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Morning Notes

FCPS Shares Plan for Easing Covid Rules — Amid mounting pressure from the state, Fairfax County Public Schools says it will make masks optional when COVID-19 transmission in the county reaches moderate levels and remains there for seven consecutive days. Masks will still be required for people who aren’t fully vaccinated. [FCPS]

Fairfax County Seeks to Address Language Barriers — With Fairfax County now boasting a “majority-minority” population, officials released a report last month on how to better serve the nearly 40% of households where residents speak a language other than English. Recommendations included creating a language access team in the county’s public affairs office and devoting more funds to translation technology. [Inside NoVA]

Inova Leases More Space in Merrifield — “The Falls Church-based nonprofit has signed a lease at 8260 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive in Fairfax near its flagship hospital. There, Inova will take over 48,000 square feet in two of the building’s eight floors to open four medical practices…The clinics will house pediatric rehabilitation and cardiology services, and pre- and post-operative evaluations and consultations.” [Washington Business Journal]

California Cybersecurity Company Adds Tysons Subsidary — Cloud security company Zscaler announced on Friday (Feb. 4) that has created a government-focused subsidiary called Zscaler U.S. Government Solutions. The Tysons headquarters will accommodate 75 employees “to support agencies and their systems integration partners.” [Executive Biz]

See Performers’ View of Capital One Hall — “Ready for the big stage? Take the walk from green room to main theater from the performers perspective and explore the unique spaces Capital One Hall has to offer!” [Capital One Hall/Twitter]

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A fledgling company almost as young as the toddlers and other kids it seeks to outfit is opening a store in Merrifield this month.

LooLous is opening at the Mosaic District next to the clothing store South Moon Under. The company’s owner, Savin Ghaderi, told Tysons Reporter that it will officially open next Monday (Feb. 7).

The business formed last October but kicked off social media campaigns on Instagram and Facebook in 2020. Its website features clothing and items for purchase, with shipping taking one to two business days in the D.C. region.

“Growing up in the area, and operating as a small business, we wanted to do our part to contribute to our local economy, while providing a seamless shopping experience for every consumer — in particular busy moms who are looking for unique, fun pieces for their little ones,” Ghaderi said in an email.

The brand features cardigans and jackets, accessories such as Paris berets and dresses for kids as young as babies.

This will be its first brick-and-mortar store.

“Mosaic District was the ideal location for us as it allows us to provide our consumers with a boutique shopping experience that is exclusive yet also accessible,” Ghaderi also wrote.

The store is where the jewelry shop Alex and Ani was located before it closed the District Avenue location in 2020.

LooLous will have a grand opening event on Feb. 12 that will include refreshments, light snacks and raffles for all.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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(Updated at on 2/14/2022) The doughnuts on display at Bubble Mochi in Vienna are recognizably doughnuts.

They’re adorned with frosting and toppings like sprinkles or cookie crumbles, depending on the flavor, and they come in a familiar ring shape, even if it more closely resembles a pearl necklace than a wedding band.

However, a bite reveals lighter, chewier consistency that’s entirely different from the treats peddled by the Dunkin’ Donuts just two blocks west on Maple Avenue.

Located at 155B Maple Avenue West, Bubble Mochi sells bubble tea, yogurt smoothies, slushies, coffee, and macrons in addition to its signature doughnuts. It takes the place of Gem Tea, a cafe that had bubble milk tea and Asian street food.

It is currently in the midst of a soft opening, but a more official grand opening is expected to come in February, an employee told Tysons Reporter.

The bakery will also add new flavors in the coming weeks. Options available on a visit this past Saturday (Jan. 22) ranged from chocolate and raspberry to black sesame, soy bean, and cookies ‘n cream.

The current hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Bubble Mochi isn’t the area’s only purveyor of mochi doughnuts, which derive their unique flavor from the same glutinous rice flour that goes into the Japanese rice cake.

A chain called Mochinut boasts locations in the U.S., South Korean, and Thailand, including a shop in Annandale and one in Centreville that appears to have opened in October.

Correction: This article previously conflated Bubble Mochi with Donutchew, a different mochi doughnut franchise that is also planning to open a store in Vienna.

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Though construction has yet to begin, Vienna’s 444 Maple Ave. mixed-use development appears to be in negotiations to secure its first tenants.

According to a property brochure on its project webpage, New Jersey-headquartered Hekemian & Co. plans to add the pizza chain Mellow Mushroom, restaurant Tom Yum Thai, and Gloss Nails to the development, which will take the place of the now-shuttered Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel and Tequila Grande.

The marketing sheet indicates that the businesses are “at lease,” but none appear to have officially signed yet.

Mellow Mushroom, which serves custom-made pies, gluten-free crusts, burgers, vegan options, and more, is expected to occupy the site’s largest space at 5,129 square feet.

A Mellow Mushroom marketing executive didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s unclear if the business will be corporate-owned, like its Herndon location, or a franchise, like the one in Chantilly.

Gloss Nails has been inked in for a 2,000 square-foot space, and Tom Yum Thai’s space is 1,424 square feet in size.

Tom Yum Thai had occupied ground-floor space in the office building at 226 Maple Avenue West for seven years, but it abruptly closed on Dec. 26. Tysons Reporter was unable to get in contact with the management team for comment by publication time.

Three commercial spaces are still listed as available. There’s also a 2,000-square-foot space listed as having a letter of intent. A leasing representative didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

A chain-link fence still stands around the Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel and Tequila Grande. The business said last summer that demolition work could begin in the fall of 2021. A demolition permit was issued Wednesday (Jan. 19) by Fairfax County.

Approved despite some resident opposition in October 2018, the development project will replace the vacated hotel and restaurant at the Nutley Street corner with a multistory building featuring courtyards, a pool, dog wash, ground-floor retail, and 151 multifamily rental units.

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An ad for Johns Hopkins Community Physicians’ upcoming McLean primary care office hangs in Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is expanding into Fairfax County.

The school’s community physicians network will open a primary care office in McLean in February, Carolyn Carpenter, president for the Johns Hopkins Health System in the National Capital Region, confirmed to Tysons Reporter.

With the goal of bringing health care services to local neighborhoods, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians operates more than 40 medical practices in Maryland and D.C., but this will be the group’s first location in Virginia.

“Access to care, especially primary care, continues to be needed in our communities,” Carpenter said by email. “…The Johns Hopkins Community Physicians practice will provide comprehensive care to community members who live and work in Tysons Corner and the surrounding areas.”

Located in Suite 300 in the McLean Gateway office building at 6849 Old Dominion Drive, the 8,000 square-foot practice will have 12 exam rooms and provide adult primary care, specialty, and ancillary services, including lab services, electrocardiograms (EKGs), and COVID-19 testing.

Patients will be able to choose between in-person and video visits. Like Johns Hopkins’ other facilities, the new office will require face masks and have a COVID-19 vaccination mandate in place for employees and medical staff, among other protocols.

According to Carpenter, the office will initially be staffed by two primary care physicians, including Dr. Marwah Tareen, who has been seeing patients at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians on I Street in D.C. since summer 2021.

The staff is expected to expand in subsequent months. Gynecologic oncology providers, for example, will come on board in the spring.

Carpenter says Johns Hopkins wanted to expand into Virginia through McLean because of its proximity to Tysons as an employment hub.

“Establishing this practice also aligns with development efforts for Johns Hopkins Health System’s National Capital Region by expanding access to services offered by Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. and Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md.,” she wrote.

The Johns Hopkins practice joins a growing number of new health care facilities seeking to serve the booming Tysons area.

Heale Medical opened a primary care practice near the Chain Bridge Road and Leesburg Pike interchange in September, and Reston Hospital Center is building a new emergency room that’s expected to open this spring.

In addition, Inova Health Systems recently introduced a cancer screening and prevention center to its Schar Cancer Institute in Merrifield. The Saville center is currently only open to breast cancer patients, but an expansion is anticipated in the next few months, a Schar employee told Tysons Reporter.

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Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream in Arlington’s Westover neighborhood (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream is looking at opening a new location in Vienna at Cedar Park Shopping Center (280 Cedar Lane SE).

Located in Arlington’s Westover neighborhood, the ice cream shop drew attention last year for selling cicada-inspired sundaes.

The business and a representative for the shopping plaza didn’t immediately respond to inquiries for details about the new Vienna spot, but a county permit database shows a vacant space is being modified for the local mainstay.

According to the database, Toby’s Ice Cream will have a location in the plaza with a commercial kitchen, merchandise area, and dining area.

The Washington Business Journal reported last week that the space will allow an occupancy of nearly 30 people with a dining area of about 148 square feet.

Toby’s in Arlington was closed for the holidays from Dec. 23 to yesterday (Jan. 4).

Cedar Park Shopping Center is turning into a new hot spot for foodies in Vienna. The Japanese restaurant Sushi Koji opened to customers in mid-December, while America’s Best Wings and the Centreville-based Turkish restaurant Lezzet are expected to arrive early this year.

Lezzet told Tysons Reporter on Dec. 20 that it was anticipating a February opening.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) A U.K.-headquartered fitness center is stretching out to America, with its first U.S.-branded location opening in Tysons on Jan. 6.

“PureGym, the leading European fitness and gym operator, is excited to announce the launch of its first gym in the United States under a new brand, Pure Fitness,” the company said.

The Tysons business will be located near the Greensboro Metro Station at 8311-B Leesburg Pike in Tysons Square, which is anchored by Burlington and Marshalls department stores.

“We believe that the Tysons area has a strong long-term outlook and is an opportunity for our high quality, flexible, low-cost fitness offer,” spokesperson Kitty Ryder said in an email. “The location we have chosen is close to transport links and is surrounded by potential Pure Fitness members — both residential and office based.”

The U.K.’s largest gym operator, PureGym provides 24/7 access and allows customers to cancel their memberships at anytime. Introductory memberships at the Tysons location will start at $9.99 per month with a $1 joining fee and a $39 annual maintenance fee, according to the company.

“At Pure Fitness we want to make it as easy as possible to come to the gym, which is why we don’t lock our members into lengthy year-long contracts,” company officials said in a news release.

“Instead, members will have the freedom to freeze, leave and re-join whenever they want, in order to fit with their lifestyle and other commitments,” the company said. “New joiners will also be able to sign up in as little as two minutes on the Pure Fitness website or app.”

The gyms provide dozens of classes both in person and virtually, and the Tysons location features a turf training freestyle area, over 70 pieces of cardio equipment, over 80 pieces of strength equipment and certified personal trainers.

The app provides a live attendance tracker, with options to record progress, book classes, and gain contactless entry.

While the COVID-19 pandemic upended people’s workout routines over the past two years, cutting into fitness businesses’ bottom lines, PureGym has seen a resurgence in customers, The Guardian reported in April.

This fall, the company was reportedly considering an initial public offering. The U.S. expansion also includes locations in Springfield (6701 Frontier Drive) and near Baltimore in Elkridge, Md.

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A popular empanadas food truck has launched a dining space in Tysons Galleria.

Empanadas De Mendoza owners Gabi and Tyler Steelman opened up the new brick-and-mortar venue on the third floor of the mall on Thursday (Dec. 16). The restaurant offers meat and vegetarian options for the handheld pastries with light, flaky crusts.

The move brings the couple full circle to when they started selling their empanadas out of a food truck to Tysons offices over five years ago, eventually expanding their operations throughout Northern Virginia.

The made-to-order empanadas (from the Spanish word empanar, meaning “to bread”) feature a variety of fillings: traditional and spicy beef, honey barbecue pork, pineapple chicken, spinach ricotta, and three cheese. Churros and sides are available, along with pastry desserts known as alfajores, featuring coconut shavings.

Gabi Steelman said Saturday (Dec. 18) that they’ve had customers trickling in, many of them regulars who follow the business’ social media channels, and an electronic menu said January dates are coming soon.

Gabi Steelman started the business in 2013 at a local farmers market in Fairfax out of a desire to share her culture and how much empanadas mean family, friends, and fun in her hometown of Mendoza, Argentina.

She soon married Tyler Steelman, and the couple quit their full-time jobs to pursue Empanadas De Mendoza.

In 2020, the couple got a storefront with a production kitchen in Lorton, where they also host parties, and a second food truck.

The new store’s special hours for the rest of this month are today (Dec. 23) and next Tuesday through Thursday (Dec. 28-30) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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The former Amphora Restaurant building in Vienna could soon reawaken as another eatery.

Plans are currently going through the Town of Vienna and Fairfax County to get it approved as a new restaurant dubbed The Maple Room, according to town spokesperson Karen Thayer.

Amphora closed in January after four decades in Vienna in response to the challenges of running a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Sterling-based real estate developer, Christos Sarantis, acquired the property for $4.875 million on Dec. 29, 2020, according to county and state records.

Sarantis didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

A county permitting database says the property at 377 Maple Ave. West is looking to renovate the building’s exterior, upgrading its facade, roof, handicap access and other features.

Town staff have been reviewing the site plan, according to a development activity map.

The Cholakis and Bilidas families opened Amphora in 1977. The restaurant was known for its 24/7 service, comfort food, and all-day breakfast.

Amphora Group, the company founded by the families, has shifted its focus to its Herndon operations. It has Amphora Diner Deluxe and catering businesses on Elden Street, and Amphora Bakery operates in the Sunset Business Park.

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(Updated at 11 a.m. on 12/10/2021) This coming spring, Tysons residents and visitors will be able to scale a rock wall, host a Zoom meeting, and grab their morning coffee all in one place.

The Manassas-based Vertical Rock Climbing and Fitness plans to open a second gym in the Best Buy-anchored shopping center at 8461 Leesburg Pike, near The Boro and the Spring Hill Metro station, as the Washington Business Journal reported in August.

The new, 12,000 square-foot facility will contain not only rock walls for bouldering, a form of rock climbing that doesn’t use ropes, but also a ground-floor coffee shop and coworking space that will be open to both gym members and the general public.

“Coffee and climbing go together,” Vertical Rock co-owner and CEO Ian Colton told Tysons Reporter. “A lot of climbers like coffee, and we personally have a huge affection for coffee. We want to make sure we come up with a premium coffee shop, and it’s reflected in the layout and design we’re bringing to the table.”

Called Basecamp Coffee Roasters, the coffee shop will essentially operate like a separate business that just happens to share the same building.

While options like online ordering will be available for those looking to grab a cup of coffee on the go, Colton envisions a Central Perk-like hangout spot that encourages people to linger, catching up with friends or on work — possibly after breaking a sweat at the gym upstairs.

“We want to make this atmosphere as friendly, inviting, and engaging as we possibly can,” he said. “…With the new normal of not necessarily working in an office and a lot of remote school, where the new norm is to be able to kind of social distance but also be there and present, this facility can give you all of that.”

The inclusion of a coffee shop is one way that Vertical Rock is adapting its concept to the more urban environment that drew the company to Tysons after launching in Manassas in 2012.

Where the Manassas center features 55-foot-tall rock walls with ropes for climbing, the smaller Tysons facility will focus exclusively on bouldering, with walls ranging from 14 to 16 feet in height and 14 inches of floor padding for protection.

The shift reflects the more limited amount of space available in an increasingly dense area like Tysons. Vertical Rock spent about five years looking for a location in the Fairfax County area before finding the Leesburg Pike space, according to Colton.

Bouldering also gives users more flexibility since, unlike rope-based rock climbing, it can be done solo, requires minimal equipment, and allows participants to move at their own pace, Colton says.

The Tysons facility will accommodate different ages and levels of experience, from beginners to athletes training for the Olympics, which featured sport climbing as an official event for the first time this year.

“All you need really is a chalk bag and a pair of climbing shoes, and you can get in and you can climb,” Colton said, noting that those items and other climbing gear will be available for rental or purchase.

Vertical Rock Tysons started pre-sales for its gym passes in November. It will offer one-day, monthly, annual, and flex passes.

Colton anticipates starting occupancy in mid-April, though the COVID-19 pandemic has had “a huge impact” on getting the facility in place. A sign posted to the site door still suggests that it will open this December.

Aware that people may still be wary of exercising indoors, Colton says Vertical Rock is designing the site to be spacious and making equipment and operational investments to create the safest possible environment.

“I think the biggest thing we’re really trying to bring to the table is a community-focused facility, and that being something that caters to local Fairfax County,” Colton said. “We want to continue the engagement for healthy and new ways of staying physically fit and connecting you to the outdoors, and that’s really been our mantra since we opened up.”

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