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Extravaganza' Launches WEBA

With 50 initial members, West End Business Association targets growth.

<bt>Alexandria's political, government and business leaders assembled at Northern Virginia Community College's Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center Dec. 7 to participate in the West End Business Association's "First Annual Business Extravaganza."

The event also marked the formal introduction of WEBA's new officers and Board of Directors. "We had our first election Dec. 1 and now it's all official," said Christopher St. Pierre, new WEBA president and owner of Authentically Amish Fine Furnishings in the Fox Chase Shopping Center.

"We have over 50 members at present and hope to grow significantly. Right now we have several projects planned in the area [Alexandria's West End]. We want to work with developers and the city. We definitely want to have input as to what happens in the West End," St. Pierre said.

Joining the crowd for an evening of networking and entertainment was Mayor William D. Euille who has been an advocate of making the West End a more viable and vibrant locale. "I planted the seed and I'm very pleased it has grown," he said at the reception.

"I'm happy they (WEBA) are advocating and coming together. There are a lot of challenges and it will take a lot of team work to enable the West End to have their fair participation in the rest of the city's progress," Euille said.

Joining Euille at the event were City Council members Ludwig P. Gaines and Paul C. Smedberg. "This is definitely an organization who's time has truly arrived. There's tremendous opportunity in this end of the city and I'm very supportive of WEBA's goals," Gaines said.

Participating not only in the Extravaganza but also in the initial creation of WEBA has been the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Inc. (AEDP). "This is one of the most dynamic groups I have ever worked with. They are extremely well organized," said Paula Riley, AEDP executive director, following WEBA's organizational meeting.

ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS of the Extravaganza was a "Taste of the West End" with nine restaurants providing a sample of some of their specialties. Those represented were Tempo, Finn & Porter, Mango Mike's, Shooter McGee's, Ramparts, Simply Fish, Jeffrey's Catering, San Antonio Grill, and Akasaka.

This preceded the announcement that 10 West Alexandria restaurants and three hotels have joined together to take out a full page advertisement in the 2005 Alexandria Visitors Guide. "This is a first," according to Gail Houck, Houck & Associates, WEBA marketing and communications.

"There are two things really exciting about this. One is how fast WEBA came together and then how they worked to get the restaurants and hotels together in time to meet the deadline for the 2005 guide. We've never had this type of organization by the businesses themselves," said Jo Anne Mitchell, president and CEO, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association.

Joining the group for the advertisement, in addition to those participating in the Taste of the West End, were Hana Tokyo and Duke's Market Cafe. Hotels to be listed in the advertisement, entitled "Savor the Differences Go West," are Hilton Alexandria at Mark Center, Washington Suites, and Hawthorne Suites.

Each restaurant is pictured with its address and phone number as well as designations for price range, whether reservations are suggested, and if they offer Sunday brunch. At the center of the upcoming advertisement is a map of West Alexandria which pinpoints restaurant and hotel locations.

"All this was accomplished in just four to six weeks. This group also plans to do more. For the 2006 Visitors Guide, they hope to gather enough West Alexandria restaurants and hotels to buy a four-page insert," Houck said.

IN ADDITION to the restaurant offerings, guests at the Extravaganza were able to enjoy exhibits by various groups associated with the western portion of the city such as Fort Ward Park and Museum, and the Alexandria Campus Programs offered at NVCC. Live entertainment was provided by pianist Sean Forschler, the "Hot Tub of France" jazz ensemble, and the Alexandria Choral Society under the direction of Philip Cave.

Both Euille and Riley were honored for "their guidance and support in the formation of WEBA." Joining St. Pierre in the leadership of WEBA are vice president Chris Patton, Victory Van Corporation; secretary, Chris Tomasino, Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Company; assistant secretary, Kelly Bell, Virginia Commerce Bank; treasurer, Marina Mack, Koon's Collision Repair Center, and member-at-large, Gwen Sigda, Beau Realty, Inc.

Newly elected board members are: Wendy Albert, Tempo Restaurant; Margarita Greene, Esq.; Mary Lou Lindquist, Licensed Clinical Social Work; and Juleen Stacy, Jan Davis Entertainment. Civic Association representative is Elizabeth Wright, president, Holmes Run Park Committee.