Legal Squabbling Continues Over White Flint Mall – The owners of White Flint Mall and department store Lord & Taylor are still wrangling over the mall’s redevelopment plans. The department store went to court in July 2013 in an attempt to stop the planned redevelopment. Now, Lord & Taylor’s lawyers want Lerner Enterprises boss Ted Lerner to fly back to town from his California vacation home in order to testify. Lawyers for White Flint claim the move is retaliation for having the CEO of Lord & Taylor’s parent company deposed. Meanwhile, there’s still no known timeline for the mall’s redevelopment. [Washington Business Journal]
Locally Owned Fashion Boutique Closing Up Shop At Wildwood – Madeline, the locally owned clothing boutique at Wildwood Shopping Center (10303 Old Georgetown Rd.), is closing at the end of the month. Owner and Potomac resident Susan Rosen said a new lease with property owner Federal Realty would have been too expensive. [Bethesda Magazine]
Driving Test Prep At Your Local Library – Montgomery County Public Libraries are now offering free Department of Motor Vehicles practice tests for those preparing to get their license. The online practice tests can also translate the tests and make them into an MP3 format. [Montgomery County]
Citizens Advisory Board Looking For Local Topics – The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board is looking for topics of local interest to focus on. The Board is set up by Montgomery County and meant to advise county government officials on issues in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, North Bethesda and Rockville. Email Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman at bethesda[dot]citizen[at]montgomerycountymd[dot]gov. The Board’s next meeting is set for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane) and is open to the public. [Regional Services Center]
Photo via rzultarzaba
One of Bethesda’s most interesting pieces of architecture is looking for a new tenant, despite its spot in the middle of a busy downtown intersection.
Bang & Olufsen, the high-end Danish television and electronics company, is closing by Nov. 20, according to a report from local blogger Robert Dyer.
That will leave 1,800 square feet of vacant retail space at 5001 Wilson Lane, on the first floor of the triangular Peripoint Building designed to fit onto one corner of the intersection of Wilson Lane, Old Georgetown Road and Arlington Road.
Bethesda-based Streetsense is one of the companies that has marketed the vacant space as a great way to get into downtown Bethesda, less than a mile from the Metro and near about 1,300 new or expected residential units.
But it remains to be seen if retail in the spot can hold up.
Many have pointed to the apparent divide between the older, mom-and-pop dominated Woodmont Triangle section of town and Bethesda Row, with heavily traveled Old Georgetown Road as one of the dividing lines.
Architect Michael Belisle finished the Peripoint Building in 2008, explaining to The Gazette at the time that the location’s high visibility was a major attraction.
The former spot of the 1929 Sanitary Store is at an intersection where about two million vehicles pass through each month, Belisle said. Other tenants include a tech company and art studio.
The building at one point offered advertising space on a 13-foot-by-7-foot LED board along the outside of the structure.
According to marketing materials, the space would be ideal for a financial institution or upscale local retailer.
Photos via StreetSense, Peripoint Building
A cupcake store in the Shops at Wildwood has closed its doors.
Fraiche Cupcakery (10219 Old Georgetown Rd.) announced on its Facebook page this week that it is closed.
Owner Nina Deva opened the business almost three years ago after running a successful cupcake catering and delivery service called Brownie Bakes.
On Friday, the inside of the space was cleared out.
“it is with a heavy heart that we regret to inform you fraîche cupcakery has closed its doors,” read the Facebook announcement. “thank you for your loyalty and for being a part of the fraîche family. we will certainly miss baking for and serving our community with sweetness.”
Chevy Chase Woman Gets More Prison Time For 2010 Collision – A Chevy Chase woman who in 2010 hit and killed a woman getting out of a parked car in Dupont Circle, had 33 more months added to her prison term. Jorida Davidson was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in July of this year. Last week, she was sentenced to the additional time on her original three-year and nine-month sentence for negligent homicide. Davidson was found in her Chevy Chase condominium the night of the incident. [DCist]
Republican Council Candidate: Bethesda Has Turned Into Haven For Elites – Republican Jim Kirkland is running against incumbent Roger Berliner for the District 1 County Council seat and says Bethesda has become too white-collar. The lawn care business operator also said the county imposes unfair restrictions on work trucks and trailers and that police should stop doing drunk driving checkpoints. [The Gazette]
Woodmont Triangle Vacancies – A former salon at 7813 Old Georgetown Rd. and the Leahy Plumbing & Heating storefront at 4916 Cordell Ave. are now vacant and up for lease from property manager Conley Management. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]
Fashion Show At Co2 Lounge – Cesco Osteria’s Co2 Lounge (7401 Woodmont Ave.) is hosting a swimwear fashion show on Tuesday, Sept. 30. Tickets cost $20 and include the show, hors d’oeuvres and a free drink. [Cesco Osteria]
Photo via J.D. Mack
Almost three weeks after a federal judge sealed its fate, the Dave & Buster’s location at White Flint Mall has closed.
The restaurant, bar and arcade closed for good Wednesday, catching a steady stream of potential customers by surprise.
Last month, Judge Roger Titus gave Dave & Buster’s 30 days to leave its space at the mall, where it had been for 18 years. It was one of the last remaining tenants of the facility. Property owner Lerner Enterprises plans to tear down and rebuild it into a massive mixed-use town center project.
Titus ruled the chain violated the “radius restriction” part of its lease because it opened another restaurant location in 2006 at Arundel Mills Mall.
In court, White Flint Mall said it only brought up the radius restriction after Dave & Buster’s sued the mall in an effort to stop its redevelopment plans. Lord & Taylor sued the mall in similar fashion.
Dave & Buster’s General Manager Robert Solomon told Bethesda Magazine that most of the roughly 100 employees who worked at the White Flint location will be transferred to other locations. He said the games and equipment will also be moved to other locations.
An employee said any leftover ticket winnings or game credits can be used at other locations.
A sign on the doors thanked Bethesda for 18 years of patronage. The only major businesses left in the mostly vacant mall are Lord & Taylor and P.F. Chang’s.
A number of Planning Department approvals remain before Lerner Enterprises can begin redevelopment. It last went before the Planning Board in October 2012 with its sketch plan. It’s unclear when the developer hopes to return with more detailed plans.
(Update at 10:45 a.m.) The owner of the popular Rita’s Crepes kiosk on Bethesda Row has shut the location down.
Rita’s Crepes owner Rhita Douglass said a Montgomery County health inspector told her last Friday that the business was technically in violation of state regulations for mobile food vendors because it wasn’t mobile. Douglass said the business started as a food cart, then in late 2008 (at the invitation of property owner Federal Realty) began operating out of the stationary kiosk at the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues.
Douglass said the operation passed the food inspection. When asked why a county official would bring up the mobile cart regulations nearly six years after she opened the kiosk, Douglass seemed wary of placing blame on the county.
Kenneth Welch, the environmental health manager of the county’s Office of Licensure and Regulatory Services, said the county had previously shut down Rita’s Crepes for the same violation in September 2011.
“You have to have hot and cold running water,” Welch said. “Basically, she took her mobile unit and took equipment off of that and parked it right next to the kiosk, then operated it as a mobile unit, which is totally incorrect.”
She said running the business as a mobile cart — with a trailer connected to a truck or other vehicle — just didn’t seem worth it.
“It really isn’t worth the hassle,” Douglass said. “With the lack of space in downtown, it’s a really hard job to keep up a mobile cart.”
Instead, Douglass will focus on Rita’s Crepes’ growing popularity at local farmers markets, including the Sunday Bethesda Central Farm Market and Saturday Pike Central Farm Market.
Her crepes have quite a following and regularly attract long lines at the Sunday market at Bethesda Elementary School.
Douglass said construction at Lot 31 near the kiosk brought business down slightly. But she also said she would still get lines of six or seven people, which sometimes meant a very crowded Woodmont Avenue sidewalk.
She left a two-page letter to customers taped to the front of the kiosk.
“We are bidding our farewell while leaving down town Bethesda with a sense of nostalgia as we have developed relationships with many of you,” Douglass wrote. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your visits and those memories spanning the past 6 years. For me personally, the crepes were a sacred medium to reach out to you and I loved every minute of it!”
Douglass wrote of a man who told her he was in the hospital in critical condition. She wrote that the man told her the thought of returning to the Rita’s Crepes kiosk motivated him in his recovery.
Rita’s Crepes participates in five weekly farmers markets around the area. Douglass said if a return to downtown Bethesda materializes, she’d prefer it be in the form of a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment.
Photo via Rita’s Crepes/Twitter
Luxury clothing boutique Calypso St. Barth opened Friday on Bethesda Row, just as another Bethesda Avenue business was closing up shop for good.
Calypso launched in 1992 as a resort-wear shop and has spread to about 50 locations nationwide offering upscale beach gear, shoes, accessories, clothes, perfumes and home decor. It’s hosting an opening weekend celebration Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the new location (4810 Bethesda Ave.).
The store has been in Bethesda since 1991 and hasn’t announced a new location, though its announcement this month including word that it was looking to relocate.
The Picture Frame Shop, which has been in Bethesda since 1991, posted a sign on its front door announcing it will close on July 31 at 4835 Bethesda Ave., then relocate. It’s unclear where to.
The owner of the shop could not be reached Thursday. An employee at the store said she couldn’t talk about the situation.
The shop was known in part for its window display of random celebrity photos in sample frames. The shop did framing for photos, sports memorabilia, mirrors and paintings, as well as some art restoration work.
The news was first reported by blogger Robert Dyer.
There are signs of life for the long-vacant former building of Fresh Grill and the DansezDansez dance studio in Woodmont Triangle.
After a nearly two-year legal dispute over construction damage between the building’s landlord and the developer of the next-door Bainbridge Bethesda apartment project, a for lease sign is up in Fresh Grill’s former window.
Landlord Lenny Greenberg said his Bethesda-based Greenhill Realty Company is looking at a couple of options for renovating or completely rebuilding the property, which Greenhill claimed was severely damaged by negligent excavation and construction work next door.
Fresh Grill closed in February 2012 and is in the middle of its own lawsuit against Bainbridge (the developer of the almost finished 17-story, 200-unit apartment building) construction company Turner and White Flint Express Realty Group, the Greenhill LLC that holds both 4905 and 4909 Fairmont Ave.
In the meantime, Greenberg said his company is looking at the possibility of a new 7,000-square-foot building with ground-to-ceiling windows in the hopes of attracting a new tenant.
A rendering is posted in the window of the former Fresh Grill.
“We are looking hard at what is the right thing to do with this property,” Greenberg said. “We’re waiting now for some other outcomes but we’re going to make up our minds shortly.”
Greenberg said Greenhill Realty is due to meet with Bainbridge and Turner next month to discuss settlement terms. A judge last year ruled in favor of the landlord in a key part of its case.
Fresh Grill was forced to close in February 2012 and has now permanently closed in the location, according to its lawsuit that was filed in December. The restaurant is suing whichever party a judge finds responsible for the permanent closure of the business — developer, construction company and landlord included.
There are still some Fresh Grill fixtures in the restaurant.
Greenberg said the new building won’t reach all the way to St Elmo Avenue, where Greenhill Realty recently shut down the Red Tomato Cafe because of similar construction issues, including reports of falling wet concrete. There is a separate lawsuit against the developer and construction company pending there.
After 18 years, the Ranger Surplus store on Wisconsin Avenue has closed.
The store, known for its unique array of products and military clothing, actually closed its Bethesda location (8008 Wisconsin Ave.) on Jan. 31. Blogger Robert Dyer reported the news over the weekend.
The store was on Wisconsin Avenue for 18 years, one of a locally owned chain that also included a now vacated store in Wheaton. Ranger Surplus still has stores in Rockville (811 Hungerford Dr.) and Vienna with a new location slated to open next month in Frederick.
Ranger Surplus stocked camping gear, work clothing and stuff you certainly couldn’t find anywhere else in Bethesda. The Army Navy store had knives, pepper spray, airsoft guns, battledress and even MREs (military-inspired Meals, Ready-to-Eat).
A representative of the store did not return a request for comment.
D.C.-based Douglas Development Corp. bought the block including Ranger Surplus for $9.2 million in December, with plans to turn it into an apartment over retail project starting in 2015.
The block includes the next-door Bethesda Valet and the KNL Beer & Wine on Woodmont Avenue, the detached house/beer and wine store next to Bruce Variety.
After 47 years and plenty of pearl necklaces sold, a longtime jeweler is calling it quits in Woodmont Triangle.
O’Rourke Ltd. Jewelers, in the same 7950 Norfolk Ave. space since 1968, will close on Jan. 31 as president and second-generation family owner Katherine Graf heads to retirement.
For what’s one of Bethesda’s longest-tenured businesses, it’s a bittersweet event.
“We’ve seen Bethesda change a lot,” Graf said. “We probably have the best customers in the world and I’m sad to see it go, but it’s time.”
Graf took over the store from her parents. Her mom died in 2012 at the age of 95. Graf would pick her up every day and bring her to the store.
“I wanted her to have that experience because she really enjoyed it,” Graf said. “When she passed away, I thought this was the right time.”
As you might’ve guessed, longtime customers have been flooding the store in recent weeks to reminisce. It was known for its pearls and repairs.
On Saturday — the last Saturday the store will be open — Graf will host a reception to celebrate.
“It’s been wonderful. It’s like a little community and it has changed a lot. People who lived here, had kids, moved out and came back,” Graf said. “The small business experience for us has been really fantastic.”
A car repair garage claims falling wet concrete damaged its clients’ luxury vehicles. A now shuttered gourmet sandwich shop says the very construction workers responsible for damage to its building would regularly clean up mortar dust and patch up cracks in its walls.
And despite a Montgomery County official’s determination that its buildings are structurally safe, the landlord next to the Bainbridge Bethesda apartment project has moved two popular tenants out and will likely move two more out in the coming months.
As crews work to finish the 17-story, 200-unit Bainbridge Bethesda apartment in Woodmont Triangle, the controversy surrounding the construction of the building has only deepened.
Greenhill Capital, the company that owns 4910 and 4912 St Elmo Ave. and 4905 and 4909 Fairmont Ave., claims shoddy foundation work from developer Bainbridge, its contractor and sub-contractor has led to permanent structural damage that means it must kick out its tenants for safety reasons.
Bainbridge, Turner Construction and the Schnabel Foundation Company deny the bulk of the landlord’s claims.
Even after a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of Greenhill in one lawsuit, the construction continues and the lawsuits keep coming.
Green Tomato LLC, the company that holds ownership of the St Elmo Avenue storefronts for Greenhill, sued Bainbridge and the contractors in November along with tenant BCC Automotive, Inc. A representative from Green Tomato said the luxury car repair company and the Red Tomato Cafe next door will likely have to leave their spaces by March 1 because of continuing safety issues.
Meanwhile, Fresh Grill — the Fairmont Avenue restaurant that closed in 2012 because of alleged structural damage on the other side of the block — is suing the developer, construction company and landlord.
Its owners say the entire saga put the restaurant out of business. It’s seeking at least $1.2 million in damages in a separate lawsuit filed in December.
Jewelry store Charleston Alexander closed its Bethesda location last week and consolidated its stock at its Northern Virginia headquarters.
The diamond importer moved out of its space at 7845 Wisconsin Ave. on Jan. 5.
A letter on the front of the store says owner John Sabet and family decided to double the size of the Falls Church flagship location. The Bethesda staff has also moved to that location, the letter said.
According to state property records, the Sabets own the roughly 20,000-square-foot store, built in 2005.
Another independent business at the Shoppes of Bethesda is out, and its owner says opportunities for small, local businesses in Bethesda could be on the way out too.
Deborah Simon closed her Waygoose Redux gift shop at 4926 Hampden Lane on Saturday. Simon had recently taken in Shoppes of Bethesda neighbor Bella Italia after that shop closed.
It is the fourth locally owned, independent store to close in the shopping center in 2013. Ri Ra, an Irish pub and restaurant that relocated to Georgetown, also closed in 2013.
Waygoose Redux relocated from Rockville to Bethesda Row a decade ago. Three years ago, with national chains gulping up space on ritzy Bethesda Avenue, Simon again relocated the store just a few blocks away to Hampden Lane.
But with online retailers putting a big dent in her business and a landlord interested in pursuing more of those national chains, Simon said she had to hold one final blowout sale over the weekend.
“If you want to support small businesses like this, you need to support them and you need to stop relying on online shopping,” Simon said. “We just saw huge drops of people coming in. People who shopped with us last year didn’t come in this year and it’s been like that for a while. It’s the ease of the internet that’s killing small businesses in many ways.”
Waygoose was known for its jewelry, ceramics toys and other home decorations produced by a group of artists Simon said she gained much respect for over the years.
Her store was one of just a few remaining independent gifts shops in the area.
“If you want something that’s not clothing, that’s not food, that’s gone,” Simon said. “It used to be a nice shopping district, where you could go and see a lot of variety, find stuff you hadn’t even thought about.”
As for the future of small, local retailers in downtown Bethesda, Simon said that will require customers and some help from the landlords. A Pure Barre, a national chain of franchised fitness studios, will take over the spot of Bundles of Cookies (4930 Hampden Lane).
“Landlords are tending toward national chains because it’s easier in many respects,” Simon said. “And people are spending money, they’re just not spending it on these kinds of items. That’s really what it is. If you really do support small local businesses, then do it with your pocket books and your feet.”
White Flint Store Closings — Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids in White Flint Mall will close Jan. 12 and the Mid-Pike Plaza Toys R Us (11840 Rockville Pike) will also close next month. Both properties are set for redevelopment. [Friends of White Flint] [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]
Montgomery Might Benefit From State Budget Increase — With growing tax revenues, Maryland’s budget could grow by as much as four percent in the next fiscal year. With that additional money expected to be spent on education, Montgomery County could be the beneficiary. County leaders will push for more school construction funding once the 2014 General Assembly starts up next month. [The Gazette]
Traffic Ebb and Flow, Visualized — A data artist and software developer used traffic speed data to create a map showing the waves of traffic around the region in the week of Thanksgiving. [Mapbox]
Flickr photo by ehpien