Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sligo Creek Golf Course Receives Stay of Execution

Apparently Sligo Creek Golf course may have been spared the ax for at least another year, as reports are that Ike Leggett and Valerie Ervin are determined to find a way to fund the course for another year while sponsoring a feasibility study on keeping it operating indefinitely. Presumably more info will be forthcoming shortly. Look for a report by Chick Hernandez (Blair alumnus) on Comcast SportsNet.

How this fits in with the plans of the dastardly Revenue Authority remains to be seen.

Photo by Flickr user pmhyman.

Thanks to commenter "Matthew" for the tip.

UPDATE: The Post just posted a story on this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Broken Glass, Everywhere...

Wondering why the American Apparel is sporting a boarded up window today? Apparently not happy with the "Legalize Gay" window display at the store, someone decided early this morning to terminate the window itself.

When Kassandra Powell arrived for work at the Silver Spring American Apparel store yesterday morning, she was met with a crowd, a police car, and a broken window. “I was told that the [security alarm] went off at 5:15 a.m.,” she says.

Powell, a store manager, had reason to believe that the early-morning glass-shattering was more than your average retail break-in. Nothing was stolen from the store—including the anti-Prop-8 t-shirts prominently displayed on the opposite side of the glass.
A like-minded individual, too stupid to recognize the difference between a 301 and 202 area code, called the Georgetown store this morning asking if it was the Silver Spring location and bitching about the window display (which at that point was gone, along with the window). Probably some wingnut from God-knows-where who read about it on some blog or message board. This is what you get from all these rural Internet initiatives.

Can you imagine what the perp would have thought of this t-shirt, displayed in the window of the Pyramid Atlantic store last year?

It's not the first time an American Apparel display threatened the sensitivities of our neighbors. The store managed to offend people before it even opened, as some claimed that their advertising was tantamount to kiddie porn. Hell, the American Apparel here is tame. Try the one in Hollywood. That one has actual porn in the store.

UPDATE: American Apparel has responded on their website.

Friday, July 17, 2009

All Your Golf Course Are Belong to Us

So, can I have the three hours of my life back that I spent at the Park & Planning Commission meeting last night? (Read twitter updates here.) After watching a presentation (PDF) from the board outlining alternative uses for the Sligo Creek Golf Course, attendees heard statements from 39 speakers who, for the most part, were vehement supporters of continuing to operate the golf course as a golf course. One guy even threatened to move out of the county if the golf course is replaced. Each of the pro-golf statements was met with rousing applause from those in attendance.

Unfortunately, immediately following all these heartfelt presentations the board proceed to reaffirm its plans to convert the golf course to some other use. According to the board, they have zero power to actually keep the course open and the meeting was held strictly to consider other options. Perhaps this is true, but it's probably something they should have made clear at the beginning of the meeting. Failure to do so led to some outbursts that were met with angry gavel banging by the board's chairman. They probably should have just let it go at that, but one board member proceeded to state that people are just upset because they are "used to" the course, as it became comfortable like an "old shoe", implying, I guess, that it really ought to be replaced with something better. That particular statement went over particularly well with the audience, as you might imagine.

I can't believe that the whole golf course replacement process is being railroaded through the system with little consideration for those who actually live near the course and use it regularly. It seems like everything else the county does takes ages, since apparently for those projects community input is paramount. Case in point: the new Silver Spring Civic Center. They recently got around to building it after years of discussion, charettes and input from the "community". Why do you think we had the so-called "Turf" for so long? Another example: the library. How long have we been discussing this building and considering dozens of prospective designs? At least ten years, I would guess. In many of these instances the "community" consists of the same five people who show up to every meeting. Last night we had a standing room only crowd of residents who passionately supported the golf course, but who were essentially told, "too bad, so sad" by the planning board.

Hell, there's more county involvement in the stupid $700K library bridge that only a small fraction (the voting portion?) of library patrons really need to begin with. Even the county executive has taken a strong position on the bridge issue. Who in Rockville is fighting for the thousands of people who enjoy Sligo Creek Golf course? Can you imagine if they tried to take away a golf course in Bethesda or Chevy Chase? There would be legions of lawyers headed up 355 to stop the action. Look at their reaction when someone proposed running light rail near their precious country club on land that the county already owns. Maybe The Poors down here in Silver Spring aren't worth the county's precious time or funding. Perhaps it's hard to conceptualize that a fancy sport like golf might be played east of Chevy Chase.

This whole deal is so sketchy and opaque that I'm inclined to buy in to some of the CON...spiracy theories I've heard floating around this situation. Will we be seeing the Sligo Creek Golf Condos in a few years?

So here are the facts, at least as I understand them. It doesn't take a Vulcan to see that logically the Sligo Creek Golf Course was doomed from the moment an agreement was signed with the Revenue Authority:

  • The county signed over the management rights to a facility that can, according to the RA, only be run profitably with a driving range. (Did no one do the math beforehand??)
  • The RA did not have the right to build the driving without county approval.
  • The county would not approve these changes without buy in from "the community".
  • The community would never agree to these changes.
  • The RA will dump a course that it believes cannot be run profitably.
  • If the course is returned to the county, it cannot be run as a golf course according to the county's 30 year (!) agreement with the RA, which effectively means the course can never be used again.
So now a course that happily existed for 50 or so years prior to the arrival of the RA will now be plowed under for some soccer fields or other use, which will no doubt cost the county county plenty of money they claim not to have. Why would the county grant the Revenue Authority power of life or death over our public areas, and why do they seemed disinclined to fight the injustice being perpetrated on Silver Spring? Has the RA specifically said that they don't want the Sligo Creek course to continue operating, or is the county using the lease agreement as an excuse to avoid paying for continued operation without commissioning further study to see if the course can be financially viable on its own? It's not like the alternatives being proposed are cheap. One use mentioned in the planning board's presentation was a swimming pool complex. This is cheaper than a golf course to run?

According to their website, the RA claims to be "dedicated to providing services, products, and opportunities of value that offer enrichment to the community". They must have left out the "when profitable" or "for wealthy citizens only" part.

So, what can you do? has a great page with relevant contact emails. Just don't stay on the sidelines. Remember, if they take away golf now, it's never coming back. I don't even play golf myself, but I always just took it for granted that I'd pick it up eventually, seeing that I had Sligo Creek Golf Course within walking distance of my house.

Not that you should need the motivation, but I'll leave you with this. The seniors part is appropriate.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Retail Ghost Town

Will this bloodshed never end? I didn't think I'd ever be doing two posts about stores closing in DTSS on the same day, but unfortunately that is indeed the case. The Golf, Etc. on Fenton Street is presently in the process of packing up and moving to Rockville. First The Man is closes our local golf course, now this.

Interestingly, the two retailers we lost this week were probably the two highest end of the bunch. Some people might be happy about this retail regression, but frankly it kind of sucks.

Also going bye bye for good? Ritz Camera. Their downtown store liquidated earlier this year, but the location in Burnt Mills lived on to fight another day. At least until now, that is. The entire chain is now liquidating.

So who's the present #1 in the Silver Spring Retail Dead Pool? My bet is on Pier 1, which is doing better than expected, but still plans to close 50 stores by the end of the year.

And now, once again, the official Silver Spring Retail Fail theme song:

Nicaro Hut

So here's the full scoop on the future Silver Spring restaurant from former Nicaro owner and chef Pedro Matamoros, courtesy of Tom Sietsema's chat earlier today:

Pedro Matamoros is going out on his own, to open a place called 8407. The name comes from its address, at 8407 Ramsey Ave., which is conveniently located between the Metro station and the Discovery building.

His business partner, Nancy Mola, tells me that Matamoros intends to focus on small plates, charcuterie, seafood and the like. 8407 will be BIG: 5,000 + square feet to accommodate a ground floor bar and three upstairs dining rooms, including banquet facilities.

Mola says a web site for the restaurant, which is expected to open in October, is planned for next week.
8407 Ramsey is, of course, the former home of the Luau Hut. So much for re-opening it as a tiki bar... for now.

Credit goes to J.S. for coining the phrase "Nicaro Hut".

I'm A High End Retailer, Get Me Out Of Here!

I would appear the slumming experiment is over for Marrimekko. According to the company absconded from their Ellsworth & Georgia location in the dead of night with little fanfare or warning, like a Finnish Robert Irsay.

When it opened in 2007, ours was just the third Marimekko Concept Store in the U.S., with the others located in Miami and Cambridge, Mass. Only one store, in Manhattan, has opened since. While I admit that I never personally purchased anything from Marrimekko, its existence was at least a source of bragging rights for Silver Spring. If the store re-opens in Bethesda, Clarendon, or somewhere similar, it will be a real slap in the face.

The difference between this and past DTSS store closings, which included Storehouse Furniture, Bombay Company and Ritz Camera, is that the action wasn't part of a chain-wide bankruptcy. It would appear that the Silver Spring store itself just wasn't cutting it. I'm not sure why they made the decision to open a shop that sold $50/yard fabric in Silver Spring in the first place, but to have it taken away after two years is kind of a black mark on our retail record.

So now what? Again according to, the Pyramid Atlantic retail store may be moving to that corner, at least on a temporary basis. That's nice for them and all, but at some point Peterson needs to get permanent, paying tenants in these spaces. I imagine if they could have filled the Bombay/P.A. space after all this time, they would have. If someone's interested in partnering with me to start a cupcake/coffee/gelato joint in that location, let me know. No, really, I'd do that in a second.

Let's just hope it doesn't get bad enough that we get a dollar store on The Promenade. Don't laugh, it could happen.

And now, once again, the official Silver Spring Retail Fail theme song:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Outdoor Movies Return to Silver Spring

If you're still lamenting the loss of Silver Spring's outdoor movie series, fear not - it has returned, albeit in a much scaled-down form. Starting tomorrow, "Screen on the Lot" will be showing movies in the parking lot of the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. In keeping with their stated mission of "nurturing artistic excellence through imaginative programming in the visual arts", Pyramid Atlantic will be screening such avant-garde films as Transformers, Iron Man and School of Rock.

While some may dislike the experience of watching films outdoors, it's better to have them available than not. Rockville Town Square still shows flicks outside, although their selections include I'd-rather-eat-a-bullet-rather-than-watch-this motion pictures such as He's Just Not That Into You. Perhaps next year Silver Spring can use the soon-to-be-abandoned Sligo Creek Golf Course for outdoor movies...

It'd be great if someone organized some MobMovs in Silver Spring this summer. There's got to be an adequate space back in the imaginary Ripley District or elsewhere around downtown. I can imagine the humorless MoCo cops would frown upon this idea, however.

I love drive-ins, but right now the closest (official) one is way out past Baltimore. Are there any hipsters out there that want to be on point for this mission? I'll supply the cupcakes.

Just to clarify - you sit on the ground/chair/blanket for the movies at Pyramid Atlantic. If we had MobMovs, which we don't, you'd be in your car.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Trendy Confectionery God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Us?

Why is Silver Spring so far behind the cupcake curve? It's been nine long years since Carrie Bradshaw chowed on that fateful cupcake, yet Silver Spring has yet to sprout its first ├╝ber-trendy $3 cupcake place.

Cupcakes, which were apparently invented sometime during the last decade, have spread across the metro area like a sugary plague. Capitalizing on a New York trend, places like Georgetown Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcakery and Hello Cupcake have sprung up around the District in the past couple years. And it's not just DC proper, either - there are "cupcakeries"(real word?) in Virginia as well, and Bethesdans are getting their very own Georgetown Cupcake so they won't have to drive all the way down Wisconsin Avenue to queue up.

Now, I love me some cupcakes as much as the next red-blooded American and really have no problem paying a few bucks for a quality cupcake, but the concept of standing in line a half an hour or more to get one is a bit absurd. I do give maximum respect to proprietors of these places - they are milking this cupcake bubble to the fullest. Hell, I'm sure baking cupcakes is probably a lot more interesting than my job. Having a Land Rover for a cupcake company car is a bit over the top, though. You don't want to end up as the Evander Holyfield of cupcake bakers.

Anyway, I see lemmings customers lined up down the block at Georgetown Cupcake at all hours of the day, so there is clearly substantial a demand for cupcakes in our area. I can't believe that this need doesn't extend across the District border to Silver Spring. Nevertheless, despite the frosting-laden treat's apparent astronomical popularity, to my knowledge no one yet is planning on opening up a cupcake joint in The Spring. Are we that poor and/or unhip? There must be enough pent-up cupcake demand in our little corner of MoCo to sustain a dedicated cupcake shop. We're supposedly getting a new donut shop, but I'd take a cupcakery over that. (A good gelateria or bagel place would trump either of these, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Yes, there is a Cakelove in DTSS, and they do indeed sell cupcakes, but you never see people lined up out in front of the store. Why the Cakelove cupcake fail? Here's a few theories:

- Cakelove sells non-cupcake food. Why would you want to be in a line for a bakery when someone might think you are buying something other than a cupcake?

- Cakelove is soooo 2003. If it opened up now, it'd be hot.

- According to comments made on this blog and others, people don't exactly love Cakelove's cupcakes. (Their cupcakes only scored a 4.5 out of 10 in a Washington Post cupcake-off.)
Come to think of it, we don't have a fake Pinkberry frogurt place yet, either. Plus we never got a Krispy Kreme when those were the unhealthy food du jour, either. (Look what happened to them, though.) Maybe we're just flyover country when it comes to dessert trends. Well, at least we all won't end up with Type 2 diabetes.