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Cha Tea House started from a place of familial love and a bit of naiveté.

Co-owners Sofhia and Usman Qamar and Suhail and Saba Kamran launched the family-run business with two food trucks and some outdoor seating behind Springfield Town Center on Oct. 17, 2020 out of a desire to recreate the relaxed, sociable atmosphere of the roadside eateries common in their native Pakistan.

However, none of the owners had any previous experience in the food industry, admits Sofhia Qamar, a high school teacher. Her partners in the venture are an accountant, a wedding decorator, and an entrepreneur.

As a result, the group had to learn to adapt quickly, a necessary skill for any small business owner even without the new anxieties introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first weekend, we prepped enough for a thousand orders. We thought, okay, this will last us three days,” Sofhia said. “We ran out of food after two hours of being open on the first day, and it hasn’t stopped…The feedback that we’ve gotten has been absolutely amazing.”

Cha Tea House has proven so successful in its first year that the team is now preparing to open its first brick-and-mortar location at Tysons Corner Center, potentially as soon as the first week of November before the holiday season kicks into gear.

Located on the mall’s second floor between &Pizza and Cava Mezze Grill, the cafe will offer indoor and outdoor seating with a patio that will be outfitted with lights and heaters for when the weather gets colder.

While the menu will be mostly the same, with paratha rolls and other entrees, snacks, milkshakes, and mojitos in addition to the signature teas, the Tysons site will allow Cha Tea House to expand its offerings with more fresh pastries, desserts, and salads, Sofhia says.

The company also hopes to expand its customer base outside of the community of South Asians, many of them immigrants, that have coalesced around the cafe in Springfield.

“Part of our drive to open it was to be able to share that feeling of home with people who are expatriates, who are foreign and miss that from the country that they left behind,” Sofhia said. “But the other part was to share it with people who don’t know a lot about Pakistan, so we thought Tysons would be a great place for that, because it is still very diverse.”

The dhabas that inspired Cha Tea House are roadside restaurants or food stalls that sell tea and snacks to patrons who consume them while sitting outside. They tend to be modest in appearance, but Sofhia says they’re “the best places to get food.”

She describes their function as closer to that of a bar than the on-the-go mentality of an American coffee shop. With tea substituted for alcohol, particularly in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, patrons visit as much for the opportunity to socialize as the food and drink.

“In our culture, tea is basically the thing that you surround yourself with when you’re having social gatherings, so our tea houses are where everyone goes to connect and talk and hang out,” Sofhia explained to Tysons Reporter.

In that same spirit, Cha Tea House hosts performances by local musicians and other artists every Saturday night, a tradition that will carry over to the Tysons Corner Center location with an emphasis on young students, singers, poets, and writers.

Cha also strives to cultivate a feeling of community by donating a portion of its profits to select nonprofit organizations. The current beneficiary is the Karachi Down Syndrome Program, which provides support and resources to individuals with Down syndrome who live in the Pakistani city.

Sofhia, whose daughter has Down syndrome, says the program seemed appropriate for their mission and background, but Cha hopes to support more organizations as it expands.

“We’re looking forward to making partnerships at Tysons and being not just in the community, but being a member of that community,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Rainbows appear over Tysons after a recent storm (photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter)

FCPS Looks to Tighten COVID-19 Protocols — Missed emails have led some Fairfax County Public School students to show up for class when they’re supposed to stay home after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The school system is working with county health officials to speed up the complicated contact-tracing process. [Reston Now]

Abortion and Taxes Take Center Stage at Tysons Forum — Nearly 300 people gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons to hear all six major-party candidates for statewide offices. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe warned that the abortion restrictions approved in Texas on Wednesday (Sept. 1) could come to Virginia if his opponent is elected, while Republican Glenn Youngkin detailed his recently announced tax cuts plan. [Associated Press]

Falls Church Sets Opening Date for Renovated Library — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library will reopen next Friday (Sept. 10) after a year-long renovation that expanded the facility by 6,000 square feet, reconfigured the layout, and updated its amenities and infrastructure. City officials and library staff will mark the opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with a public grand opening celebration to come later in the fall. [City of Falls Church]

Caliburger Food Truck Coming to The Boro — “Southern California burger joint @caliburgerdc is coming to #TheBoroTysons next year! In the meantime, get a preview of their sunny SoCal style from the CaliBurger Food Truck on Sat evenings from 6:30-8:30pm (beginning 9/4), & lunch on Wednesdays from 11:30am-2pm (starting 9/8).” [The Boro/Twitter]

Photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Falls Church City Sees Population Boom — The City of Falls Church’s population rose 19.4% from 12,332 people to 14,658 people over the past decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released last Thursday (Aug. 12). That growth rate is higher than both Fairfax and Arlington counties, though Loudoun saw the most growth (32.4%) in Northern Virginia. [Falls Church News-Press]

Falls Church Festivals Will Be Vaccine Sites — “The City of Falls Church Community Center (223 Little Falls St.) will host two free COVID-19 vaccination clinics during the Tinner Hill Music Festival (Saturday, August 21 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Falls Church Festival (Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The clinics, managed by the Fairfax Health Department, are open to every age 12 years and older.” [City of Falls Church]

Vienna Gets New Police Officers — Officers Emily Lichtenberg, David Reed, and Patrick Crandall will be the newest additions to the Town of Vienna Police Department after they graduated from the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy on Aug. 12. They will spend the next 12 weeks with a field training instructor who will “observe and guide” their performance during investigations, traffic enforcement, citizen interactions, report writing, and other duties. [Vienna Police Department]

Last Chance to Join Food Truck Fridays — “This Friday, August 20th, will be the final Food Truck Friday of the season at the Providence Community Center from 11am to 2pm. In addition to community favorites Hangry Panda and Empanadas de Mendoza, we have invited Tobago Bay Calypso Band to offer a performance from 11:30am to 1:30pm. We have also planned several family-friendly activities, lawn games, and free ice pops, lemonade, and cookies.” [Palchik Post]

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Morning Notes

Metro Extends Service Hours This Weekend — Starting Sunday (July 18), Metro will provide rail service until midnight for the first time since operating hours were reduced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit agency approved a package of fare reductions and service improvements in June aimed at attracting riders as more offices are set to reopen in the fall. [The Washington Post]

Freedom Hill Park to Recognize Historic Carter Family — As part of an interpretive history project, the Fairfax County Park Authority is inviting the public to a traditional land ceremony and sign dedication at Freedom Hill Park in Vienna on July 31. The new signs will tell the story of the multiracial Carter family, whose accomplishments include establishing the First Baptist Church of Vienna and possibly spying for the Union during the Civil War. [FCPA]

Fairfax County School Board Elects New Chair — The school board unanimously approved Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky as its new chair for the 2021-2022 school year. Board members thanked Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson for her time as chair amid the pandemic and noted she will get some much-deserved time with her family. [FCPS]

Food Trucks Stop by Providence Community Center — “Come by the Providence Community Center tomorrow [July 16] from 11am to 1:30pm for some freshly made empanadas by @empanadasdemza! This will make for a great snack over the weekend so make sure you grab some extra to share with your friends and families!” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

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The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is returning to Tysons Corner Center.

Launched in October 2014, the Hello Kitty trucks are now in their seventh year of traveling around the country to sell themed goodies and collectibles inspired by the Sanrio character. A truck has stopped in Tysons Corner for the last two years and will continue the tradition this year as part of its 2021 East Coast tour, which will also include a stop in Bethesda Row, Md., on March 27.

The truck will appear this Saturday (March 20) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Event Plaza at Tysons Corner Center.

According to a press release, safety protocols will be in place to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19. Customers will be asked to wear a face mask, stay six feet apart from other patrons and staff, wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after coming into contact with frequently touched surfaces, and remain at home if they have a cough or fever.

Staff will wear masks and gloves while in the truck, and regularly touched objects, including counters and payment readers, will be disinfected every 30 minutes.

In addition to bringing back familiar items like giant Hello Kitty Cafe chef cookies and a Cafe lunchbox, this year’s truck will feature some new products and limited-edition collectibles, including:

  • Stainless rainbow thermos
  • Hello Kitty Cafe cookie plush
  • Hand-decorated cookie sets
  • Sprinkle mugs
  • Enamel pin sets in two styles
  • Madeleine cookie sets
  • Hello Kitty Cafe canvas totes

All items are available while supplies last. The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck does not accept cash, only debit and credit payments. More information can be found on their website and Facebook page.

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The novel coronavirus pandemic did not dampen Noel and Jasmine Bourroughs’ first summer running a mobile Kona Ice truck in Fairfax and the City of Falls Church.

In fact, their first season of operating the franchise was so successful they decided to expand. By next March, the couple anticipates opening two more trucks that serve Arlington and McLean.

“It is exciting,” Noel said. “I believe wholeheartedly in the company, and the company and I think it’s going to be a winner. “

For the Bourroughs, who live outside the City of Fairfax, the opportunities to support the community through shaved ice distinguished Kona from the other franchise options they mulled over this spring.

“The more I looked at it, the more I liked it,” Noel said. “The philosophy of the company is fantastic, and owning a business that has the flexibility to give back is satisfying.”

Some jobs limit opportunities for charitable work to allowing employees to participate in a company’s plans, he said. Kona, which has more than 1,600 trucks in 49 states, encourages franchise owners to donate to organizations close to home.

Since the company’s launch in June 2007, it has contributed more than $82 million to community organizations.

“I have the freedom to do as much charity as I can fit into my schedule,” he said.

The Bourroughs pledge to continue the mobile franchise’s tradition of donating thousands of dollars each year to local school groups, teams, and community organizations.

This season, which lasted from July 3 to mid-November, the Bourroughs parked outside an apartment complex at the request of the management and raised money to sponsor a cyclist in a Bike for Multiple Sclerosis event. Another Saturday morning, the couple raised several hundred dollars for two brothers in need of a bone marrow transplant.

“Noel and Jasmine share our commitment to giving back,” Kona Ice founder and president Tony Lamb said in a statement. “They want to have a positive influence on the people in their community, whether it’s new textbooks, sports uniforms or, simply, a smile. We are proud to have them on-board. Together, we are excited to make a difference in the lives of those around us.”

After the season ended two weekends ago, the Bourroughs are in planning mode for next year, although several franchise trucks have switched to cozy winter drinks. He has a good feeling about next season because of the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“If we can get that distributed early in the year, then we should be back on track for a lot of events that were cancelled from this year,” he said. “I’m very enthusiastic about that.”

This season, the truck put up signs reminding people to stay distanced, but the coolest safety-related change was the addition of a self-serve machine that dispenses 10 flavors that customers can mix. Customers insert their spoons into a handle that releases the syrup for a completely touch-free experience.

Those who want to learn more about the Kona Ice of Fairfax or book an event are encouraged to contact the Bourroughs by email at [email protected] or by phone at (703) 953-0114.

Image courtesy Jessica Tcholakov/All Points PR

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(Updated on 11/12/2020) Capital One expects to unveil a 1.2-acre sky park with food trucks, a bar and beer garden, games, a dog run and an amphitheater in time for summer 2021.

Nested on top of the newly open Wegmans grocery store, The Perch is part of the second building to be completed in the 24.25-acre Capital One complex. Two more parts of the project are slated to open in the fall of 2021: the Watermark Hotel and the Capital One Hall.

From The Perch, Capital One Center Managing Director Jonathan Griffith said the public will “view Tysons from a completely different vantage point.”

For him, that perspective applies to the company’s mission to mix employees and Tysons residents.

“We are trying to separate from the notion that this is for only Capital One employees,” he said, citing The Star, a shopping and dining destination inside the Dallas Cowboys’ new training facility in Frisco, Texas, as inspiration.

The Watermark Hotel and two residential buildings will surround the Perch. The 300-room hotel will be managed by B.F. Saul Hospitality, whose flagship property is The Hay-Adams luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Watermark will no longer be one of two hotels on campus, after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a request to change a planned hotel into an office building.

The Watermark Hotel is slated to open next fall, while construction on the residential towers could begin in 10 years, Griffith said.

Until the residential towers go up, semi-permanent installations will “activate the space,” including an old-school double-decker London tour bus and an Airstream converted into food trucks, Griffith said.

From the Sky Park, people can see the glassy Capital One headquarters, completed in 2018, as well as a 30-story office building with two floors of retail.

These developments fit with the trifecta of “live, work and play,” but Griffith said a fourth component, “culture,” is missing.

To fill that gap is Capital One Hall, with a 1,600-seat theater and 250-seat black box theater, as well as vaulted event spaces, large restrooms, plentiful concession areas and an expansive coat room, he said.

Capital One Hall General Manager Jamey Hines described both performance venues as “tight in feeling and room focus, but not uncomfortable.”

“People on the edges have just a good view and the audience won’t feel far away from the performer,” he said.

Having two options impacts the performer, too. “I’ve found that you have to create the room, so people achieve in the room, through seating,” Hines said.

Capital One, Fairfax County, and ARTSFAIRFAX are working together to ensure county agencies and Fairfax County Public Schools get access to 15% of the hall’s bookings at discounted rates. Already, the manager is looking to fill dates for 2022-2023.

Hines has mapped out some events and is gauging what people want to see.

The pandemic has given Capital One Hall more opportunities to be added to a multi-city tour, but he anticipates the Hall will be a bigger destination for one-time shows and productions. Hines encouraged those who are interested in dates to join the email list at capitalonehall.com.

Capital One Hall and The Perch will be open to weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, galas and functions for nonprofits, concerts and speaker series, Capital One Center marketing and community affairs manager Meghan Trossen said.

The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the building pace, now unencumbered by traffic, but the supply chain has been disrupted, impacting shipments of materials and equipment, Griffith says.

Through it all, he said Fairfax County has done “an incredible job” accommodating construction during the pandemic, implementing measures such as inspections via FaceTime to keep employees safe.

Photo courtesy Capital One

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Like so many other local businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic shook up Curbside Kitchen, forcing the food truck management service to rethink its customer appeal.

Before the pandemic, the Tysons-based company centered its mission around building lunchtime communities for office buildings and catering local events. Now as people shy away from social gatherings and are working remotely, Curbside Kitchen’s owner Amy Katz said her team has been working “around the clock” to rethink the company’s marketing and help people in need.

“When I first heard the lights went out on commercial business, I panicked,” Katz said, adding that the team quickly put together a plan of attack for its “new normal.” 

Instead of food trucks as a place to gather and connect, Katz said she sees them as a way for people to safely get affordable, quick and filling food options.

“As we see restaurants go out of business, food trucks are going to become more and more critical,” Katz said. “But I think things are going to change and food trucks have a distinct advantage in the new way of doing business.”

In an effort to help people during the pandemic, Curbside Kitchen also began supporting several organizations to help at-risk community members and minority food truck owners, Katz said.

Called Curbside Cares, the effort helps marginalized groups across the D.C. region.

“It’s been so heartwarming and wonderful to see the food truck owners to get out there and serve the people who are in the most need right now,” Katz said. “It helps us to build our social impact program.”

Community partners include Fuel the Fightwhich collects money through a GoFundMe to feed frontline workers; Nourish Now, which helps to feed families fighting food insecurity; and Shepherd’s Table, which cares for women who are homeless and people in harms way from domestic violence around the D.C. region. 

Fairfax County also works with the company to feed people around the area working in public sanitation. “No one has thought about the waste management people,” Katz said.  

To follow new health codes and best practices, Katz said Curbside Kitchen isn’t taking any risks so its customers can feel safe enjoying their favorite food-truck meals.

“The main priority for us was to make sure they were following very strict COVID-19 health requirements, making sure they were using mobile pay and using [contactless] delivery,” she said. “This isn’t something they were all familiar with having to do.”

Though Katz wants to get back to some type of normal, she also said the food truck industry isn’t out of the woods yet.

“Revenue is down without a doubt,” she said. The business is staying afloat through purchases from biomedical tech companies that still have workers on-site and people ordering multi-family meals.

With meat plants shutting down and the price of ingredients rising, food trucks as a whole face another challenge — food shortages.

Wholesalers around the area have started limiting quantity available to food truck drivers, instituting caps and significantly raising prices, according to Katz.

It isn’t clear yet how trucks will adapt, but Curbside Kitchen’s spokesperson Meghan Tidwell had a more optimistic mindset, saying that as chefs, food truck owners will adapt using any items available.

“They’re just changing up their menus,” Tidwell said. “They’re getting creative and creating menu items from what is out there.”

Photo courtesy Curbside Kitchen

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Though many in-person events are canceled, organizations and businesses are setting up digital events to keep people occupied.

For people interested in on-demand activities, the Fairfax County Park Authority is offering digital classes, scavenger hunts and activities for people of all ages. The Virtual Exploration Center lets people stream workout classes, and each week staffers will introduce a featured activity.

Tuesday (May 5)

Thursday (May 7)

Friday (May 8)

  • Food Truck Friday Pickup Dinner — From 5-8 p.m. at Avalon Tysons Corner (1569 Onyx Drive), Curbside Kitchen is going to offer ready-made meals with no-contact pickup. Foodies who want a change of pace have the opportunity to try a new locally made dish.
  • Adult Game Night on Zoom  The Emmanuel Lutheran Church is hosting a digital game night for the community from 7-8 p.m. People can RSVP and receive a link to play trivia and Jeopardy, the event page said.

Saturday (May 9)

  • Theatrical Teens! Virtual Improv Workshop — From 2-3:30 p.m., kids ages 11-15 can take part in a virtual workshop. Registration is $18, and the event signup can be found online.
  • Virtual UUAM Social Gathering and Farm Tour The Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry in Vienna is offering people a chance to connect with animals digitally from 6:30-8 p.m. thanks to an organization out of Colorado. People might have the chance to e-meet cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, horses, a chukar partridge and a llama, the page said. This event is free but participants must register to receive a Zoom invite.
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Editor’s note: Tysons Reporter will temporarily have “Morning Notes” every weekday instead of twice a week to accommodate more news.

Mental Health Services From FCPS — “Any FCPS parent may schedule a 30-minute phone consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker, for either themselves or their middle or high school student.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

COVID-19 Causes More Event Cancellations in Vienna — “The Town of Vienna has canceled all special events through June 30 and has extended limitations to Town facilities and modifications to some Town services until June 10… The Vienna Farmers Market tentatively plans to open Saturday, June 13.” [Town of Vienna]

Bus Changes Rolling In — “Effective Saturday, April 11, 2020, Fairfax County Department of Transportation will make temporary adjustments to Fairfax Connector bus service.” [Fairfax County]

Newest Spring Hill Stations Project Plans — “The latest plans include a 225-foot-tall building with 378K SF of office space and 20K SF of retail, two apartment towers reaching 270 feet and 215 feet, and a 60-foot-tall building with parking garage, retail and an expansive rooftop park. The 1.6-acre park, called the Galaxy Sports Deck, would include a turf field, two multipurpose courts and a children’s playground.” [Bisnow]

Stop Transporting Yard Waste — “Fairfax County residents are strongly discouraged from taking their yard waste to the I-66 Transfer Station or I-95 Landfill. This will help the county to focus on collecting trash during the pandemic and encourage social distancing.” [Fairfax County]

Food Truck Startup Rolling in the Dough — “The Center for Innovative Technology… announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Tysons, Va.-based Curbside Kitchen, developer of a platform that manages and connects owners of commercial office and multi-family residential buildings with food truck vendors.” [Globe Newswire]

Patch Starts Small Business Guide — “To help local residents navigate what is open and closed in town during the coronavirus crisis, we’ve introduced a simple a small business guide. Businesses have provided their information.” [McLean Patch]

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