Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Heading home to points north or south for Thanksgiving and Black Friday? You might just pass by a Sheetz on the way there, unless you're lucky enough to have one in your home town. If you find yourself at Sheetz, you'll want to try their new Gingerbread Latte. How does it compare to the Pumpkin Pie Latte? Is it worth the (reasonable) price?

Watch my review to find out, and also get some free Black Friday shopping advice from our resident "expert."


Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan expanded his transition team by 20 yesterday, again drawing from a diverse, bipartisan group of Maryland residents. Notable among them were several Montgomery County residents, including one of the county's most prominent political figures, former County Executive Doug Duncan.

His personnel review team now includes Montgomery County resident Katja Bullock, former Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and a highly-regarded and longtime elected official with the Montgomery County Republican Party; Ande Fulton Rhodes, Personnel Director for Anne Arundel County and former Personnel Director for the State of Maryland; and Diane Baker, former Deputy Appointments Secretary for the State of Maryland.

Named to his business regulation review board were Jim Soltesz, President and CEO of Soltesz, Inc., a Maryland-based engineering and design firm; Ed Dunn, CEO of American Mechanical Services; and Abba Poliakoff, attorney at the firm Gordon Feinblatt, LLC.

Hogan also created a Transition Advisory Board, which includes 3-time Montgomery County Executive and Rockville Mayor Doug Duncan (D); Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey, diplomat and former candidate for Governor of Maryland; Jimmy Rhee, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Trade in the Commonwealth of Virginia; Helen Bentley, former U.S. Congresswoman; Joe Bartenfelder, former Delegate and member of the Baltimore County Council; Doug DeLeaver, Director of Community Relations for the Maryland State Police; David Craig, Harford County Executive (R); Kelly Schulz, Delegate (R-Frederick); Montgomery County resident Sam Malhotra, Founder and CEO of Subsystems, an IT services company based in Rosslyn, Virginia;  Steve Hershey, State Senator (R-District 36); former Lieutenant Governor candidate, Del. Jeannie Haddaway (R-District 37-B); Chris Shank, State Senator (R-District 2); Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and Luis Borunda, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Hispanic Business Conference & President, and CEO of U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education.
Doug Duncan
Selecting the pro-business Duncan, as well as prominent businessmen like Soltesz and Malhotra, suggests Hogan is strongly focused on the challenge of improving the state's moribund business climate. Given that Democrats are in the majority, the inclusion of Duncan will likely give Hogan an advantage in outreach, particularly in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, where Duncan has been very active in the business community since leaving office.


Just when you've finished Thanksgiving dinner - you're just getting started. While football on TV was the after-dinner activity of choice for most when I was growing up, in 2014 it's time to zip up the winter coat, grab the credit card, and head to the local mall, shopping center or big box store to grab the deals before they're gone.

Here's a roundup of some of the best in Bethesda:


The mall won't be open all night. Their hours on Thanksgiving Day will be from 6:00 PM to midnight, and then the mall will reopen at 6:00 AM on Black Friday. If you haven't visited in a while, you'll definitely be pleasantly surprised at the mall's makeover and expansion. Enjoy movies at the new, 16-screen ArcLight Cinemas and dining at the many new restaurants in the Dining Terrace. You'll also want to check out Santa Claus if you have kids, or the mall's holiday decorations, including the hanging 20' Christmas tree shown at the top of this post, which has 500 ornaments! Add extra time for parking, though, as the parking decks outside of Macy's have been demolished, and won't be replaced in time for Black Friday. Here are some of the deals you'll find around the new, updated mall:

Forever 21:

Black Friday Mystery Scratcher Giveaway: Arrive early for a chance to receive a discount of 15%, 20% or 25% off your in-store purchase and enter to win a private shopping party.

Black Friday Deals:

Beanies: $3.00+
Slippers: $5.00+ 
Dresses: $9.00+ 
Sleepwear: $10+ 
Tops: $10+ 
Sweaters: $12+
Also: get an additional 50% off Markdowns 11/27-11/28 until 2PM.


GAP has a great deal Thanksgiving and Black Friday: 50% off entire purchase!

American Eagle Outfitters:

Both days: 40% off the entire store (excludes gift cards and select Aerie merchandise). Get an additional 15% off if you are approved for a new AEO credit card (purchase must go on new card for discount).

Bath and Body Works:

Black Friday: Entire store - Buy 3, get 3 free equal or lesser value. Also, spend $40 on a qualifying purchase to receive the VIP Bag for $20. Limited quantity of VIP Bags available.


Buy One, Get One 50% OFF on all items from 6:00 pm - 12:00 midnight on Thanksgiving, and from 6:00 am - 10:00 pm on Black Friday.

Auntie Anne's:

Buy any pretzel item and a large lemonade, get a free pretzel of equal or lesser value.


Kind of underwhelming: $10 beauty deals Black Friday weekend. Selected items for $10.


Another great deal: 50% off the entire store on Black Friday.

Victoria's Secret:

Free secret reward card with $10 purchase or more. Worth $10, $50, $100 or $500 off your purchase Dec 4 - Dec 19. 
2 for $30 Candles
2 for $30 Fragrance Gift Sets
$15 off Sports Pants
2 for $49.50 Sexy Tees and Cotton Bras
5 for $26.50 Cotton Panties
Free Tote Bag with $75 purchase (while supplies last).

Under Armour:

Maryland's homegrown athletic apparel store is offering 25% off its signature Big Logo Hoodie. Men’s, women’s, and youth styles included.

Kay Jewelers:

Thankgiving night only: 10% off regular merchandise. 15% off Movado watches.

Mirch Masala:

Didn't get enough Thankgiving dinner? They'll be offering their Butter Chicken rice bowl for $5 on Thanksgiving night.

Marbles - The Brain Store:

Spend $100 and get a free Hydraulic Robotic Arm. And who couldn't use a Hydraulic Robotic Arm, right?


Black Friday only: 20% off on all regular priced merchandise until 10:00 am.


Solid deals both days: All Lounge Collection buy one, get second 1/2 off; selected WRUP Pants 50% off;
all shoes 50% off.

As Seen on TV:

You can't pick up too many Slap Chops or Light Angels. Everything 10-25% off Thanksgiving night, but only select items on Black Friday.

Urban Outfitters:

50% off all sale items on Black Friday.

Banana Republic:

Stop by Banana Republic on Black Friday and get 50% off one full-priced item until 1:00 pm -- plus 40% off your purchase all day long. Some exclusions apply.

Old Navy:

The first 100 people in line have a chance to win $1,000,000, and others could win a $200 shopping spree.


20% off outerwear.

Lucky Brand:

30 - 50% off everything.

The Body Shop:

Both days: 3 items for $33 on select products; $30 Black Friday bag w/any $30 purchase; $15 gift offer.


Free Fleece Blanket with $100 purchase or more. Black Friday Deals starting at $5.

White House | Black Market:

Black Friday only: 30% off entire purchase (see store associates for details and exclusions).


25% off regularly-priced merchandise both days.

Tommy Bahama:

Receive a $50 award for every $150 you spend in-store on Black Friday to use toward a future purchase.

Radio Shack:

Black Friday: RadioShack will be offering the Galaxy S5 for free with a qualifying two-year contract with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. Beats Solo headphones only $69.99 (requires mail-in rebate).


6 PM Thanksgiving night Doorbusters: Save 55% on a Kenmore washer and dryer set. RCA LED 1080p HDTV for $249.99 (40") or $379.99 (52"). 45% off Kenmore French door refrigerator/freezer.


Deals on Black Friday at Bethesda Row will include 30% off the entire store at Lucy. The Pink Palm will give you a Reusable Shopper Tote with any full priced Lilly Pulitzer purchase, and a wash and wear bag with any full priced Lilly Pulitzer purchase of $75 or more, while supplies last. Ginger will have lower prices the earlier you go: 40% off from 9-10 am; 30% off from 10-11 am; 20% 11-close.


RadioShack will have the same great deals as at their Westfield Montgomery Mall store, but it may be closer to you. The Westwood Shopping Center is located at 5400 Westbard Avenue in Bethesda.


A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Wisconsin and Montgomery Avenues in downtown Bethesda this morning. The accident was reported by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Pete Piringer shortly before 7:00 AM. A steady rain has been falling during the early morning hours, but no cause of the accident or injury details have been made public yet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The 17-story 7770 Norfolk luxury apartment tower continues to make progress at the corner of Norfolk and Fairmont Avenues in downtown Bethesda. Some of the first glass is being installed on the lower floors right now. You can see corner balconies that look almost livable right now, minus their necessary railings, of course. 7770 Norfolk is being developed by The JBG Companies.


After Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday. One of many popular small businesses in the Westwood Shopping Center on Westbard Avenue is Anglo Dutch Pools and Toys. It's one of only 2 Bethesda small businesses named Neighborhood Champions this year by American Express (the other is Creative Parties, LTD), and they'll be hosting a special event this Saturday, November 29, from 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

There will be fun for both kids and adults. For kids, balloon virtuoso James Creel will entertain from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM, and after that there will be craft activities, and all Playmobil sets will be 15% off. Adults, and more specifically women, may like the fact that all shoppers on Saturday will receive a Rebecca Minkoff-designed American Express tote bag.

Anglo Dutch Pools and Toys
5460 Westbard Avenue
(in the Westwood Shopping Center)
(301) 951-0636


Matuba owner Kunio Yasutake is celebrating his 40th year in America, and his restaurant's 34th year in Bethesda, with a dinner special from December 1-15.

Two can dine for $40, with your choice of two items from the following list:

• Gourmet sushi
• Gourmet sashimi
• Pan-fried salmon teriyaki with fried shrimp
• Seafood tempura

All meals will include miso soup and rice.

Matuba's history includes having the first rotary sushi buffet in the Washington Metropolitan area.

4918 Cordell Avenue
(301) 652-7449

Monday, November 24, 2014


Special Investigative Report

The pressure to transform the suburban Westbard area of Bethesda into an urban town center is not coming from residents. According to Montgomery County planner Marc DeOcampos, 85-90% of resident feedback during the week-long Westbard Sector Plan charrette was in favor of low-density development.

With those same residents panning the initial concept plan last week, and no clear incentives or perks to justify the negatives of urbanization on the Westbard area, where will any support for radical change come from in the Westbard Sector Plan process at the Planning Board and County Council levels?

Follow the money.

Developer Equity One, which owns all of the commercial properties along Westbard Avenue and Ridgefield Road, has partnered with local development firm EYA. EYA has donated many thousands of dollars to councilmembers. Here's a chart detailing checks the firm and its leaders have written to those members of the Montgomery County Council:

EYA (corporate)

Nancy Floreen $250
Hans Riemer $500

Hans Riemer $500

Hans Riemer $500
Nancy Floreen $500

Bob Youngentob

George Leventhal $250
Nancy Floreen $1000
Hans Riemer $1100

LeRoy Eakin

Hans Riemer $500

Frank Connors

Hans Riemer $100

Aakash Thakkar 

Hans Riemer $743.12

The grand totals are $1750 for Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At-Large), $250 for Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At-Large), and a whopping $3,200 for Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At-Large).

All 9 councilmembers will have the final say on the Westbard Sector Plan. If anyone keeps pushing for higher than 45' buildings in the plan, now that residents have made clear they are opposed, you'll know where it's coming from. Follow the money.


In an odd sequence of events, just after posting new signage, rooftop restaurant and bar Roof has closed in Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle. Hopefully someone can turn this promising space into the place to see and be seen in downtown Bethesda.
Roof has gone dark


New images of the future 16-story mixed-use tower proposed for St. Elmo Avenue by the Lenkin Company are in. The St. Elmo Apartments will house 210 residential units, and up to 15,488 SF of office/commercial space. The above image (and many other details) was already seen in my earlier report on the project, but there are some additional sketches, blueprints and plans for the David M. Schwarz-designed tower.

You can see it will be massed as a "C" shape building, and - if all goes as planned - will share an enhanced 10,865 SF public space with next-door neighbor Bainbridge Bethesda apartments. According to a letter to the Montgomery County Planning Department, the developer has already met with representatives of the Bainbridge to begin those discussions.

The sketch plan proposes up to 32 MPDUs, using a higher 15% affordable housing standard than the Montgomery County requirement of 12.5%.

While the current address of the development site is considered 4931 Fairmont Avenue, the future building's lobby will be on St. Elmo Avenue, as will its 4-level underground parking garage entrance. The tower's loading dock will be on Fairmont, however.

Construction would not begin until mid-2016 or 2017, attorney Steve Robins said in August.

Other than the sad news that Chef Tony's and Pizza Pass would have to be demolished prior to construction, most indications seem promising for this project. It will provide high density near Metro, has proposed higher than the required amounts of parking and affordable units, and could create an enhanced public gathering space. What would really make that work best would be if the St. Elmo and the Bainbridge can get some restaurants to lease in their ground floors, so that there will be activity over a greater range of hours, as opposed to a bank or shop that closes at 5 or 6 in the evening. The revitalization of that block of Fairmont Avenue seems stalled out at the present, with no tenants in the Bainbridge ground floor yet, and other future towers still under construction (7770 Norfolk) or in the works (former BP gas station at Fairmont and Old Georgetown Road).

Sunday, November 23, 2014


The Shoppes of Bethesda is looking a lot more modern - and ready for the holidays. Holiday decorations - including a Christmas tree - join new signage and a fresh exterior look as reasons to stop by the shopping center along Elm Street and Hampden Lane in Bethesda.


Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 20, according to crime data:

Vehicle burglary. 7400 block Arlington Road.

Vehicle burglary. 4700 block Bethesda Avenue.

Liquor arrest. 5400 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Drug arrest. 5600 block Spruce Tree Avenue.

Drug arrest. Goldsboro Road at River Road.

Drug arrest. Sangamore Road at Sentinel Drive.

Drug arrest. 6300 block Bells Mill Road.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.


From Provence to Bethesda: L'Occitane en Provence is bringing its beauty, hair and skincare products back to Westfield Montgomery Mall. Founded in 1976, the company's products are inspired by - and manufactured in - Manosque, Provence. L'Occitane does not employ animal testing in development of its products, and its products are certified organic by ECOCERT.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


The legendary Lobsicle is finally here in Bethesda, and that warranted a trip to Westfield Montgomery Mall for the Grand Opening of Lobster ME yesterday. With free food being given away during the lunch hour, I found myself in a line stretching around the future Chipotle space in the new Dining Terrace.

We've probably all seen a lobster roll before, but the Lobsicle is something entirely different - a battered and fried lobster tail, with melted butter on the side for dipping purposes. How does it taste? Is it worth the hype? What is the quality of the lobster?

Watch my review, and those questions and more will be answered!


ArcLight Cinemas' famous lobby wall of screens is now touting the new Hunger Games sequel, Mockingjay - Part I, on a grand scale. Check it out yourself at Westfield Montgomery Mall.


The biggest event in Bethesda today is the Grand Opening of the new Microsoft Store at Westfield Montgomery Mall. If you are one of the first 200 people in line this morning at 10:30, you will get to meet Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals later in the afternoon.
The white coverings will
come off today and open
out into the mall corridors
Microsoft's formal arrival at Westfield Montgomery (the company had a pop-up shop during the holidays a couple of years back) reflect's the tech giant's current strategy of "going to the top malls," Microsoft Store Communications Strategy GM Jonathan Adashek told me when we sat down for a recent interview in Bethesda. The mall has undergone a massive expansion and transformation recently, as Westfield has invested a tremendous sum in bringing the property up to top flight standards.

Adashek said Westfield Montgomery has been an "amazing partner," and that the parent company's long-term reinvestment in the retail center was just one of many factors that led Microsoft to choose it for a store location. He said his company isn't intimidated by the mall's existing Apple Store - packed midday yesterday. "We're not going to be looking over our shoulder, and wait for someone to trip us up," he said. Adashek believes that the form factor of the company's latest products, the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the store, and the fact that all of Microsoft's devices - including desktop PCs - emphasize touchscreen capability are what will distinguish it from Apple. Catching up to Apple will require building individual relationships with today's tech customer, he argued. To that end, Adashek stressed that Microsoft Stores are prioritizing "choice, value and service. That's what people are looking for when they make tech buying decisions."
Microsoft's entry into the
wearable tech category,
The Bethesda Microsoft Store's manager, Tiffany Traynum, was also emphasizing what distinguishes Microsoft products from the competition Friday, as the store's team prepared for today's opening. Microsoft Office products that work across all platforms using the cloud, a People app that helps organize mail and online activities of your friends and family on Windows Phones, and the Cortana voice feature on Microsoft's wearable Band device are all exclusive to Microsoft. You can still use Band with your iPhone or Android, but only a Windows Phone will give you Cortana's ability to send texts via your voice, or give a voice command to set an alarm.

While larger than a Microsoft specialty store, the 1273 SF Bethesda store is smaller than the Tysons location. It doesn't have the home theater space or side video walls of Tysons, but does have a massive video wall along the back. That will primarily showcase Microsoft's popular Xbox One, Traynum said, but can also be put into use for other purposes as needed. Outside the store, a Microsoft Lounge has been set up with Xbox One running on a flatscreen, a spectacle that attracted shoppers to stop and take part in impromptu dance-a-thons with a Microsoft Store employee yesterday.

There'll be a lot more going on today besides the Nationals' ace playing Xbox. A ribbon cutting with Microsoft's VP of Government Affairs, Fred Humphries, will kick things off at 10:30 AM. The first 500 people in line will get Microsoft gift cards randomly worth anywhere from $10-1000. You will also be able to purchase a Toshiba Encore 2 tablet, Xbox 360, or HP Stream 7 Signature Edition tablet for only $99 today. The latter tablet will include a free year of Microsoft Office 365 Personal, that allows you to use Office across multiple devices.
The top Windows Phones

Surface Pro 3
The Microsoft Store will also be making several technology grants to local non-profits. They include downtown Bethesda's own Imagination Stage ($100,000) and Wounded Warriors ($50,000), as well as nearby National 4-H Council, MdBio, YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and STEMaction. In total, there will be $625,000 in grants today.

Thirty-three people will be employed at this location. The Microsoft Store is located on the upper level, across from Starbucks outside of Macy's.