Tysons, VA

The Wegmans in Tysons (1835 Capital One Drive South) will have a soft opening next Wednesday (Nov. 4) at 9 a.m.

“We’re super excited,” Wegmans Tysons service area manager Matt Collalto said. “Tysons is an up-and-coming area. People here have shopped sporadically at a Wegmans and wanted one nearby.”

Fairfax County’s fourth Wegmans is open from 6 a.m. to midnight. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wegmans is foregoing a grand opening for the mid-morning first day of business.

“We wanted to put more thought into our opening, focusing on our customers and employees,” Collalto said.

The company sees room for opportunity in the D.C.-Virginia area, Collalto said. After the Wegmans in Tysons opens on Wednesday, one is slated to open in May 2022 on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Wegmans is looking to open a store in Reston in the future, he said.

The Tysons Wegmans has three levels of below-ground parking with escalators leading into the store, which will avoid the ongoing construction of the Capital One Hall.

Customers will be greeted by dining options galore, with seating for nearly 200 people in the 80,000 square-foot store.

The Buzz Coffee Shop offers breakfast sandwiches and organic specialty coffee, tea, and espresso drinks. True coffee aficionados will appreciate the pour-over, French press, and nitro brew options, Collalto said.

The fast-casual Burger Bar serves burgers, sandwiches and fries. A Japanese-inspired bar features sushi, cocktails, wine, sake, and beer. Individual hot food options, which Collalto calls the “street stop” section, are just around the corner.

The “street food”-style preparation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, with improved quality and hygiene, he said. While some COVID-19 precautions may go away, the decision to close buffets may stay, he said.

“Instead of big, massive hot bars, we’re specializing the food,” he said. “COVID has opened our eyes to a lot of things.”

High-contact touchpoints are sanitized frequently and hand-sanitizer stations are available throughout the store. Cashiers sanitize their workspace and hands in between customers, and Plexiglas shields separate cashiers and employees from customers.

Customers also have options for contactless shopping. They can shop online for curbside pickup or delivery to their door, and the prepared foods can be ordered through the store’s Meals 2Go app.

The SCAN app allows customers to scan and bag their groceries in-store for a contactless experience.

Picking up on consumer trends, Wegmans is focusing on organics, sustainable practices, and specialty items.

Shelves increasingly bear products with the private Wegmans label, particularly those designated as “Food You Feel Good About.” This means they are free of preservatives, additives, and artificial colors, manager Kevin Russell said.

Wegmans also has a goal of diverting 80% of waste from the landfill, either into recycling or composting, Collalto said. Consumable produce, dairy, and other perishables are donated to Food For Others.

“We have a responsibility to enrich the neighborhood the best way we can,” Collalto said.

As for specialty foods, the Tysons Wegmans has swapped large displays of traditional deli meats for 16 feet dedicated to charcuterie meats. Complimenting the meats is a cheese station with 400 cheeses.

“We want to highlight the variety of charcuterie,” Collalto said. “People love it.”

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(Updated at 12:05 on 10/30/2020) Town of Vienna residents and visitors are invited to enjoy the crisp fall weather and live entertainment while supporting local retail during the town’s first-ever Vienna Shop & Stroll.

It is the biggest and longest initiative organized by the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office, which will soon celebrate its one-year anniversary after being formed in November 2019. The town’s business liaison committee and the Vienna Business Association are partners on the event series.

Each Saturday through Dec. 12, designated shopping centers will host safe and socially distant seasonal activities and in-store promotions. Locals and visitors are encouraged to meet business owners and learn more about the history of the shopping centers.

“It grew out of the fact that we need to come up with creative ideas throughout this time,” said Natalie Monkou, the economic development manager for the Town of Vienna. “The more creativity, the better.”

The Vienna Shop & Stroll kicked off last Saturday (Oct. 24) at the Vienna Shopping Center (180 Maple Avenue), where seven businesses participated. It featured two pop-up opera concerts by emerging artists at the Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera. The singers performed two micro-concerts from the Concert Truck, a Maryland-based pop-up truck that aims to make classical music more accessible.

“I’m actually pretty pleased with what happened on Saturday,” Monkou said. “It was set at one of the busiest shopping centers in town, so it was a great place to kick off what we could do for other locations.”

The pop-up concert truck was “a great way to remind people that Vienna is accessible to all,” Monkou said.

Future special programming will remain in the realm of music and art to avoid direct competition with the shopping centers. Concerts are also family-friendly and a great way to manage social-distancing guidelines, Monkou says.

“If we are going to provide something, we want it to be something that we can count on families to enjoy with little ones,” she said.

Because the Economic Development Department is so new, “everything we’re doing is a pilot,” Monkou said. “Depending on the participation from tenants and property managers, we’ll see if the [Shop & Stroll] is an annual thing.”

She emphasized engaging property owners because they have a role to play in the success of the town.

“When their businesses don’t do well, we all suffer,” she said. “We all benefit when we come together to do something that’s off the beaten path.”

Here are the dates and locations for upcoming Shop & Stroll Saturdays:

Correction: This article previously described the Vienna Business Association as the organizer of Shop & Stroll. The VBA is a partner with Vienna’s economic development office as the main organizer.

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What does the word ‘invite’ mean?

That question occupied the bulk of a Vienna Town Council discussion on Monday night regarding a proposal to invite Vienna restaurant lenders, owners, landlords and tenants to brainstorm ideas to support businesses this winter in light of the economic instability caused by COVID-19. The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Vienna Community Center gym and will be moderated by Peter Sparber, a Vienna resident.

The proposal passed 5-2, with Mayor Linda Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers voting against it.

During the town council meeting, Colbert, Town Manager Mercury Payton, and the council members debated whether it is legal or proper for the town to hold an invite-only event not moderated by a town official.

Councilmember Ray Brill, who requested the town council take up the motion, said time is of the essence and the word “invite” must stay to gather together stakeholders.

“Winter is coming and there is nothing that we can do to stop it,” Brill said. “We need to listen to residents and other business folks to learn their point of view and navigate the COVID-19 crisis.”

Colbert worried about the town hosting an event but ceding control of the conversation. She said this gathering should remain in the private sector.

“I think it comes down to how some of us view the word invite,” Colbert said.

She said that if she invites people to a party, it is her party and she runs it. Similarly, if the town invites stakeholders, that makes it an official function. She said she would support a motion without the word “invite.”

Many members tweaked the proposal’s language. Like Brill, Councilmember Chuck Anderson, whose amended motion was ultimately approved, said the word “invite” needs to stay.

“I want the gravitas of the town to be part of the attempt to get people there,” he said.

His changed motion states: “This gathering is not an official function of the Town of Vienna. The town is not proposing any specific legislative action as a result of this meeting and Town Council members may observe, but will not participate in the discussion.”

Councilmember Dr. Nisha Patel offered another compromise to change “invite” to “encourage a conversation.”

Brill countered that encouragement occurs on social media. In order to have an honest dialogue, he only wants those who are invited to show up.

“We change from the word ‘public forum’ to ‘meeting,’ we run the risk of no one showing up because they don’t talk in person,” he said.

Patel said she understood the dilemma and supported the event.

“I think we should help make this a possibility for them,” she said. “We are all interested in helping them, that’s not a question.”

Photos via Vienna Town Council

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Tysons’ first Restaurant Week, which ran from Oct. 12-18, was a “huge success,” according to restaurateurs.

When the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce followed up with each of the 19 participating restaurants, they each reported soaring sales.

“We followed-up with each restaurant, and they all reported significant sales increases, some as high as 50% since reopening after Covid-19,” said Dane Scott, the managing partner of Seasons 52. “And my restaurant is in that category.”

Guests had the option to eat in or take home food from fixed-price lunch and dinner menus that were designed specifically for Restaurant Week and showcase classic dishes, seasonal options, and fan favorites. The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.

Tony Bass, the general manager of Urban Plates, said his restaurant hit records.

“We actually had the busiest week of any week since we reopened, which was a huge win for us,” Bass said.

It was so successful that the overall company “is looking to replicate elsewhere what we did here,” he said.

The data is going to help Urban Plates keep up the momentum from Restaurant Week, Bass said.

The number-one feedback Bass said he received was, “Wow, I didn’t know you were open again.”

Although in-person guests were thrilled to be back, half of the total customers took advantage of take-out, he said.

Overall, “it was a much bigger event than personally I thought it was going to be,” Bass said.

Scott was nervous leading up to the weeklong event. Restaurant Week in D.C. was reportedly not as successful as in years past, and the Tysons Chamber had planned its restaurant week around not interfering with the week in D.C.

Although the Tysons chamber of commerce added a carry-out component — which is not offered during regular restaurant weeks — to give customers more than one way to participate, Scott still worried the event would be a flop.

“It was far from it,” he said. “Nineteen restaurants participated, and every restaurant said, ‘I had a great week — the best week since reopening. It really made me soar, I was so happy.”

Photo courtesy Andrew Clark

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Fairfax County and Virginia state officials kicked off passenger service on Thursday (Oct. 22) for Relay, the first test of autonomous technology in public transportation in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

“Won’t it be great to look back and say, ‘We remember the day in 2020 when we were sitting in the Mosaic and this Relay vehicle successfully proved to the country that you can do this in a safe way and also look toward future innovations in transportation,” Jeffrey McKay, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said.

Relay, a 100% electric, autonomous vehicle, runs 10 miles per hour from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metrorail Station to the Barnes and Noble in the Mosaic District. It makes the trip every 15 to 20 minutes, Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Relay can transport up to 12 passengers — six seated and six standing — but to encourage social-distancing, it will currently only take three passengers and a safety attendant at a time. The shuttle is fully accessible for people with disabilities.

The project represents a public-private partnership between Fairfax County and Dominion Energy aimed at improving road safety, encouraging the use of public transit, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It received a $200,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and a $50,000 match from Fairfax County. The county is contracting with Transdev to manage the operations of Relay.

EDENS, the developer of the Mosaic District, provides shuttle storage and stop improvements. The Virginia Department of Transportation provided signage, lane striping and bus stops.

The ribbon-cutting event held Thursday, three months after its first test run, was abuzz with officials talking about the future and innovation.

Mark Webb, the chief innovation officer for Dominion Energy, said Relay “is just plain cool.”

“It’s the sort of thing we’d see in a Star Wars movie or Blade Runner movie without lift-off capabilities,” said Webb, whose company purchased the shuttle and contracted with EasyMile, a driverless technology company that mapped the route and manufactured the vehicle.

Even without the futuristic promises, Relay improves road safety, extends public transit, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, Webb said.

Connecting the two ends of the Mosaic District will encourage people to ride public transit who are dissuaded by getting to and from transit stops, said Catherine McGhee, the director of research and innovation for the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

“Relay serves a real purpose. It’s not a one-off demonstration in a parking lot,” she said. “It is part of the transit ecosystem here in Fairfax County.”

Officials also reminisced about the underutilized, industrial, dull feel of the Mosaic District before serious efforts were undertaken to develop it, spearheaded by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia).

“Without a Mosaic, there would be no Relay. There would be no autonomous vehicle project,” McKay said.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik wants to see the development extend to the older, industrial, and partially vacant zone in between the two Relay stops.

“I really hope it will help develop the areas between the two stops,” Palchik said. “We don’t stop here.”

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The Fairfax Education Association is petitioning Fairfax County Public Schools to remain virtual until August 2021.

“​Science and Health Safety data support and require that no one should return to in person instruction until there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment,” the petition said. “The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread.”

So far, the petition has more than 1,000 signatures and is 600 away from its goal. The union, which represents 4,000 staff in the school system, published the petition on Sept. 30, but received renewed attention after a tweet about it went viral.

But not all teachers support the petition, according to one Twitter user.

Read More

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Tysons Corner’s first Restaurant Week kicks off next Monday and runs Oct. 12 through Tuesday, Oct. 20.

Guests can eat in or take home food from fixed-price lunch and dinner menus that were designed specifically for Restaurant Week and showcase classic dishes, seasonal options, and fan favorites. The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.

Restaurateurs say they hope the week will bring customers back to their establishments after they experience the coronavirus precautions that have been put in place. They also hope that patrons who work and eat lunch in town but do not live there return to Tysons as a destination for foodies.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has obliterated the food service industry, with 37,000 jobs lost in Fairfax County, according to a recent report. The findings are the first step in a recovery strategy commissioned by Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Even after restaurants reopened, customers remain uncomfortable dining out.

“We realized that we can’t just open our doors and hope people go through them,” Dane Scott, the managing partner of Seasons 52, said.

Restaurants are taking extreme safety measures, Chamber of Commerce Chair Andrew Clark says.

“The irony is that restaurants are probably the cleanest places in town, but it will take a while for people to assimilate,” he said.

Tony Bass, the general manager of Urban Plates, is ready to change how people view Tysons with Restaurant Week.

“What I’m excited to show is that Tysons is a destination for food,” he said.

People who are dining for the first time since the pandemic started will see that things in the restaurants look different.

At Urban Plates, customers can still observe chefs making their food in the open kitchen, but can no longer approach the chefs, Bass said.

P.F. Chang’s has poured money into presentation, said operating partner Eric Padilla. The plateware is new, and dishes are served with a new flair.

“You’re not able to go to the movies, so we want to put on a show in the dining room,” he said. “Dinner is the main show: Come in, relax, have a good time, and take your mind off what’s going on.”

Scott, who sits on the Chamber of Commerce, said it has stepped up to care for Tysons’ businesses.

When Clark took over as chair this summer, he implemented some new initiatives. The chamber filmed a documentary on food safety and later threw a whisky-tasting event outside American Prime, complete with temperature checks and mask monitors.

Clark credited Restaurant Week taking off to volunteer photographers, videographers, printers and graphic and designers.

“There’s no money to be made,” he said. “They just love the community.”

Image via Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce

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An overwhelming majority of Fairfax County Public Schools teachers say they are not confident in Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) reopening plan, according to a survey conducted by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

The federation released the results of three surveys Tuesday evening during a press conference. The data paint a stark picture for county teachers, who report fearing for their health and that of family members, working far beyond their contracted hours, and feeling the effects on their mental and physical health.

The message from the Federation of Teachers is clear: Members want the school district to delay reopening until the FCPS plan improves communication, provides specific metrics, and offers every teacher a virtual option, a few hallmarks of the teachers’ 11 requirements for a safe reopening.

“Our position has always been, and continues to be, that we want kids back in school as quickly as possible, but that means as safely as possible,” said Tina Williams, president, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

FCPS did not return Tysons Reporter’s request for comment.

The response comes one week after Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented his reopening plan to the county school board. Under the proposed plan, about 6,700 students could return to school in October, with more trickling in throughout the year if conditions improve. Members criticized the lack of hard numbers and concrete metrics, especially regarding school closures after outbreaks.

Of the 1,300 teachers who responded, 85.7% are not confident in FCPS reopening plan, and 70% feel unsafe returning, while 21% said they are “unsure.” About 27% said they would consider taking a leave of absence, while 26% were undecided.

Some teachers who are older or have conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, or who live with family members who are high-risk, said they face an ultimatum to work or leave because their applications for accommodations were denied. Read More

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This October, beer fans and animal lovers can head over to Lost Dog Cafe to sip Solace Brewing Company’s Rescue Ale and support rescue efforts for dogs and cats.

The charity brew, which benefits the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, will hit shelves at Solace Brewery on Oct. 8 and will start being poured at all Lost Dog Cafe locations on Oct. 9. A portion of all sales of Rescue Ale will be donated to LDCRF.

There are five Lost Dog Cafe locations, with one in Dunn Loring (2729A Merrilee Drive) and one in McLean (1690A Anderson Road).

The brewery will host a distanced adoption event, and an online auction will offer winners a tour of the brewery as well as  pooch and beer-themed merchandise.

Lost Dog Cafe is a long-time supporter of the rescue and donates a portion of its revenue to support the care of animals rescued by LDCRF. Local breweries have brewed a Rescue Ale in support of LDCRF for the last four years, and this is Solace’s second year making the charity beer. Read More

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The Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said his overworked, understaffed office is in a state of crisis, which could have deep ramifications for public safety.

“Potentially innocent people could be wrongfully convicted, or guilty people could be left on the street, making our community more vulnerable,” he told the Board of Supervisors in a meeting on Tuesday.

The short-term solution he proposed involves hiring 20 staff for about $2 million. He said this would ensure the office does not fall behind when felony trials resume in November, after being postponed since March due to the coronavirus. The 20 staff would not be enough, for example, to handle the influx of  potential evidence that would need independent review if every police officer starts wearing a body camera.

To ramp up the number of cases his office can prosecute thoroughly and ethically, Descano said he needs 137 attorneys and support staff, which would cost $19.1 million.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said they were surprised to hear Descano’s claim of unethical prosecutions and were experiencing a case of “sticker shock,” said Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw, of Braddock District.

“I think we’re all in a state of shock here,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay said.

A plan would need to be developed to address how these changes would impact other areas of law enforcement and justice, including the police department and the Fairfax County Attorney’s office, he said.

“While it is an emergency, we cannot respond to it like an emergency,” McKay said.

Supervisor John Foust, the Dranesville District Representative, told Descano: “You’ve found the problem, but I’m not sure you’ve identified the solution.”

The Office of the Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes crimes that occur in Fairfax County and felonies that occur in Fairfax City and the towns of Herndon and Vienna. It tries cases in the county’s district and circuit courts, as well as the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The office works closely with state, county and local police departments.

But over the course of the year, Descano said he has had to cut back the number and scope of cases his office can prosecute.

The issue is a lack of state and local funding. Fairfax — the biggest jurisdiction in the state — receives less state funding in part because it tries to divert defendants from the criminal justice system. The state funds positions based on the number of defendants who make it to court and the number who are sentenced, Descano said.

He says local funding is low compared to surrounding jurisdictions, which spend up to four times what Fairfax County spends.

“A resident of Fairfax County can spend more on a gallon of milk than on the prosecution of crimes,” he said.

The ratio of officers to prosecutors is also imbalanced: For every prosecutor, there are 33 sworn officers making arrests, meaning prosecutors cannot keep up with the rate of arrests.

“We don’t have the time to do the cases properly,” he said. “The only way to give us more time is to add more staff. The reason we need this is without time, bad things can happen.”

These “bad things” include focusing on getting dockets cleared and farming out independent reviews of evidence to police officers.

“In essence, there were officers making case decisions as if they were attorneys, without the independent review of attorneys,” he said. “We like to think that has never happened in Fairfax County, but I’ve seen evidence that that has happened.”

Supervisor Pat Herrity, the Springfield District Representative, said he needs an executive session to be shown where the ethical issues are.

“I had not heard that before this issue came up and I think we ought to peel the onion on that skin a little bit,” he said.

Deputy County Executive David Rohrer, a former police chief for Fairfax County, defended previous commonwealth’s attorneys as well as the police department.

“I only observed the highest integrity and ethics in their staff,” he said.

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