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.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Rockville Planning Commission retreat postponed

The Rockville Planning Commission retreat scheduled for this Saturday, January 28, 2023, has been postponed, the City announced today. A new date has not yet been scheduled. No reason for the cancelation of Saturday's retreat was given.

Car stolen in King Farm neighborhood of Rockville

Rockville City police responded to a report of a stolen vehicle in the King Farm community yesterday afternoon, January 25, 2023. The vehicle was parked outside of an apartment building in the 500 block of King Farm Boulevard. It is believed the car was stolen sometime between 6:00 PM Tuesday night and 3:53 PM Wednesday. If you have any information about this incident, please call the RCPD at 240-314-8900.

Assault at auto repair shop in Rockville

Rockville City police were called to an auto repair shop yesterday morning, January 25, 2023, after a 2nd-degree assault was reported there. The assault was reported at a shop in the 1300 block of E. Gude Drive at 9:46 AM.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Car stolen from apartment complex in Rockville

Montgomery County police were called to an apartment complex in the Twinbrook area of Rockville Monday night, January 23, 2023, after a vehicle was reported stolen from the parking lot there. The vehicle was reported stolen from a lot in the 12800 block of Twinbrook Parkway at 8:00 PM. It is believed the vehicle was stolen sometime between 8:00 AM Monday morning and 8:00 PM.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Aggravated assault with firearm in Rockville

Rockville City police were called to a townhome in the Woodley Gardens area of the city Friday night, January 20, 2023, after an aggravated assault with a gun was reported there. The assault was reported at 11:21 PM Friday, in the 600 block of Azalea Drive.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Montgomery County Executive condemns weekend anti-Semitic incidents

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) strongly condemned a series of anti-Semitic incidents across the county this past weekend in a statement. Swastikas were found on desks in three public schools, and flyers targeting several Jewish families were distributed in Kensington. Elrich revealed that, unlike many of the other incidents in recent years, perpetrators of the desk graffiti were identified and have been disciplined by Montgomery County Public Schools. Police are investigating the flyer incident to determine if it qualifies as a hate crime, Elrich said.

Elrich said he is glad the school cases were resolved quickly, but that this "does not heal the pain that these schools are dealing with." He added that, rather than divide the community as intended, the incidents have only had the effect of "generating more support for our Jewish neighbors." 

"We are united and are showing those who are pedaling (sic) hate that these antisemitic attempts at community disruption won't be tolerated," Elrich said. "Montgomery County is home to one of the most diverse areas in the nation. We are proud of that diversity and antisemitic activities do not reflect our community values. It’s not the Montgomery way."

Purse snatched at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a purse-snatching at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda last Friday night, January 20, 2023. The theft was reported at 8:00 PM in a department store at the mall.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Montgomery Mall Lunar New Year celebration starts today (Photos)

Celebrate the start of the Year of the Rabbit at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, starting today, Sunday, January 22, 2023, and again next Sunday, January 29. As you can see, the mall is already decorated inside. Today and next Sunday, enjoy a traditional dragon dance, performances and exhibits from 2:00-4:00 PM on Level 1 in the Nordstrom wing. As a bonus, save 15% both days on the latest in high fashion from China at Fangyan.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Rockville apartment burglarized

Montgomery County police are investigating the burglary of an apartment in Rockville early Thursday morning, January 19, 2023. The burglary was reported at an apartment building in the 13200 block of Twinbrook Parkway at 2:39 AM. Officers did not find evidence of forced entry at the unit in question, indicating the burglar(s) utilized an open door to enter.

Friday, January 20, 2023

RISE Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken opening in *February* not January in Rockville

I just want to make sure all readers are aware that the opening of RISE Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken at 16248 Frederick Road will take place some time in February 2023, not tomorrow, January 21, 2023, as I initially reported on January 12. Apparently, an announcement on their national Facebook account, regarding the January 21 opening of their Overland Park, Kansas restaurant, was sent through as an advertisement under the Gaithersburg restaurant's account. 

Stay tuned for an opening date for next month, as soon as I receive it from the company. In the meantime, I sincerely apologize for any confusion.

Car stolen from parking lot in Rockville

Rockville City police are investigating the theft of a vehicle from a parking lot in East Rockville early yesterday morning. The vehicle was reported stolen from a lot in the 400 block of N. Stonestreet Avenue at 1:42 AM Thursday. 

Sameday Health closes; T-Mobile, Everything But Water temporarily close at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Three businesses have closed their doors at Westfield Montgomery Mall this week, but only one is permanent. Sameday Health has cleared out its space. The COVID-19, flu, strep and STD-testing clinic appears to have consolidated its Bethesda operations at its 5826 Nicholson Lane location in White Flint. 

and Everything But Water have temporarily closed for renovations. T-Mobile has been rolling out a new store-interior design that some have compared to the Apple Store. Everything But Water promises it will "reopen with a splash" in late February. T-Mobile has not set a reopening date yet.

Wendy's reopens in Derwood (Photos)

has reopened at 15807 Frederick Road in the Derwood area of Rockville. The restaurant has completed a major renovation inside and out for a "fresh new look." It's apparently going forward with that blank building front; perhaps the front facade signage is still in-transit and will be installed later. Time for a Baconator, Chili Cheese Fries and a Chocolate Frosty.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Rockville Regal Cinemas to close

Rockville Regal Cinemas
will close as part of the bankruptcy restructuring of Regal parent company Cineworld, Variety reports. A closing date has not been announced, but the company said in a bankruptcy filing that it will begin to reject leases for the closing theaters on February 15, 2023. This will be another economic cannonball to the gut for the struggling Rockville Town Center area, where the Rockville Town Square development has many vacant storefronts. 

Parking continues to be an issue, but the theater closure will eliminate a significant amount of foot traffic on evenings and weekends. A study last decade showed that a cineplex can draw 20,000 additional people to an urban center per weekend than an area without a multi-screen theater might attract.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore looks beyond history to "a state that leaves no one behind" in inauguration speech

The inauguration of Wes Moore (D) as Governor of Maryland was a slightly more star-studded affair than those of his outgoing predecessor, Larry Hogan (R). For starters, Moore was introduced by Oprah Winfrey. Behind her in the grandstand seating area overlooking Lawyers' Mall in Annapolis was Chelsea Clinton. But Moore made a point of recognizing Hogan. Turning to the former governor, Moore said, "we are grateful and thankful for the kindness that you and your team have shown throughout this entire transition period. Thank you for eight years of great service to a state that we both love." Moore then paused deliberately, and the crowd stood to give Hogan a standing ovation.

Calling one-time Baltimore TV news anchor Winfrey a "Maryland girl at heart," Moore thanked her "for always being in my corner." He also recognized his wife and children. And then Moore became the first African-American to deliver an inaugural speech as governor of Maryland. 

The historic nature of the moment could not be ignored. Moore took an oath of office earlier Wednesday with his hand on a bible belonging to Frederick Douglass. Noting that he was speaking blocks away from the Annapolis city docks where African slaves once arrived, Moore recalled the "uneven and unimaginable progress" African-Americans have made since then. 

But Maryland is also a state "where anything is possible," Moore added in welcoming his Jamaican immigrant mother and the Indian immigrant mother of his Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller to another standing ovation. On her own history-making road to the second-highest statewide office in Maryland, Miller was sworn in with her hand on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the most-revered of Hindu texts.

Shifting his focus to the present and future, Moore said "this journey has never been about making history. It's about marching forward. Today is not an idictment of our past. Today is a celebration of our collective future." Nodding to the balancing act he will have to perform between the many interest groups making expensive demands of his new administration, and maintaining the state's relatively-solid fiscal standing, Moore spoke of being "disciplined" and "making hard choices." 

The new governor asked how it could be that a state with such revenue could also be a state where one in eight children live in poverty, and 250,000 people lack health insurance. In a zero-sum perspective of winners and losers, "we've come to expect that the people who have lost will keep losing," Moore said. "We must refuse to accept that," Moore declared, punctuating each word with a strike of his palm on the podium. 

Moore spoke of the need to improve the state's business climate, and to attract aerospace, clean energy, and cybersecurity firms. Hogan was successful in bringing a Hitachi rail car factory to Hagerstown, a Greenland Technologies electric vehicle plant to White Marsh, and a United Safety Technology medical supply factory to Baltimore. But Montgomery County hasn't attracted a major corporate headquarters in over 25 years, and has lost several of the few Fortune 500 companies it had during that time.

Such economic growth needs to be balanced with higher wages and security for workers, Moore argued. "Maryland can be the best place in America for employers and employees," he said.

Noting rising crime across the state, Moore said "many Marylanders have grown weary in their faith that governments can actually keep them safe." But he vowed, "we cannot and will not militarize ourselves to safety," and pointed to the fact that "Maryland encarcerates more black boys than any other state in this country." He said he is a governor who "knows what it feels like to have handcuffs on my wrists...I felt that when I was 11 years old. I also know what it's like to stand with families and mourn the victims of violent crime. We do not have to choose between being a safe state and a just one."

Moore promised Maryland will run on 100% clean energy by 2035, and create thousands of jobs in the process, by focusing on wind power. He said not every child needs to go to college to be successful, citing his path of military service and community college. "I think things worked out pretty well," he added.

Like many inaugural speeches, Moore's was short on actual policies and expense numbers. One specific plan he identified was creating a service year option for high school graduates. He also promised to be successful despite skeptics who say he will be unable to overcome "toxic partisanship." There is no such obstacle in Annapolis, however, as Democrats control every office and chamber of state government. Moore's actual challenge will be to reign in the aspirations of his own party, after eight years of the Hogan administration. And even Hogan was unable to block much of the Democrats' agenda during that time.

Recognizing that position of near-total power, Moore promised that "we have a unique place and space to do something special." Moore is in a unique and powerful position himself, to leverage a successful gubernatorial term and sparkling resume into not-so-distant future presidential campaign conversations, in a party that has had difficulty finding the next John F. Kennedy or Barack Obama in its youthful ranks since 2016.

"Now is the opportunity we have to march forward, and to march together," Moore concluded. "And let us march on 'til victory is won. Today is not the victory. Today is the opportunity. It is our opportunity to lead with love. It is our opportunity to create with compassion. It's our opportunity to fight fearlessly for our future. Maryland, our time is right now. Our time is now to build a state that, for those who came before us, that they fought for, and it's a state that leaves no one behind. This is not a slogan. It is the fulfillment of a hope. Maryland, it's time, let's lead, and let's do it together. God bless you all, and thank you so much."

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Car stolen from apartment building in Rockville

Rockville City police are investigating the theft of a vehicle from outside of an apartment building Monday morning, January 16, 2023. The vehicle was reported stolen in the 700 block of Monroe Street at 7:30 AM. A theft was reported in the same apartment building that morning, on a block where an apartment was burglarized just last week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Maryland Governor-Elect Wes Moore visits Rockville non-profit ahead of inauguration

Maryland Governor-Elect Wes Moore (D) visited Rockville non-profit Interfaith Works on Monday, as he participated in volunteer efforts at locations across the state for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Moore met with Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D), and helped prepare meals. He praised Interfaith Works for performing "vital work to uplift Marylanders experiencing poverty." Moore will be sworn in as Maryland's new governor tomorrow, January 18, 2023 at 12:00 PM in Annapolis.

Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore greets
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich

Photos courtesy Wes Moore/Marc Elrich on Twitter

Monday, January 16, 2023

Assault in Rockville parking lot

Rockville City police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault in a parking lot Saturday night, January 14, 2023. The assault was reported in a commercial parking lot in the 16000 block of Shady Grove Road at 7:44 PM.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Rockville school burglarized

Rockville City police responded to a report of a burglary at a school last night, January 14, 2023. The burglary took place at a school in the 600 block of Great Falls Road at 8:33 PM Saturday. Julius West Middle School is on that block. 

2nd assault in 2 days at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Montgomery County police responded to the second assault in as many days at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda on Friday afternoon, January 13, 2023. A 2nd-degree assault was reported at the mall at 5:30 PM on Friday. This was the 14th assault reported at the mall since May 18, 2022, and the second of 2023.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Sneak peek: Derwood Wendy's makeover (Photos)

Here's a sneak peek at the renovated Wendy's restaurant at 15807 Frederick Road, in the Derwood area of Rockville. The parking lot has been entirely resurfaced and restriped. There are three kinds of seating inside the dining room: regular tables and chairs, high tables with barstool-style chairs, and booths. Check out the fancy lighting fixtures. It looks like there may be a sign still to be attached to the front, and there are lawn signs stacked inside waiting to be posted when the restaurant reopens. Stay tuned for a reopening date!