, which rewards developers for environmentally-sound building practices. [Arlington County]
Local Reporter Travels to Germany for Streetcar Story — WAMU reporter Michael Lee Pope traveled to Germany to report on the use of streetcars in Berlin, tying his findings back to Arlington’s proposed streetcar project. Streetcars run in formerly Communist-controlled East Berlin, but no longer in West Berlin. One interviewee said people ride East Berlin’s streetcars partially out of a sense of nostalgia and the “special feeling” one gets from riding them. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.
The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.
A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.
“The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.
Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.
Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.
A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.
According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”
In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.
The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.
Photo via Google Maps
Orange/Silver Line Delays — There were delays on the Orange and Silver lines this morning due to a disabled train at Virginia Square. The disabled train has since been cleared and trains are no longer single tracking around it. [Twitter]
Video: Don’t Put H-B Woodlawn in Reed School — A video created by members of the Westover community urges Arlington Public Schools to reject any proposal to relocate the H-B Woodlawn secondary program to the Reed School. [YouTube]
Design Tweaks for Courthouse Building — Developer Carr Properties has made several tweaks to the design of 2025 Clarendon Blvd, its proposed office building which will replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse. Responding to concerns from county planners, Carr has added a fourth retail bay and replaced most of the terra cotta in the facade with more glass and steel. [Washington Business Journal – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Health Violations at Arlington Restaurants — WUSA9 investigative reporter Russ Ptacek has set his sights on Arlington restaurants that have had food safety licenses revoked, including Mario’s Pizza, Aroma Indian Cuisine, Pedro & Vinny’s and Astor Mediterranean. In Virginia, restaurants get their violations cleared from the public database after getting a new license post-revocation. [WUSA9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Parking App for DCA — Starting Nov. 1, those parking at Reagan National Airport will be able to pay via a smartphone app. [MWAA]
Sun Gazette Carries Doomsday Ad — The Arlington Sun Gazette recently carried an ad for Disaster Retreat, a doomsday safe haven in central Virginia for “serious-minded families and executives.” The half-page ad was adjacent to a streetcar editorial and ads for window treatments and dog training. [Slate]
If you have a sweet tooth, get ready to spend time hanging out at a new shop coming to Westover. “Village Sweet” bakery is preparing to move in at 5872 Washington Blvd.
Owner Dawn Hart has operated a customized sugar cookie business online since 2006. She had wanted to expand her offerings and to secure a brick-and-mortar location, which would allow her to stop renting commercial kitchen space. It was her dream to open in Westover, the neighborhood where she lives, but she didn’t think any space would open up. It just so happened that the day after she talked to her husband about the prospect of opening a bakery in Westover, he ran into the landlord for the space Village Sweet now will occupy.
“We’re very excited and the location honestly could not be better,” said Hart. “It’s such a happening place.”
Although customers can continue to order the customized cookies Hart made so popular with Monster Cookie Co., the shop will serve a wide variety of sweets. Donuts, guava and cotija cheese pastries, seasonal granolas and dark chocolate cookies with steal cut oats are some of the goodies Hart plans to offer. She’s still playing around with the full menu and will do small recipe taste test events until the shop opens.
“We’re pairing some things a lot of people probably have not had before and opening up some unique flavors,” Hart said.
Something she’s passionate about is making sure the treats taste good, but also are baked on-site each morning with quality, local ingredients. There will be gluten-free and nut-free options for customers with allergies.
“We’re baking foods you’re going to feel good about eating. They’re not loaded with preservatives. They’re the best quality pastries you can possibly get. It’s just an updated version of your’s mom’s baking,” said Hart. “If you’re going to put a doughnut in your mouth, you should feel good about it. It’s so important to me, the quality of what people are eating.”
During the day the shop will have seating for customers, but certain nights will be designated for groups to rent out the space for custom cookie decorating parties. The bakers will come up with custom sugar cookies for nearly any occasion — such as kids’ birthdays, book clubs and holiday parties — and customers get to ice and decorate the cookies however they choose.
Village Sweet does not yet have a firm opening date, but Hart hopes it will be in January. There will be a grand opening celebration once she feels operations are running smoothly.
Trade Roots (5852 Washington Blvd) in Westover has expanded with a new cafe.
The fair trade store recently renovated and opened the cafe, which serves fair trade coffee, tea and baked goods from two local bakeries: LeoNora Gourmet and Vera’s Bakery. Owner Lisa Ostroff, who’s preparing to celebrate two years in business next month, says the cafe will help the store serve the community and boost foot traffic.
“The store has received a warm response from customers throughout Northern Virginia, and we wanted to make Trade Roots even more of a gathering space for the neighborhood,” she said.
The Trade Roots cafe will offer a “cup club” whereby frequent customers can bring in fair trade mug and have it hung on the wall, to be used during their next visit. The club will reduce the cafe’s use of paper products, Ostroff said.
Trade Roots carries a variety of goods — including jewelry, clothes and home goods — that are eco-friendly, sustainable and produced by artisans for a fair wage.
Photo via Trade Roots, Facebook
The Italian Store that is coming to Westover is now under construction, and the owner hopes to be open in time for the holidays, before the end of 2014.
Construction was delayed for several months due to permitting issues, owner Robert Tramonte told ARLnow.com, but has been underway for three weeks. Tramonte announced last December that he was planning on opening a second location of his popular Lyon Village shop in the former 7-Eleven space at 5839 Washington Blvd.
The store will be 6,000 square feet, not including an outdoor café, Tramonte said. As opposed to the current Italian Store, at 3123 Lee Highway, the new location will have an on-site liquor license, so customers can drink the beer and wine sold on the premises.
“There are a lot of breweries coming up in Italy,” Tramonte said. “It will be a very eclectic beer list. Wine is kind of my specialty, and we’re going to have about three times as much space for wine as we do now. It’s the Italian Store on steroids, basically.”
The Westover location will have another feature the original does not: an Illy espresso bar, which will also serve gelato, and fresh-baked Italian pastries like cannoli and cornetti.
“I’ve always felt like even in my own store, if somebody asked me where can I get a good Italian pastry, and there’s no real answer to that in this area,” he said. “We have a lot of good sources right now and some that we cook ourselves, but I’ve never marketed them well in a display case. Over in the other store at Westover, we’re going to have the space to merchandise really well and people would see them fresh out of the oven.”
Lebanese Taverna, which began as a single storefront in Arlington operated by an immigrant couple and their five children, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with events and specials over the next two months.
On July 28 and 29 at the Westover location (5900 Washington Blvd) and Aug. 6 and 7 at Pentagon Row (1101 S. Joyce Street), Lebanese Taverna will serve dishes from its 1979 menu with the original prices to commemorate the year the restaurant opened.
The restaurant is also currently taking submissions for a social media contest, in which longtime customers can email the restaurant their favorite Lebanese Taverna memory and then vote on their favorites by liking them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A limousine will chauffeur the winners to different Lebanese Taverna locations for a five-to-six course meal, Shea said.
“We’re celebrating our uniqueness,” said Lebanese Taverna Vice President Grace Shea, the youngest child of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm. “Thirty-five years is a long time for a restaurant to be open.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will present a congressional proclamation of congratulations to the Abi-Najm family at a private event Friday evening, Shea said. The Westover restaurant will be open Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a kickoff event with the 1979 prices for invited guests from local civic associations and members of the public who happen to stop by.
“I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Shea said. “When my parents came here they had five kids, $500 and spoke no English.”
The Abi-Najm family came to Arlington in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Marie Abi-Najm worked as a teaching assistant and Tanios Abi-Najm did odd jobs and painted until they saved enough money to open their own restaurant in 1979, in the same storefront they still occupy just down the street from their house, Shea said.
“My dad always loved food and it was a way for him to bring a piece of Lebanon here to us,” Shea said. Her mother came from Dfoun, Lebanon, a village famous for producing chefs.
At first, Lebanese Taverna served pizza and subs and operated under “Athenian Taverna,” the name used by the previous tenants. Shea’s parents and her four siblings in high school were the only employees during the first year, causing business to suffer, she said.
In 1979, the restaurant only offered shish kabob and hummus as menu specials because they were novelties for most Arlington residents. However, their traditional food starting piquing customers’ interests after their first year in business, inspiring the Abi-Najm’s to change the restaurant’s name and put Lebanese fare on half their menu, according to Shea.
“We’d sit down for our family dinners at the restaurant and customers would say, ‘Wow, what is that? We want some of that,'” Shea said. The restaurant kept its half-Italian menu until 1983.
Once the restaurant was officially Lebanese Taverna, a second location opened in 1990 on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. It later expanded to include the Lebanese Taverna Market in D.C., catering division, six restaurants and four cafés it has today.
Daycare Owner Sorry for Leaving Child Outside — An Arlington home daycare owner says she’s sorry for leaving a three-year-old girl outside in the rain and cold without a jacket or shoes. Police were called to the home after neighbors say they heard the girl crying and trying to get back in the home. [WJLA]
Arlington Teacher Surprised by Award — Barrett Elementary School teacher Joshua McLaughlin was surprised Tuesday afternoon when he was presented the Virginia Lottery Super Teacher Award during a school-wide assembly. McLaughlin is one of eight teachers to win the award along with a $2,000 cash prize and $2,000 classroom supply credit. [Arlington Public Schools]
A-SPAN Making Progress on 100 Homes Initiative — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network continues to make progress on its 100 Homes initiative. So far A-SPAN has placed 87 formerly homeless individuals into housing, including 12 chronically homeless veterans. [Falls Church News-Press]
Westover Farmers Market Starts Summer Hours — The Westover Farmers Market will begin its summer hours on Sunday, May 4. The market will be open an hour earlier than the winter market, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. [Westover Farmers Market]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The Westover Beer Garden (5863 Washington Blvd), which once struggled to stay open under onerous Arlington County regulations, plans to open a second location near Clarendon next year.
The new beer garden will open on the ground floor of the new Garfield Park apartment building (925 N. Garfield Street). It will features a “beer garden and haus,” a “butcher shop with emphasis on local farms,” and an on-site brewpub that will offer “Arlington County’s first local brew,” according to owner Devin Hicks.
The new beer garden will also serve as a music and event venue and will offer food similar to the current location, but with an expanded menu.
“Our present Beer Garden and Haus utilizes the local, grass fed meats of our in-house butcher shop,” Hicks noted. “Menu items include burgers with house-cured bacon, brisket, pulled pork, house made roast beef, corned beef, sandwiches, salads and a vast array of sides.”
The brewpub will initially offer a double IPA, an IPA, a German-style pilsner and seasonal beers, all brewed on-site, according to Hicks. The brewpub will utilize a 10-15 barrel system, he said, and a brewing line may be made available for select local homebrewers. (A 30-barrel system is typical for a new, production craft brewery.)
“Arlingtonians love their beer and… I think the area’s excited about having a local brew,” said Hicks. “We wanted to stay in Arlington and this seemed like the appropriate spot. The area is begging for a venue like this.”
The outdoor beer garden, in the semi-circular area in front of the Garfield Park building at the corner of Washington Blvd and 10th Street N., will have a 122-person capacity, according to Hicks. The venue’s indoor capacity is 210.
Hicks says he hopes to open the new location by March of 2015.
Westover’s Pete’s Barber Shop is no longer home to its namesake now that Peter Xereas has retired.
Xereas, a Greek immigrant, had owned the barber shop at 5847 Washington Blvd since 1968 when he officially retired Feb. 28. Pete’s was named the best barber shop in Arlington for 2013 by the readers of Arlington Magazine.
Chris Hewitt, who had worked under Xereas for about five years, has taken over the lease and operation along with his wife, Elaine Prettyman, who also works at the shop.
“He decided to hang up the clippers,” Hewitt told ARLnow.com while attending to a customer’s hair. “He’s still in good health, and he said he wants to enjoy it.”
Hewitt was hired after a barber had left Pete’s for a different job. Hewitt said on his first day, Xereas let him know the shop would eventually be his.
“That first day, I was in the chair right next to him,” Hewitt said. “He said ‘I’m not gonna be working much longer, so when I retire, you can have the barber shop.’ I said ‘sounds good,’ put my time in and tried to learn the place.”
Hewitt said Xereas is planning on returning to his native Greece for the summer to visit his ill sister. Xereas had been planning to retire since his wife died last year, and the paperwork for transferring the lease and the business over to Hewitt was complete at the end of February.
When the customer in Hewitt’s chair, Ed, heard ARLnow.com ask about how customers had been reacting to Xereas’ retirement, Ed turned around and said, “Oh my goodness.”
“That’s how they have been reacting,” Hewitt said with a laugh. “Pete loves his customers. He said he’s going to miss everyone so much, so retiring was hard.”
As news of Xereas’ retirement spread to Pete’s customer base, several regulars sent emails to ARLnow.com lamenting the loss of their favorite barber.
“The men in the house are going to look much worse for this turn of events,” one reader wrote.
“He is an Arlington icon and will be missed,” said another.
Toward the end of the haircut, Hewitt turned his customer’s chair around and trimmed his eyebrows and his mustache.
“That’s something Pete used to do,” Ed said.
Judging by the deluge of views and comments on our article about the Italian Store planning to open a second location, in Westover, most residents are excited about the opening.
But not everybody thinks the Italian Store will be an all-over positive development for the neighborhood.
Here’s a letter to the editor from former Westover resident Kyle Herchert:
I live in Rosslyn now, but from 2005 to 2012, I lived in the same house in Westover. (Tara Leeway Heights if you want to be a stickler).
I still remember the day I discovered the Forrest Inn. It was like a scientist who haphazardly stumbles upon a whole new species. I couldn’t believe there was a place like that in Arlington! It was amazing to me. I loved the fact that there was still a place that had remained unscathed amid the rapid growth we’ve all experienced living in Arlington over the last decade.
In many ways, all of Westover is like the Forrest. The entire strip had managed to retain its sleepy town feel even amid the hustle and bustle of the biggest little county in America. I’ve always enjoyed that feeling. It’s the feeling you get walking out of Pete’s Barber Shop, where I still get my hair cut, to stroll down to the Beer Garden just to check out the vibe. Westover just felt like home.
On the surface, the introduction of the Italian Store seems like a natural fit to the area – and in almost every way it is. It’s a mom and pop shop opening in the quintessential mom and pop town. However, the undeniable popularity of the Italian Store will undoubtedly attract huge numbers to the area. Once that happens I think it’s just a short time before investors realize that they can have success in the Westover area as well. How long will it be before the Forrest becomes a Boston Market or even worse, and Palm Beach Tan.
Maybe I’m being paranoid, I guess only time will tell.
— Kyle Herchert
A new weekend feature in 2014, ARLnow.com is now publishing letters to the editor. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected].
(Updated at 7:00 p.m.) The Italian Store will be opening a second location next year, in the Westover neighborhood.
The store, which sells sandwiches, pizza, wine and gourmet Italian grocery items, has enjoyed considerable success at its Lyon Village location, at 3123 Lee Highway. The new location, at 5839 Washington Blvd, will be about twice the size as the original, according to owner Robert Tramonte, whose family has owned and operated the store since 1980.
“Our square feet is more than double that of the Lyon Village store, approximately 6,000,” Tramonte told ARLnow.com. “We envision doing everything that we currently have at Lyon Village plus a new Illy espresso coffee bar and other surprises.”
The Italian Store will replace a 7-Eleven convenience store, which closed its doors last night (Sunday). Customers are being asked to instead shop at the 7-Eleven at 6730 Lee Highway.
Tramonte says he expects to begin “a total renovation” of the new location next month.
“Our projected opening date is May 18th pending a fast track permitting process,” he said.
Correction: This article previously stated that the new location would be the Italian Store’s first expansion. Tramonte says the family “has had several other stores… over the years” but currently operates only in Lyon Village.