Sunday, June 23, 2024

Dirty Dough opening in Rockville

Cookies are most definitely the new cupcakes and fried ice cream rolls. And here comes the latest entry in the latest trend, Dirty Dough. The rapidly-expanding chain has leased a space at 36-B Maryland Avenue at Rockville Town Square. How does Dirty Dough differentiate itself from the Crumbl Cookies, Levain Bakeries, and Chip Cities of the world? With stuffed fillings that render their creations not as mere cookies, but "super-stuffed cookie bombs." 

Like the competition, Dirty Dough is constantly producing limited-edition flavors, on a weekly basis in this case. If you need more sugar to go with your cookies, they also serve Dirty Shakes, in which you can have any cookie of your choice mixed in, and Dirty Scoops of ice cream. "Coming soon" signage has been posted in Dirty Dough's future Rockville storefront. The chain has an existing Maryland location in Halethorpe, with new ones coming soon in Baltimore and Laurel.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Pop 2000 Tour landing at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda June 23, 2024

Bring me up, Carson! Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda is once again allowing you to relive your - or your parents' - MTV TRL afterschool Y2K memories with the Pop 2000 Tour event tomorrow, Sunday, June 23, 2024 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM on Level 1 of the mall in the Nordstrom wing. Hosted by Chris Kirkpatrick of NSYNC, the event will feature live performances by Kirkpatrick, O-Town, BBMAK, Ryan Cabrera, and LFO.

The standing-room-only concert will take place from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM near Nordstrom on Level 1. But the festivities will get underway at noon with spin-the-wheel prize giveaways, airbrush tattoos, rhinestone gem art, and a 2000 Photo Moments station. Create a 2024 photo moment by purchasing a selfie with your favorite boy band after the concert. Merchandise for the participating artists will also be on sale.

Look for Pop 2000 Tour activities on Level 1 near Kiehl's. HOT 99.5 will be broadcasting live from the event. The radio station will be hosting its own activities and giveaways. Pop 2000 is free to attend, but you need to RSVP online.

"The Pop 2000 Tour will bring the energy and excitement of 2000s pop music to Westfield Montgomery, giving our community the chance to relive that era in music," Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield SVP of Shopping Center Management Leah Heil said in a statement Friday. "We look forward to watching the audience transport back in time and sing along to hits they’ll never forget, while creating new memories with friends and family.”

Top two images courtesy Westfield
Bottom image: AI

Peter Chang signage removed at Rockville Town Square

The final trace of local celebrity chef Peter Chang has been removed from his former restaurant at 20-A Maryland Avenue at Rockville Town Square. Kungfu Kitchen abruptly took over the space when Chang made his unexpected exit from the struggling Town Center property in April. Chang's eponymous restaurant operated at Rockville Town Square for ten years. His exit stings all the more as the Montgomery County-averse dining critic of The Washington Post just wrote rave reviews of Chang's newest restaurants in Gaithersburg and Arlington. 

Chang's status among celebrity chefs and prolific restaurateurs is remarkable in that his fame derives entirely from the products of his kitchens. He is rarely seen or heard in the media via interviews or public relations efforts, and doesn't belittle aspiring chefs on competitive cooking TV shows, or engage in publicity stunts. Chang is known for one thing: his cooking. Rockville Town Square is increasingly known for...empty storefronts.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Aldi opening in July at Walnut Hill in Gaithersburg (Photos)

Construction has accelerated in the final phase at the Aldi grocery store opening soon at 737 S. Frederick Avenue at the Walnut Hill Shopping Center in Gaithersburg. The store, which is the center's new anchor tenant, is now expected to open on July 24, 2024, according to Google. Signage is up on the storefront, and checkout counters and shelving are in place inside. Operating hours have been posted on the door. This Aldi is likely to draw many customers from communities like King Farm and Upper Rock in Rockville, as well as from Derwood, as it will be more convenient than the 1501 Rockville Pike location.

Man wounded in Rockville shooting

Rockville City police responded to a report of a shooting around 8:30 PM last night, June 20, 2024, near the intersection of E. Argyle Street and Blandford Street. Officers arriving at the scene found an adult male suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. They provided first aid until an ambulance transported the victim to a local hospital. Police say he is currently in stable condition.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Cpl. Renae McEvoy at 240-314-8983 or via email at RMcEvoy@RockvilleMD.Gov.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Could a Netflix House be coming to Montgomery Mall in Bethesda?

Is Montgomery County ready for Netflix IRL? The leading streaming service announced the planned opening of two Netflix House "experiential entertainment venues" at malls in Dallas and King of Prussia, with potential plans for more in cities yet to be identified. Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda seems like a logical choice to join the list. Netflix Houses are described as being "over 100,000-square-feet" in size. Montgomery Mall's vacant former Sears store is 150,000-square-feet, is currently mothballed, and is generating zero revenue for Westfield beyond whatever tax break can be claimed for the vacancy.

Westfield holds an approval from Montgomery County for an urban-style, mixed-use expansion of the mall, including a demolition of the empty Sears building, but has not taken any visible steps to immediately proceed with that development. A Netflix House would be a good short-term use to generate revenue until Westfield is ready to move forward with the expansion.

"Imagine waltzing with your partner to an orchestral cover of a Taylor Swift song on a replica of the Bridgerton set –– and then walking around the corner to compete in the Glass Bridge challenge from Squid Game," Netflix said in its Netflix House announcement Tuesday. "After pretending to fight for your life, you’ve worked up an appetite and want to get a bite. You see a nearby restaurant with food inspired by Netflix shows from around the world; the meal is memorable, but you still want to buy some Stranger Things merch. Luckily, there’s a shop that sells that Hellfire Club T-shirt you’ve always wanted." 

There are other malls in the region, but Montgomery Mall has the ideal vacant building space that Netflix requires for a Netflix House immediately available. Its loss of Sears as an anchor would be its gain in this case. A Netflix House would generate significant additional foot traffic for other tenants of the mall.

On the other hand, the timeline for opening of the first two Netflix Houses suggests significant construction is required. The Galleria Dallas and King of Prussia Mall Netflix Houses are expected to open in 2025. By the time a Netflix House would open in 2026 or later, who knows if Netflix will still be the entertainment giant it is today? Two years is an eternity in Hollywood, and Westfield might want to proceed with its redevelopment of the Sears building and adjacent parking lot before, or by, that time.

Rendering courtesy Netflix
Photos by Robert Dyer

Criminals steal golf cart, force entry to apartment during 35-min. crime spree on Rockville street

Something attracted between eight and eleven alleged criminals to a quiet residential street in Rockville on the afternoon of June 13, 2024. Rockville City police report that two suspects stole a golf cart parked at an apartment complex in the 400 block of College Parkway at 3:45 PM. Exactly thirty-five minutes later, police allege, eight to nine suspects forced their way into a vacant apartment a block away in the 500 block of College Parkway. 

The apartment burglars are only identified as "8-9 juveniles." No physical description or ages of the two suspected of grand theft golf cart has been released. It is unknown if the two sets of suspects are part of the same group as of this writing. Both crimes were committed in broad daylight. If you have any information about either incident, or any of the suspects involved, you are asked to call police at 240-314-8900.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Losing to Virginia on another factory, is Montgomery County in the hunt for IKEA manufacturing site?

Montgomery County and Maryland were beaten in the economic development game again by Virginia yesterday. Will they be players in the next big manufacturing competition, for an IKEA factory on American soil? Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's office announced Tuesday that his state had won the competition for a 400,000-square-foot Condair Group AG manufacturing facility. The press release indicated that Virginia and South Carolina were the two finalists. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported this past weekend that IKEA is scouting for factory locations in the United States, due to increasing disruptions in international shipping lanes.

Virginia could already have a [LÖVBACKEN table] leg up in the IKEA race, as the Swedish furniture giant previously operated its only U.S. factory in Danville, Virginia from 2008 to 2019. It ultimately closed that plant, shipping its 300 jobs back to Europe. Montgomery County has plenty of room for an IKEA plant in the I-270 corridor, where there is also potential direct rail access to the CSX Metropolitan Subdivision for domestic or port shipping purposes. Of course, Baltimore, Hagerstown and Cumberland are among the struggling Maryland cities that could use an IKEA plant to help revive their once-mighty industrial areas.

There's no indication of Montgomery County or Maryland having been in the hunt for the Condair plant. The $57.2 million investment by Condair in Chesterfield County, Virginia will create 180 good-paying industrial jobs with full benefits. Instead of Condair products being exported out of the Port of Baltimore, they'll be headed out of Richmond Marine Terminal in Virginia, according to the press release.

"When an international brand like Condair makes the decision to locate in Virginia, the positive ripple-effects of economic investment, job creation and cargo growth are felt throughout the Commonwealth," Virginia Port Authority CEO Stephen A. Edwards said in a statement. "The Port of Virginia will be among the beneficiaries of Condair’s location in Chesterfield County, which is not far from Richmond Marine Terminal. We are ready to collaborate with Condair to help it leverage the assets of this port — America’s most modern gateway — to ensure it has access to world markets." 

"Virginia is the perfect location for the international company Condair to establish its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility," Youngkin said in a statement Tuesday. "We applaud the 21st century manufacturing jobs that this project will bring to Chesterfield County."

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

No Regrets Pizza opens in White Flint

No Regrets Pizza Co.
has opened at 5454 Nicholson Lane, Suite 180, in the ground floor of the Harwood Flats apartments in White Flint. In addition to handcrafted artisan pizzas in New York and Roman styles, the pizzeria turns into a dinner and cocktail bar destination. Early patrons appear to have no regrets, as No Regrets currently has a 4.8 out of 5 rating on Google Reviews, and a 4.5 average on Yelp. Operating hours are 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM seven days a week.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Bong truck travels the streets in White Flint & Rockville (Photos)

Have you spotted the bong truck on the streets of White Flint (a.k.a. "North Bethesda") and Rockville? It's a mobile advertisement for Pure Virtue Glass, which has just relocated to 12005 Nebel Street, by Liberty Cannabis. It even lights up, if you spot it at night. Pure Virtue Glass sells premium glass blown products and smoke accessories.

Montgomery County blocked revival of Rockville retail center; now it could be demolished for apartments

Pike Center has been a fixture at 12137 Rockville Pike for decades, surviving several waves of economic tumult and retail trends, and even boasting a movie theater from 1964 to 1988. When it faced its biggest challenge yet after the 2008 "Great Recession," the shopping center's ownership thought it had found a solution to revitalize the property: welcoming Walmart as its new anchor tenant. The Montgomery County Council stepped in and aggressively blocked the Walmart plan, ultimately deep-sixing the ubiquitous big box store's expansion plans in the County, which would have begun with superstores at Pike Center and in Aspen Hill. Instead of reversing its decline and filling empty storefronts via the incredible foot traffic Walmart would have generated, Pike Center saw some of its longest-standing tenants exit, the most-recent being stalwart Goodyear. Now Pike Center's years may be numbered, as the newest proposal for the property's future would replace the strip mall with a 760-unit apartment development.

A virtual public meeting has been scheduled for the proposed redevelopment of Pike Center for June 24, 2024 at 6:30 PM. You can call in by phone at 301-715-8592 and use passcode 584842, or join by internet at and use passcode 815 6544 6741. 

The new development proposed by property owner Kimco Realty would have 760 residential units, with 15% Moderately-Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs), and up to 90,000 gross floor area of retail and restaurant space. You can't say Pike Center didn't try to stick with retail, as business would have been booming there today if their original Walmart plan hadn't been blocked by the County Council. Now Pike Center will likely be demolished, and the proposed Aspen Hill Walmart site remains an abandoned property a decade later. The shopping centers of Rockville Pike are the largest generator of commercial revenue in the State of Maryland, but that revenue will decline as more and more of them are redeveloped into housing, which generates more new costs than revenue for the County. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ann Taylor closes at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Ann Taylor
has closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. This store managed to survive the 2017 purge of Ann Taylor store closures, as well as the pandemic, so it's surprising to see it go now. Yet Ann Taylor stores in more-business-friendly and economically-vibrant Tysons, Pentagon City, Fair Oaks Mall, and Dulles Town Center remain open. 

It's tough to remain a going concern when the local economy is stagnant, and ever-increasing taxes and fees eat away at already-slim profit margins. Ann Taylor appears to be the latest victim. All the store workers now find themselves unemployed. Let's say it together: "Moribund Montgomery County."

Goodyear closes on Rockville Pike (Photos)

has closed its tire and auto service center at 12103 Rockville Pike at the Pike Center in Rockville. The space is being cleared out. Goodyear is putting a positive spin on the closure. In a message to customers, it invites them to its Gaithersburg location at 457 N. Frederick Avenue. There, the company says, it has "combined facilities" and "expanded services" offered.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Indecent exposure at Rockville library

Rockville City police were called to the Rockville Memorial Library at 21 Maryland Avenue late Thursday afternoon, June 13, 2024, to investigate an indecent exposure incident. The incident was reported at the library at 5:47 PM Thursday. An individual was also accused of disorderly conduct and obstructing a criminal investigation in the same incident. The adult male suspect was arrested and faces all three charges, which are all misdemeanors.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Local UFCW unions endorse Alsobrooks in Maryland U.S. Senate race, Trump embraces critic Hogan

Three local United Food & Commercial Workers unions endorsed Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) in the race for Ben Cardin's Maryland U.S. Senate seat yesterday. UFCW Local 400, UFCW Local 27, and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO represent over 30,000 members who are registered voters in Maryland. Those members work in a wide variety of fields, including grocery stores, retail, health care, food processing, meatpacking, chemical processing, cannabis, and gaming, as well as in the public sector. UFCW Local 1994 represents many Montgomery County government employees, for example.

UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne

“Angela Alsobrooks is a champion for working families, and a relentless advocate for justice and equity,” UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne said in a statement Thursday. “Her commitment to the people of Maryland and her proven track record of leadership make her the ideal candidate for the U.S. Senate. I am proud to endorse Angela Alsobrooks, confident that she will fight tirelessly for our rights and our future.”

Alsobrooks receiving the endorsement of
local 1199 SEIU union in February

The choice of labor to support Alsobrooks is not necessarily a surprising development in the general election contest, which pits the Prince George's leader against former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in a statewide election that may determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Alsobrooks has already garnered many union endorsements in the race, including several local SEIU unions, and the Amalgamated Transit Union. Thursday's endorsements give her the backing of 13 labor organizations, based upon the list on her campaign website.

Former Gov. Larry Hogan receiving endorsement
of Ocean City and Worcester County firefighters in
Ocean City

Hogan has received six union endorsements himself, many representing first responders in the state. Among those supporting the Republican are the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (M.E.B.A.), the nation’s oldest maritime labor union representing officers of the United States Merchant Marines, Ocean City Career Firefighter Paramedics Association IAFF Local 4269, Worcester County Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 4916, the International Union of Police Associations, the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance (SLEOLA), and the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333. The latter represents more than 2,000 maritime workers at the busy Port of Baltimore.

One endorsement Hogan didn't necessarily expect was that of President Donald Trump, whom the former governor has heavily criticized for years. But he got it anyway Thursday, only a week after Trump surrogates declared Hogan's Senate hopes dead, after the Marylander asked his fellow Americans to respect the verdict in Trump's New York trial. 

Trump's habit of embracing even his harshest critics at the drop of a hat can be seen by some as shrewd, and by others as nonsensical. But Trump's transactional relationship style has served him well for decades in business and politics, making his endorsement of Hogan not entirely shocking. On balance, the Trump nod may even help Hogan, if "Lockdown Larry"-averse MAGA voters end up begrudgingly following their leader's directive.

Photos courtesy Alsobrooks for Senate, UFCW Local 1994, Hogan for Maryland, Inc.

Mind Games opening at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Another toy store is coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Mind Games will be a bit more on the Smart Toys side of the spectrum than a Toys R Us or KB Toys model. The Toronto-based retailer sells books, educational toys, and games alongside the conventional popular toys. It also has its own house-brand products. Familiar toy brands stocked include Lego, Funko, Mattel, and Maisto.

Mind Games is now hiring for all positions, including store manager, assistant manager, key holders, and part-time associates. When the games begin, look for Mind Games on Level 1 of the mall, next to Build-A-Bear Workshop. Which coincidentally puts Mind Games a few doors down from another Lego retailer - Lego itself. 

The store brings some Canadian sensibilities with it, too. Boxing Day gets a big push on its social media accounts, for example. And holiday sale door busters are "door crashers," eh?

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Derwood students are 2nd-place winners in Montgomery County DOT "Paint the Plow" contest

Top winners from Westland MS in Bethesda

This winter, Montgomery County residents may see one or more of the County snowplows decorated by Montgomery County Public Schools students during the County Department of Transportation's "Paint the Plow" contest. Teams from 16 middle schools in the MCPS system participated. MCDOT provided the snowplows and paint materials, and each team had four days to name and decorate their plow. The plows were displayed at MCDOT's annual Truck Day on June 1, and attendees voted for the top three winning plows.

Redland MS in Derwood

Bethesda's Westland Middle School team won the top prize of $500 for its Road Runner "Beep Beep" and Pokemon Squirtle design. Redland Middle School in Derwood took second, with a prize of $300, for their team's Snoopy-inspired "Scoopy" plow. Coming in third for $200 was the team from Roberto Clemente MS in Germantown, who went full zombie with their plow's Zombinator theme.

Roberto Clemente MS in Germantown

“The annual Truck Day and Paint the Plow contest lets us showcase the vital role public works employees play in contributing to and enhancing our quality of life,” MCDOT Director Chris Conklin said in a statement. “Public works employees are on the front lines during emergency conditions, including winter weather events, and these snowplows will serve as a reminder of the valuable work they do.” 

County Executive Marc Elrich

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich praised the student winners and the County's public works employees, including snowplow drivers. “I want to thank MCPS and the participating students and teachers for helping us recognize the hard work and dedication of our public works employees. From keeping our streets clear of snow and ice, paving our roads and collecting yard debris, to maintaining our vital sanitary and storm sewer systems, their efforts keep our County safe, clean and thriving.” 

Soma closes at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

has closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The women's lingerie boutique brand was recently acquired by a private equity firm, which makes the closure less surprising. Having said that, I do not see news stories about specific Soma locations closing in other areas of the country at this time, so perhaps Montgomery County's infamously-moribund economy is to blame in this case. Soma was launched by Chico's FAS twenty years ago, and claims to have over 250 stores today.