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A Fairfax County police cruiser outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Fairfax County Police Department is seeking the public’s help identifying suspects in three recent jewelry store robberies, two of which are believed to have been committed by the same people.

The first robbery occurred at the Prince Jewelers in Tysons Corner Center at 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 8, police said in a release last night (Wednesday).

The FCPD says its detectives believe preliminarily that the same men were also behind a Sept. 18 robbery at Fair Oaks Mall, where two men entered Henzley Jewelers at 1:06 p.m. and stole “a number of high-end watches.” The store’s display case was also destroyed, according to police.

“In each case, they used hammers to destroy the display cases and fled the scene in stolen vehicles,” the department said. “The stolen vehicles were found in nearby parking lots. Detectives continue to investigate, including an extensive review of surveillance footage.”

Police are also investigating a robbery of Sonia’s Jewelers & Boutique Inc. (6681 Backlick Road) in Springfield.

According to the FCPD, two men entered the store at 11:50 a.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 20):

The first man was let into the store under the guise of shopping for jewelry. Once inside he presented a handgun and instructed employees to let the second man inside. The two men used hammers to destroy the display cases and fled the scene in a black Lexus SUV with stolen license plates. The stolen vehicle in this case has not been recovered.

No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents. Detectives are still working to determine if all three cases are connected, police say.

Police describe all of the potential suspects as Black men who are about 6 feet in height. Those allegedly involved in the Tysons and Fair Oaks robberies wore gloves and masks.

The FCPD says anyone with information about these incidents or others that may be related can contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Fairfax County police clear Tysons Corner Center after a gunfire incident on June 18 (staff photo by James Cullum)

The man who allegedly fired a gun inside Tysons Corner Center this summer, sparking a chaotic evacuation of the mall, is expected to face trial after getting indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury yesterday (Monday).

The circuit court jury indicted Noah Settles, a 22-year-old D.C. resident also known as rapper No Savage, on seven charges that could result in up to 45 years of imprisonment if he’s convicted, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano told FFXnow.

“This really traumatized folks who were in the mall that day and really left a scar on the people in Fairfax County at large,” Descano said of the June 18 incident. “I want people to know that you cannot come into Fairfax County, wave a gun around and shoot off in a crowded building and not expect to be held accountable and to be held accountable severely, and that’s what we’re looking to do here.”

Settles turned himself in on June 22 after the Fairfax County Police Department identified him as the suspect in the shooting, alleging that he had fired three gunshots on a mall concourse after getting into an argument with a rival “crew” based in southeast D.C.

No one was hit by the gunfire, but three people were injured while fleeing, police said. About six weeks later, Tysons Corner Center was evacuated again after the sound of a shattered light fixture prompted panic and unfounded rumors of an active shooter.

Settles was initially charged with attempted malicious wounding, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, and three counts of discharging a weapon into an occupied building.

According to Descano, the grand jury’s indictment included two additional charges for brandishing a firearm and possession of a concealed firearm that prosecutors introduced after a preliminary hearing in Fairfax County General District Court on Aug. 15.

At the hearing, a lawyer for Settles argued that he had acted in self-defense, though a judge found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury, WUSA9 reported. Settles’ defense attorney, Peter Greenspun, didn’t return a request for comment by press time.

Descano says the new charges will enable prosecutors “to fully tell the story of what allegedly happened that day, particularly before the first rounds were fired off.”

“Those two additional charges are vital to producing accountability, which is really what our end goal here is,” he said.

Descano says his office is committed to prosecuting existing gun laws, but he has also argued that more federal and state legislation is needed to address the issue of gun violence, including a closure of loopholes that allow untraceable “ghost guns.”

Just this past weekend, the FCPD responded to two shootings, one in Annandale and another in Woodlawn that ended in the victim’s death.

“Action is needed because we can’t live with this as the new normal,” Descano said. “…When you have guns flooding the streets, what starts as a personal beef can very quickly escalate into shooting, violence, and death.”

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Local reporter Michael Lee Pope has reignited a war on social media over the name Tysons.

The micro-debacle started with Pope’s reporting on the race to take over Mark Keam’s 35th District after the delegate announced his retirement. Pope listed Keam’s district as including parts of Vianna, Oakton, Fair Oaks and — crucially “Tysons Corner.”

Tysonians may recognize this as something of a controversial issue in the area with some locals pushing to drop the corner and just call the area Tysons.

Like Beetlejuice, writing “Tysons Corner” triggered the appearance of the Tysons, VA Twitter account.

The area has been referred to as “Tysons Corner” as far back as 1854, so named for its position at the crossroads of Route 7 and Route 123, according to Greater Greater Washington.

In recent years, as Tysons has become more urbanized in its own right and less defined by the Tysons Corner Center mall, some — like the Tysons Partnership and the Tysons Chamber of Commerce — have pushed to call the area just Tysons, some citing “Tysons Corner” as sounding more rustic and less iconic.

The U.S. Census Bureau officially “dropped the corner” in 2015.

But as Arlington and Amazon have discovered, old naming habits are hard to break, and Pope identified himself as a Tysons Corner holdout, citing a 2018 poll that showed slightly more readers still called the area Tysons Corner.

Karl Frisch, one of the candidates running to replace Keam, threw his support behind just calling the area Tysons.

Maybe the official renaming of Tysons Corner Metro Station to just Tysons this past weekend will seal the deal.

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Smell of Love Candles founder and CEO Alejandro Buxton brews a batch of candles (courtesy Smell of Love Candles)

The future is burning bright for Smell of Love Candles and its 12-year-old CEO.

After starting the Vienna-based business in his family’s kitchen about two years ago, Alejandro Buxton will bring his homemade, soy and coconut wax candles to Tysons Corner Center next week, opening Smell of Love’s first brick-and-mortar location.

Located on the mall’s second floor between Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic, the kiosk will open with a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. next Thursday (Sept. 1). Customers during opening weekend, which will go through Sept. 5, can enter a giveaway for the chance to win a year of free candles.

“It’s very exciting working at Tysons, because my mom grew up in Tysons. My family actually still shops at Tysons,” Alejandro said. “It’s a big thing, making our candles there.”

The idea for Smell of Love took hold when Alejandro’s family realized that the headaches his mom sometimes got were caused by the candles she liked to have around the house.

While those candles went into the trash, Alejandro — then 9 years old — started testing alternatives that would be healthy and environmentally friendly. The result was “Jurassic Orange,” a cedar-based, orange-scented candle “with full-bodied notes of bergamot and grapefruit fused with an herbal bouquet,” per its online store profile.

The candle was a hit with Alejandro’s mom, Patricia, so with her encouragement and assistance, he turned his candle-making into a full home business with online retail.

Smell of Love quickly outgrew the Buxtons’ kitchen, increasing its capacity from six candles at a time to around 200 with a move to the basement.

A visit by Vice President Kamala Harris at D.C.’s annual Downtown Holiday Market in December further boosted the business’ profile. With boxes of candles starting to crowd the house, it became clear that the basement would no longer be adequate.

In stepped Tysons Corner Center, which offered space for a production facility and a kiosk. This is the first time that the mall has leased to a kid, according to Tysons Corner Center General Manager Jesse Benites.

“Tysons Corner Center is thrilled to support entrepreneurs like Alejandro and his Smell of Love Candles business with this special opportunity to showcase their brand in one of the nation’s most popular shopping destinations,” Benites said in a press release. “…He will certainly inspire many budding kid entrepreneurs to follow their passion and believe where it might take them.”

Generally, juggling work and school has been “pretty simple,” Alejandro says, though it can be more difficult when he has an upcoming test.

However, with the Tysons production facility capable of making 600 candles at a time, Smell of Love is now hiring production team members, a marketing intern, and part-time sales associates to help run the kiosk, which will be open during mall hours.

“It’s a lot of candles to make,” Alejandro said “…So, we’re definitely hiring actually.”

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Spirit Halloween has already opened a store in Bailey’s Crossroads (staff photo)

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) A different kind of ghost will soon take up residence in the former Lord & Taylor at Tysons Corner Center.

A Spirit Halloween pop-up will move into the store’s lower level, mall spokesperson Maurisa Potts confirmed to FFXnow, stating that a specific opening date is still being worked out.

According to Spirit Halloween Communications Director Nikki Balles, the location at 7950 Tysons Corner Center is slated to open early next week, giving trick-or-treaters plenty of time to pick out the spookiest evening wear and decor.

An exact opening date is expected to be announced soon.

In business for more than 38 years, Spirit Halloween boasts over 1,400 locations annually, making it the biggest Halloween retailer in the U.S., according to its website.

A Bailey’s Crossroads store has already opened, and one in Fair Lakes Shopping Center’s former Saks off 5th will open at 11 a.m. today (Thursday). A pop-up is also coming soon to the former Tuesday Morning in Centreville.

Balles says the Tysons location was identified by the company’s real estate team, which “works year-round to identify and lock in the best locations available.”

Lord & Taylor departed Tysons Corner Center in January 2020, and since then, it has intermittently been used as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site until the Virginia Department of Health shut down those operations in March.

Perhaps unbeknownst to Spirit Halloween’s real estate team, the vacated store has also been a hub for paranormal activity, according to local medium Janie Daum, who told FFXnow last October that she has investigated some uncanny reports tied to the women’s restrooms.

Whether or not the space is actually haunted, Balles says customers can expect plenty of surprises from Spirit Halloween this fall, including new merchandise from pop culture favorites like “Ted Lasso,” “Squid Game” and “Bluey.”

“We expect this to be another killer year thanks to our expansive collection new and returning costumes, décor and accessories, along with our industry leading line of animatronics,” Balles said. “The strength of the brand and superfans enables Spirit Halloween to continue expanding our retail footprint, increasing store count and jobs each year.”

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A fundraiser prepares to rappel down the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center in 2021 (courtesy Sweetheart Photography by Tammy)

For those who find the prospect of being 14 stories in the air exciting instead of terrifying, the Hyatt Regency at Tysons Corner Center has some available views without the rooms.

Dozens of rappellers will descend down the side of the hotel later this month for a charity fundraiser to support the nonprofit Helping Haitian Angels (HHA), which runs a school and orphanage in Delke, Haiti.

Now in its second year, the event is a partnership between the nonprofit and Over the Edge, an adventure company that was also behind a rappeling fundraiser at the Hilton in Arlington. That raised over $200,000 for the local nonprofit New Hope Housing in May.

“Hyatt Hotels has a long-standing history of supporting local nonprofit and global organizations,” said Jon Davenhall, the hotel’s general manager. “…Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center is excited to be the Presenting Sponsor and help make a lasting impact in the lives of children who are left vulnerable without the care of loving parents.”

The fundraiser has been split into two days, starting at 4 p.m. on Aug. 26 with a kick-off reception, media day, and local celebrity and sponsor participants. All of the fundraisers will then rappel down the hotel between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Aug. 27, according to a news release.

Funds raised by the event will go toward the construction of a secondary school and trade school at HHA’s Kay Anj Village campus in Haiti, HHA board member and Over the Edge event lead Carol Wallace says.

Founded in 2008 by a Christian missionary couple, HHA opened the Lekol Harvey Christian School for the children in its orphanage in October 2014 and now provides education and summer camps for up to 150 elementary school students and their parents, according to its website.

The new secondary and trade schools will serve older children as a complement to the existing school, which Wallace says “is thriving.”

“Children in the neighboring community of Dekle will also be invited to attend the secondary school once constructed,” Wallace said.

After landing 85 participants in 2021, HHA has upped the ante for this year’s Over the Edge event with a goal of 110 individuals. There are currently 44 people signed up, according to the event page.

Registration costs $50, which counts toward the minimum of $1,250 that aspiring rappellers must raise in order to participate.

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Nordstrom storefront at Tysons Corner Center (via Google Maps)

Updated at 4:20 p.m. — Tysons Corner Center is open after police confirmed that reports of gunshots in the mall were spurred by a light fixture falling. 

Earlier: Tysons Corner Center was evacuated this afternoon (Sunday) after gunshots were reportedly heard inside the mall, prompting some to shelter in stores and a police response.

However, a spokesperson for the mall tells FFXnow that there were zero gunshots, attributing the noise that caused people to panic to a light fixture shattering.

“Tysons Corner Center experienced an operational matter regarding a light fixture near the Nordstrom wing corridor,” spokesperson Maurisa Potts said. “There was no active shooter on the property.”

The Fairfax County Police Department said in a tweet at 3:18 p.m. that it was on the scene had not found anything “at this point.”

“Please avoid the area while officers continue to clear the mall,” the FCPD said.

Word of an active shooter has proliferated on Twitter over the past hour, but the fears appear to be unfounded this time.

Shots fired in the mall on June 18 prompted widespread panic that injured three people. D.C. resident Noah Settles was charged in that incident, which police said stemmed from conflict between two “crews” based in D.C.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

A speed limit sign for Route 123 by the Tysons Corner Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Look Out for Spotted Lanternfly — “While there are still no sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County, it is getting closer, and experts are on the lookout for it. This summer the invasive pest was found in nearby Loudoun County…The insect feasts on more than 70 plant species, though its preferred host is the tree-of-heaven.” [DPWES]

FCPD Detective Destroyed Evidence of Rape — Fairfax County police are reviewing dozens of unsolved sexual assault cases after the victim of a rape in 1995 learned that a detective had destroyed all physical evidence in her case, including the rape kit. Police now say they believe the woman’s account and that her case was handled inappropriately, but she says the department needs “to somehow be held accountable.” [The Washington Post]

Longtime Fairfax Symphony Leader Dies — “William Hudson, a pianist and conductor who led the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra for 36 years, establishing it as a leading regional orchestra in the capital area, died July 12 at his home in Vienna, Va. He was 89. The cause was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, said his former wife, Denise Battistone.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Corner Center Owner Reports Retail Resurgence — “Macerich…noted that distress in the retail industry has slowed dramatically after a pandemic-spurred wave of closures in 2020…Macerich said its leasing activity in the second quarter reflected retailer demand at levels not seen since 2015.” [CNBC]

Vienna Police Share Results of Increased Traffic Enforcement — “After a noticeable increase in stop sign violations, the Town of Vienna Police Department had a directed enforcement initiative during the month of June…During the Stop Sign Enforcement Campaign, officers worked a total of 469 events utilizing stationary observation of stop signs, which generated 219 stop sign violations and 74 other violations.” [Vienna Police]

Local Meal Service Company Gets New HQ — MightyMeals, an overnight meal delivery company that grew out of a Franconia restaurant in 2015, has leased a 16,000-square-foot commercial unit at 7669 Limestone Drive in Gainesville for its new corporate headquarters. The space is seven times larger than its current 2,400-square-foot cooking prep warehouse in Burke. [Washington Business Journal]

Signs for Renamed Vienna Street in Place — “Vienna officials have replaced street signs on the former Wade Hampton Drive with new ones reading ‘Liberty Lane.’ The switch was done in early July ‘with little fanfare’ (as requested by residents), town officials said in the government’s monthly newsletter.” [Sun Gazette]

Bus Planned to Upcoming Innovation Center Metro — “OmniRide is hoping to take advantage of the forthcoming 66 Outside the Beltway toll lanes, and for the first time, its passengers could be getting one-seat trips to the Dulles area by the end of the year. The transit provider is hoping to start a commuter route that would take riders from Balls Ford Road to the Innovation Center Silver Line Metro stop in December” [Inside NoVA/WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 71. Sunrise at 6:13 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Best Buddies Virginia and D.C. had a grand opening reception for its Tysons Corner Center office on July 13 (courtesy Tysons Corner Center)

It took a team effort to get Best Buddies its new office at Tysons Corner Center.

The nonprofit’s Virginia and D.C. affiliate moved into a first-floor suite near the mall’s former Lord and Taylor in March, but the office didn’t get an official grand opening until July 13, according to Molly Whalen, the affiliate’s state director.

While the site is mostly for staff, the office is also intended to serve as a gathering space where Best Buddies can host events, trainings, and meet-ups for participants in its programs to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

In addition to its signature friendship program, which pairs people with and without disabilities to encourage socializing, Best Buddies provides job assistance, leadership development, and two live-in residences in D.C. and Florida.

“We try to raise awareness of inclusion and friendship and employment and leadership advocacy for people with IDD,” Whalen said. “So, just being in the mall and having that Best Buddies sign is a big deal, because people will want to learn more.”

Best Buddies Virginia and D.C. decided a change was needed from the more traditional office it had in Seven Corners after employees pivoted to working from home in March 2020 in response to COVID-19.

According to Whalen, the rent proved too much for a space the organization wasn’t using, and it was set to increase “considerably” each year.

“By end of last year, like October, we were kind of desperate to get out of the contract, because it was just so much money that, as a nonprofit, we were just kind of burning,” she said.

In stepped NBC4’s “The Scene” reporter Tommy McFly, who chairs Virginia and D.C. affiliate’s advisory board and helped secure a discounted lease for a vacant retail storefront for Best Buddies.

The nonprofit was also the recipient of furniture donations from National Association of Manufacturers, which happened to be relocating, and Heather Cooper — a Best Buddies volunteer who happens to be a former White House floral and interior designer — decorated the windows and wall with a mural.

Though the office isn’t open to the public, except for scheduled events, Best Buddies plans to take advantage of the location’s visibility by putting a video and QR codes in the front windows that will enable passersby to get more information about its mission and programs, according to Whalen.

“The new location will provide Best Buddies the opportunity to grow their work and increase its exposure to new audiences while being metro accessible to those they serve,” Tysons Corner Center said in a press release.

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Tysons Corner Center is now home to one of three “LOVE” signs in Fairfax County (courtesy Tysons Corner Center)

Local artists could get their work seen by tens of millions of people under a new partnership between Tysons Corner Center and Fairfax County’s official arts agency.

Property owner and developer Macerich announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it has teamed up with ArtsFairfax on an initiative to enlist individual artists and groups “to activate several spaces” in the mall with temporary installations.

The selected artwork will be on display for at least eight weeks, according to the press release:

The goals for this initiative are to create unique and interactive art environments, echo Tysons Corner Center as a contemporary and creative destination, and most importantly, to showcase the talents of local artists and arts organizations.

This unique collaboration will enable the more than 22 million yearly visitors who explore Tysons Corner Center’s retail and entertainment offerings to discover the diversity, creativity, and quality of visual artists from the Fairfax region.

The submission period opened on July 7, and contracts will be awarded on a rolling basis through Dec. 31, according to ArtsFairfax.

Applications can be filed through ArtsFairfax’s website, but they’re being evaluated solely by Macerich.

Tysons Corner Center also announced yesterday that it has recently acquired a permanent installation: a 6-foot-tall, 7,000-pound “LOVE” sign.

The sign comes from the Virginia Tourism Corporation as part of its ongoing “LOVE works” campaign, which has placed more than 300 similar signs across the state. The Tysons Corner Center sign will be just the third in Fairfax County, joining displays at Reston Station and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

“The steel display features a uniquely designed ‘V’ that represents the shopping center,” Tysons Corner Center said in the press release. “This installation also has a QR code in which, upon scanning, visitors will learn about tourism in Fairfax County and things to do in the surrounding area.”

The mall says the installation was funded with a grant from the VTC’s DRIVE Tourism 2.0 plan, which is the state’s blueprint for promoting travel and tourism, and “was made possible through a partnership with Visit Fairfax and Virginia Tourism.”

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