Thursday, January 27, 2011

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

After justifiably getting called out for not blogging frequently enough, I do want to apologize for the paucity of posts as of late. Between work kicking my ass and a variety of home projects, I haven't had a ton of quality blogging time. Plus it's January, and nothing ever happens this month, with the possible exception of the occasional Snowpocalypse.

Anyhoo, while this may amount to nothing more than a token post, what follows is a brief compilation of items I've had lying around that I deemed unworthy of their own posts.

- According to the South Silver Spring Neighborhood association website, A new restaurant may be in the works for the space formerly occupied by Mayorga Coffee (presently the home of Great Kids Village). It doesn't sound like any plans are concrete as of yet, but the proposed restaurant is described as having a "laid back French-style". Does this mean that it would have outdoor cafe seating where people can smoke and watch the traffic go by on Georgia Avenue for hours? <sigh> I miss Paris...

- There was an interesting post on Monday over on Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, where Richard Layman argues there is value (with an asterisk) in chain stores, if not national chains per se. I mention this due to the endless arguments waged here and elsewhere over Silver Spring's chain stores, both national and regional. (Read my thoughs on that subject here.)

There is, however, a massive oversight in his list of regional chain stores. How can Strosniders Hardware not be included? For me, that is the most valuable store in all of Silver Spring (and Bethesda, for that matter).

- So apparently Rockville has adopted an official motto: "Get into it."  (I just figured it was "We're North Bethesda!") Were Silver Spring to adopt a motto, what would it be, or is "Silver Sprung" already our motto? I sincerely hope not. This subject may very well warrant a dedicated post in the near future.

- You may have noticed that the Toys 'R Us Lite that was briefly located on Fenton Street absconded from DTSS earlier this month. My understanding at the time it opened was that it was intended to be a ongoing concern, rather than a seasonal outlet. This theory was supported by the fact that it opened in the middle of summer rather than in the period leading up to Christmas. However, the general makeshift appearance of the store, where merchandise was displayed on wire shelving, conveyed the impression that it was designed to be less than permanent. I guess that was indeed the case.

Interesting trivia: the world's first Toys 'R Us was in Rockville. Not sure if this original location is the same one that is there now.

- Kids out there in Silver Spring must have really great rooms, as their spaces have been featured on Ohdeedoh, Apartment Therapy's kids design blog, not once, but twice over the past couple weeks.

- Congratulations to Jackie's Sidebar for earning a place on the cover of the February "Great Bars" issue of Washingtonian Magazine.

Snowpocalypse Now

Perhaps we didn't get as much snow as we received over the course of last year's Snowpocalypse, but the timing of this year's storm (now featuring thundersnow!) couldn't have been worse. I was fortunate in that my commute yesterday afternoon was no more than 30-40 minutes, but a lot of people out there trying to escape the city through Silver Spring encountered an apocalyptic nightmare.

I saw a long line of cars forming out in front of my house, but until my power went out at about 8 or so, I wasn't particularly interested in going outside to survey the traffic scene. Once the inevitable outage occurred, I had nothing better to do, so I bundled up and trudged over to Colesville to see what was going on. I got my first indication of the severity of the backup when I noticed that a Postal Service truck that had been in front of my house an hour earlier had only advanced about half a block since.

Colesville & Sligo Creek Pkwy

Over on Colesville, I witnessed a backup of epic proportions. One reason (among many) was that cars were having to be pushed one by one (!) up the hill at the intersection with Franklin Avenue. No cars were advancing in the opposite direction, and as with any good apocalypse, there were actually vehicles headed outbound in the inbound lanes.

As an aside, that's one thing that always bothered me about this poster for the Walking Dead show on AMC. They are implying that either people in Atlanta are law abiding to a fault or really stupid. Why would you not use all available lanes to escape a disaster?

Any buses with routes along Colesville had just given up and pulled over to the side of the road. Inside, the buses were pretty empty, as a lot of people just decided to bail and hoof it.

Colesville Road nightmare

Cars being pushed up the hill, one by one

With my power still out, I decided to explore the neighborhoods, away from the backup on the major streets. These streets were eerily quiet and dark, with no traffic or electricity. It was pretty peaceful, though the sound of wet snow falling from trees onto the road behind you sounds a lot like quickly advancing footsteps, so that was a tad disconcerting.

Back in the neighborhoods it was quiet...
Downtown Silver Spring had juice, but the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it were dark, and at least some of them still were as of this morning.

So how was your commute? Do you have power? Mine eventually came back on last night, so I feel lucky. I'm somewhat less fortunate in that my office is open today, albeit a bit late, so I'm off.

Before I go, I apologize for this but I feel obligated...


Here's some additional photos and videos submitted by readers. If you have some of your own and want to share, email them to me.

A desperate plea for help @ Wayne and Dartmouth. (Submitted by LW)
Fallen cable across Lansdowne Way. (Submitted by JRM)

Bad traction on Dale Dr. (Submitted by CD)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- Borders Books, whose store is one of the anchors of DTSS, isn't going to be filing for bankruptcy, despite recent speculation that they might be forced to do so. Well, at least not yet they aren't. I would be sad if Borders were to disappear. Where else would I kill time when my wife shops at Ann Taylor Loft/DSW/Ulta? Of course, I am the archetypal consumer responsible for the company's woes, seeing as I buy nearly all my books on, with the exception of those instances where Borders offers a 40% off coupon. The only upside to Borders failing would be the prospect of a store-wide clearance sale.

I imagine the Silver Spring Borders does OK relative to others nationwide, as it always looks busy. Whether or not anyone is actually buying things or just lollygagging like me is a different matter. Maybe Barnes & Noble, which is doing relatively well, could step in and take over the space provided it wasn't too small for their needs.

- The Blog of Diminishing Returns, authored by an economics professor who resides in Silver Spring, recently had a post examining the economics of IMAX pricing at the Majestic 20. This was the first of a series of posts he intends to write looking at the economics of Silver Spring. His follow-up post examines the competitive burrito environment in downtown Silver Spring. As a former Econ major, I always find these types of analyses interesting.

- One economic analysis I'd like to see is the increase in business local establishments see after issuing coupons via Groupon, and what type of profit they actually realize. I went to LebTav in DTSS the other day with my groupon and watched as six consecutive customers paid using a printed coupon. A few weekends back, after Parkway Deli offered their $20 for $10 coupon, the place was visibly busier.

- I finally got around to checking out Babe's Sports bar (which is now on Twitter and Facebook), and it was a good time. I'm not going to do a proper review as restaurant reviews aren't really my area, but here's a brief rundown of the good and some potential areas for improvement.


- The food was pretty good for sports bar food. I didn't try the ribs, but by all accounts they are excellent. My burger was tasty, as were the fries (more on these below). The brownie I had for dessert was delicious.

- The French fries come with Old Bay seasoning on them by default. There should be a law in Maryland requiring this.

- They have a Gus Frerrote Redskins jersey displayed on the wall, which is appropriate as up against a wall is how the Gus Bus will be best remembered.

 And a few suggestions for Babe's, based on my idealized vision of a sports bar:
- Dim the lights. It was a tad bright downstairs, particularly for a pool hall.

- If possible, set up an area with a large projection screen where big groups of people can watch a game together. This was one of my main requirements when I posted last year regarding Silver Spring's need for a sports bar. Without this, you get a lot of small groups spread out around the room, taking away from the communal atmosphere.

- Hook up one television to the bar's main sound system so that the audio for the featured game can be heard throughout the building (including the bathrooms, preferably).

- Take down the Baltimore Ravens banner immediately.

- I make an effort to support local businesses, but the price of beans at Highland Origin Coffee is ridiculous. They charge $40 for two pounds of whole bean coffee! I can mail order the same amount from Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland for less, and that includes shipping from the west coast. Highland's coffee is good, but not that good. Sorry, just had to bitch about that.