Valentine’s Day is, unsurprisingly, a busy time for Suzanne Nader and Dalia Hidayat, the two women behind local chocolatier Craving for Chocolate.
A visit to the pair’s new Dunn Loring studio (2108-A Gallows Road) on Monday (Feb. 7) found them filling and packaging dozens of boxes with sweets for corporate orders tied to the romantic holiday.
The demand for chocolate doesn’t end with Feb. 14, though. For this boutique retailer, it spans every occasion from Christmas — the most hectic time of year — and Ramadan to anniversaries and graduations, according to Hidayat.
“Somebody’s celebrating something every day, so it’s such an amazing business to be in,” she said.
Distinguished by its use of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, such as rosewater and mastic, Craving for Chocolate has seen an explosion in sales since the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to pivot from pop-ups to e-commerce.
Nader, a McLean resident and Lebanese immigrant, founded the chocolatier in 2015 out of a desire to address what she saw as a lack of variety in the market. It started small, primarily serving family and friends, but the client base grew through word-of-mouth.
That’s how Hidayat got involved. Introduced to Craving for Chocolate after receiving one of its boxes as a gift, she was impressed not just by the chocolate, which is made at a factory in Lebanon, but also by the acrylic container it came in, which was hand-carved by refugee artisans.
She called for a refill and was surprised to learn that Nader was working from home.
“I have a 30-year background in sales and marketing, so it’s second nature to me to refer and think of ideas,” Hidayat recalled. “I worked at the Ritz, and I knew that they had space to do a pop-up for her, so I just connected her as a friend.”
Over the next two years, that pop-up at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons led to a partnership with Nordstrom and appearances at Tysons Galleria, along with various local markets.
With the business growing, the women were contemplating a transition to a full mall store or a brick-and-mortar site when the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Pivoting instead to Nader’s basement, they built up the company’s website to support more online sales and put renewed emphasis on their use of custom-made gift boxes, trays, and other crafted items for packaging the chocolate.
“We sell chocolate, but we also always focus on what can be a nice gift,” Nader said. “What can go with it, like the tray? The tea? What can also add to this gift?”
While Craving for Chocolate has expanded its reach, now shipping nationwide, they were committed to staying in the Tysons area when looking for a permanent workshop, with the business outgrowing Nader’s home.
They considered finding another location in McLean, but the Gallows Road office seemed more accessible from the Tysons core, Nader says. It’s also about halfway between her house and where Hidayat lives in Vienna.
Craving for Chocolate moved in at the beginning of January, and both Nader and Hidayat say the new space has been “amazing” so far. The studio is open by appointment only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays.
“We like focusing on our clients and giving them that elevated service and one-on-one attention, and if you have more than two people here, it gets tough to do that,” Hidayat said. “They want to know what’s in the chocolates. They just want to spend time. That’s what we’ve noticed with our clients.”
Eastbound drivers on I-66 can expect overnight delays this week as crews demolish the old Gallows Road bridge in Merrifield.
Crews are taking apart an old concrete deck with jack hammers, saw cutters, and hoe rams. The overnight work began last night (Sunday) and will repeat each night through Jan. 16.
A new Gallows Road bridge opened to traffic in October as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which is adding express lanes, upgrading interchanges, replacing bridges, and improving pedestrian routes along 22 miles of the interstate from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.
The hazardous conditions mean that three lanes on I-66 are closed to eastbound traffic starting at 10 p.m. each night this week. They will reopen at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on the weekend.
“Drivers should expect periodic stoppages of up to 20 minutes nightly Sunday through Thursday between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., and Friday and Saturday between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a news release.
Gallows Road will remain open, but there will be traffic shifts at times, and changes could occur. VDOT noted that people can receive project updates via email by signing up on its website.
The new Gallows Road bridge, which currently has four lanes, will eventually shift to just a northbound link over I-66. Once crews finish the demolition work, a new southbound bridge will be built.
“The bridge will include three lanes southbound and two lanes northbound (with width to add a third northbound lane in the future),” Justin McNaul, with the engineering consulting firm ATCS that’s assisting VDOT, said in an email.
The new bridge will be longer and wider than its predecessor. It will also feature 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes in each direction with a sidewalk to the north and barrier-separated path to the south in an effort to improve access, including to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station.
The bridge is slated to be completed in the fall, and the new I-66 express lanes are expected to open in December.
Planning for a new elementary school in Dunn Loring could begin as soon as the second half of 2022, Fairfax County Public Schools projects in its proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2023-2024.
As approved by the Fairfax County School Board back in January, the new school will take over the Dunn Loring Administrative Center at 2334 Gallows Road, which started as an elementary school before being repurposed in 1978. The building is now being used for some special education and parent programs.
The project’s estimated $36.7 million budget is already fully funded by money from 2017 and 2019 school bonds that were originally destined for a new school in Oakton High School area.
Funding for the new school was welcomed by parents at Shrevewood Elementary School, which was at 118% capacity in the 2019-2020 school year. The CIP says its capacity dropped to 99% this year after an enrollment decline and minor facility modifications.
However, the boundaries for the Dunn Loring school have yet to be determined beyond it being “intended to relieve overcrowding in the Dunn Loring/Falls Church/Tysons area,” as stated in the CIP.
“School assignments for the repurposed Dunn Loring Elementary School will be determined as part of any boundary study for the school,” FCPS said in a statement. “The boundary study is currently estimated to begin toward the end of construction in 2026.”
The CIP indicates that planning for Dunn Loring Elementary will begin in fiscal year 2023, which starts on July 1. Permitting could start in FY 2024, followed by construction in FY 2025. The project is expected to be complete in FY 2027.
Other Tysons-area projects addressed by the proposed CIP include:
- Madison High School: a 35,000 square-foot addition, currently under construction and expected to finish by the end of 2022 ($18 million)
- Louise Archer Elementary School: renovation adding over 50,000 square feet to the building. The voter-approved 2021 school bond included funds for construction, which is expected to start this fiscal year and finish in FY 2024. ($39.9 million)
- Cooper Middle School: renovation expanding the building by approximately 65,000 square feet. Construction is underway and set to finish in summer 2023. ($54.4 million)
- Falls Church High School: approximately 126,000 square-foot renovation, in the permitting process with an anticipated construction finish in FY 2026 ($136 million)
FCPS staff will present the proposed CIP to the school board tonight (Thursday). The board will hold a public hearing on Jan. 4 and a work session on Jan. 11, with a final vote scheduled for Feb. 10.
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Roughly 800 people in Dunn Loring are currently without power as rain continues to fall throughout the D.C. metropolitan area.
While flooding impacts appear to be more concentrated to the east in Arlington, Alexandria, and D.C. so far, Dominion Energy reports that 420 customers around Cedar Lane and Electric Avenue have lost power due to a broken pole.
There is also a power outage in Idylwood affecting 373 customers, though the cause of that outage is pending investigation.
The utility company estimates that power will be restored at both sites between 4 and 9 p.m.
The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed that the following roads have been closed:
- Old Courthouse Road at Besley is closed due to flooding
- Idylwood Road at Cedar is blocked due to down wires
- Georgetown Pike between Utterback and Springvale is closed due to a downed tree
As of 3 p.m., Lawyers Road at Hunter Mill Road in Vienna has also been closed due to high waters, according to Fairfax Alerts.
Preparations for the upcoming demolition of the Gallows Road bridge over I-66 in Dunn Loring are about to get underway.
Northbound traffic on Gallows will shift to a new bridge during daytime hours tomorrow (Thursday) with southbound traffic expected to follow suit next week, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Tuesday).
VDOT anticipates starting to demolish the existing bridge around Oct. 23, a process that will take 30 to 40 nights.
Here are more details on the traffic changes from VDOT’s news release:
Pedestrians will continue to use the west side of the current bridge until southbound Gallows Road traffic shifts to the new span. At that time, pedestrian access will be shifted to the east side of the new bridge, with detours using the crosswalks at Cottage Street and Avenir Place/Bellforest Drive.
Following this traffic shift, the current Gallows Road Bridge over I-66 will be demolished to allow for construction of the new southbound bridge span. Demolition of the current bridge is anticipated to begin on or about October 23. Most of the bridge is directly over I-66 or the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station and will need to be demolished during the overnight hours, when multiple lanes can be closed on I-66 and the Metrorail Station and tracks can be closed to safely accommodate this work. Demolition activities will occur during the daytime hours when feasible, to minimize impacts to the nearby communities. Additional information and updates about demolition work and traffic closures will be provided on the project website. All work is weather dependent and schedules may shift if inclement conditions occur.
The replacement of the Gallows Road bridge is part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which will extend the I-66 Express Lanes more than 22 miles west from the I-495 interchange in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.
The new bridge will feature improved sightlines, bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks in each direction, and connections to the shared-use path that’s being constructed alongside I-66, according to the project website. It’s being built in two phases, with the southbound side expected to be completed next summer.
The overall Transform 66 project is on track to open the new express lanes in December 2022, VDOT confirmed at a public information meeting last week.
“Drivers should be alert for changing traffic patterns on Gallows Road near I-66 as construction continues through 2022,” VDOT said. “Drivers are reminded to slow down and pay attention to lane markings and roadway signs at all times.”
Photo via Google Maps
Construction crews will soon demolish the Gallows Road bridge over I-66, a process that is expected take 30 to 40 nights, starting on or about next Wednesday (Oct. 13).
The work will involve breaking up the concrete deck with jack hammers, saw cutters and heavy equipment consisting of hoe rams. It’s part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which is adding express lanes on the interstate from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.
“These are not necessarily 30 to 40 consecutive nights of demolition, and…some demolition activities are less disruptive than others,” said Nancy Smith, a spokesperson for FAM Construction, the design-builder of the project.
The company said at a public information meeting on Monday (Oct. 4) that the demolition will occur after traffic shifts.
Segments over I-66 will be affected overnight — typically 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. — when multiple lanes of the interstate can be closed, Smith said. For work not over I-66, demolition will take place during the daytime.
Information on lane closures and other travel changes will be posted on the project website, which also has provides information via email notifications and traffic alerts.
The demolition timeline extends into the late fall due to weather and other factors, but no demolition work will occur over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Project officials previously expected the demolition work to start in mid-August. VDOT told Tysons Reporter that the slippage in the schedule is not expected to impact the overall project schedule.
The new I-66 express lanes are still slated to open in December 2022.
The Gallows Road bridge is just feet above the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, requiring coordinating with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
To minimize impacts, crews will haul concrete away to be processed off site, position work area lighting to face toward the roadway and away from residences, implement “dust control measures,” and monitor construction vibrations and noise, Smith said.
At Monday’s information meeting, however, neighbors compared previous construction to an earthquake and reported that vehicles have been running red lights amid “frustration and confusion” as traffic goes over the bridge.
VDOT megaprojects director Susan Shaw said she would coordinate with their team to notify county police about the safety concerns.
Among the traffic adjustments, FAM Construction reported that:
- Northbound bridge traffic will shift to the new bridge starting next week or around that time
- Southbound bridge traffic will shift into a temporary alignment onto the new bridge on or about the week of Oct. 18
- Pedestrian access will remain on the west side of the old bridge until southbound travel lanes shift on or about the week of Oct. 18. Once those southbound lanes shift to the new bridge, pedestrian routes will be on the east side of the bridge
- The shift in travel lanes on Gallows Road does not affect the entrance at Stenwood Elementary School as the changes are south of the school entrance
Updates will be posted to outside.transform66.org/gallowsroad as demolition progresses.
Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Stops by Dunn Loring — Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for Virginia’s governor, announced his policy priorities yesterday (Monday) outside the construction company CJ Coakley Co. Inc. in Dunn Loring. The package includes $1.8 billion in one-time tax cuts, a pledge to create 400,000 new jobs, raises for school teachers, and the addition of 20 new charter schools. Opponent Terry McAuliffe called the plan “out of touch the state’s fiscal reality.” [The Washington Post]
Nonprofit to Open Office in Vienna Church — “A nonprofit focused on providing a day program for adults with disabilities is opening a new administrative office at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna. The grand opening of the SPARC office will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at the church, located at 2351 Hunter Mill Road.” [Patch]
Mosaic District Gym to Host Vaccine Clinic — “@fairfaxhealth will have a Pop-up COVID-19 Vax Clinic at nearby XSport Fitness (8190 Strawberry Lane) on Tuesday, 8/31 from 3PM-7PM. The 1st (or 2nd) dose Pfizer jab will be available to anyone ages 12+ for free. Walk-ins welcome, or make an appt” [City of Falls Church/Twitter]
Vienna Ben & Jerry’s Offers Free Ice Cream for Solar Art Contest — The Ben & Jerry’s in Vienna has partnered with Ipsun Solar on the solar panel company’s fourth Sunny Summer Art Contest, where kids can submit artwork inspired by the sun and the need to find solutions to climate change. All participants will get a coupon for a free ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s Vienna, and winners will get gift cards. [Ipsun Solar]
Updated at 4:05 p.m. — The situation involving a man experiencing mental health issues at Avenir Place this afternoon has now been resolved.
“Officers were able to peacefully resolve this situation and the man was safely taken into custody,” Fairfax County police told Tysons Reporter. “He will receive the appropriate resources.”
The police department added that all officers at the scene “should be clearing out shortly if they have not already done so.”
Earlier: Fairfax County police officers are currently gathered near the Dunn Loring Metro station in response to calls about a man reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis, the department confirmed.
Tysons Reporter received a tip that there was a “huge police presence” outside Harris Teeter around 1 p.m., including at least 15 to 20 marked and unmarked police vehicles. The tipster said that both entries to the grocery store on Avenir Place and Prosperity Avenue had been blocked off.
The Fairfax County Police Department says that officers responded to the 2600 block of Avenir Place after receiving reports of “a man who is experiencing a mental health crisis.”
“Officers are working to peacefully deescalate the situation and provide necessary resources to the man,” the FCPD said. “Preliminarily, the man is believed to be alone in the apartment.”
The department did not respond by press time when asked whether the streets in the area have been opened, but it says that the incident “has not been classified as a barricade” at this time.
“We will provide an additional update as the situation evolves,” the FCPD said.
Construction on the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will continue disrupting travel at the I-66 and I-496 interchange in Dunn Loring this week.
Overnight lane closures and traffic stoppages will begin at 10 p.m. today (Monday) on I-495 South, whose general purpose lanes will be reduced to a single travel lane from Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) approaching I-66 to accommodate overhead bridge work and partial demolition of the I-66 West bridge over I-495 South.
The Virginia Department of Transportation says drivers should expect periodic stoppages of up to 20 minutes between midnight and 4 a.m., though the lane closures will last until 5 a.m. on Tuesday. The 495 Express Lanes will not be affected.
The 495 lane closures will take effect again during the same time frame on Thursday (April 8) and Friday (April 9).
That final day will coincide with more substantial closures planned for I-66.
On Friday and Saturday (April 10), all westbound lanes approaching I-495 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. so that construction crews can install bridge beams for new ramps at the I-66/I-495 interchange, VDOT says. The ramps to I-66 West from 495 North and the 495 South Express Lanes will also be closed.
“Drivers traveling on I-66 and I-495 during this time should expect delays and should consider using alternate routes,” VDOT said.
Here are the details on those closures from VDOT:
I-66 West at I-495
- All I-66 West travel lanes will be closed at I-495 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. both nights.
- All westbound I-66 thru-traffic will be directed to exit the interstate at Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) West, travel about one mile to the ramp for I-495 South, and then follow signs to I-66 West.
- The ramp from I-66 West to I-495 South will remain open.
- All lanes will reopen by 6 a.m.
Ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West
- The ramp will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.
- Traffic will be detoured farther north to Route 7 West, stay to the right to I-495 South, and then follow signs to I-66 West.
- The ramp will reopen by 6 a.m.
Ramp from the 495 Express Lanes South to I-66 West
- The ramp will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.
- Overhead variable message boards in the Express Lanes will direct traffic to an alternate route.
The I-66 and I-495 closures both stem from ongoing efforts to reconstruct the interchange as part of the Transform 66 project, which will extend the I-66 Express Lanes 22.5 miles from Dunn Loring to Gainesville.
“Improvements at the interchange include adding access to and from the existing 495 Express Lanes and the new I-66 Express Lanes, as well as building new connections between express and general-purpose lanes,” VDOT said.
It took an unprecedented shift to distance learning for Shrevewood Elementary School to drop below capacity for the first time since 2012.
After nearly a decade of parent and community advocacy, however, a long-term solution for overcrowding at the Falls Church-based school is finally in sight.
Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch proposed the plan last year after meeting with parents in the communities affected by the crowding.
“We’ve been pushed to the next year for so long,” Shrevewood Elementary PTA President Kate Coho said. “If we could get the ball rolling, that would be great.”
In the past, parents focused on a new boundary process to offset a mini-baby boom in the neighborhoods around Shrevewood.
Coho remembers that a mother began drawing attention to the school’s overcrowding about four years ago. The school was put in line to get a boundary study the following year, but FCPS dropped that provision from its capital planning program until Frisch put it back in last January.
“Then COVID-19 happened, so we’ve obviously been kicked down the road again,” she said.
Coho and fellow parent Jeremy Hancock, whose daughter is in third grade at Shrevewood, both embrace the Dunn Loring plan.
“A school boundary change has always appeared like the most likely or easy thing, but it’s encouraging that we have a longer-term solution,” Hancock said.
Coho said administrators have found creative ways to mitigate the crowding, but the school experience still suffers.
Some kids eat and play early or late in the day to avoid maxing out the cafeteria and the playgrounds. Sixth graders learn in seven temporary classrooms, and some elective courses like art and music are located out there, too.
School-wide activities are “basically impossible,” Coho said.
The 12-acre campus has no space for an addition or more trailers, which are located in the middle of the playground and extend all the way to a hill on the back-end of the school, she said.
The school was last expanded in 1998, when the building was updated to meet current design standards.
“Shrevewood ES has had a slight capacity deficit of 102% beginning in [School Year] 2012-13 and a substantial capacity deficit of 116% beginning in SY 2017-18,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in an email.
Since 2012, the following work has been done:
- 2013-14: Added temporary classrooms
- 2015-16: Divided two classrooms into four classrooms
- 2016-17: Added temporary classrooms
- 2019-20: Assigned newly identified primary students to the enhanced autism program at Freedom Hill Elementary School instead of Shrevewood
- 2019-20: Added additional parking
Moving special education programs would effectively free up a few classrooms, but it is “a tricky issue,” Coho said. “It is a difficult situation to put special-needs children in.”
Meanwhile, Hancock, who serves as president of the Falls Hill Civic Association, is also working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to address safety concerns on Shreve Road, which compounds the overcrowding issue.
Because the road’s big intersections and adjacent neighborhoods are designed for driving, there are no sidewalks or protections for pedestrians and cyclists using the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail.
Hancock argues that the chronic lack of parking — a symptom of overcrowding — could be mitigated by safe walking routes.
“It’s such a long term process,” he said.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain