A Thai restaurant is on its way to Chesterbrook Shopping Center (6224 Old Dominion Drive) in McLean, though it will be some time before its doors open.
Expected to open in late 2024, Sorn Thai was inspired by owner Supisa “Boom” Teabut’s grandmother, Sorn. Based on her recipes, the menu will feature southern Thai dishes, like pad Thai and pad see ew, while aiming for “affordability and family-friendly appeal,” according to a press release.
“With its central location, welcoming neighborhood and diverse residents, Chesterbrook is a community that truly has it all,” Teawbut said. “Recognizing the limited presence of Thai restaurants in the area, we see this as an exciting opportunity to not only share our culture but also become a cherished part of such a vibrant community.”
While announcing Sorn Thai, Federal Realty also confirmed that Call Your Mother will move into a brick-and-mortar location at Chesterbrook by late 2024.
The popular D.C. bagel shop opened a mobile “Lil Deli” truck in the shopping center’s parking lot in May, but with customers lining up even on overcast and drizzly days, it’s little surprise that a more permanent space is in the works.
Call Your Mother will occupy 1,405 square feet next to Le Village Marché, a French home decor store that opened on June 9. Sorn Thai will be located in a 3,055-square-foot suite three doors down from Small Door Veterinary, which is on track for a spring 2024 opening.
Federal Realty has been refilling Chesterbrook with tenants after launching an extensive renovation in September 2022. Hoping to bring more visibility to its retailers, the developer anticipates finishing new facades for the property this year and outdoor amenity spaces sometime in 2024.
The new signs planned for Chesterbrook Shopping Center in McLean won’t point to their corresponding businesses with big, flashing arrows, but that’s essentially the effect property owner Federal Realty hopes to achieve.
Specifically, Federal Realty hopes to add signs on the back of the building at 6242 Old Dominion Drive that’s occupied by the recently opened South Block, Chesterbrook Barber, Chesterbrook Cleaners, Kosmo Nail Bar and Potomac Pilates.
“The application is to create better identification for the tenants of this building and ultimately supporting the enhanced viability of those buildings,” McGuireWoods land use planner Mike Van Atta told the planning commission as the developer’s representative.
Located at the western corner of the shopping center, the building currently only has signage across its front, facing the parking lot. Its rear facade faces Old Dominion Drive, backing up against an elevated drive-thru for the TD Bank in neighboring Chesterbrook Plaza.
That elevation puts tenants in the building at a “disadvantage,” making it difficult for passersby to see their signage, county staff said.
The waiver requested by Federal Realty would double the amount of space permitted for signage from just under 202 square feet to almost 404 square feet.
“There’s limited visibility for the subject building, given that it’s located on the curve of Old Dominion Drive and because the building is oriented with the front of the building facing away from the street and below the grade of the main right-of-way,” Van Atta said. “So, these collective circumstances create a special and unique challenge for the tenants of this building.”
He added that the property owner worked with county staff to ensure the proposed building-mounted signs are “appropriately located, sized and lighted to not have any adverse impacts on adjacent uses.”
The special exception application will go to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and vote on Oct. 24.
More tenants on the way?
The sign revisions are part of an $8.5 million renovation of Chesterbrook Shopping Center that has been underway since last fall. Storefront and facade updates are expected to finish this year, and new outdoor amenity spaces will be completed in 2024, according to Federal Realty.
After emptying in the lead-up to the renovation, the shopping center has been gradually filling its tenant roster back up. Recent additions include the clothing store J. McLaughlin, home decor outlet Le Village Marché and a food truck from the popular deli Call Your Mother.
According to the brochure, the cosmetics company has a letter of intent to lease 2,236 square feet in between the Tutoring Club of McLean and a 1,405-square-foot, brick-and-mortar storefront for Call Your Mother. Bluemercury didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The merchandising plan also shows several vacant spaces being designated for restaurants, a salon and an apparel store. The building where Call Your Mother’s truck is currently parked appears to be destined for a bank.
The property owner didn’t comment on the merchandising plan, but it confirmed Starbucks is renovating its coffee shop. Starbucks didn’t return an inquiry from FFXnow by press time.
“Federal Realty is actively transforming Chesterbrook and will have additional new store announcements over the upcoming months,” Senior Vice President of Asset Management Deirdre Johnson said. “The positive response from the community as it frequents our newly opened stores is amazing. Look for Starbucks to complete an in store renovation the first of 2024.”
Hat tip to Mike Whatley
McLean is getting its own independent bookstore, filling a geographical gap in between Vienna’s Bards Alley and One More Page Books in Arlington.
In fact, Fonts Books & Gifts owner Amber Taylor prepared to launch her own business by working as a bookseller and events manager at One More Page.
Taylor says opening her own store was her goal when she met with One More Page owner Eileen McGervey for coffee and a chat about four years ago. McGervey mentioned that she was hiring and suggested working at the Arlington shop would give Taylor useful experience.
“I immediately took her up on her offer (while still running my consulting business),” Taylor told FFXnow by email. “I truly believe the education she and her whole team gave me will be a key to my success. I’m excited to add another bookstore to the growing family of stores in Northern Virginia.”
Located at 6262B Old Dominion Drive in Chesterbrook Plaza, Fonts Books & Gifts will officially open its doors in October, but McLean residents can already support the business with purchases online through Bookshop.org and Libro.fm, for those inclined toward audiobooks.
In addition to books, the store will sell “unique gifts, greeting cards, journaling supplies, candles, stickers, ‘dry’ spirits and non-alcoholic beer, and more,” according to a press release.
Fonts also plans to host author events and book signings, book club meetings, journaling classes, comedy nights, and other activities, including fundraiser evenings to benefit local schools and nonprofits.
Some events could be held in a small outdoor reading area behind the 1,045-square-foot store that can accommodate eight to 10 people.
“One of my favorite things about local bookstores is the community they nurture,” Taylor said. “Customers and booksellers develop long relationships, driven by a shared love of books and stories. They help each other explore unknown worlds and topics. And, there is always something new coming in the door.”
Though originally from Ohio, Taylor says she has been an Arlington resident for 25 years, 10 of them in a neighborhood right on the McLean border. She notes that her daughter attended the Montessori School of McLean, which is directly behind Chesterbrook Plaza.
While this is her first attempt to run her own bookstore, Taylor says “books have always been an important part of my life and that of my family.” An avid reader, she has aunts and cousins who’ve worked as librarians and publishers.
She’s eager for Fonts to join Fairfax County’s growing independent bookstore scene, which also includes the kid-focused toy and book store Child’s Play at 6645 Old Dominion Drive.
“The importance of books and stories has just always been part of me,” Taylor said. “I am thrilled to now be a member of the independent bookstore community, especially at a time when it is more important than ever to support diverse and creative voices.”
A home decor store inspired by Parisian flea markets will say bonjour to the Chesterbrook Shopping Center in McLean this week.
Le Village Marché will open a new boutique at 6234 Old Dominion Drive on Friday (June 9), marking the company’s first expansion within Northern Virginia since it began operating in Shirlington in 2007.
Inspired by founder and owner Angela Phelps’ past travels to Paris, the business sells kitchen, garden and bath products, along with candles, jewelry and other accessories, and notebooks.
“Owning a French-inspired gift shop has been a dream of mine since my very first trip to Paris over 20 years ago,” Phelps said in a press release. “McLean is the perfect place to begin expanding the franchise and we are thrilled to be opening our doors to a community with so much warmth and charm. From French tea towels and glassware to beaded chandeliers, we truly have it all!”
The McLean store marks a new chapter for Le Village Marché, as Phelps seeks to expand the company through franchising. She previously had another location in northwest D.C., but it closed permanently in 2020 when its lease ended and the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, according to its website.
Next year, the shopping center will add Small Door Veterinary, a primary and urgent care practice for pets, Federal Realty announced earlier this week. Emphasizing its use of modern technology, the clinic will provide services from wellness exams to surgeries through a membership system.
According to Federal Realty, the planned “state-of-the-art facility” in McLean will be the company’s ninth location overall and first in Virginia, though it has four existing and upcoming sites in D.C.
“After establishing successful practices in New York, Boston, and D.C., we are thrilled to introduce our modernized approach to veterinary care in Virginia and extend our services to a wider community of pet owners,” Small Door Veterinary co-founder and CEO Josh Guttman said. “Our forthcoming location in Chesterbrook will provide a nurturing environment staffed with highly skilled veterinarians who will be dedicated to ensuring only the best care for pets and their owners.”
Federal Realty bought Chesterbrook in 2021 after previously serving as property manager for the 90,000-square-foot shopping center for nearly two decades.
The renovation is focused on modernizing the center’s storefronts and façades, a process expected to finish this year. New outdoor amenity spaces are scheduled to be completed in 2024.
“It is exciting to see the transformation of Chesterbrook attracting premier local and national brands,” Deirdre Johnson, Federal Realty’s senior vice president of asset management, said. “The recent openings…[create] the distinguished neighborhood destination envisioned to best serve our community.”
Representing the self-described “Jew-ish” deli’s first foray into Virginia, the mobile truck opened for business in parking lot of the Chesterbrook Shopping Center (6216 Old Dominion Drive) yesterday.
“We’re stoked to bring good carbs and good vibes to the people of North Virginia who have been asking us to expand into their neighborhood for awhile,” Call Your Mother founder and co-owner Andrew Dana said in a press release. “We built this ‘Lil Deli’ to be able to take the CYM experience to more places and are excited that McLean will be its first home.”
Started by Dana and his wife, chef Daniela Moreira, as a farmers market vendor, Call Your Mother opened its first brick-and-mortar location in D.C.’s Petsworth neighborhood in 2018. The business has expanded to 11 locations now, including the one in McLean, a trolley in Bethesda and farmers markets.
Designed to resemble a quaint mobile house, the truck features a walk-up window and patio seating. The deli’s full regular menu is available, including its popular bagels, sandwiches, drinks and desserts such as babka muffins and black-and-white cookies.
Also available will be seasonal items and new products created by the company, like the vegan peanut butter line One Trick Pony that it launched in December.
Lil Deli is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. While the truck can be moved, the location is currently being treated as permanent.
“The Lil Deli is on wheels, so we dig the flexibility, but don’t worry we’re here to stay!” Dana said. “The mobile spot immediately grabs your attention when you drive past; they’re fun, vibrant and match the energy we like to bring to the table.”
Now that it has entered Virginia, Call Your Mother has started looking beyond the D.C. area with another location under construction in Denver.
The business also has its fingers crossed for a deli in Old Town Alexandria. FFXnow’s sister site ALXnow was told in March that it could open this summer, but a lease hadn’t been finalized at that time. There are no new updates to share regarding that location, a Call Your Mother spokesperson told FFXnow yesterday.
(Updated at 5:25 p.m. on 4/3/2023) The popular D.C. deli Call Your Mother is expanding into Virginia for the first time.
Known for its bagels, the self-described “Jew-ish” deli is bringing a mobile version of its shop called Lil Deli to the Chesterbrook Shopping Center (6216 Old Dominion Drive) in McLean. The shop was announced today on Instagram.
It will feature a walk-up counter and patio seating, with the deli’s full menu on offer.
“Locals have been asking for a Call Your Mother outpost in VA and the brand has answered!” Call Your Mother co-founder Andrew Dana said by email. “They’re bringing good carbs and good vibes to McLean, with plans to open a second VA location later this year.”
Dana said the second Virginia location will be in Alexandria’s Old Town, though the lease hasn’t been finalized yet. The deli had locked down an Old Town location two years ago, but later appeared to pull out despite signing a lease, according to FFXnow’s sister site ALXnow.
Dana and chef Daniela Moreira started selling food at D.C. farmers markets before launching Call Your Mother as a brick-and-mortar deli in Petsworth in 2018. The business now has seven locations in D.C. and Maryland.
Call Your Mother first went mobile with a “trolley” shop in Bethesda. It’s also planning to venture outside the D.C. area with upcoming locations in Denver, Colorado.
“Call Your Mother is truly focused on two things: carbs and vibes,” Dana said. “When looking at real estate it’s all about how a space feels. Similar to their Bethesda Trolley, the Lil Deli is on wheels which is nice for flexibility and grabbing attention when you drive past. The fun and vibrant energy it brings perfectly matches the Call Your Mother brand.”
An exact opening date for the McLean shop hasn’t been set yet, but it’s anticipated to be “in a few weeks,” Dana said. The store is now hiring workers, per a LinkedIn job posting.
It will be one of several relative newcomers to Chesterbrook, which is undergoing a renovation. The juice bar South Block opened earlier in March, and the clothing store J. McLaughlin is on track to open this summer, property manager Federal Realty previously told FFXnow.
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Opening day is on the horizon for South Block’s new McLean cafe.
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.
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.
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.