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Posted at 02:27 PM ET, 01/31/2012

Del Ray: Small business adds to ‘Main Street’

Special to The Washington Post


The new Osteria wine bar and restaurant recently opened in Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. (Jessica Richardson)

 

In many areas, the shops and restaurants that become well-known to local residents also help define a neighborhood. In the Del Ray neighborhood, there’s been a small burst of retail businesses open recently, which gives the neighborhood its unique character of independent businesses along a “Main Street.”

Locals are excited about the the long anticipated Pork Barrel Barbecue. After well over a year of permit delays they finally opened their doors in December.

Osteria wine bar and restaurant, operated by the neighboring La Strada, and Fabulous Frocks, a designer consignment bridal boutique also opened last month. Market 2 Market eatery opened last fall in the space behind St. Elmo’s

Last week The Happy Tart, a gluten-free bakery, on Mt. Vernon Avenue opened. Grape and Bean is building out their new location at the corner of Commonwealth and Walnut. Though technically Rosemont, it close enough to be frequented by the Del Ray community. La Bergerie’s new cafe, Le Cafe de Del Ray has been approved by the city and is scheduled to open this year.

Del Ray hasn’t always had such cache. Growing up in the area the 1980s, there wasn’t much of anything there. My mom recalls when Del Ray was a working class neighborhood of railroad workers, with a bank, a couple of waffle shops and a Pep Boys (where Potomac West Interiors is now.)


The Happy Tart, a gluten-free bakery, recently opened on Mt. Vernon Avenue. (Jessica Richardson)

Today, the sidewalks are bustling with foot traffic on any given weekend. I live a mile up the hill in Braddock Heights and love walking down with the stroller when the weather is nice. The Del Ray community as a whole is pretty eclectic and people tend to have a “shop local” mentality.

Of course, not all businesses in Del Ray have worked out. Last year a few businesses closed, including Bungalow Housewares Gallery, Barkley Square ( a dog bakery) and  Del Ray Shoe and Luggage Repair. The Shops at The Calvert also closed while the building is undergoing renovations.


The new location of Grape and Bean gets a coat of paint. (Jessica Richardson)

Neil Hall, co-owner of Kiskadee, a popular women’s clothing boutique that opened five years ago, said the location predisposed his decision to open a shop. “I always thought it would be a good location. If we hadn’t found this spot there is a good chance we would not be in business.”

Compared with other areas, square footage in Del Ray is also a draw for businesses. Linda Fairall, owner of Fabulous Frocks of Alexandria, , was initially looking in Old Town but decided on Del Ray when she found a large enough space for the kind of build-out she wanted. The ample parking and location were also key factors in her decision.

“We are close enough to Old Town that brides can easily fit our shop into their rounds on a Saturday of bridal gown shopping, and there are so many fantastic spots for brunch or coffee here in Del Ray that brides-to-be can easily make a day out of it with their friends and family.”

Neighborhood guide: Del Ray

Jessica Richardson is a Realtor with McEnearney Associates who blogs about life in Alexandria  at Alexandria Lifestyle (

Do you have an area of expertise in your neighborhood and want to contribute to the Where We Live blog? Email us at realestate@washpost.com.

By Jessica Richardson  |  02:27 PM ET, 01/31/2012

 
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