Reston, VA

Sheetz in Herndon rendering (Photo via screenshot/Fairfax County Planning Commission)

(Update 2:45 p.m.) A Sheetz is soon coming to Herndon.

On March 3, the Fairfax County Planning Commission is holding a public hearing and a vote to approve a Sheetz gas station, a quick-service food store, and drive-thru restaurant at 13850 McLearen Road. The staff has recommended approval.

After that, the proposal will move to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors where there will be another public hearing if needed and, potentially, a Board of Supervisors vote on March 23.

First reported a year ago, the 6,07-square-foot Sheetz will occupy a roughly 2.7-acre parcel of land. It will take the place of a set-to-be-demolished 1977 two-story office building and surface parking lot, per the staff report, at the intersection of McLearen Road and Towerview Road.

It remains unclear when construction will begin nor when the Sheetz is expected to open.

“Since this project is in the very early stages, it is too soon to provide additional details,” Nick Ruffner, Public Relations Manager for Sheetz, wrote in a statement to Reston Now.

The family-owned popular gas, convenience, and restaurant chain has more than 600 stores across the Mid-Atlantic including a number of locations in Fairfax County.

The Sheetz is planning to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a maximum of nine employees on-site at any one time. It also will have 49-car parking spots (five of which are reserved as electric vehicle charging stations) plus bicycle parking in accordance with county guidelines.

The “architecture character” of the building will include materials such as a brick veneer facade with cast stone masonry. Staff is recommending “high quality landscaping” so the development is “attractive” in its “highly visible site” along McLearen Road.

The new development is also required to incorporate green building practices and the staff prefers that Sheetz makes the building LEED-certified (or an equivalent program).

Fairfax County – as well as other Northern Virginia jurisdictions – have prioritized LEED-certification as a means of meeting long-term goals of cutting carbon emissions.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Planning Commission

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Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa, a fitness facility at Worldgate in Herndon, has changed management companies, moving from Sport & Health to WTS International.

The news come after a note sent by the former management that the facility was “being forced to permanently close its doors” immediately caused some confusion among members.

On Monday (Feb. 15) afternoon, a note from the “Sport & Health Management Team” was sent to members saying that “unbeknownst” to them the landlord has “decided to terminate its lease with the club owner and take possession of the space.”

Due to this, the club was closing that day.

“We are equally shocked by what has transpired,” the note continues which was subsequently posted on their website.

However, RAPPAPORT – which owns the Worldgate shopping center – confirms to Reston Now that isn’t exactly the case.

In a press release provided Tuesday night, Worldgate’s landlord announced that WTS International has taken over as the management company of its “state-of-the-art fitness facility at Worldgate Centre in Herndon, VA.”

“We’re excited to have WTS International oversee the management and operations for Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa,” Gary D. Rappaport, CEO, wrote in the release. “WTS International is known for its expertise in fitness management and award-winning spas, and we are confident in their plans to elevate the Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa as a luxury brand and create incredible value for members within the communities that we serve.”

In a follow-up email, a RAPPAPORT spokesperson says that the confusion came down to the previous management not being aware of the tenant’s and landlord’s contractual decision making.

In 2014, McLean-based US Fitness bought Sport & Health. One of the clubs Sport & Health was managing at the time was the fitness facility at Worldgate.

The spokesperson also says that due to a contractual relationship between US Fitness and the tenant, Rappaport was unable to continue using Sport & Health as the management company.

It has nothing to do with the performance of the management company, the spokesperson reiterated. The club remains financially successful and one of the biggest fitness facilities in the area, they noted.

There was no delay in transition. On Sunday night, the facility closed for the day under Sport & Health management and reopened normal time on Monday under WTS International management.

As of the moment, the facilities and amenities remain the same as they were under Sport & Health.

Reston Now has reached out to Sport & Health to ask about the confusion, but has yet to hear back as publication.

What this means for members is that they have a choice.

According to Sport & Health’s note to members, all memberships for the Worldgate location are being upgraded to allow access to all 27 area locations which are owned by the same company. This includes ALL Onelife Fitness, Sport & Health and Crunch Fitness. Half of February’s dues are also being refunded to members.

For those who would like to stay at the Worldgate facility, WTS says they will “honor all current membership rates from the previous management for those who sign up.”

They are also recruiting trainers, instructors, therapists, and other staff and are hosting a job fair today (Wed, Feb. 17) 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Worldgate fitness facility first opened more than 30 years ago, in 1988, making it one of the oldest in the area.

Gyms and fitness facilities are allowed to be open with limited capacity under Virginia COVID guidelines. Employees and patrons at gyms are required to wear masks, but not while exercising.

Full release from Rappaport and WTS International is below:

Rappaport is pleased to announce that WTS International is the management company for its state-of-the-art fitness facility at Worldgate Centre in Herndon, VA. Headquartered in Rockville, MD, WTS International is the world’s leading spa, wellness, and lifestyle consultancy and management firm. Under WTS, there will be new offerings and enhancements for one of the largest and most successful clubs in the D.C. metro area, Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa.

“We’re excited to have WTS International oversee the management and operations for Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa,” says Gary D. Rappaport, CEO of Rappaport. “WTS International is known for its expertise in fitness management and award-winning spas, and we are confident in their plans to elevate the Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa as a luxury brand and create incredible value for members within the communities that we serve.”

WTS International will bring its 47+ years of extensive fitness industry experience to the property which, is already an amenity-rich health club. WTS International has provided consulting and management services for over 300 spas, fitness/wellness centers, leisure and lifestyle facilities worldwide including Four Seasons, Westin, and InterContinental. Their clients include some of the most luxurious fitness and wellness brands such as VERDURE in Amarillo, Texas, Brooklyn Sports Club in Brooklyn, New York, and Manhattan Plaza Health Club in New York, New York.

Club members and guests will enjoy enhanced programming features such as virtual fitness solutions, including an on-demand workout library, a member app with class registration, and various virtual events. In addition, Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa will also offer wellness packages, updated spa services, signature fitness programs, and nutritional coaching to boost performance – taking a holistic approach to health and wellness.

This is designed to complement the wide range of existing facilities, including three indoor tennis courts, an indoor track, squash and racquetball courts, a full basketball and volleyball court, a 25-yard swimming pool, and spa and wellness amenities. At almost 110,000 square feet, Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa is the premier, luxury fitness club in Herndon, VA, with modern equipment, a large gymnasium with all new locker rooms, showers, steam rooms, private/family changing rooms, and complimentary towel service.

“WTS International is thrilled to bring elevated fitness to the new Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa. Our vast experience managing commercial and community fitness centers and world-class spa and lifestyle properties will bring a new emphasis on innovative services, digital experiences, and expanded wellness programs to members,” says Chris Griebe, Senior Vice President, Fitness.

Smooth transition

Customers can rest assured that Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa will honor all current membership rates from the previous management for those who sign up. All operating hours (including spa, fitness and aquatics) will remain the same. Furthermore, partnerships with Blue Chip Sports Management and Personal20 will also continue as before. WTS International is actively recruiting the best trainers, instructors, therapists, and operations staff in the area and is hosting a job fair at the club Tuesday, February 16th and Wednesday, February 17th, noon to 6pm.For career opportunities, visit. www.wtsinternational.com.

Worldgate Athletic Club & Spa membership benefits include access to virtual programming, training, and nutritional consultation, as well as 15% off all spa services. All new members can join for $29 with no dues until March 1st, one complimentary fitness consultation, and one personal training session. To join, visit www.worldgateathleticclubandspa.com/join.

Photo courtesy of Rappaport Management Company

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A new Vietnamese and pho restaurant is opening later this month at Franklin Farm Village Center in Herndon.

The family-owned Pho VietFresh at 13340 Franklin Farm Rd. is projected to open in mid to late February, according to owner Tam Nguyen, although there’s no set date at the moment. Inspections and acquiring permits from the county is still being delayed due to the pandemic.

Nguyen says owning a restaurant has been a family dream ever since they immigrated to Herndon from Vietnam in 2008. His parents have worked at other area Vietnamese restaurants. After graduating from University of Virginia, Nguyen returned home and convinced his parents it was time to open a business of their own.

“Back in Vietnam, we’d have a lot of celebrations and my mom would always cook,” says Nguyen. “She’s going to be the main chef [at Pho VietFresh].”

The menu is relatively small compared to other Vietnamese restaurants, offering pho, raman, bánh mì, and a few other dishes. This was done on purpose, says Nguyen.

“We are very specialized,” he says. “We want to be more modernized… a little bit more Americanized, while also having the same authenticity.”

The restaurant takes the place of a former Starbucks (which moved across the street).

Take-out, limited indoor dining, and delivery through UberEats and DoorDash will be available upon opening. The hope down the road, Nguyen says, is for Pho VietFresh to offer their own delivery service, which will cut costs for both the customer and restaurant.

The original intent was to open last spring, but the pandemic delayed the family’s dream of opening their own restaurant… but only for a little a while longer.

“It’s a long time coming for us,” Nguyen says.

Photo courtesy of Pho VietFresh

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Arlington-based MakeOffices is shutting down all of its local locations, including their offices at Reston Town Center.

The news about MakeOffices closing down was first reported by Washington Business Journal.

Last week, members of the coworking company began receiving notifications at many locations that the co-working spaces would be closed.

Reston Now spoke to representatives at the Reston location, which opened in 2015, and an employee confirmed that they would be closing as well within the next three months.

While the deal isn’t fully done yet, another coworking operator may move into the MakeOffices space in Reston Town Center, an employee said.

In an email to Reston Now, MakeOffices spokesperson said they are closing but ‘still in the process of reorganizing.'”

MakeOffices opened its first location in Rosslyn in 2012 and has since expanded to 14 locations in Northern Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Chicago, and Philadelphia.

The Clarendon location is its flagship, opening in 2016 with 40,000 square feet of space and 135 private offices. The Reston location is similar in size.

Photo via Google Maps

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A new Turkish restaurant will replace Midtown Kabob next year.

Taste of Istanbul, which has typically limited its offerings to local farmers’ market for the last four years, is expected to open in the spring of 2021 at 11190 Explorer Street.

Taste of Istanbul currently takes part in the EatLoco markets at One Loudoun (Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Brambleton (Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) as well as Reston Farmers Market (Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m.). Orders can be placed online.

The owners say they’re prepared to open despite the uncertainty of expanding during a pandemic and particularly as cases rise in the county and throughout the country.

“This is a time where people don’t know what’s going to happen next,” the representative said. “…But we believe we are prepared for this.”

The business plans to take safety precautions and offer a safe environment for customers and employees.

Taste of Istanbul will offer doner kebabs, wraps, stuffed grape leaves, chicken shish kebabs, and other items.

Photo via Taste of Istanbul

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Reston will soon have its own destination for South Korean double-fried chicken. 

Bonchon Chicken, a global South Korean restaurant chain, is holding its grand opening in on Sept. 28 at 11652 Plaza America Drive.

As a part of the grand opening festivities, the restaurant will be offering specials including complimentary fries with any order of chicken strips. 

According to the website, Bonchon has more than 340 restaurant locations worldwide, with more than 100 across the United States. 

The restaurant’s hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Bonchon is offering dine-in, take-out, and delivery. 

Photo via bonchonchicken/Instagram

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Tandem Product Academy is looking for 20 existing Northern Virginia technology companies to guide and help succeed in the COVID-19 economy.

Amplifier Advisors, as well as a group of university, government and community partners, helped Tandem Innovation Alliance’s Academy launch a new cohort mentoring these technology companies on Sept. 14.

The academy will help the selected businesses find a business model that will sustain them throughout the pandemic and long after, according to a statement from the Academy. The program will commence on Oct. 21, 2020.

The professionally-run program will run virtually over a four-month period, alternating between all-cohort classes and individual company mentor sessions, according to the statement.

“The post COVID-19 economy is punishing for technology businesses that do not have the right product market fit, but as we can see from regional and national successes, when a technology business has the right fit, this is a great time to be in the technology industry,” said Jonathan Aberman, the founder of Amplifier Advisors.

“We want to help a group of promising technology businesses find their best opportunities to pivot what they have built into a market that will be rewarding for the current economy and what’s next,” said Aberman.

Amplifier Advisors is an innovation business led by Aberman, George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis and Marymount University’s Marymount Intrapreneurship Initiative, according to the statement.

The cohort’s teaching team includes Marymount University faculty and well-known technology entrepreneurs and investors, including Mark Walsh, Gene Riechers, Ben Foster, Erich Baumgarter, Tien Wong, Pat Sheridan, Elizabeth Shea and Jonathan Aberman.

Participants must be senior leaders of a business that has a technology product that has achieved some commercial adoption, according to the statement, and whose company has done any of the following over the past year:

  • Had gross revenue of $500,000;
  • Obtained at least $500,000 in capital from sources other than the founder’s immediate friends or family; or
  • Received at least $500,000 in federal research and development funding.

Those interested can view more information and apply at the Tandem Innovation Alliance website.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva/Unsplash

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Theater fans and movie-goers alike now have a private, socially-distanced movie-watching venue as an entertainment option this fall. 

NextStop Theater Company is opening the “NextStop Cinema” in Herndon, where customers can rent out the entire theater for themselves for a private viewing. 

Patrons will provide their own movie on DVD, Blu-ray or via a streaming service, and in return, the cinema will provide the full movie theater experience while still adhering to COVID-19 precautions.

“Nothing makes me sadder than seeing a theater empty,” said Evan Hoffman, the Producing Artistic Director at NextStop. “Since we do not feel the time is right yet for live performances, we thought we would try something completely different with our empty theater and let our beloved patrons make use of it for their own personal use and entertainment.”

NextStop Theater has been closed to public performances since March 12 when they canceled their final weekend showing “Ordinary Days.” However, they held a small educational program for 185 students in socially-distanced theater classes over the summer. 

The theater is also holding a major fundraising initiative called the NextStop Now Fund. The campaign’s funds will go towards keeping the theater running during the shutdown, in addition to the revenue from the Cinema. 

NextStop Cinema rentals are available for $50 per hour with a minimum of three hours, plus a $50 deposit. Those interested in making a reservation or finding more information can visit the NextStop website.

Photo courtesy of NextStop Theater Company

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In Forbes’ second annual ranking of America’s Best Employers by State, several Fairfax County businesses topped the list. 

In the Virginia state ranking, Reston’s Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, ranked #55 (12010 Sunset Hills Road). 

Peraton, the Herndon based IT company founded in 2017, was ranked #78 (12975 Worldgate Dr.).

Reston’s Leidos, a holding company involved in defense, intelligence, civil and health markets ranked #87 (1750 Presidents St.). 

The list was compiled by surveying 80,000 Americans, according to Vicky Valet’s article on Forbes. Surveys were conducted on a rolling basis from October 2019 through May 2020.

Additionally, responses about the same employers were compared to make up for any variation before and after the onset of the coronavirus, according to Valet. 

Photo by Peraton via Google Images

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Escape Room Herndon was named one of TripAdvisor’s 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award winners for Fun & Games. 

The winners are decided based on a full year of reviews and are known for constantly receiving great player feedback that places them in the top 10 percent of hospitality businesses around the world, according to a press release. 

Escape Room Herndon is located at 406 Elden St., and was also rated the #1 Escape Room in Virginia by TripAdvisor, according to their website. The business closed its doors on March 16th with the onset of COVID-19 but was able to reopen to the public on July 3rd after restrictions eased. 

The facility has put new protocols in place to ensure safety when playing, including restricting the number of groups at a time, glove and mask requirements and more time between games to clean.

“We put in a one hour gap between games so we can extensively clean as much as possible, as well as allowing the room to ‘breathe,'” said Omar Aru, the owner of Escape Room Herndon. 

Since reopening, business has been slower than in past summers, according to Aru, with numbers at about 30 percent of that of last year. Fewer players and fewer games each day contribute to the downturn. However, Aru said guests report feeling safe the whole time. 

In addition to in-person fun, Escape Room Herndon also offers an online game called Back To The Present with 5-10 minute puzzles to play from home. 

“I think it’s more important than ever to find fun and safe activities to break away from screens and the current monotony for everyday life to create positive memories we can hold onto,” said Aru. “Escape Rooms present an immersive engaging game that gives you a chance to forget about the outside world just for a little bit and have a fun shared adventure.”

Photo courtesy of Omar Aru

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(Updated at 2:38 p.m.)

MeSpoke, an application created by a Reston-based entrepreneur, secured an official patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 5 after a 39-month patent process upon the announcement of Apple’s iOS 14 release

The app promotes user-generated shopping rather than the influencer trend seen on mainstream social media today.  

The app is based around identifying fashion and accessories from one user to another in a way that disrupts the “paid media” pattern of typical social media and emphasizes an “earned media” model, according to Sid K. Hasan, the founder of MeSpoke. 

“We believe the future of MarTech is better suited for earned media, where everyone who loves Pandora can showcase their style,” said Hasan. 

On Instagram and other social media,  it’s common to see brands scouting out ambassadors with a high follower count to post with their merchandise. Hasan wanted to eliminate that kind of “influencer marketing” trend. With MeSpoke, any user can show off their brand merchandise and still earn rewards without any kind of upfront funds or follower-based campaigning. 

When a user uploads a photo to the MeSpoke, the software recognizes the various fashion accessories in the photo and gives users the option to tag the brands worn. That tag turns into a hyperlink to the brands’ websites, with one click from the app. The tag will ideally turn into loyalty points from the brands, giving the incentive for users to post more. 

“It is us that [brands] have always relied on to do advertising,” said Hasan. “I believe creators are going to be kings again.”

The app has been on the market for over three years, and they just launched their 2.0 version in June. According to Hasan, there has been positive feedback on their new version, and it’s very “slick”. 

As a Reston-based creator, Hasan encourages the town to support the app and the entrepreneurial spirit so Reston can eventually gain a reputation as a center for innovation. 

“We need the town’s support,” said Hasan. “We really need the town to get around this idea that we could be onto something. We can cement this region as a place where innovation lives.”

Corrects wording of quotes

Images via the MeSpoke app

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Two Reston companies were recognized in D.C. Inno’s 2020 Inno on Fire, which recognizes people, companies, initiatives and organizations driving innovations in the area. 

SOC Telemed is a Reston telemedicine provider that found new success with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the increased need for telehealth, according to the writer of the article, Sara Gilgore. By March, SOC Telemed had 600 health systems and counting looking to start emergency medicine programs. As a result, the company continued to grow its team. SOC is run by interim CEO Paul Ricci.

Parabon NanoLabs is a small Reston DNA company that has been involved in identifying suspects and aiding in police cases, according to Gilgore. This year, the company got its own TV docuseries called “The Genetic Detective” on ABC. The show follows the genetic genealogy division and the head of the unit, CeCe Moore. Two years ago, Moore was hired to build the division, and since then the company has helped in about 500 police cases and has identified 109 positive suspects, according to Gilgore. 

D.C. Inno finalists are found from nominations and editorial coverage and then selected by the D.C. Inno team, according to Gilgore.

Photo via Parabon NanoLabs

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Though Fairfax County is known as a hot-bed for government contract work, non-profit news organization ProPublica discovered that over $560 million in contracts were awarded to five Reston and Herndon based companies working to combat COVID-19.

This dedicated money will go towards a variety of research and response types, according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, including relief programs.

For example, Herndon based RER Solutions, Inc. was awarded the highest amounts of money in Fairfax County. With the $500 million contract, the woman-owned small business will help the U.S. Small Business Administration with data analysis and loan-recommendation services, the Fairfax County EDA said in a press release.

“The SBA is administering several emergency relief programs for small businesses, including the Payroll Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program,” the EDA press release said.

Other contracts in the area include:

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Local businesses are at the heart of a community like Reston.

But these are difficult times for those that run community-serving businesses, everything from stores to salons, dental practices to cafes.

While Reston Now’s own business has taken a hit, we want to step up and offer use of our platform to help fellow local businesses during the pandemic.

From now until whenever we see a meaningful recovery, we’re making our Community Posts feature free to all locally-owned, small businesses that have been negatively impact by the crisis.

Want to promote your business, service offering, online store or anything else, via Reston Now’s email newsletter and homepage? Submit a short post here and we’ll publish it on the site.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated 3 p.m.) As the number of coronavirus cases grows in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam has extended restrictions on non-essential businesses.

In a press briefing today (Wednesday), Northam announced that he is extending his previous order affecting schools and non-essential businesses.

Now, his order that closed recreational and entertainment businesses, along with non-essential businesses that cannot limit patrons to 10 people or less, will expire on May 8 instead of next week.

Virginia is also under a stay at home order, which will last until June 10.

“I don’t have any intentions as of today extending that,” Northam said about the stay at home order, adding that he may considering moving the June 10 deadline back.

“This is such a dynamic situation. It is fluid. It literally changes every day — the data that are being put into these models,” he said. “For me to stand here almost two months before June 10 and say what we’re going to do at that time is really difficult to say.”

Northam said that social distancing — staying at least six feet apart from people — “is working” and that Virginians’ recent efforts are slowing the spread of the virus.

“Our entire sense of normal life is out the window,” Northam said, adding that once the order expire, people will still need to take precautions.

The “new normal” will likely include wearing wearing face coverings, teleworking if possible, social distancing, staying away from large gatherings and spending more time in homes, Northam said.

“Things are not going back exactly the way they were before,” he said.

Image via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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