Tysons, VA

Not all grocery stores are created equal.

There isn’t exactly a dearth of grocery stores in the area around the planned West Falls Church Economic Development Project, inspiring some confusion when it was announced the project will be anchored by 123,000 square feet of retail primarily consisting of a grocery store.

But at a recent meeting last week on the project, developer EYA argued that the city is big enough to accommodate multiple grocery retailers.

“Within this market, because it’s such a high density area leading towards both to Tysons as well as towards downtown Falls Church, the numbers within that three mile ring is high,” Evan Goldman, executive vice president of acquisition and development for EYA, said. “Even though you do have a lot of grocery stores, you have different types of grocery stores.”

The identity of the grocer expected to move into the extensive mixed-use development remains under wraps, sealed by a nondisclosure agreement, according to City of Falls Church staff.

Goldman noted that some grocery store chains operate as primary stores for staples, while others live symbiotically with those chains as providers for more niche products.

“Like Trader Joe’s, that’s something where somebody will often cross-shop,” Goldman said. “They’ll go to Trader Joe’s and Giant or Whole Foods or Harris Teeter. The grocery store we’re bringing to bear is something more unique and different as well, so it might be something as well where people cross-shop to grocers.”

The cross-shopping trend for grocery stores was called into question during the pandemic, however, when more shoppers started to focus on getting all their grocery needs at a single store. Whether that endures after the pandemic is too early to say.

“Grocery stores, of all the retail tenants, probably have the most sophisticated demographic software when they determine locations,” Goldman said. “So they clearly think there’s demand for their product here, and we agree based on what we’ve seen.”

Final action on the West Falls development — and its mystery tenant — is scheduled for May 24.

Image via City of Falls Church

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The Falls Church City Council will get a staff briefing and presentation during its work session tonight (Monday) on a proposed One City Center mixed-use development just across the street from the still-pending Broad and Washington project.

The discussion is slated for 9:30 p.m., according to the meeting agenda.

Atlantic Realty Companies is proposing an extensive mixed-use apartment building with space for a grocery store and other retail space, as well as commercial and office spaces. The plan includes creating a new traffic circle at the intersection of S. Maple Avenue and W. Annandale Road and designing a Dutch-style “living street” called a “woonerf.”

According to a Falls Church City staff report, Atlantic is proposing to build a development over 4.6 acres at the intersection of W. Broad and S. Washington Streets that features:

  • About 17,500 square feet of ground-floor retail
  • A 26,500-square foot grocery store at the corner of Maple Avenue and Broad Street
  • 13,365 square feet of retail and commercial space on the mezzanine level
  • 43,000 square feet of office space
  • 246 apartment units across six stories, 15 of which will be set aside for affordable housing
  • 9-10 levels of structured parking with 969 spaces

About 75% of the complex will be dedicated to apartment living, leaving 10% for office space and 15% for retail. Atlantic is seeking a special exception from the council to have apartment units in the complex and allow for a 40-foot height bonus, which would bring the building to a maximum of 115 feet.

Atlantic currently owns and manages all the affected properties: the George Mason Square office complex and two-story parking garage, a BB&T Bank, Matt’s Tailor & Bridal Boutique on W. Broad Street, a vacant parcel at the corner of W. Broad Street and S. Maple Ave., and a five-story office building with a surface parking lot.

Atlantic’s commercial program is based on the need for flexibility to help drive foot traffic to the property, Andrew Painter, the developer’s legal representation, said in a letter to the city.

“Traditional format retail has been challenged in recent years by the rise in e-commerce, and COVID-19 has greatly accelerated this trend,” he wrote. “Similarly, the recent increase in virtual meeting services and the escalated pace of technology adoption is having deleterious repercussions on office demand.”

The existing George Mason Square arcade will be removed and replaced with a pedestrian plaza lined with new fast-casual eateries, retailers, and a pedestrian-oriented “woonerf” between the existing and proposed new buildings that may be periodically closed for special events and fairs, according to Painter’s letter.

This “woonerf” will have “high-quality pavers, overhead accent lighting, landscaping, hardscape treatments, and parallel parking for adjacent retailers,” he said.

Painter wrote that these changes will “anchor the project’s eastern entry, activate George Mason Square’s ground floor area, and provide an updated, modern signature asset to the City’s rapidly evolving downtown.”

He noted that Atlantic is proposing a 30 by 40-foot exterior visual screen, which can be used for “screen on the green” events or coverage of live city events.

Painter added that it “will also keep the George Mason Square development competitive from an aesthetic perspective which, in turn, will energize the Applicant’s leasing program and drive tenant demand.”

The grocery store, he said, will be “a new entrant to the City’s grocery store market.”

As for transportation, the project will include a proposed mid-block crossing and a high-intensity activated crosswalk signal on W. Broad Street.

Painter said the proposed traffic circle will “provide a safer intersection for pedestrians and will, in conjunction with the new public park on the Triangle Parking Lot, transform the intersection into a more attractive urban gateway.”

Photos via Falls Church City 

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The Safeway grocery store on Chain Bridge Road in McLean will soon be no more.

Tysons Reporter received several tips from readers about the impending closure after “going out of business” signs advertising sales popped up last week at the Safeway located at 1330 Chain Bridge Road.

A Safeway spokeswoman confirmed that the store is expected to close on April 30.

This is the only store that Safeway is closing in its mid-Atlantic division, which includes Virginia, D.C., Maryland, and Delaware, says Safeway Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Beth Goldberg.

“Closing a store is always a tough decision, but we sometimes have to make those decisions so we can invest appropriately in other areas of our business,” she said. “Like all retailers, we are constantly evaluating our store portfolio and look at every angle of the business. This includes our real estate.”

The parent company, Albertsons, will still have 111 Safeway stores in the D.C. area after this one closes, she said.

“We have no immediate plans to close any other locations,” she said.

A Lidl will be taking its place.

DMV-area retail-only real estate brokerage firm H&R Retail, which owns the Safeway property on Chain Bridge Road, now lists the German supermarket chain as a tenant. The chain, which is expanding its footprint in Northern Virginia, is known for its low prices.

Lidl spokesperson Chandler Ebeier confirmed to Tysons Reporter that the grocery retailer “will be opening a store in this location in the future, but it is too early to offer specifics at this time.”

“We look forward to serving the community in the future,” he said.

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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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Easter is usually the busiest time of year for the Polish Market in Vienna, but this year, the family-owned grocery store couldn’t invite customers inside and instead offered curbside pick-up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oskar Skrzeszewski, who helps his parents run the business, told Tysons Reporter that they had to “do a 360” with operations when the pandemic hit.

“We were one of the first stores to implement safety glass in the beginning of the pandemic,” Skrzeszewski said. “We soon realized this wasn’t enough and we had to close the store completely to foot traffic. We operated on a curbside pick basis only, which was extremely difficult since we’ve never done anything like that before.”

Located at 431 Maple Ave W., the market has served Polish customers and people of Polish heritage for six years, selling pierogis, kielbasa, cabbage rolls, packzi, beer, New York cheesecakes and more, Skrzeszewski said.

The last few months have taken a toll on the business by completely changing its operations and taking a financial hit.

“Our revenues are about 30% down and we have fewer customers coming into the store,” Skrzeszewski said.

At the start of the pandemic in Northern Virginia, Skrzeszewski said that they had trouble finding personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, but eventually were able to order gallons of hand sanitizer from a company. Masks were also hard to come by, but customers who worked in the medical field were able to help.

Currently, customers can only access about half of the store and safety glass is everywhere inside. The limited capacity has led to a dramatic decrease in the shelf space.

“We have to pick and choose the items we order a lot more carefully now,” Skrzeszewski said.

Despite the inconvenience, the Skrzeszewski said shoppers seem to be taking the public health measures well: “Our customers have been tremendously supportive and we’re very grateful for that.”

Over the last few months, Skrzeszewski said he’s seen consumer demand change a little as more shoppers stock up on kielbasa, beer and mustard for barbecues and camping.

Elsewhere in Vienna, a new small grocery store is also working to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Owner Rami El-Hasrouni told Tysons Reporter he was glad he converted Bey Lounge into the LB Food Market (303 NE Mill Street) in late 2019 after the lounge got in trouble multiple times over the Town of Vienna’s noise ordinance.

The market sells Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food and is right next door to Wooden Bakery. Both stores are operated by D.C.-based Woodfire Brands.

After deciding to end the lifespan of Bey Lounge, he decided to expand the small market that was in the bakery into its own concept

While he’s glad that he doesn’t have to worry about how the former restaurant and club would have stayed open during the pandemic, he said the grocery store transition has been tough.

El-Hasrouni said he was already in the process of rebuilding his customer base for the small supermarket — “Everybody is used to this location as a restaurant with nightlife, not a grocery location” — before the pandemic hit.

Night club aside, the location doesn’t help either.

“We are in a hidden location,” he said. “Nobody expects a grocery store to be in the warehouse district. That’s the toughest part for us. If we’re on the main street, people walking by them might see us.”

For the grocery shoppers the store has attracted so far, El-Hasrouni said that the fresh pita bread is the big draw. Shoppers can also find Mediterranean specialty items, like Lebanese olive oil, spinach cheese pies and homemade hummus, along with standard groceries: milk, eggs, vegetables.

Even though LB Market is essentially an expanded version of the grocery section in Wood Bakery, El-Hasrouni is hopeful that the name “is something new” that will also catch people’s attention.

As the pandemic continues, El-Hasrouni said he’s working to get online ordering available on the website, along with mailing people coupons and flyers to help spread the word.

Photos (1-2) via Polish Market/Facebook, photo (3) via LB Food Market/Facebook

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Lidl’s recently announced expansion along the East Coast includes a new store in Merrifield Plaza.

Lidl announced yesterday that it plans to open 50 stores stretching from Delaware to South Carolina by the end of 2021 and close two stores in North Carolina. The Merrifield Plaza location, which Rosenthal Properties announced in June, is among the seven new stores coming to Virginia.

Lidl will take over the 30,000 square-foot space (2901 Gallows Road) currently occupied by Office Depot when the office supply retailer’s lease ends on Dec. 31, Billy Orlove, Rosenthal’s leasing director, told Tysons Reporter.

In addition to the upcoming exit from Merrifield, Office Depot is shuttering dozens of locations through the end of 2021. Lidl will join Korean-American supermarket chain H Mart at the shopping center at the intersection of Gallows Road and Lee Hwy.

“Lidl will bring additional fresh choices, convenient shopping and great savings to the community,” Jane Le, one of the leasing associates who represented Rosenthal in bringing Lidl to Merrifield Plaza, said.

Originally established in Germany, Lidl has grown its international footprint since the 1970s and now has more than 11,000 stores in 32 countries. In 2015, the discount grocery chain opened its U.S. headquarters in Arlington.

With the expansion, Lidl said in the announcement that it plans to invest more than $500 million in the new stores and create 2,000 new jobs.

Currently, Lidl’s closest stores to the Tysons area include ones in Fairfax and Springfield.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge/Unsplash

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As Virginia rolls back COVID-19 restrictions, stores and services are returning in Tysons.

The Boro has been sharing on its social media accounts when retailers and restaurants in the development have reopened.

According to The Boro’s Facebook page, businesses that have opened their doors again include:

Tysons Reporter verified that the stores listed above have reopened.

Whole Foods has outdoor seating on the ground level and reopened its coffee bar, according to The Boro. The grocery store’s website says that it’s offering shopping hours from 7-8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for customers ages 60+, at high-risk of severe COVID-19 complications or with disabilities.

F45, which has been hosting outdoor boot camps in Boro Park, is planning to reopen on Saturday, June 20, according to a Facebook post from the gym.

“The waiting area and 10ft ‘workout boxes’ have been marked out, and all our trainers have been trained in all safety and sanitization protocols,” the post said.

In addition to the reopenings, the development also recently welcomed a new business: Colour Bar Studio. The salon opened June 2 at The Loft (1640 Boro Place, Suite 204).

The salon is run by a mom and her two daughters, along with nine other employees, according to the business.

Services include hair extensions, coloring and styling. All of the employees are wearing face masks and disinfecting equipment after each client, according to the business. The studio is open by appointment-only.

Photo by Gordon Beall, courtesy Colour Bar Studio

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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.

Grocery Stores Implement New Measures — “Three grocery store chains with locations in Falls Church announced this week plans to introduce stricter precautionary measures to avoid the potential spread of the coronavirus. Giant Food, Harris Teeter and Safeway will all now limit the amount of customers allowed in the store at one time.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax Fire Crew Member Tests Positive for COVID-19 — “A member of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual began feeling sick on March 18 and was tested for COVID-19 eight days later. This week the test came back as positive. The individual experienced mild symptoms and is recovering.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Local Virginia ABC Store Closing — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) will consolidate its retail operations in Northern Virginia, which continues to be one of the most impacted regions of the commonwealth during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.” Starting April 13, the store at  8150 Leesburg Pike Suite 110 will close. [Inside NoVa]

Guidelines for Vienna Public Hearings — “Town Council will meet, with members attending in-person and electronically, at 8 pm Monday, April 13… The April 13 meeting agenda includes two public hearings related to the fiscal year 2020-21 budget.” [Town of Vienna]

COVID-19 Business Survey — The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has a survey that ends today at 5 p.m. that asks businesses about the coronavirus impacts. [Survey Monkey]

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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.

Local Paper Looking for Help — The Falls Church News-Press has been asking for donations from $25-$5,000 to help keep the paper operating under the COVID-19 pandemic. [Falls Church News-Press]

How One Local Faith Group is Adapting — “The ongoing COVID-19 public-health crisis has caused many organizations to regroup. Among them is Arlington/McLean Young Life Capernaum, which works with young people with special needs.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Students’ Research Lauded — “Emily Sun and Abigail Xu, students at Langley High School, have been selected as the 2020 recipients of the STEM Excellence Award bestowed by the McLean area branch of the American Association of University Women.” [Inside NoVa]

Shopper Limits at Harris Teeter — “Kroger Co. will limit the number of shoppers it allows in each of its stores across the country — including its Harris Teeter-branded stores — beginning Tuesday…The standard grocery store building capacity is one person per 60 square feet. Kroger will now limit capacity to one person per 120 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Falls Church Officials Mull COVID-19 Impacts — “Although it is only a very preliminary assessment, the City’s chief financial officer Kiran Bawa presented to the Council two possible scenarios for the fiscal conditions facing the City, moderate and a severe estimates, with one having the City losing $1.3 to $3.9 million in revenues below earlier projections in the last four months of the current fiscal year, and $5.5 to $8.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 that begins July 1.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Severe Thunderstorms Possible — “Isolated severe storms are possible late this afternoon and evening for locations near and to the south and west of the Potomac River. Damaging winds and large hail are the primary threats. There is an isolated threat for severe thunderstorms overnight across the entire area.” [National Weather Service]

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In response to the novel coronavirus, several local stores are offering special shopping hours for seniors and high-risk customers.

We’ve rounded up what we know so far about these hours, although some grocers have not defined the age minimum for being classified as a “senior.”

Here’s the latest update on specialized shopping hours for seniors and high-risk people:

  • Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market: First hour of shopping every day
  • Target: First hour of shopping on Wednesdays
  • Whole Foods: (Vienna, Idylwood Plaza and Tysons): people ages 60 and older can shop at 7 a.m. before the stores open at 8 a.m.
  • Safeway: 7-9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, per a store representative
  • Harris Teeter: 6-7 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays for people ages 60 and older
  • Giant: People age 60 and older or with compromised immune systems between 6-7 a.m.
  • Walgreens: Tuesdays from 8-9 a.m., also open to caregivers and immediate families
  • Trader Joe’s: Mondays from 9-10 a.m.
  • Walmart (1500 Cornerside Blvd in Tysons): will open at 6 a.m. for seniors on Tuesday, March 24
  • The Fresh Market: seniors and immuno-compromised people can shop 8-9 a.m. every day at all locations

Additionally, some stores are offering in-person and online express lanes for seniors:

“Harris Teeter will designate ExpressLane Online Shopping pick-up times from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for seniors only every Thursday until further notice and will waive the $4.95 fee & offer $5 delivery for seniors during these times,” according to the grocery store chain.

“Every day between 9-10 a.m., crew members will maintain an additional line outside the front door for our senior customers,” according to Trader Joe’s website. “This will ensure that those customers in need will have an expedited entrance to the store to help make their experience a more positive one.”

Ashley Hopko and Catherine Douglas Moran contributed reporting

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