Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Details Emerge (From the Ground) About This Year's Zombie Walk

Photo from last year's Walk by Flickr user kingkool68

As previously mentioned, the Third Annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk is scheduled for Saturday, October 23rd. Now that the necessary arrangements have been made, we have some additional details to share.

This year, Jackie's Sidebar and the Back Room at Jackie's will serve as ground zero for the Zombie outbreak. It is advised that Zombies should begin congregating about 8PM, though there's nothing stopping you from showing up before then. If last year's turnout is any indication, we'll need more space than these establishments offer. The good news is that there's plenty of places at which to hang out along the planned route. Once the walk begins, the zombie horde will continue to expand as it shambles down Georgia Avenue, collecting additional undead from establishments such as Fire Station 1, Olazzo, the Quarry House, Piratz Tavern and others.

The walk will once again conclude at the AFI Silver Theatre for a 9:45 showing of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Tickets for the show are not yet available online, but as soon as they are, we'll let you know. Pre-purchasing your tickets is highly advised, as last year's show sold out and many zombies were left out in the cold.

For more information on the Walk, join the Silver Spring Zombie Walk Facebook Group, follow the Twitter feed, or visit the official site.

Let's ensure the third episode of the Zombie Walk turns out great, like Last Crusade, not awful like Matrix Revolutions or decent but somewhat unsatisfying like Return of the Jedi. (Though zombie Ewoks would be cool.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coveting thy Neighbor's Restaurants & Retail (Part 2 of 3)

After an extended delay, here is part two of my series on businesses presently enjoyed by our neighbors in Bethesda that I'd like to see opened here in Silver Spring. You can read part one of this three-part series here.

A Sports Bar

One type of establishment whose absence from Silver Spring has been lamented ad infinitum in the comments section of this blog is a sports bar. While there may indeed be bars and restaurants in the downtown area at which one can view sporting events, there isn’t a proper sports bar. I am referring to the kind of bar that is decorated with jerseys, pennants, etc. and which caters to guests who come for the primary purpose of viewing sporting events. In my opinion, a sports bar should offer the following:

- Adequately-sized televisions within line of site of all areas of the restaurant. Little mini-TVs in the booths are great, too.

- At least one large, pull down screen on which the featured game can be projected.

- All or most TVs at the bar should be showing programming in high definition. A major pet peeve of mine is going to a bar to watch a big game and finding out all they have is high-def sets displaying a stretched-out standard definition picture, which is actually worse than watching it on a standard TV. This scenario happened to me recently at a certain location in Silver Spring, but by the time I realized it, I had already committed. Why buy the HDTV if you don't get the HD service? (Kudos to places like Olazzo, though while small, still have a proper HD setup.)

- A Golden Tee machine.

- Not a requirement, but a major plus: televisions positioned above the urinals, à la the defunct Willie & Reed’s.

Caddie’s on Cordell in Bethesda certainly qualifies as a "real" sports bar, and as a bonus it even has an outdoor seating area. Caddies may devolve into Douchebag Central on weekend nights, but it’s still a great go-to place for big games. I don’t know of anywhere in Silver Spring that would come close to classifying as such.

Interior of Caddie's on Cordell

So where exactly in Silver Spring would this hypothetical sports bar be located? A custom-built space in a revamped City Place? (hah!) How about the building in East Silver Spring most recently occupied by the Gallery Restaurant and Lounge? Not the optimal location, perhaps, but hey, it's a good space and it's available.

The interior of Gallery. Whatever happened to all those Eames chairs?

I grudgingly accept that any new sports bar in Montgomery County would quickly be commandeered by carpetbagger football fans with their Steelers, Red Sox and (vomits in mouth) Cowboys loyalties, but that's something I'm willing to live with get a place to watch games. That's just an unfortunate fact of life in modern-day metropolitan Washington.

Design Within Reach

(Pauses to allow laughter subside) Of course, this is just pure fantasy – even more so than Steve Jobs opening an Apple Store on Ellsworth. But whatever, this is the my list and I appreciate modern furniture. It's quite enjoyable to browse through Design Within Reach and masquerade as someone interested in buying a $10,000 sofa. Mostly, it'd be a good prestige store for Silver Spring to have. We've had high end retail before - remember our Marimekko store? On second thought, bad example.

DWR usually tries to locate their showrooms historic or unique properties. It's a little late now, but the old fire station, now home to the Fire Station 1 restaurant, would have been perfect.


While there already exists a CVS in the Blair Plaza Shopping Center, this pedestrian-unfriendly location isn't particularly convenient for those of us who reside on the eastern side of Georgia Avenue. Plenty of vitriol has been spewed against CVS, and while much of it deserved, CVS is useful because in addition to prescription drugs it offers a wide variety of other merchandise. As things stand right now, where in or immediately around DTSS can you quickly run in and get a candy bar?* Imagine being able to buy a box of Junior Mints across the street from the Majestic to sneak into a movie? Not that I would ever advocate such a deplorable act, of course.

It's not as if there's no precedent for a CVS. For years there was a drug store located in the area that the DTSS development now occupies. Most recently there was large Rite Aid in the Silver Spring Shopping Center, and before that there was a succession of drug stores in that same shopping center.

Circa 1970's Drug Fair in the Silver Spring Shopping Center, now part of DTSS.

I realize many people cherish the concept of a mom and pop pharmacy, but some of the comments left on this blog regarding the now-departed Upscale Pharmacy illustrate that perhaps in practice such a business is not ideal. How about throw a CVS into City Place? That's the type of business with universal appeal that would actually get people through the doors.

*I do not count the $3 chocolate bars at Whole Foods.

Monday, August 16, 2010

City Place Episode III: A (New) New Hope?

Remember a few years back when City Place was sold to retail developers Petrie Ross of Annapolis and we were anticipating all the great stores they were going to bring to downtown Silver Spring's second-rate shopping mall? Well, I think it is fair to say that in the intervening years our hopes for City Place's redevelopment failed to come to fruition and its Shitty Place nickname remains appropriate.

Now Petrie Ross has has unloaded the property, selling it for $22.8 million to Hutensky Capital Partners, a company that "specializes in the acquisition and repositioning of underperforming retail properties".

So what exactly does this mean for City Place? Could we finally see a positive shift in City Place's retail mix? Only time will tell. I'm not asking for much. At this point I'd be satisfied with a Gap or something.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Up in SSINO yesterday, a guy robbed a bank while sporting a burqa.

Upon first hearing this story I was somewhat skeptical that the perp was actually wearing an authentic, honest-to-God, Mullah Omar-approved burqa, figuring witnesses just likened his outfit to one. However, based on the surveillance footage that was released this may actually be the case. He gets points for originality, but it’s not quite up there with a Darth Vader costume.

- I can't believe how much ink (or bits and bytes, as it were) has been expended on Silver Spring skateboarders lately. I guess August is just a really slow month. Remember back in '03 when they constructed a half-pipe on Georgia Avenue and Tony Hawk did a skateboarding demo? Seems kind of surreal in retrospect.

- I read with amusement this story about Monterey Park, California's Atlantic Times Square development, which is essentially their local version of DTSS. The Monterey Park city council is dissatisfied with the regional chains the developer is bringing in and is demanding that he get commitments from more national chain stores and restaurants.

Now, can you imagine if Montgomery County councilmembers demanded that DTSS have more national chains? People's heads would explode, and I don't even mean that in the figurative sense. They'd have to hire an army of crime scene cleanup workers to pull the skull fragments out of the ceilings and walls of homes in the more liberal neighborhoods of Silver Spring.

- Don't forget, Maryland's tax-free shopping week ends on Sunday. Too bad there's nowhere in Silver Spring at which I'd shop for clothes. At least women have a few options around town. And hey, Rostas is coming back.

- Greater Greater Washington deems Veterans Plaza "worthy of The Turf's legacy".

Welcome to the End Times

Seriously, if this berserk weather persists, we should all expect to be roaming the gray wastelands in a couple years, eluding bands of cannibals while armed with a revolver and our last two bullets. As of the time I left for work this morning my power was still out, and I can only hope that my recent experience of five days without electricity will not be repeated.

I wandered over to Sligo Creek, which had overflowed its banks as a result of the torrential downpour, at points even covering the parkway. Near the parkway's intersection with Colesville, a tree was down, completely blocking the road. I started to get closer to investigate, but quickly realized wading through flood water near a downed power line was an easy way to become a Darwin Award recipient.

As I stood there shaking my head, car after car drove all the way up to the downed tree (through the flood water) before turning back, even though one could clearly see from a block away that the road was completely obstructed.

Even the Beltway was flooded in parts. At the Colesville Road exit, enough water had pooled on the roadway that only 1 1/2 lanes were open on the left side. I can only imagine the length of the backup that was causing. The power also looked to be out at the Four Corners intersection, which is never good, particularly during rush hour.

Well, here's hoping everything is back to normal for the evening rush...

Monday, August 09, 2010

New Skate Spot a Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy?

- After being open but a couple weeks, the new skate park in Woodside appears to have already validated some of its neighbors' trepidations about it. Over the past few weeks we've been made abundantly aware that all skateboarders are choir boys who reluctantly skate only when there are no volunteer spots open at the senior centers or animal shelters. That's what makes it all the more shocking that there have already been incidences of assault and other crimes at the park. The following is a portion of an email sent by the Park Police in response to a report of middle-school kids being threatened by teenagers claiming to be gang members packing heat:

We have had a Directed Patrol in place since the skate spot opened and officers are patrolling the park frequently. In fact, on the day of this incident, officers were out in the park seven times throughout the day. One of these proactive patrols around 4pm, resulted in an arrest for marijuana and alcohol possession...We are currently investigating two other incidents at the park, one involving vandalism to the skate spot and one involving an assault by two skaters last night. We anticipate charges being filed in both cases.
To be fair, I'm sure a lot of the local skateboarders are perfectly well-behaved, but with incidents like these, they will be driven away and never get to use the park. I suppose the moral of this story is that if you try and build anything nice, someone will come along and ruin it for everybody else. Maybe MoCo can hire this guy as a consultant.


- On the positive side, Silver Spring's Woodside Park neighborhood, was featured in the Post's real estate section over the weekend.

- DTSS restaurants are complaining about Nando's getting a liquor license, arguing that an additional restaurant on that block will create too much competition for them. I for one cannot wait for Nando's for the very reason that I am so burnt out on all the other options in DTSS. With that said, I would argue that there are already a few too many chicken places in Silver Spring...

- As I suggested they do a couple years ago, long before Goldberg's New York Bagels opened a block away, the New York Bakery on Georgia avenue is opening a retail storefront on August 15th. Be one of their first 25 customers this Sunday and get a dozen bagels free.

- Also re-opening in that row of shops is Bigg Wolf video (the extra "g" is for ???). Porn has returned to Georgia Avenue! Bigg Wolf, formerly located at the end of the strip, will now be using the empty space that for the longest time displayed signage for Alberto's Pizza, the only evidence of that stillborn effort. (Seriously, though - who still rents porn videos anyway? Didn't nerds invent the Internet for the express purpose of avoiding having to do that?)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Godspeed, Chompy

On this beautiful summer day, let us pause for a moment to give thanks for the time we had with Chompy, who quietly returned this weekend to the mysterious land of giant inflatable animals from whence he came. I think it is fair to say that during his all-to-brief return visit this year, we were all touched by the fin of Chompie in one way or another.


Let us pray that an appearance by Chompy does not remain a quadrennial event, and that Discovery won't instead opt to have an inflatable Sarah Palin protruding from their headquarters for their next promotion.

Flashback: "Smile, You Son of a Bitch"

UPDATE: Beyond DC points out that Chompy still lives in Google Maps.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Could another Retail Fail be in the works for downtown Silver Spring ? I can't speak to the relative sales at the Silver Spring store, but American Apparel corporate isn't doing so hot. The company's bankruptcy may be "inevitable". Regardless of what you think about AA, it sure beats another empty storefront, and there are a growing number of those on that corner.

- The Silver Spring Metro station, along with four others, will be closed Labor Day weekend for repairs, beginning 10 PM on Friday. It will re-open the following Tuesday.

- has the lowdown on Mr. Chicken, a new rotisserie chicken joint (because there aren't enough of these in MoCo) that just opened on Georgia Avenue next to Velatis Caramels. With Nando's eventual opening, there will certainly be an abundance of chicken options in Silver Spring. Perhaps some birds can be locally sourced, as long as they aren't the kind that eat themselves.

- Speaking of grand openings, the Fenton Street Quizno's, which opened six years ago, celebrated their opening once again this weekend:

Just because you have a sign doesn't mean you need to use it. This eyesore must violate some lease agreement or another.