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Archive for March, 2008

Not Convinced It’s a Great Time to Buy? Read This and Pick Up the Phone!

A true story currently making the rounds in Northern Virginia involves a young couple, a brand new million+ dollar  house and what a bit of savvy negotiating can mean in this market:

Are you ready to get in on this market?  Call me at 703.927.4554 and let’s talk about your dream  house.

Thanks for stopping by,

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Cherry Blossoms Bring More than One MILLION Visitors to Greater Washington DC Area

A 1912 “friendship” gift of 3000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, set the stage for what is now the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Starting March 29, and running through April 13, the festival will draw over 1,000,000 visitors to the greater  Washington, DC area, including Alexandria.  A full, two week schedule of activities will feature everything from sake tasting to kite flying to a parade to the largest Japanese Street Festival in the United States.

First Lady Helen Heren Taft planted the first two cherry trees on March 27, 1912.  That same year the United States sent flowering dogwoods to Japan as a gift and did so again in 1965.  During the duration of World War II the Japanese trees were referred to as “Oriental” trees and the festival was suspended between 1942 and 1946.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 8 Comments »

Easter Sunday at Alexandria’s Historic Christ Church

Easter dawned brisk and bright this past Sunday at historic Christ Church in Alexandria.  One of the oldest Episcopal congregations in the Commonwealth of Virginia, construction was started on the Georgian style church in 1767 and completed in 1773.  The interior has been slightly modified on several occasions but now appears essentially as it did when it was restored in the 1890’s.  The home parish of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the church has also hosted Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Sunday services.

Thanks for stopping by,

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Pound or Pedigree, Alexandria is A Dog Friendly Place to Be!

Named as one of the Top 10 Cities (as part of the greater Washington Metropolitan area) in the U.S. for dogs, Alexandria is home to 20 dog parks, 6 specialty pet boutiques, 3 pet bakeries, 2 organic pet food stores, a luxury pet spa, and at least one doggie happy hour. 

 

 Dogs are front and center at Halloween parades, December’s Scottish Walk, St. Patrick’s Day Fun, Yappy Hours, numerous adoption days and the Annual Canine Games in Chinquapin Park.   In fact, the local animal shelter, run by the Animal Welfare League, is named after former city manager, Vola Lawson.

Charlie

Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market – whether in Del Ray or Old Town – is as much about seeing and being seen with your dog as it is about buying fresh produce.  And on the beautiful spring days that Alexandria is known for, well, you might think you were at the Westminster Kennel Club walking the judges ring! 

One of the newest additions to the specialty pet market is Nature’s Nibbles, which sells all natural, totally organic pet food, natural treats and raw bones plus supplements, toys, beds, hemp collars and leashes. 

 

 The business, owned by Chris Gabriel and his wife Anne, grew out of their experience with their own dog Gypsy who was allergic to certain grains.  Chris started Nature’s Nibbles as an online delivery venture first, but opened a store front operation in Del Ray just a little over a year ago.

When the weather is nice, Nature’s Nibbles offers a “do it yourself dog wash”.  You supply the dirty dog, they supply temperature controlled water, hypo-allergenic shampoo, towels and the bath.  What a deal!

In business since 1995, another all natural, all organic shop is Petsage, Inc. which specializes in offering healthy diet choices both at their retail location off Duke Street and on line. 

Barkley Square -named the 2006 Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Retail Business of the year –  with locations in Old Town and Del Ray (right next to our favorite Evening Star cafe) offers a variety of gift baskets that make gift giving simple for that special dog in your life.  Owner Kristina Robertson is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Alexandria City Visitors Association (ACVA) and is a board member of the King Street Metro Enterprise Team (KSMET) which works to enhance the pet friendly atmosphere of the community.

Fetch Dog and Cat Bakery Boutique is located directly across from the Old Town Starbucks which makes it a destination for dog and owner alike.  (We all know that kitties do not go for walks, nor do they have owners.)  Fetch offers more than 60 kinds of edible treatsand specializes in unusual birthday cakes.  There are also doggie cupcakes, tiny pizzas, “Postman cookies” and “Kitty cookies”so, as owner Lisa Erbe joked, “a dog can eat a cat.”***  Fetch has just opened a second location in Lorton, VA – just south of Alexandria on I-95.

Treats from Fetch

The real pioneers in pet care however are Carlos and Sandy Mejias who opened Olde Town School for Dogs in 1975 in a 300 sq. ft. rental in the heart of historic Old Town.  Since that time they have expanded, on the same block, to 7,000 sq. ft. devoted solely to training, grooming and retail. 

 

Perhaps best known for their innovative “Puppy Head Start” program, OTSFD offers pick up and delivery service for area residents (dogs only, no humans allowed).  Using the streets, shops and parks of Alexandria as a perfect situational training ground, OTSFD “students” are a common sight in Old Town.

The Mejias most recent enterprise is the Olde Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, VA offering some 200 rooms, or suites, with packages that can include windows, television, and play time in an indoor pool or on an agility course.  Similar accommodations are offered for feline friends.

Other specialty stores include For Pet’s Sake in the Fairlington area of Alexandria, and Pro Feed in the Bradlee Shopping Center.  The Alexandria Medical Arts Pharmacy in Old Town will specially prepare pet medicines to make them more palatable.

Who ever came up with the phrase “going to the dogs” was obviously not from this area ’cause our dogs have it good . . .as does our spoiled feline

Thanks for stopping by,

Michael

***Mac did NOT think much of this cookie idea!

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

NO MORE BAGS! This Woman’s Small Contribution to the Environment and Green Living in Alexandria

I used to be known as the Bag Lady.  And it was true, I never met a bag I didn’t like.  My particular love was bags for work and travel – I was always on the prowl for the PERFECT bag – but then it spilled over to gift bags, grocery bags, department store bags, specialty bags, etc.  Bags were good!

But no more.  I’m not sure when the turning point came but I suddenly realized that the bags in my house, especially the plastic bags from the grocery store, threatened to take over.  Or maybe it was when I found out that margarine was made from petroleum products – the same products used to make plastic bags.  Yuck  – what a great reason to go back to butter (surely Paula Deen knew this all along) – AND cut down on the number of barrels of oil purchased every year.  This analogy might not hold up in an economics course but it works for me.  Besides, the WorldWatch Institute’s report, Oceans in Peril, noted that “Disposable plastic bags can linger in the environment for more than 1,000 years” and are the major debris found on ocean seabeds, particularly in coastal areas.  Head’s up for all you beach lovers out there.

It doesn’t help either that I am not a good grocery shopper.  I don’t go once a week with a complete list like all the magazines say I should.  Nope, it’s more like once a day, buying what we need to get us through dinner and into the next morning.  Sometimes it’s just for cat food for Mac.

 This is an 18lb cat whose stomach knows no boundaries.

The drugstore is the same way.  One tube of mascara, one bag.  One pack of toothpaste, one bag.  WHY????? I politely started saying NO, no thank you.

Then I went to my local Giant (locally owned and operated until just a few years ago).

The bags, a bit short and stubby, but a nice bright blue with white lettering, were sitting at the end of the check out lane.  Ninety-nine cents and I wouldn’t have to throw anything away!  I came home with three fabric bags, immensely proud of myself.

Next stop Trader Joe’s.  Fabulous!  Their bags are tall (all the better for baguettes), substantial and come in a variety of colorful patterns and scenes.  Bag buyers could even register for a drawing for a free bag chocked with Trader Joe’s goodies – not bad for a 99 cent purchase. 

Whole Foods (or as a friend of mine calls it, whole paycheck) offers a bag similar in style and size to Trader Joe’s along with a three/five/or even ten cent rebate each time you use the bag.  They have also set a goal of being completely plastic bag free by April 22, 2008, Earth Day.

That committment alone will save 100, 000 million plastic bags from entering the environment.  Whole Foods will continue to offer an environmentally sensitive option when needed, a 100 percent recycled paper grocery bag.

I haven’t checked out Safeway, Harris Teeter or Balducci’s yet (they just aren’t in close proximity) but will put it on my to-do list.   I’d love to hear from any of you out there who have found other stores – grocery or otherwise – offering these specialty bags.

Buying the bags is easy and using them the first time is a proud moment.  The hard part – REMEMBERING TO TAKE THEM INTO THE STORE EACH TIME!  It’s just all part of the re-education process and I’m still in grade school.

Virginia Amos

Our guest author today is my spouse, manger and all round good friend.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 8 Comments »

Alexandria Ranked as One of Top 50 Greenest Cities by Popular Science Magazine – Public Transportation is a Key Factor

Popular Science magazine has named Alexandria as one “America’s 50 Greenest Cities” – localities that were cited as leaders in implementing rapid and successful environmental actions.  Scoring a possible 15.7 points out of a total of 30, Alexandria came in at number 30.  Portland, Oregon topped the list at number one and Greensboro, NC landed on the other end at number 50. 

The magazine used raw data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Geographic Society’s Green Guide, which collected survey data and government statistics for American cities of over 100,000 people in more than 30 categories, including air quality, electricity use, and transportation habits. 

Use of public transportation and carpooling was significant for Alexandria.  Proximity to the Metro is often a determining factor for house hunters and apartment dwellers as are the express buses that make direct runs to the Pentagon and into the District. 

Want to know more about Metro accessible neighborhoods?  Give me a call at 703.548.0938.

Thanks for stopping by,

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 23 Comments »

$15 Million Recreation Center – WHO Will Be Using It?

The Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Alexandria has broken ground on a new $15 million dollar recreation center in a public housing area with an unfortunate history of violence and drugs.  

 

Standing on the same site as the previous rec center, the new Charles Houston Center will feature green technology, an outdoor swimming pool, new gymnasium, dance room, fitness room, boxing room, children’s game room, computer lab, senior center, preschool program and community meeting rooms.  An open space/pedestrian area at the main entrance will feature a public art project to honor Charles Houston’s contribution to the Civil Rights struggle in Alexandria.

Situated on a major thorough fare and easily accessible, the Houston Center could, in theory, serve as a low cost recreation center for a wide swath of neighborhoods including Parker-Gray, Braddock Road Metro, Del Ray and even parts of north Old Town and Rosemont but concerns about safety make it clear that won’t happen.   

Also not clear is just how the city will regulate the use of the new center, what programs will be offered and what steps will be taken to insure that it is a drug-free/violence-free environment. 

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 6 Comments »

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