31°Ice Pellets

by Aaron Kraut — March 2, 2015 at 2:35 pm 295 0

The Gallery St. Elmo shop is moving to Cordell Avenue in mid-March

A popular furniture and accessory shop is moving to a new location within Woodmont Triangle.

Gallery St. Elmo, the mostly traditional-style consignment store at 4938 St Elmo Avenue, will make the move to a freshly remodeled space at 4931 Cordell Avenue in a few weeks, according to owner Jill Martin.

Martin said the landlord at the new Cordell Avenue space was willing to do a build-out and reconfigure the layout to the shop’s needs. It used to be home to Freed Photography, which recently moved to a new spot nearby.

“It will be very open with wide, tall ceilings,” Martin said. “We have been thinking about a move for a while. We’ve got a great band here and the store has been a Bethesda institution for 20 years.”

Inside the Gallery St. Elmo furniture consignment shop on St Elmo AvenueMartin took over ownership of the shop about four years ago after working their as an employee. It offers the pricey couches and chairs you’ll see at Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and others for up to a third or even half-off the original price. It also sells some antiques, contemporary furnishings and jewelry.

Martin has about 6,500 consigners in the store’s database and sends a weekly email detailing new stock to about 2,500 subscribers.

Martin said the thin and long St Elmo Avenue space — which used to include some sort of car garage — didn’t provide the ideal layout for the store.

“It’s always been somewhat of a challenge to get these front two rooms decorated. A lot of people don’t even recognize that the store continues through the doorway,” Martin said. “We have to tell people, ‘Keep going.’”

The store actually started out on Cordell Avenue under original owner Audrey Demas.

Martin said the last day in the St Elmo Avenue spot will be March 14, which will include a party and large sale. She plans to have the new Cordell Avenue location open on March 18.

by Aaron Kraut — March 2, 2015 at 9:00 am 617 2 Comments

Density from this St Elmo Avenue property will likely be sold to a planned apartment building down the street Transfer of Density notification in front of a Del Ray Avenue building A density transfer could keep this Cordell Avenue building intact

Jeff Black does restaurants. The developer building a 17-story, 250-unit apartment building around the corner from his Woodmont Triangle restaurant does construction.

For that reason, the veteran restaurateur said it made sense to sell that developer a little more than 7,000 square feet of unrealized density on his land, effectively giving up the rights to redevelop his own building through a process called a density transfer.

The Planning Department put the idea in motion in its 2006 sector plan amendment for Woodmont Triangle, a commercial-heavy section of one- and two-story Bethesda buildings home to the bulk of its locally-owned restaurants and retailers.

One of the goals, according to Bethesda area Planning Chief Robert Kronenberg, was to preserve those restaurants and retailers by allowing their building owners to sell density to other sites in the area.

Since 2006, 13 properties have sent density to four high-rise apartment and condo projects, saving tenants in those properties from the specter of redevelopment.

St Elmo Apartment project proposed for Woodmont Triangle, via Planning DepartmentAnother three properties have agreed to do the same with a 16-story apartment project on St Elmo Avenue that’s yet to be fully approved.

“That was the goal and if it has preserved 13 sites for retail, I think it’s been pretty good,” Kronenberg said.

Black, who owns the building that houses his Black’s Bar & Kitchen at 7750 Woodmont Avenue, sold the density to developer JBG for a total he said was in the tens of thousands of dollars. He used the money to improve the restaurant and to finance his Republic restaurant in Takoma Park, which opened in late 2013.

JBG got more space to build more units in its 7770 Norfolk Avenue project.

And Bethesda restaurant-goers don’t have to worry about losing Black’s popular restaurant to a future redevelopment project in the foreseeable future.

“The county gets more density near the Metro. It puts more people in Bethesda. I get more residents who live right around the corner from my restaurant,” Black said. “It’s a win-win all the way around.”

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by Aaron Kraut — February 27, 2015 at 12:45 pm 0

A man shovels a sidewalk in Woodmont Triangle last week

A County Council member is looking for people who helped others shovel out of snow this winter.

Councilmember Nancy Floreen is looking for nominations for her Golden Shovel awards, given to residents who “go above and beyond” in helping to clear ice and snow from county sidewalks or driveways.

It’s the second straight year of the award. Last year, thanks to a higher than usual amount of snow and ice events, Floreen decided to issue 82 Golden Shovel awards to 111 people, including a Bethesda man who created the website snowcrew.org to match up volunteers with residents who are unable to shovel.

“Our seniors, school children, people with disabilities and those who walk to work or use mass transit depend on snow-free sidewalks,” Floreen wrote in an email announcing the awards. “This goes beyond convenience — it is a matter of public safety. I certainly hope that residents will nominate for a Golden Shovel those individuals who put the Golden Rule to work.”

Know someone who deserves a Golden Shovel nomination? Check out the official nomination form. The deadline for nominations is March 31. Floreen expects to present the awards during a Council session in April.

by BethesdaNow.com — February 26, 2015 at 10:00 am 314 0

Maryland Stamp & Coins in Bethesda, via Orrin Konheim

This is Small Business Weekly, a recurring feature in which we’ll spotlight a small, independently owned business in Bethesda or Chevy Chase. Got a business you think we should check out? Drop us a line at desk[at]bethesdanow[dot]com.

By Orrin Konheim

As it celebrates the 40th anniversary of Maryland Stamps and Coins, the Most family takes pride in being a true mom-and-pop-business in an era when fewer and fewer are left.

When asked what he’s most proud of about his store, family patriarch Herman Most answered, “The fact that I succeeded and we’re still here.”

Most first developed an interest in stamps as a child growing up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. His uncle was a stamp collector and would bring home large duffle bags full of used stamps the two would sort through.

Many years later, Herman and sons Ernest and David have helped spread the joy of stamp collecting to a wider community of kids and adults in suburban Maryland.

After moving to Bethesda in 1962, Herman lent a helping hand to anyone interested in stamp collecting before he even had the store space. Many of the store’s customers today are people who have been associates of Herman Most before he opened the storefront space at 7720 Wisconsin Avenue in 1974.

“We’ve been here a long time so the kids come in and they become interested,” explained Most. “They then become adults and then they get interested and become customers.”

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by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am 548 1 Comment

The Capital Crescent Garage will require payment starting Monday

The trial run at the new Capital Crescent Garage in downtown Bethesda is almost over.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation will start charging drivers who park in the 960-space garage on Monday.

MCDOT and developer StonebridgeCarras opened the five-level garage under the Lot 31 project on Jan. 20. Parking has been free since “to give parkers time to become acquainted with the new garage,” according to the county.

County officials hope the facility will put to rest any complaints about a perceived lack of parking in Bethesda. The garage has a Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue entrance within walking distance of Bethesda Row.

The garage will have an 80-cents an hour rate from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, same as the other county garages in downtown Bethesda.

Unlike most other county garages, the Capital Crescent Garage doesn’t have meters. Parkers will be given a ticket upon entering, then pay that ticket before getting back in their vehicles at pay machines. Machines at the garage exits will also let drivers pay from their vehicles with a credit card.

If you make it to the garage before Monday, don’t be alarmed to see entrance and exit gates down. MCDOT said Wednesday that parking personnel will be testing the gates before fees are required on Monday.

If the gate arms are blocking the entrance to the garage, take a ticket and use the ticket to exit. There will be no charge.

by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 10:05 am 684 0

ShopHouse is opening in Pike & Rose on March 7Chipotle spin-off ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen will open Saturday, March 7 at Pike & Rose in the White Flint/Pike District.

ShopHouse will offer a free entree to those who visit the spot (11584 Old Georgetown Road) from noon to 7 p.m. on opening day.

A bowl at ShopHouse starts with a choice of white rice, brown rice, noodles or salad. There’s grilled chicken satay, grilled steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs or tofu. Vegetables include broccoli, charred corn, eggplant and thai basil or green beans.

Then, customers can choose a sauce, a topping and a garnish, much in the same way customers order burritos at Chipotle.

The chain opened its fifth location on Bethesda Row in October 2013.

by Aaron Kraut — February 24, 2015 at 4:15 pm 506 1 Comment

Fernwood Road water main break, via Heather Bradley

Updated at 9 a.m. Wednesday – An issue with a water main valve near Marriott International headquarters in Bethesda produced a geyser-like tower of water that shut down a section of Fernwood Road on Tuesday.

The incident happened in the 10400 block of Fernwood Road on Tuesday afternoon.

The image above is from a reader who drove by as the water shot up from the road.

Another witness said the water shot up almost 50 feet and was freezing in nearby trees.

WSSC said it eventually shut down the 36-inch main under the road to repair a vacuum valve. The agency had to call in Montgomery County Department of Transportation plow crews to clear ice:

Eighteen customers were without water service Tuesday evening, though WSSC said all customers had water service by Wednesday morning.

WSSC has dealt with about 200 water main breaks over the last week of sub-freezing temperatures.

Photo via Heather Bradley

by Aaron Kraut — February 20, 2015 at 10:20 am 623 6 Comments

Via Uber

Uber is offering free rides this weekend in Montgomery County to gather support for its political battle against state regulators.

The phone-based ride app will offer free uberX rides of up to $20 to anyone in Montgomery County or Prince George’s County. The free uberX weekend starts today at 5 p.m. and runs until midnight Sunday.

The Maryland Public Service Commission, the board of regulators that oversees the commercial transportation industry, is weighing rules for Uber that would treat the service more like traditional taxi cab companies.

PSC staff previously agreed to a settlement with the San Francisco-based company on its UberBlack and UberSUV services.

“States across the nation, including DC and Virginia, are embracing innovation and creating common-sense regulatory frameworks for ridesharing. Maryland has yet to do the same. The PSC wants to impose taxi rules on Uber that will stifle our ability to operate, and make convenient rides less reliable and more costly. Many of those who proposed these regulations have never actually used our product,” wrote a staffer on Uber’s D.C. blog.

The company is asking riders to tweet at Gov. Larry Hogan “to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the state and pass a bill that keeps the Uber you know and love in Maryland!”

Taxi cab companies in Montgomery County and across the state say companies such as Uber and Lyft should be regulated in the same way state and local governments regulate the taxi industry.

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by Aaron Kraut — February 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm 530 0

Pipe break in front of The Whitney apartment in Bethesda

Residents of a downtown Bethesda apartment building and nearby street should look out for a pipe break that’s creating icy and slippery sidewalks.

Pipe break in front of The Whitney apartment in BethesdaThe pipe broke in front of The Whitney apartment building (7707 Wisconsin Avenue), which has its actual entrance on Middleton Lane.

It’s unclear if the pipe belongs to the apartment, another property in the vicinity or the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. According to its virtual map, the WSSC did receive a report for a broken main at the address.

Water is coming out of the sidewalk in at least two spots, and running down Middleton Lane to the homes east of The Whitney.

Prolonged sub-freezing temperatures have caused a number of water main breaks and breaks in pipes that belong to commercial properties.

On Tuesday, a pipe servicing the Benihana restaurant at 7935 Wisconsin Avenue broke, temporarily shutting down the area.

by Aaron Kraut — February 19, 2015 at 10:30 am 255 0

The first customers at the new La Madeleine in Pike & Rose, which opened Thursday Le Madeleine, a mainstay at the old Mid-Pike Plaza, opened its Pike & Rose location on Thursday

La Madeleine, the chain of cafeteria-style French country cafes, opened on Thursday morning at Pike & Rose in White Flint/Pike District.

The new location (11610 Old Georgetown Road) brings back what was one of the most popular restaurants in the Mid Pike Plaza shopping center.

The shopping center and old La Madeleine building were demolished to make way for Pike & Rose, the second phase of which is starting construction.

The restaurant opened with its “Rompre le Pain” promotion, hoping to “break bread” with a new group of customers. The first 50 customers to enter the location got cards allowing them a free baguette or loaf of bread each week for the next year.

The promotion usually draws a long line of customers waiting outside. On Thursday, with wind chills below zero, restaurant management had the customers wait inside.

The water wheel in the original Mid-Pike Plaza restaurant wasn’t copied in the new location. The wheel was for more than show and was intended to grind grains into flour for the restaurant’s bread.

by Aaron Kraut — February 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm 1,162 2 Comments

Snow on top of the California Tortilla sign in Woodmont Triangle

If the wind chill dips below zero on Thursday, California Tortilla will pay you to eat its chips and queso.

The fast casual burrito chain (4871 Cordell Avenue) is bringing back its “Man, it’s cold,” chips and queso special in an effort to make tomorrow’s expected frigid temperatures a bit more tolerable.

Those who buy something and utter the secret password, “Man, it’s cold,” will get an order of chips and queso added on for the cost of whatever the wind chill is at 3 a.m. in Rockville, where California Tortilla is headquartered.

With the forecast calling for a wind chill factor of -3 degrees, it looks possible the burrito joint will be paying customers 3 cents to take part in the promotion.

California Tortilla will make the cost official after 10 a.m. tomorrow. The special is available at all locations.

by Aaron Kraut — February 17, 2015 at 3:25 pm 2,439 6 Comments

Call them the pioneers of the newly urbanized White Flint.

In the first apartment building to open in the massive mixed-use development project at Pike & Rose, 165 of the 174 units have been leased — many before the movie theater with reclining seats and 32,000-square-foot gym opened across the street.

Next door, contractors are building a garage part of a hotel and condo building planned for the second phase of the neighborhood. A brand new street called Grand Park Avenue is separated from the construction zone by a wall covered with ads reading “find your happy place” and “cozy up & get down.”

There’s a Gap store, 250-seat music venue and children’s clothing boutique close to the piece of land once occupied by E.J. Korvette, the big box department store synonymous with suburban strip malls. It used to anchor one of the largest such properties on Rockville Pike, the now-demolished Mid-Pike Plaza.

“We’re just seeing the early potential of it and of the Pike District,” said Pete Piringer, who moved into a 2-bedroom unit in the Persei apartment building with his wife last August. “It’s nice. Pioneers we are.”

Piringer, the spokesperson for the Montgomery County fire department, said moving to Pike & Rose was primarily his wife’s decision. She takes the Metro to her job at NIH. The two are veteran empty nesters, having lived in apartments in downtown D.C. and near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

“It’s that city life, where everything’s right near you,” Piringer said. “It’s kind of what we fell into in D.C. We loved it, those great amenities and so on, so forth.”

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by BethesdaNow.com — February 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm 713 1 Comment

(From left to right) Ethan Woodson, Lisa Owens, Alex Soumbadze and Jeremy Smith, photo via On The Mat Sports

This is Small Business Weekly, a recurring feature in which we’ll spotlight a small, independently owned business in Bethesda or Chevy Chase. Got a business you think we should check out? Drop us a line at desk[at]bethesdanow[dot]com.

By Orrin Konheim

On the Mat Sports International got its start through a student who was determined to keep the Taekwondo tradition alive in Bethesda.

“At the time, I was going through a divorce,” said Lisa Owen, who had been taking lessons at the DC Martial Arts Academy on Bethesda Avenue. “Taekwondo is a very positive outlet for me and I wanted to get healthier and stronger. I wanted it to continue it and I had the means to do so.”

As DC Martial Arts closed, Owen invested in new retail space and partnered with instructors Ethan Woodson, Jeremy Smith, and Alex Soumbadze to open On the Mat in 2011 at 6936 Wisconsin Avenue.

“We were able to hold onto a majority of the students. They stuck with us. They show their loyalty to us so obviously we wanted to pay them back for their perseverance with us,” Soumbadze said.

Soumbadze has lived in Bethesda since age 5, when his parents came here as diplomats from the Asian nation of Georgia. The 2006 graduate of Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School described his introduction to the sport as a chance encounter.

“[My parents] wanted me to do soccer and they wanted me to do karate, but you know a lot of parents don’t know the difference between Taekwondo and karate,” Soumbadze said. “I went there and saw the advanced belts and saw the black belts and this was something I wanted to do.

(more…)

by Aaron Kraut — February 17, 2015 at 8:35 am 541 0

by Aaron Kraut — February 12, 2015 at 2:15 pm 310 5 Comments

Georgetown Branch Trail interim on-road sign, posted recently at Bethesda Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue Georgetown Branch Trail interim on-road signs, posted recently at Bethesda Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue

If the Purple Line is built, Capital Crescent Trail users will have to navigate Bethesda and Chevy Chase streets during construction.

While neither the county nor state have made an interim on-road route available, the county has posted signage at the intersection of Bethesda Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue directing bicyclists and pedestrians around the existing Georgetown Branch Trail extension.

In October, a Maryland Transit Administration spokesperson said the agency had started a study “to determine safe, accessible routes which can be used by pedestrians and bicyclists traveling between Bethesda and Silver Spring during construction of the Purple Line and Capital Crescent Trail.”

“Some of this route would require using streets within the Town of Chevy Chase,” read an MTA statement. “We have advised the Town of the alternatives under review and our preliminary recommendations but agreed with the Town’s suggestion that these discussions can be held off until early 2015.”

In November, the county’s Department of Transportation presented some options for the on-road interim route, including plans for buffered cycle tracks and one that would cross Wisconsin Avenue at Leland Street instead of Bethesda Avenue/Willow Lane.

The sign posted on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue and Bethesda Avenue points trail users south toward Leland Street.

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