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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. 



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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.



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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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Moby Dick House of Kabob in Potomac Village


Moby Dick arrives in Potomac Village

Moby Dick House of Kabob has opened its doors at 9812 Falls Road, ending the winter-long wait for Potomac Villagers who’ve been hungry for some new food options. The tiny restaurant, which once housed a toy store, can seat about 30 people but will likely do most of its business from takeout. Moby Dick exec Ned Daryoush, who runs the restaurant chain with father Mike, says he hopes diners will look beyond kabobs and check out some of the lesser-known traditional Persian dishes. He recommends the weekday lunchtime specials, including khoresht gheymeh (eggplant and beef stew with peas and onions) and ghomeh sabzi (herb beef stew with cilantro, parsley, red beans and leeks). “These dishes are very laborious to make, so we serve a limited supply every day,” he says. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.” To check out the menu for yourself, click here.



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Bebe at Westfield Montgomery Mall


Spring bankruptcy watch: Sears, Bebe and Payless

Westfield Montgomery Mall, which has been hammered this winter by a continuing parade of national retail bankruptcies, could face even more closings in the months to come. Sears, which dates back more than 130 years, announced this week that there’s “substantial doubt” it can stay in business over the long term. Meanwhile, discount shoe chain Payless is rumored to be filing for bankruptcy with multiple store closings on the horizon. And women’s fashion retailer Bebe reportedly plans to close all of its physical stores and focus entirely on internet sales. Stay tuned.



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Last week for local gift shop

Meanwhile, another independently owned shop will exit next week after 20-plus years in the D.C. area. As Kindred Spirits, known for its artsy clothing, unique scarves and handmade jewelry, is shutting down its last remaining location at Westfield Montgomery Mall. “Running this business has been a joy, but all the signs are telling me that it’s time to move on,” says owner Wendy Rukmini Walker. “There’s been a shift in the climate. People aren’t shopping like they did before.” March 27th is the store’s last day of business at the mall, where Walker relocated just four months ago after closing her longtime locations at Washington Reagan Airport and Rockville’s Congressional Plaza. Walker says she may consider hosting some As Kindred Spirits pop-up shops at local events, but for now she plans to concentrate on her other passion: teaching Bhakti yoga.



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ShopHouse successor at Pike & Rose

A Korean restaurant chain will take over the 15 ShopHouse locations that closed last week, including the one at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda. Bibibop Asian Grill, a sister chain to Charley’s Philly Steaks, plans to rebrand the existing locations and relaunch them sometime this summer. Bibibop, which currently has a dozen locations in Ohio, serves a Korean-themed menu focusing on mixed rice, grilled meats, tofu and vegetables. An exec tells Nation’s Restaurant News that it’s a similar concept to ShopHouse, “targeting a mostly Millennial market.”



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REI is almost ready to roll

April 25th is opening day for the new REI store at Pike & Rose, relocating from its current digs further north on Rockville Pike. The 36,000-square-foot store will have a similar layout to the company’s new flagship location in D.C., with a full schedule of classes, meetings and events for the hiking/biking/camping community. We asked company spokesman Mike Ferris the question we’ve been hearing from so many Store Reporter readers this winter: What does REI think about L.L. Bean‘s plans to join the lineup at Pike & Rose? Ferris says competition between the two stores is a non-issue. “Our goal is to collaborate with other retailers and the local community… to help more people get outside,” he tells us. “In the end, we all benefit when more people have access to the outdoors.”



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ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen


Shophouse gets chopped

This week we say goodbye to ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, the Chipotle spinoff that’s going out of business after six years of failing to meet its parent company’s expectations. Eight of the chain’s 15 locations were in the D.C. area, where fans have been mourning the loss these past few days by visiting even more often than usual. “We’ve suddenly doubled up on sales since the announcement that we were closing,” says a ShopHouse staffer at Pike & Rose. “The same people have been coming in over and over.” But it’s too little, too late: All ShopHouse restaurants closed at the end of St. Patrick’s Day.






Clear Knee Mom Jeans at Nordstrom


New at Nordstrom: windows for your knees

This week we got a much-needed chuckle over the denim pants that launched a tweetstorm: Clear Knee Mom Jeans. Now on the shelves in the Topshop department at Nordstrom, these $95 beauties are aimed at teens who’ve been wearing “mom jeans” ironically — but they’re drawing critiques from actual moms who wore them before ironic fashion was a thing. “Teens! Explain yourselves!” snarked the Twitterverse, while reviewers on had some very specific suggestions: “Great for hiking and checking your knee for tick bites along the way!” “Perfect for shopping days; I use a dry-erase pen and write my grocery list on the clear panel!” “Everyone knows that knees are the windows to your soul. Now I have windows to my knees! Thanks Nordstrom!” Despite the week-long hatefest, these jeans haven’t sold out just yet. Click here to check them out.



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Tea from Rumi Tea/Shafa Blends


A makeover for Rumi

Rumi Tea and Spice, one of the few remaining independent retailers at Westfield Montgomery Mall, is getting a mini-makeover. “We’re changing our name to Shafa Blends as we add new products like olive oils and other types of beverages,” says co-owner Darius Zolfagharian, who opened the store two years ago on the lower level next to Claire’s. The mall’s tea business has really heated up since then, with Teavana relocating to larger quarters and newcomer David’s Tea joining the lineup this past June. Zolfagharian says his business takes a different approach, focusing on natural products without artificial flavors and colors (click here to take a look). “Those other stores have really gotten far away from what tea should be,” he says. “We’re not trying to be a candy store. We want to be a real tea store.”



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