Arlington, VA

Long-time local store Classic Cigars and British Goodies in Clarendon (2907 Wilson Blvd) is closed for good, but a new smoking accouterment vendor is planning a move into the same location with an inventory that will pay respect to the late Anglophile establishment.

Smoke Source Tobacco and Vape is excited to open their fifth location on the highly populated Clarendon Blvd,” Kelsey Sharp, a spokesperson for the regional chain, told ARLnow.

Smoke Source Tobacco and Vape has other locations in Northern Virginia, including in Manassas, Chantilly and Fairfax, but the new store will be a little different in an homage to Classic Cigars and British Goodies, which closed in March and never reopened.

“Not only will the new store provide tobacco and vape products and accessories but also offer a variety of cigar brands including Padròn, Montecristo and Davidoff and continue to stock specialty British goods as well as an assortment of craft beer and wine,” Sharp said. “The store is under new ownership but, in an effort to please the current customer base, Smoke Source Tobacco and Vape will continue to stock the British goodies as well as expand their inventory.”

The store is currently still stocked with the remaining Classic Cigars and British Goodies supply — including bottled drinks, teas, biscuits and candies imported from the UK — but that could change over the new few months.

“The new store is currently undergoing a full refresh and hopes to be open by the end of this summer,” Sharp said.

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Once upon a time, there was an Arlington restaurant called Buena Vida. It sat on the second floor of 2900 Wilson Blvd, but like many meals once served there, it has been devoured.

Buena Vida has been subsumed into TTT — an abbreviation of Tacos, Tortas and Tequila — the restaurant that inhabits the first floor of the building.

Both dining options have the same ownership and opened together last year. Buena Vida had focused on “traditional, indigenous fare that incorporates recipes that have been handed down through generations,” while TTT on the first floor was fast-casual, serving quick Mexican fare like tacos and and enchiladas. The third floor of the complex is a rooftop bar that was dubbed Buena Vida Social Club.

Now, both the Silver Spring and Arlington locations of Buena Vida are being rebranded to just TTT as part of a focus on the fast-casual option, Bethesda Magazine first reported.

Locally, staff said there was another reason.

“It’s a little misunderstanding with the guests,” an employee at TTT in Clarendon said. “We had three floors and people kept getting confused about that. They’re rebranding to change the whole thing to TTT.”

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The red letters spelling “We Are Open” on a banner above Eagle Cleaners is easily visible to cars on nearby Williamsburg Blvd.

At the storefront, a door stopper holds the front entrance open throughout the day. Owner Mat Srebrow’s pet parrot, Emma, sits in her perch next to the window, ready to be held by children who enter the store.

These welcome signs to customers come as Eagle Cleaners, which along with other local dry cleaners are trying to recover from a sharp decrease in business induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Srebrow, whose father opened the store at its 6402 Williamsburg Blvd location in 1996, said he started seeing revenue slip in March and it is yet to stop falling.

The suits, shirts, pants, dresses and sweaters that used to come in a steady flow disappeared as office work turned virtual and formal events were cancelled.

According to Srebrow, business has been down as much as 85% and could continue falling in the current month.

“August is the worst month for dry cleaning year after year, so we’re probably in the worst of it now,” Srebrow said.

When Srebrow took over the store last year, after his father died, he inherited a strong base of regular customers. Some have been going to Eagle Cleaners since it first opened.

Prior to the pandemic, the store employed eight full-time workers, and was open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.

All employees now work part-time with only one to three coming in per day. Store hours have been reduced to 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“I feel terrible for the employees,” Srebrow said. “They can’t get work. I have to go home with that every night. I’m extremely tired by the time I get home.”

Eagle Cleaners rents their building, and Srebrow said he’s grateful that the landlord has been working with them on rent, which has helped. The cleaner also received a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program that helped with payroll as well as rent and utility payments.

As summer days start to wane and fall approaches, full of uncertainty, Srebrow dreams of a future when things go back to normal — when business returns “to what it was pre-pandemic, with all eight employees working… [and] we were busy Monday through Saturday, seven to seven.”

Staff photo by Joseph Ramos

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After being closed for months, Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) is planning to reopen this weekend, but with restrictions.

Owner Tim Clark said this week’s reopening is a test drive to gauge public interest in attending the entertainment venue while the rate of coronavirus cases is still going up.

“It feels weird, but good,” Clark said. “There are a lot of unknowns, but we’re excited to get back up. [We’ll be at] 33% capacity for everything, and with social distancing probably under that… We just really want to see how the room flows and how people react.”

Clark said he recognized that the prospect of reopening the venue, which has been closed since March 13, is likely to concern people.

“At this point, we feel pretty confident in how we’re going to reopening,” Clark said. “We’re keeping to all of the mandates and recommendations. We’re doing everything we can. We still have bills and have everything going forward, so having zero revenue was going to be detrimental to the business. We’re seeing a small window and this is really a test.”

Clark said the venue will be run by what’s left of his staff. Many people have moved out of the area or found other jobs. While recognizing that it wasn’t exactly environmentally friendly, Clark said in the interest of public health the venue is also going fully disposable containers and utensils for its limited menu.

“Excited to see if people come out,” Clark said. “I think people are itching for it.”

According to the theater website:

Mask or facial covering will be required for entry into theater and must be worn while moving around inside the theater, no exceptions.   Once you are seated the masks may be removed for eating/drinking.  Seating will be in compliance with social distancing Virginia phase 3 mandates.  Full menu will be available for purchase tableside.   High touch areas will be sanitized regularly during and between events.  No one with a fever, COVID 19 symptoms or know exposure to COVID 19 with in the last 14 days will be permitted in the establishment.

This weekend, comedian Sarah Tollemache is scheduled to perform stand-up shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 6) and Saturday (Aug 7). Tickets will be $20.

The venue will also be showing The Goonies on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Photo via Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse/Facebook

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The Arlington County Police Department has a new recruit, and he’s a very good boy.

Brooks, an eight-month-old Lab, is training as a police service dog. His police responsibilities will include participation in community outreach events and helping officers deal with “strong emotions and stress that are often an inherent part of policing.”

More from an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department has partnered with 1st Responder Canine (FRK9), a Virginia based non-profit organization, to train a future service dog.

FRK9 Brooks is an 8-month-old male Labrador. For the next 2 years, he will train and socialize with his handler, Officer R. Ryan, assigned to the Community Outreach Unit. When in-person public events resume, FRK9 Brooks will attend to engage with the community and help to complete his training. While with the police department, FRK9 Brooks will also assist with officer wellness through de-escalation of strong emotions and stress that are often an inherent part of policing.

FRK9 Brooks is named in honor of Fire Chief Norman Brooks, Sr., who dedicated his life to serving and helping others. Chief Brooks, Sr. served the Spotsylvania community and positively impacted lives for 47 years, until his passing on February 13, 2019.

Follow along with Brooks’ progress on Facebook to stay up-to-date on his training and appearances throughout Arlington.

About First Responder Canine (FRK9)

FRK9 provided FRK9 Brooks, his medical care, food and training at no cost to the department. Upon completion of ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) certification, FRK9 Brooks will become a lifelong assistance partner to a First Responder (Fire, Police, or Emergency Medical Personnel) who has incurred a life altering injury such as: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and physical mobility disabilities.  To learn more about the FRK9 program, visit their website.

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(Updated 8/10) Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is substantially less crowded than it used to be — particularly the food court, back in the heyday of Popeyes chicken sandwiches — but it is busier than might be expected during a pandemic.

In the mall’s food court, while some fast food options are open, others remain closed. Gyro Wrap and Charley’s Philly Steaks are locked up, with a sign on the metal shutter for the latter saying the closure is temporary and the eatery will be returning at some point.

The space that had been Subway is closed, with the Fashion Centre website saying it will eventually be replaced by a new restaurant called Flaming Cajun. The Fashion Centre website says the location is scheduled to open Sept. 4.

Dining in the food court is spaced out, with the crowded booths cordoned off and the handful of diners spaced out across scattered tables. Security guards at various entrances offer protective equipment and sanitary supplies.

Despite officially reopening in late May, the rest of the mall is a similarly mixed bag, with some stores like Gamestop open with limited numbers of guests allowed inside while others remain closed.

“The health, safety and well-being of the community we serve will always be our highest priority, and we have developed a thorough and detailed set of protocols highlighting the exceptional measures we’ve implemented for shoppers, retailers and employees as we reopen,” Jonathan Juricic, General Manager at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, said in a press release. “We also recognize that individuals and families in our community are suffering significant hardship as a result of both COVID-19 and the economic shutdown, and we believe that reopening our property will not only help people get back to work during these challenging times, but also enable us to use our property to further support charitable initiatives.”

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As health officials work to tamp down rising COVID-19 cases in Arlington, the Arlington Sun Gazette published a letter to the editor today comparing local public health efforts to Nazi Germany.

The letter, headlined “Arlington now pitting neighbor against neighbor,” seemingly conflates contact tracing efforts — long used to try to prevent the spread of infectious disease — with “tattling.”

“Months ago, a member of the county’s COVID task force approached me to ‘track and trace’ my friends and neighbors without their knowledge,” says the letter, which was published online this morning. “In grade school this would be called tattling (or snitching), and is a common practice in Communist countries. It also was prevalent in the National Socialist German Worker’s Party in Germany, commonly known as Nazis. This undermines and destroys communities, friendships and families.”

The letter goes on to suggest, without evidence, that such efforts may be part of a plot to divide neighbors.

“Why would elected officials deliberately want to turn us against ourselves? That may have been the plan since the beginning. It’s contemptible,” the letter says. “The county government should remember they work for the residents of this county; we are not subjects or slaves.”

A letter to the editor from the same Arlington resident, published in 2018, was titled “Quit complaining, deal with occasional hiccups of life.”

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

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As a new school year nears, Volunteer Arlington is launching a new fundraiser for students in need.

The “Buy a Neighbor School Supplies” drive follows the group’s previous “Buy A Neighbor Lunch” and “Buy A Neighbor Groceries” programs, which raised a combined $59,000 to help Arlingtonians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the new effort, community members are encouraged to donate at least $10, which will go to foster care families and vulnerable families in the form of gift cards for school supplies.

Seven other local and regional organizations partnered with Volunteer Arlington for the fundraiser, including Arlington Foster Care/Adoption Program, Arlington Partnership For Affordable Housing and Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR).

The fundraiser is accepting money through August 23. Those interested in donating to “Buy a Neighbor School Supplies” can donate via the Volunteer Arlington website.

“We are asking people of all ages to come together to support this very tangible need, said Lisa Fikes, Executive Director of Volunteer Arlington, which is run by the Ballston-based Leadership Center for Excellence. “The Arlington community continually illustrates its heart and ability to support a worthy cause, and we are now calling on that generosity to support the growing educational and opportunity gaps in our community.”

In its earlier “Buy A Neighbor Lunch” program, Volunteer Arlington raised $50,000 by partnering with area restaurants. With each $10 donation, one of the restaurants would make and deliver a meal to a local resident in need.

“The beauty of this program was that it not only helped people who had become food insecure as a result of the pandemic, it also kept local restaurant employees working,” said Karen Coltrane, President and CEO of the Leadership Center for Excellence. “It allowed those of us still able to give to double our impact.”

Image via Volunteer Arlington

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Signs are up for a “store closing sale” at Lou Lou, a clothing boutique in Clarendon.

The store at 2839 Clarendon Blvd opened five years ago, selling fashionable clothes and a variety of accessories, like scarves, necklaces, purses and bracelets.

A store-wide sale is being held from now until Saturday, Aug. 15.

“Though we are sad to leave our clients in the Clarendon area, we are excited to offer them a great last two weeks of exclusive deals,” said company spokeswoman Michelle McNaughton, “and will continue to welcome them at our other
locations nearby in Fairfax, Alexandria, and D.C.”

Lou Lou is owned by Middleburg, Va.-based West Federal Retail, which operates 29 boutiques in the D.C. area and along the East Coast. More about the store from a press release:

Lou lou Boutiques is a local, family owned, retailer in business in the Northern Virginia area for over 15 years. Celebrating small business and local retailers is a passion of this woman’s fashion accessory brand. Through their Local Partnership program, lou lou features local artists and vendors in all store locations. Lou lou encourages their customers to continue to shop small and support our local neighborhoods. “It is truly the loyalty of our customers that make retail possible right now and we thank them for their continued to support.”

File photo

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Bold posters inscribed with “Black Lives Matter” prompted a raucous symphony of honks from passing traffic at a busy Arlington intersection.

The conductor directing the clamor at Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive on a weekday evening last week was Bob Edgar, who is no stranger to advocacy.

Edgar and his son Leteane Monatsi, along with a handful of supporters, have been drawing attention for weeks — in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by waving flags and signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “HONK” and “Together We Rise.” In light of the death of civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the pair also added a sign saying, “Honor John Lewis.”

The father and son duo, both in motorized wheelchairs, are committed to spreading their message and have protested at the intersection since the death of Floyd on May 25 and plan to keep coming out to the intersection for many months to come. They’ve been at it despite sweltering temperatures and the ongoing pandemic.

“We thought the best way to express our feelings was by coming to this street corner,” said Edgar. “Our whole intent in doing this is really to keep the issue of Black Lives Matter in front of people in this area.”

When the pair initially started coming out to the street corner during the evening rush hour, Edgar said they had “no idea how people would respond.” However, the most common reaction to their demonstration was to honk in support. From there, the pair added a bold “HONK” sign to encourage the response.

“We call this the Million Honk March,” said Edgar.

He said on an average day they will hear hundreds or even thousands of horn honks, ranging from a single honk to “going berserk.”

Edgar and Monatsi have gained some recognition since they began appearing at the intersection. As they go to and from their house, people will stop them on the street, eager to talk about issues, according to Edgar.

“It’s rewarding because we’re doing something that we think is a modest contribution,” said Edgar.

Edgar, a retired Howard University professor, has taken part in many movements over the years. He got his start protesting the Vietnam War, and then began working on South African issues and anti-apartheid demonstrations.

Edgar wants people who drive by to think about what their “Black Lives Matter” banner signifies at this moment in history, and what the country has gone through to get to this point in time.

“It’s not only about Black lives mattering now, but it’s about the history of our country,” said Edgar. “We’re addressing historical legacies as well as the present.”

Photo by Madeline Taylor

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While other restaurants at Pentagon Row have reopened with social distancing, Aabee Express (1101 S. Joyce Street) has closed after nearly two years in business.

The restaurant focused on healthy Mediterranean cuisine with vegetarian options and earned a 4.5-star rating on Yelp.

Staff at the restaurant was packing up the appliances last week as the location was being emptied. Employees said the restaurant is looking at reopening somewhere near their current location, but no plans have been finalized as of yet for when or where that could happen.

Just around the corner, Champps closed earlier this summer as a result of the pandemic.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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