Tuesday, January 31, 2023

HalfSmoke at Rockville Town Square - is this happening? (Photos)

One of the great mysteries of our times - at least since September 2020 - has been, "When is HalfSmoke opening at Rockville Town Square?" There have been no official answers, and it's been impossible to know what is going on inside the space at 36-A Maryland Avenue, as the windows have been tightly covered for most of this time. Little activity has been seen at the space, and the lights inside are usually off. But they were suddenly on this week, and a small area of one of the window coverings apparently came loose, and we are getting our first look inside since 2020.

The good news is that the lights are on. The bad news is that HalfSmoke won't be opening anytime soon, from what you can see here. The worst news at the moment is that the rear wall with the diamond shapes, the blue right interior wall, and the black texture on the front of the bar...those are not newly installed, but are left over from previous tenant Pandora Seafood House & Bar, as you can verify in my photos from the opening of that restaurant. In the center of the floor, which appears to still be Pandora's old flooring, is a pallet stacked with Sheetrock.

In the time since this location of HalfSmoke was announced, the chain's owners have opened two eateries at Westfield Montgomery Mall, including a HalfSmoke kiosk in the Dining Terrace food court. That revived questions about what in the world is going on at the Rockville location, which have since died down again. Is it time to start getting excited about HalfSmoke at Rockville Town Square again? Stay tuned!

Monday, January 30, 2023

Achieve Veterinary Urgent Care opening in Rockville

Achieve Veterinary Urgent Care
will open a Rockville clinic in the Derwood area of MD 355. The clinic will be located at 15811 Frederick Road, in the small strip center next to Atlantic Guns. It will coincidentally be just down the street from the Playful Pack doggie daycare and boarding facility. Achieve will open this spring, the company says, but the sign is already installed and lit.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Golfdom to open Rockville store

Golf megastores come and go, but they always seem to pop up in the Rockville Pike corridor. Golfdom is the latest to take a swing at the Montgomery County golfer market. It will open a new location at 12137 Rockville Pike, in the Pike Center. 

This is the former Pier 1 space, which in the center's current configuration is technically the anchor space for the property. Walmart had sought to open an 80,000-square-foot store at Pike Center twelve years ago, until its plans were blocked by the Montgomery County Council.

Golfdom has an existing store in the region in Tysons, and touts itself as "THE Golfer's Store." The chain's lease at Pike Center was first reported by the Washington Business Journal.

Photo courtesy Golfdom Tysons

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rent stabilization rally set for January 30 in Rockville

A rally to support passage of a rent stabilization law in Montgomery County has been scheduled for this Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:30 PM in front of the Montgomery County Council Building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. "The Rent is Too Damn High" is being sponsored by the Maryland Poor People's Campaign, and the UFCW Local 1994 union, who say some on the County Council are trying to block efforts to make rent stabilization part of changes to housing policy in the county.

"Council Vice President Andrew Friedson (D - District 1) has assembled a hastily-scheduled panel of housing experts to discuss Montgomery County’s housing crisis — by invitation only," the event announcement says. "While the details are still not clear, we expect the speakers to be weighted towards opposing rent stabilization, despite studies and local evidence showing that rent stabilization works. You, the people, have been left out of this discussion. To re-center the conversation, we need you to join a large coalition of nonprofit and labor organizations fighting to center the County residents most impacted by housing policy. We will express our frustration that the people most affected by housing decisions do not have an equitable role in the conversation. We will also denounce the lack of transparency in the organization of the [Planning Housing and Parks Committee] meeting."

Participants are asked to assemble at the front steps of the Council building at 12:30 PM for a rally and press conference. Then the group will move inside for the Council committee session around 1:15 PM. Organizers recommend wearing an KN95-or-better mask inside the crowded hearing room, wearing a rent stabilization t-shirt (shirts will be available Monday if you don't have one), and to "prepare to make noise in support of rent stabilization." 

Interested participants can sign up to join the rally online, or just show up at 12:30 PM Monday.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Kay Jewelers "temporarily closed" at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Kay Jewelers
is "temporarily closed" at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, according to a sign posted on the shuttered entrance to the store. The ubiquitous mall jeweler being closed is like a Cinnabon or Auntie Anne's being closed at your local mall - all is not right with the world. No reason for the closure is stated on the sign, and no reopening date is given. It invites customers to shop their website in the meantime.

Rockville firm seeks to build nuclear fuel plant in Tennessee

TRISO-X, a subsidiary of Rockville-based X-Energy, has proposed construction of a nuclear fuel facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The plant would convert uranium into nuclear fuel for use in reactors. X-Energy says the facility would create at least 400 jobs in the Oak Ridge and Anderson County area. Public input on the proposal is currently being sought from residents in the Oak Ridge area by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C.

The company and local officials appear confident that the plant will be permitted, as TRISO-X has already broken ground on the project. “The fuel X-energy will produce at this Oak Ridge facility will build a more robust and secure nuclear energy supply chain—supporting the deployment of nuclear energy on a scale never seen before,” TRISO-X President Dr. Pete Pappano said in a statement. “With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, we are proud that TRISO-X is leading the commercial development of this safe, innovative technology and that it will be among the first advanced nuclear fuels demonstrated in a grid-scale next-generation reactor.” 

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R - Tennessee) has endorsed the project. “The work X-Energy will do in Oak Ridge will bring the country closer to regaining energy independence while providing a safer, cheaper, and more flexible nuclear fuel option in TRISO-X," Blackburn said. "I am thrilled they have decided to invest in East Tennessee and bring even more jobs and innovation to the Volunteer State.”

X-Energy is located at 801 Thompson Avenue, near the Twinbrook Metro station in Rockville.

Photos courtesy TRISO-X/X-Energy

Stuart Weitzman closes at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

The long and painful death of Stuart Weitzman at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda has mercifully come to an end. Its space on Level 2 was cleared out and stripped of signage yesterday. Customers - or potential customers - of the upscale shoe boutique often found the store closed during its stated business hours starting in December. Bizarre indeed, as this was at height of the holiday shopping season. So, while this is a stunning development, it's not much of a surprise to regular readers of this website.

One reader commented, as the often-reduced hours of the store continued last month, that there were staffing issues there. Stuart Weitzman opened exactly ten years ago at the mall. This was a coup for Westfield at the time, as you might have expected a brand like this to land at Bethesda Row. Perhaps it was a ten-year lease, and the chain decided to stick it out to the end, rather than close last month. Regardless, it was a very solid run in the very business-unfriendly climate of Montgomery County, and those who managed and worked at this store over the last decade can certainly be proud of that.