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Pita platters from The Halal Guys


Halal this fall

Opening this fall at Wintergreen Plaza on Rockville Pike: The Halal Guys, a brick-and-mortar version of the New York City food cart business with the crazy-long lines. What’s on the menu? Beef and chicken gyros served with pita or basmati rice, plus sides of hummus, baba ganouj, falafel and fries. “Our secret is our white sauce — not the typical tzatziki with cucumber — which puts everything together really well,” says Maryland franchisee Rabi Ullah. He’s also opening a location in College Park, with plans for further expansion statewide (click here for the menu). The Halal Guys replaces Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Company, which has exited Wintergreen Plaza now that Mission BBQ is open.



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Emily Grace at Park Potomac


Goodbye Emily Grace

Emily Grace, one of the original tenants at Park Potomac, closed its doors this week after seven years in business. The boutique specialized in high-end fashions from lines like Vince, Michael Lauren, Joie and AG Jeans. Park Potomac, which will be buzzing this summer with the debut of three new restaurants, is already talking to replacement tenants.



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Fire pit from Offenbachers


Offenbachers returns to Rockville

Offenbachers, the D.C.-area retail chain that closed its doors last winter, is making a comeback of sorts in Rockville. Home Escapes, a 30-year-old retailer from Virginia, has purchased the Offenbachers name and opened a showroom just around the corner from its former home on Nicholson Lane. The store carries a similar assortment of hot tubs, spas, outdoor furniture, fire pits and pool tables, but the original Offenbachers team is not involved with this venture. Click here to check out the inventory.



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Strathmore in North Bethesda


Who won our tickets for Rent stars at Strathmore?

Congratulations to Store Reporter readers Dara Baylinson and Gail Hyman, who each won a pair of tickets to see original Rent stars Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp at Strathmore in North Bethesda. Strathmore’s spring/summer schedule also includes appearances by Tony Bennett, Audra McDonald, Gladys Knight and the creators of the Serial podcast. Click here to check it out.





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"Muddy" jeans at Nordstrom


Fashion fails: muddy jeans and washable cashmere

Just a few weeks after we told you about that regrettable “mom jeans with windows” incident (click for details) comes news of yet another Nordstrom denim debacle. This time the retailer has been universally shamed for its $425 “heavily distressed” Barracuda jeans. Apparently, “heavily distressed” in Nordstrom-talk means “covered in fake mud.” In other fashion fails this week, washable cashmere company Kit and Ace announced the closing of all its U.S. stores including the one in downtown Bethesda. Kit and Ace was the brainchild of ousted Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, who once helped kick off the athleisure clothing trend. This time around, Wilson apparently overestimated the public’s appetite for $398 turtlenecks.



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New REI store at Pike & Rose


Opening day for REI

Tuesday (April 25th) is opening day for the handsome new REI store at Pike & Rose, the beginning of a new wave of tenants that will soon include L.L. Bean and a Pinstripes bocce and bowling center. The 36,000-square-foot store replaces REI’s older location at 1701 Rockville Pike, which will close its doors for the last time Sunday night. Grand opening festivities are set for the following weekend (April 28th-30th) with classes, music, food and giveaways. For more on the new REI store — and what the company thinks about being neighbors with L.L. Bean — click here for our March 16th edition.



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Nespresso at Westfield Montgomery Mall


Hello Nespresso

The Nespresso store is finally open at Westfield Montgomery Mall — several months behind schedule, but well worth the wait for the espresso-obsessed. If you’re looking to sip a custom-brewed cappuccino while you debate the pros and cons of the Vertuo Plus vs. the Lattissima Pro, this is the place to do it. Adding to the cool factor: A towering rainbow coffee pod display that makes the store feel a bit like an art installation. You’ll find Nespresso on the mall’s second level across from Swarovski; click here for a sneak peek of those snazzy coffee machines.



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Rent stars live at Strathmore — win our tickets!

This week we have a special giveaway for Broadway fans: A chance to see Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, two of the original stars of Rent, appearing live at Strathmore on Friday, April 28th. The pair will perform songs from the show that made them famous (click here for a preview), along with their solo albums and post-Rent careers. (Pascal also starred on Broadway in Cabaret and Elton John’s Aida.) Strathmore’s spring schedule also includes appearances by Tony Bennett, Audra McDonald, Gladys Knight and the creators of the Serial podcast. Want to enter our raffle for Adam & Anthony Live? Click here to send us an email, or visit our Facebook page. Update: Dara Baylinson and Gail Hyman won these tickets. Stay tuned to Store Reporter for more great giveaways.



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Bra from Victoria's Secret


New home for Victoria’s Secret and Pink

Victoria’s Secret and Pink are on the move at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The lingerie sister stores are leaving their current spot in the Nordstrom wing for a new home between Macy’s and Sephora. The relocation should happen sometime this summer. Who will move in when the bras and undies move out? Stay tuned.



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Lovesac beanbag


Lovesac, baaaaybee

Behold the Lovesac. If you’re not familiar with this line of beanbag-style furniture, that’s about to change: The Connecticut-based company is joining the lineup at Westfield Montgomery Mall, opening late summer/early fall next to Aldo in the Nordstrom wing. Besides the basic round Lovesac pictured here, the retailer also offers “Sactionals” for your family room, “Squattomans” for your feet and “Petsacs” for your dog (click here to check out the lineup). This will be the second beanbag-style furniture store at Westfield Montgomery Mall; Yogibo opened 18 months ago near Old Navy.



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Gusto to the mall this fall

Gusto Farm to Street, a popular pizza-and-salads concept in downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring, is heading to the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery Mall. This is the restaurant we hinted about in our April 6th issue, but we promised not to name names until the deal was signed this week. Gusto is taking the former Lobster ME location between Cava and Chipotle, with a menu focused on super-fresh salads and quick-serve personal pizzas at a price point below $10. The restaurant also is known for its cauliflower-crust pizzas, which will soon be followed by another gluten-free option made with black beans. CEO Josh Grim says he hopes to have the restaurant open by late September, serving lunch, dinner and extended evening hours.



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Noodles & Company logo


No more closings for Noodles & Company 

Noodles & Company, which exited Bethesda last week with the closing of its restaurants at Westfield Montgomery Mall and 4929 Elm Street, says it has no plans for further closings in the D.C. area. The restaurant company recently announced plans to shutter 55 locations nationwide, most of which have already happened as of this month. The Noodles & Company restaurants in Rockville and Gaithersburg are not expected to close, a rep tells us.



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Gymboree at Westfield Montgomery Mall


Goodbye Gymboree?

This week we’re on bankruptcy watch for Gymboree, the children’s clothing retailer that’s expected to file any day. The company currently operates about 1,300 stores, including one at Westfield Montgomery Mall. Gymboree hasn’t been profitable since 2011; it’s unclear whether its stores would remain open in the wake of a bankruptcy filing.



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Thin-crust pizzas


New restaurant heading to Westfield Montgomery

A popular Bethesda restaurant known for its thin-crust pizzas and salads is finalizing plans for a new location at Westfield Montgomery Mall. We can’t reveal the name just yet, but we can tell you that the menu focuses on healthy eating with fresh vegetables, antibiotic-free meats, cauliflower pizza crusts and gluten-free options. Unlike the recently departed Blaze Pizza and Naples Ristorante, this is a locally owned chain that already has a following in our area.




Noodles & Company, Yum Crepes close

Meanwhile, Noodles & Company exited Westfield Montgomery Mall this week along with the short-lived Yum Crepes. Noodles & Company recently announced plans to trim 55 locations; this week’s closings also included the one on Elm Street in downtown Bethesda. The Rockville restaurant at Congressional Plaza remains open, as does the one in Gaithersburg. 



Taff & Levine D.D.S.:




Air Jordans at Kicks USA


Shoe news

Kicks USA, a Philadelphia-based chain specializing in trendy sneakers, will make its Maryland debut this year with a new store at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The retailer will take over two storefronts near Macy’s Home that were previously occupied by Core, which closed this winter, and Voorthuis Opticians, which has relocated to the Nordstrom wing. Kicks sells shoes for men, women and kids, but its marketing is aimed squarely at teen boys who collect and trade the latest editions from Nike, Adidas, Vans and other popular lines. The company publishes a “release date” schedule for each new design, making savvy use of social media and fanboy videos like this one for the latest pair of Air Jordans.



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Payless in Rockville and Bebe at Westfield Montgomery Mall


Spring brings more stores closings

Two more waves of store closings were announced this week as the Payless shoe chain filed Chapter 11 and women’s retailer Bebe made plans to move its business online. Say goodbye to the Payless store on Rockville Pike, which had been open for just seven months, and the Bebe store at Westfield Montgomery Mall, which will close by the end of May. Payless is reorganizing and will continue to operate some of its stores, including the one at Westfield Montgomery. Bebe had no other locations in Maryland.



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Barnes & Noble in downtown Bethesda


Barnes & Noble closes the book on Bethesda

Barnes & Noble has announced plans to close its three-story location in downtown Bethesda, an institution for more than two decades at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues. The departure, scheduled for the end of this year, will leave the struggling bookseller with just two stores in Montgomery County: one at Montrose Crossing on Rockville Pike, and the other at Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg.




Sandwich and coffee at Panera


New deal brewing for Panera

The Panera restaurant chain was purchased this week by JAB Holding Company, a German firm that also acquired Krispy Kreme and Einstein Bros. Bagels in the past few years. The goal? Brand synergies. JAB also owns a bunch of coffee companies including Peet’s, Caribou and Keurig Green Mountain. The Panera acquisition offers 2,000 new places to sell coffee.





REI store at Pike & Rose


Did you miss something?

Did you know that Moby Dick is up and running in Potomac Village and Mission BBQ has arrived on Rockville Pike? Wondering about the opening dates for North Bethesda’s new REI store and the new restaurants at Park Potomac? Spring break is a great time to visit our website,, and catch up any news you might have missed. Also, Store Reporter is finally on Twitter! Follow us:




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Restaurants at Westfield Montomery Mall


Spring awakening for the mall?

If you’ve been saddened by all the closings at Westfield Montgomery Mall these past few months, take heart: From what we hear, some exciting new tenants are already in the pipeline. After a long winter’s worth of national retail bankruptcies (The Limited, American Apparel and Marbles, among others), it’s clear that e-commerce has changed the game for malls across the country. At Westfield Montgomery, where several restaurants and local businesses have departed as well, look for those empty spaces to be filled by new types of tenants offering experiential elements that can’t be duplicated online. One example: The Nespresso store that’s scheduled to open this spring, offering opportunities to taste before you buy. Also on the way: A specialty shoe store that we’ll tell you about next week. Stay tuned to Store Reporter for the latest as these plans unfold.



JT Interiors Spring Tabletop & Gift Collection:



Lord & Taylor on Rockville Pike


White Flint owners pay up

Speaking of malls and new beginnings, it appears we’ve finally reached the end of the longstanding legal battle between Lord & Taylor and the owners of the former White Flint Mall. The Washington Business Journal reports that Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Cos. have paid the $31 million they owed Lord & Taylor after two judges ruled in favor of the department store. The amount represents financial losses resulting from the demolition of White Flint, which left Lord & Taylor standing alone on Rockville Pike since early 2016. Previously, the mall’s owners had threatened the possibility of scuttling redevelopment plans if they had to pay the judgment. But this week they backtracked, telling Bethesda Beat that a new plan is already in the works.



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Park Potomac


Park Potomac: When are the restaurants coming?

Although we get this question nearly every week, we’re sorry to report that we still don’t have firm opening dates for any of the new restaurants at Park Potomac. Filicori Zecchini and Gringos & Mariachis both are expected to debut in the next month or two, but even that is still uncertain. And the wait for Addie’s is definitely going be longer. Watch this space for updates.



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Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta


Goodbye Coffee Coolatta

Dunkin’ Donuts will put its Coffee Coolatta on ice this summer, phasing out the dessert-like drink in favor of newcomer Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee. What’s the difference? Basically, more caffeine and a little less sugar. With today’s consumers gravitating toward espresso drinks and cold brews, Dunkin’ VP Chris Fuqua says the Coolatta simply “isn’t good enough” to remain on the menu. The new drink, along with a Caramel Shaved Ice Espresso that’s being tested in several markets, will offer customers “a more energizing coffee-drinking experience,” he says. Except for the ones who like the fruity Coolattas. Those are staying on the menu.






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