(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Opening day is on the horizon for South Block’s new McLean cafe.
The local juice and smoothie chain will open its latest location at 8 a.m. on Monday in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center (6246 Old Dominion Drive), according to a spokesperson and the website.
While this will be the 14th store for South Block, it holds special significance for owner, founder and CEO Amir Mostafavi, who grew up in McLean and is a graduate of McLean High School.
“I am most excited about being back in the community where I grew up,” Mostafavi said. “I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new people in the community. It’s truly a full circle moment for me to open a business in the same town and community where my dad opened his video store.”
As he previously told FFXnow, Mostafavi got his first taste of the retail world as a worker at Box Office Video, the video rental business his parents owned for about two decades. The locally owned alternative to Blockbuster is now closed, but it once had stores around McLean and Falls Church.
In a stroke of fortuitous timing, Mostafavi is now the same age that his dad was when the first Box Office Video opened at the Langley Shopping Center — just two miles away from the new South Block.
Started in Clarendon in 2011, South Block sells cold-pressed juice, smoothies and acai bowls with a focus on fresh, healthy ingredients and community involvement. The business also has a Vienna location and one in the works for the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 campus in Arlington.
“South Block continues to prove that real food has the power to transform your life and Mostafavi is committed to growing his thriving business to new markets and more people,” the company said.
The McLean store will operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. A block party is being planned to celebrate its grand opening on April 22. More details will be shared on South Block’s Instagram, Mostafavi says.
Anchored by Safeway, Chesterbrook Shopping Center is undergoing an $8.5 million renovation. The façade is on track to finish this year, while the amenity spaces are scheduled for a 2024 completion, per a news release.
The center added Kosmo Nail Bar last fall, and the clothing store J. McLaughlin is expected to open this summer, according to property manager Federal Realty.
Amir Mostafavi always knew he would eventually open a South Block juice bar in his home of McLean.
The McLean High School graduate worked at the now-defunct Box Office Video chain that was owned by his parents for about two decades. Those days of stocking shelves, having an encyclopedic knowledge of actors, and ordering hard-to-find movies for customers were his first lessons in entrepreneurship.
“We were a local, family-run business that competed with Blockbuster, but what set us apart was our connection to the community,” Mostafavi told FFXnow. “People coming in, they knew me or my mom or my dad. We knew what our customers wanted…If someone came in and asked me about where a movie is, I could tell them it’s three rows over, three shelves down, and three videos over.”
In the years since, he has taken that experience and has applied it to create his own business. Mostafavi first opened his first juice bar on the campus of George Washington University in 2006 called “Campus Fresh.”
If working at Box Office Video was the entrepreneurial equivalent of an undergraduate education, Campus Fresh was like graduate school.
“I always joke with people that’s where I got my Ph.D. in business,” he said.
Five years later, in 2011, Mostafavi opened the first South Block in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. While it wasn’t an immediate success, as the company’s website notes, they kept building the company “one block at a time” and eventually opened a second location in 2015 in East Falls Church.
There are now 13 South Block locations across the D.C. region, including one in Vienna.
Soon, the juice bar’s 14th location is set to open in McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center in early 2023.
Bringing his company home has Mostafavi reminiscing about working at his parents’ video store.
“It’s come full circle. I feel a sense of accomplishment,” he said on working in McLean. “I think about my dad.”
Mostafavi is now 47, the same age as his dad when he opened Box Office Video in Langley Shopping Center — only 2 miles from the site of the new South Block.
“Me having that same experience at the same time in my life and opening in the same place where he opened it, it’s just kinda…” he said, trailing off and clearly emotional about the thought. “My dad lives in Vienna now and owns a Persian restaurant there. That’s kind of his retirement.”
When noted that owning a restaurant doesn’t sound like much of a retirement, Mostafavi laughed, “He works more than I do.”
Beyond the personal connection, he believes McLean is a perfect place for a South Block. He says the community is “underserved” in terms of food choices and is always “so supportive” of local businesses.
“Even though it isn’t [techincally] a small town, it still has that small-town, community vibe in that people want to support small businesses,” he said.
South Block is moving into Chesterbrook Shopping Center, which was first built more than 50 years ago. It’s now undergoing an $8.5 million facelift. Mostafavi said the renovation is “much needed for the community” and one of the big reasons why they choose to move in.
Just like Box Office Video, South Block is a family affair with his brother serving as vice president of the company. For Mostafavi, that was the only way to go, considering how much he learned from his parents about what it takes to run a small, local business.
“It’s from [them] that I learned work ethic, being resourceful, persistent, and not giving up,” he said. “That’s all huge in being a successful business.”
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Construction has begun on a substantial renovation of Chesterbrook Shopping Center in McLean.
Barricades, signage and other equipment started emerging at the Safeway-anchored retail strip in mid-August, reader Mike Whatley told FFXnow.
An overhaul of Chesterbrook has been anticipated since longtime property manager Federal Realty Investment Trust took ownership of the 90,000-square-foot property at 6214 and 6246 Old Dominion Drive in May 2021, calling the site “well-positioned for future growth.”
Federal Realty confirmed to the Washington Business Journal last week that construction is underway on a $8.5 million “facelift” for the shopping center, which was originally built in 1967, according to Fairfax County property records.
According to the WBJ report, Federal Realty has no plans to turn Chesterbrook into a dense, mixed-use neighborhood. Instead, the focus is on modernizing the building facades and introducing new outdoor amenities akin to its recent renovations of Birch & Broad in Falls Church and Old Keene Mill Shopping Center in Springfield.
Here’s more from the WBJ:
“Today, customers are more likely to spend time with friends and family closer to home,” a trend Federal hopes to tap into by creating a “destination” within the community, Deirdre Johnson, the company’s senior vice president of asset management, said in an email.
Federal, which managed the property for 19 years before buying a majority stake in 2021, envisions a comprehensive modernization of the façade, storefronts, landscape, lighting and outdoor gathering spaces, as well as the addition of new restaurants and retail. Construction has already begun and will be completed in phases over the next two years.
The renovation has already shaken up the tenant mix at the shopping center.
The growing number of vacancies at Chesterbrook, including a 9,764-square-foot space that has been empty since Rite Aid shuttered, is part of an intentional “remerchandising” plan, per the WBJ.
In addition to the smoothie chain South Block, newcomers to the mall will include Kosmo Nail Bar and the clothing store J. McLaughlin.
Kosmo announced in May that it would be expanding to Chesterbrook, adding a second McLean location to its existing site at 1365 Beverly Road. The nail salon is expected to open this fall, according to Federal Realty’s website for the shopping center.
After previously telling FFXnow that it hopes to open next summer, South Block is now projecting a spring 2023 opening. J. McLaughlin didn’t return a request for comment.
Johnson told the WBJ that Federal Realty “is working on ‘several’ letters of intent with additional new prospective tenants.”
South Block is bringing its juice and smoothies to McLean.
The Arlington-based business will open a store in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center, aiming for a tentative opening in summer 2023, a spokesperson confirmed to FFXnow.
“It’s true…South Block will be opening in Chesterbrook!” Vice President of Marketing Lindsey Parry Carzo said in an email that included the hashtag #Kaleyeah. “We are thrilled to be going into a new community.”
Parry Carzo added that McLean “holds an extra special place in our hearts,” since South Block founder and CEO Amir Mostafavi grew up in the area and attended McLean High School.
Mostafavi’s parents owned Box Office Video, a now-defunct local chain that had video rental stores around McLean and Falls Church, including in the Langley Shopping Center.
According to the company’s website, Mostafavi made his entry into the juicery business by starting a juice bar at George Washington University. He launched the first South Block in Clarendon in 2011, deriving the name from the store’s location on the neighborhood’s south side.
Specializing in smoothie bowls and cold-pressed juice, South Block has expanded to 11 locations, most of them in Arlington and D.C. The business will open its first Maryland store on Tuesday (June 21), Parry Carzo says.
The McLean South Block will be the second in Fairfax County, joining a Vienna juice bar that has proven popular despite opening during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Block has leased a 1,450-square-foot suite next to Chesterbrook Barber in the northwestern corner of the shopping center, according to property owner and manager Federal Realty’s site plan.
Federal Realty acquired the 89,625 square-foot shopping center at 6244 Old Dominion Drive in May 2021, stating that it intends to build on the previous owner’s work to “grow Chesterbrook into a destination center for the community.”
The center is anchored by a Safeway grocery store but has a few vacancies, including a 9,764-square-foot space that vacated by Walgreens in February.