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The local business Lambmowers has a flock of sheep that will eat your grass for hire (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

An eco-friendly alternative to lawn-mowing in the shape of teddy-bear-like four-legged creatures has arrived in Fairfax County.

The Fairfax-based LambMowers uses a flock of roughly 11 sheep to mow lawns in the county. Cory Suter, who graduated with a phD in economics, jump-started the company in order to allow sheep to eat weeds instead of poisoning the soil and ecosystem with herbicides.

“One of many things I learned through my studies is that modern society was treating the soil and clean water upon which all life depends like it was dirt,” Suter said. “Rotational grazing on Silvopasture land is one great way of building back dark carbon-rich soil, a rapidly depleting resource. Suburbs with their mix of trees and grass can be very effective at sequestering carbon when managed thoughtfully.”

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Morning Notes

Mistrial Declared in Sexual Abuse Case Against Former Thoreau MS Teacher — A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury acquitted Matthew Snell on one count of inappropriate sexual relations with a teenager after 13 hours of deliberation. The jury failed to reach a verdict on two other charges, likely prompting a retrial. [The Washington Post]

Tysons Auto Investment Company Sold — Investment firm Ares Management Corp. closed a $3.8 billion deal yesterday (Thursday) to acquire Capital Automotive Real Estate Services Inc., which gives financing to automobile dealers for buying new locations and upgrading facilities. Based at 8484 Westpark Drive, the company has recently been selling land that it owns for the Dominion Square West development. [Washington Business Journal]

Tysons Steakhouse Plans Second Fairfax County Location — The Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão plans to open a new location in Reston Town Center this spring. The company’s restaurant outside of Tysons Galleria is the only one it currently has in Northern Virginia. [Reston Now]

Funding Recommended for Local Transportation Projects — The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board approved a $7.2 million plan on Wednesday (Feb. 16) to support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure upgrades. The recommendations include the Vienna Metro station bicycle improvements and Shrevewood Elementary School Safe Routes to Schools project requested by Fairfax County. [WTOP]

Vienna Nepali Restaurant Gets Thumbs Up — “You will not find a dish quite like Royal Nepal Bistro’s fulbari naan in its homeland. Yes, co-owner Sunil Chaudhary says that the breads in parts of southern Nepal are sweet, but this creation exists only in Vienna.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 9 a.m.) Bill Ending School Mask Mandates Signed — Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed legislation yesterday (Wednesday) letting parents opt their children out of mask requirements, adding an emergency clause that sets a deadline of March 1. Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement to Tysons Reporter that it’s reviewing what this means for the district, which sued to keep its mandate. [Patch]

Wind Advisory Takes Effect Tonight — The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, that will be in effect from 10 p.m. today (Thursday) to 10 a.m. tomorrow. The alert warns that winds could reach 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, potentially blowing down tree limbs and creating power outages. [NWS]

Tysons Area Schools to Hold Graduations in D.C. — Langley, Madison, Marshall, and McLean high schools will have graduation ceremonies at DAR Constitution Hall on May 31 and June 1 after the events were previously moved due to D.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement, which ended Tuesday (Feb. 15). FCPS said the rule “would have prevented a number of students and families from attending.” [WTOP]

Seven Corners to Get New Fire Station — Fire Station 28 personnel moved to temporary quarters yesterday as Fairfax County prepares to tear the existing station down and build a new one in its place. The new building will have two levels and 13,500 square feet of space, and the current estimated occupancy is mid-2024. [FCFRD/Twitter]

Vienna Inn Named Top 10 “Lovable” Dive Bar — DC Eater ranked the longtime Town of Vienna staple as the 10th most lovable dive bar in the D.C. area: “Around since 1960, this Northern Virginia neighborhood institution is famous for its chili dogs and its convivial vibe. During the pandemic, the chill bar debuted curbside takeout, delivery, and heated outdoor seating.” [DC Eater]

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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.”

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Morning Notes

IBM and Chima buildings at Towers Crescent in Tysons (photo by Phil Foss/Novafoto.co)

Fairfax County Leader Criticizes Senate Vote on Masks — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said he’s “deeply disappointed” in the Virginia Senate for passing a bill that would let parents opt out of school mask requirements, arguing that it usurps local school boards’ authority. He says local officials have asked the governor to work with them on “an offramp” for when to stop using masks but “have not received any response to that suggestion.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

I-66 West Ramp to Vienna Metro Reopens — The ramp from westbound I-66 to the Vienna Metro Station, via an exit to Country Creek Road and Virginia Center Boulevard, has reopened to traffic after an extended closure that began on Jan. 21. The closure was needed for utility work related to the project to extend the I-66 Express Lanes from I-495 in Dunn Loring. [VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter]

Park Authority Highlights History of Freedom Hill — “Drive through busy Tysons, Virginia, and the traffic, buildings and construction make it hard to imagine the place as anything but a busy urban center. But did you know that it was once a rural community made up of free Black Fairfax County citizens?” [FCPA]

Tysons Company Faces Facial Recognition Concerns — “Two days after the Internal Revenue Service said it would transition away from using facial recognition for taxpayers to access certain IRS documents online after a wave of privacy complaints, Tysons, Virginia-based ID.me said it would make the use of ‘selfies’ optional for all of its government clients.” [WTOP]

Farmers’ Market Managers Sought — The Fairfax County Park Authority is currently recruiting volunteers to manage its 10 farmers markets, including a McLean market that will operate from May 6 to Nov. 11 at Lewinsville Park (1659 Chain Bridge Road). The market managers provide on-site support by setting up supplies, enforcing rules, answering questions, and helping with vendor selection and community outreach. [FCPA]

Photo courtesy novafoto.co

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Morning Notes

Robert Cole’s sculpture “The Thought” in Tysons West (photo by Phil Foss)

ACLU of Virginia Sues Over Optional Mask Order — The civil rights organization filed a lawsuit against Gov. Glenn Youngkin yesterday (Tuesday), saying that his executive order making face masks optional in schools “shows a reckless disregard for students with disabilities.” The move comes as Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for a hearing in its joint lawsuit in Arlington County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. today (Wednesday). [WUSA9]

County Launches Black History Project — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and public school system are collaborating on a Black/African American Experience Project to capture, share, and preserve those aspects of the county’s history. The effort includes collecting oral histories, supporting student activities and research, and identifying options for new historical markers. [Fairfax County Government]

Tysons Software Company Expands — “Tysons’ Appian Corp. has been on a fierce hiring spree, and now it’s adding more space to accommodate those new employees. The low-code software company, which has seen demand for its products grow during the pandemic, is taking on two additional floors at its headquarters in the former Gannett building at 7950 Jones Branch Drive.” [Washington Business Journal]

Funding Approved for Vienna Stream Restoration — “The second phase of the Bear Branch stream-restoration project in Vienna will move forward, following unanimous approval Jan. 25 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The project…is designed to reduce nutrients and bolster water quality in the Accotink Creek watershed.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Offers Hiring Bonus to Bus Drivers — “Metro is offering up to a $2,500 pay incentive as part of a new campaign to hire more bus drivers. Metro, like transit agencies and other industries nationwide, is facing a staffing shortage due to the pandemic and is looking to hire nearly 70 bus drivers needed to meet the current bus service schedule.” [WMATA]

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Morning Notes

Clothing Stores to Fill Former L.L. Bean — The now-closed L.L. Bean at Tysons Corner Center will be divided into smaller parts, including a two-story store for the fast fashion chain Primark. Plans indicate that Old Navy and Lululemon Athletica will also relocate to new spaces, leaving about 10,000 square feet left for other tenants. [Washington Business Journal]

Firefighters Flock to Woodson High School — “An early morning fire on damaged at least one building in Fairfax County Public Schools’ Woodson Complex off of Main Street on the eastern border of Fairfax City on Sunday. The complex is home to the school district’s Office of Facilities Management, which houses FCPS’ central operations, grounds operations, receiving, and food service.” [Patch]

FCPS Recognizes More Religious Holidays — The Fairfax County School Board approved a calendar for the 2022-2023 school year that designates Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Diwali, and Orthodox Good Friday as student holidays. The year will start on Aug. 22, and Veterans Day is also now a student holiday and staff work day. [FCPS]

Tysons-Based ID.me Partners with IRS — “You’ll soon have to prove your identity to a Virginia-based security company called ID.me in order to file a return, check tax records, or make payments on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. Your old username and password credentials–if they still work–will stop working in the summer of 2022.” [Fast Company]

GMU Changes COVID-19 Vaccine Policy — George Mason University students are now “strongly encouraged,” rather than required, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after new Attorney General Jason Miyares said on Friday (Jan. 28) that state universities can’t mandate the vaccine without enabling legislation. About 96% of the university’s students are vaccinated. [The Washington Post]

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Just off Broad Street in Falls Church, hordes of the verminous Skaven and humans of The Empire fight tooth and nail over a damned city.

On other nights, newcomers can be found learning Magic: The Gathering tricks from wizened masters. Since the 1980s, local adventurers have rallied to go on quests in Dungeons and Dragons and more obscure tabletop games.

After this weekend, the battles and revelry inside The Compleat Strategist (103 East Broad Street) will go silent for good, as the tabletop gaming store shuts down to make way for a Whole Foods-anchored mixed-use development.

The store is closing for good on Saturday (Jan. 23), with all goods now going for 80% off. Much of the inventory is already depleted, but there are still treasures buried among the codexes and outdated rulebooks for those who know what to look for.

The Compleat Strategist manager Adam Fukumitsu says the store has gotten many well wishes since the closure was announced late last month. A lot of patrons have asked how has business been, expecting the store must have been seeing difficulties, but Fukumitsu said that isn’t the case.

“Business has been rocking for two years,” Fukumitsu said. “It was a ghost town last March, but it started coming back by May.”

According to Fukumitsu, after a month or two of quarantine, tabletop gaming saw a surge as locals looked for new activities to keep them sane through lockdown. Board games saw a boost in popularity, and online gaming sites like Roll20 boosted the sale of physical books for players.

“On top of that, D&D came back like a rocket starting in 2015,” Fukumitsu said. “Now, everybody has a D&D group.”

The store opened as Strategy and Fantasy World in 1977 and was bought by the New York-based, family-owned The Compleat Strategist in the 1980s. Fukumitsu has worked at the store since 2013, becoming a manager in 2015.

He says the store being pushed out by redevelopment wasn’t exactly a surprise.

“It was a train we’ve seen coming for a decade now,” Fukumitsu said. “We first heard of it in 2011, but there’ve been weird delays over the years…In 2019 we heard it was going forward and there was a lot of weird push and pull.”

Fukumitsu said at one point the property was eyed for development by Todd Hitt before the real estate scion was arrested and found guilty of being involved in a real estate Ponzi scheme.

In addition to hosting the sale, The Compleat Strategist is commemorating its impending closure with tabletop battles. As more retail moves to digital storefronts, Fukumitsu says the sense of community that gamers can find at brick-and-mortar stores will be difficult to replace.

“The community has been figuring out where they go now,” Fukumitsu said.

Now, he says local gaming groups have plans to go around to peoples’ homes, and one player has talked about getting access to a company-owned warehouse to play.

“We’re getting hit at both ends by Amazon,” Fukumitsu joked. “They’re both eating our lunch in sales and now kicking us off the property…but less online is that play space. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

Marc Forbes started visiting the store as a gaming enthusiast before he became an employee in 2016.

“My entire social life was tied up in this place,” Forbes said. “We’re going to try to keep that going after it closes, but it’s going to be harder… I’m really going to miss this place.”

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Earl Green, the executive chef at 29 Diner, plates an order at the Vienna Moose Lodge (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

As the 29 Diner recovers from a devastating fire in the fall, a community organization in Vienna has teamed up with the historic Fairfax restaurant’s cooking staff to revamp its menu and run catering and charitable campaigns.

The Vienna Moose Lodge #1896 welcomed the diner’s executive chef, Earl Green, to work on Monday (Jan. 10) in a temporary setup to provide meals to lodge members through events like all-you-can-eat breakfasts on Sunday mornings.

“Most of the members who are on the board have been into the diner at one time or another in the last 10, 20 years,” the lodge’s president, Dan Sullivan, said. “I’ve been going there since I was in high school.”

The collaboration began when lodge board member Scott Flesch reached out to 29 Diner owner John Wood in the wake of the fire that destroyed the diner’s kitchen two days before Thanksgiving.

Wood said the kitchen was a total loss, but his insurance company gave him the go-ahead to proceed with a rebuild. Work will require gutting and reconstructing the kitchen, and the dining room needs fire, soot, and heat remediation.

“Our community just has rallied around us in support,” Wood said.

Local teachers started a GoFundMe that raised over $60,000 in 30 days, and the Salvation Army delivered a mobile kitchen to the restaurant at 10:30 a.m. the next day after the fire.

The business has provided 100,000 free meals over the last two years to the community, including those living in domestic violence shelters, health care workers, and veterans, Wood said.

Through the new partnership, the Vienna Moose Lodge — a fraternal organization that provides social events for members and supports philanthropic groups — has hired Wood and Green as paid workers. Four other diner staff members will also get interim work.

The diner had been using the Salvation Army’s mobile cooking unit temporarily to run operations, but it needed something more stable.

Wood expressed appreciation for the lodge’s support. He will run his catering business out of its hall at 9616 Courthouse Road in Vienna starting this month as part of a rental agreement.

He also plans to continue campaigns recognizing community heroes, such as an ongoing a suicide prevention effort.

As for 29 Diner’s Fairfax Boulevard location, Woods hopes to reopen on July 20, which would coincide with the diner’s 75th anniversary.

Meanwhile, the lodge has welcomed the temporary staff to its kitchen after previously relying on volunteers.

“We’re looking forward to some different foods,” Sullivan said, noting that his favorites from 29 Diner include shrimp and grits and a dish with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and pork chops. “In the end, hopefully he will show us and the new staff that we’ll eventually hire in the future to continue…his good food going forward.”

Founded in 1958, the Vienna Moose Lodge is part of the Moose International Fraternity, which started in 1888 in Louisville, Kentucky, and now has over 1 million members across 1,500 lodges in the U.S., Canada, and Britain.

The Vienna lodge has seen a significant growth in membership in recent months, adding 122 members since April to reach 405 people, according to Sullivan.

“I can anticipate we’ll sign up some new members just because John has come to help us,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Fairfax Connector Plans Regular Service — “In anticipation of more winter weather and snowy conditions overnight, Fairfax Connector will operate regular service on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Fairfax Connector officials want to remind passengers to check their route-specific information before heading out because detours on individual routes will be in effect in anticipation of poor road conditions.” [FCDOT]

Metrobus to Follow Moderate Snow Plan Today — “In a moderate snow service plan, service on some routes is suspended and detours will be in effect on certain routes to avoid areas prone to hazardous conditions such as hilly terrain and narrow streets. Approximately 119 out of 183 routes will operate. Bus supervisors will assess roads overnight to ensure they are safe for bus operations.” [WMATA]

Tysons Mass Vaccine Site Closed — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is closing five of its Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) on Friday, January 7, 2022, due to expected inclement weather with some areas of the state expected to see several inches of snow.” [VDH]

County Tweaks COVID-19 Protocols — “Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District, the Health Department will no longer provide individuals with clearance letters to return to work or school following COVID-19 infection or exposure. The agency will also stop providing written communications that exclude people from work or school due to illness or exposure.” [FCHD]

Tysons Area Ramen Offerings Highlighted — Northern Virginia Magazine recommends Jinya Ramen Bar, which has locations in the Mosaic District and Reston, and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka at The Boro for those craving a unique ramen bowl. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Get Advice from Tysons Business Leader — “Aspiring entrepreneurs can get start-up tips from Pallabi Saboo, CEO of Tysons-based Harmonia Holdings Group during the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s next Entrepreneurship 101 virtual workshop on Tuesday, January 11.” [FCEDA]

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