Sharon Godlewski has seen a lot of changes made to 1500 Belle View Boulevard during the 29 years that she has been working for her husband’s dental office. While the upper floor has been a dental office for 35 years, the lower unit has been home to a leasing office, gift store and decorating business. In a few months, she will witness yet another change as Dunkin’ Donuts assumes that space. An agreement with the Beneson Group, owners of Belle View Shopping Center, was signed this week, and the doughnut chain will open sometime this year.
"I’m not happy about it," Godlewski said. "I don’t want our clients smelling doughnuts." In addition to that, she has concerns about parking, trash and whether or not Dunkin’ Donuts would be installing an illuminated sign.
"I want to make sure that we’re not illuminated," Godlewski. "It’s very important that we don’t get a flashing sign. It’s important to us that we keep the professionalism of the practice."
She expressed those concerns during a meeting held by members of the Belle View Merchants Association. In attendance was Godlewski; Kevin Greene, owner of The Virginia Florist; Kathy Richards, owner, Kathy’s Corner; Libby Bryant, manager, Hodges Gallery and Kurt Kranz.
Kranz has served as the landlord of the shopping center for over 40 years, and had come to update the owners on the recent developments. Not only is Dunkin Donuts scheduled to move into 1500 Belle View Boulevard, but The Italian Deli is also scheduled to open at 1522 Belle View Boulevard — the former Skater’s Paradise — sometime in June.
Owned by Theodore and Wendy Arminio, The Italian Deli will be a take-out restaurant featuring sandwiches and prepared foods. They will serve a variety of homemade foods, including eggplant, lasagna and ravioli. Mozzarella cheese and cheesecake will be made fresh daily. Imported oils and vinegars, prosciutto and other Italian specialties will be sold. Fresh bread will be delivered daily. Boar’s Head meats and cheeses will be sold by the pound. Arminio, whose family has been in the restaurant business in New Jersey for years, worked at a deli in Vienna for many years; this is something that he has wanted to do for a long time.
They are applying for a liquor license so that they can sell beer and wine; they are also considering selling Italian coffees. Catering will be part of their business as well.
THAT LEAVES the shopping center with four empty storefronts, about 10 percent, Green estimates. Three of those storefronts are leased by Safeway. They were originally leased to provide for expansion of the grocery store. The remaining empty space is the one formerly occupied by 777 Market; the owners are currently negotiating with a national sandwich chain.
Business owners are greeting the news of three potential new food establishments with mixed views. Green thinks that it’s great, and said, "I’m tremendously excited. I think it will bring more business."
Gopal Bhatt, who manages Dishes of India, said, "I think it is good. It will bring new people who don’t know about us. A lot of people [businesses] have come and gone. It’s a way of advertising — it will work for both of us."
Businesses certainly have come and gone. Built in stages, the first section of the shopping center was completed in the early '50s; the final section in 1973. Godlewski can remember when the Roy Rogers was a Rustler Steak House and Primo’s Restaurant was a People’s Drug Store. Kathy Richards’ Hallmark store used to be located at 1500 Belle View Boulevard before she moved it to her current location.
Peter Silis, owner of Primo’s, had a carry-out business for 10 years elsewhere in the center, before he moved to the current location which he has occupied for the past 15 years. He’s concerned about the additions, and said, "There used to be some kind of control, but it’s breaking down and getting more competitive. All of these things might hurt. We’ll have to wait and see."
Arminio can attest to the fact that the restrictions have been lowered; he tried to open his deli in the shopping center eight years ago, but was told that they didn’t want another eating establishment. As a Waynewood resident, and Fort Hunt High graduate, he was delighted when he was offered the space.
"I would have loved to open years ago," he said.
The Arminios are aware of Silis’ concerns. Theodore knows the family, having attended school with two of Pete’s children.
"I would never want to hurt Pete’s business," Arminio said. "I think that we’re different and that there’s enough business for everyone."
He’s not concerned about the possibility of a sandwich shop opening, and said, "If they want to come in — fine. We won’t compete."
ARMINIO AND GREEN both think that there’s much more potential business. Silis doesn’t adhere to that theory; he views the potential customer base as being more static.
The business owner who may be most directly affected, at least by the opening of Dunkin’ Donuts, is Brenner’s Bakery. Jay and Ann Hur took over the business from Harry Sherman last year. Hiring additional decorators forced them to raise prices, which subsequently lost them customers. They have since lowered their prices, but have not been able to make the profit they need for renovations. Hur’s proposal to add sandwiches to their product line was rejected by the owners.
"I can’t continue a year more without adding product," he said. "Dunkin’ Donuts will hurt my business." Hur’s lease expires in June. He does feel that the bakery will survive, but needs some major improvements.
As with any expansion, there will be growing pains. Godlewski is not alone in her concerns about parking. Other merchants are concerned about the parking lot, especially the area alongside the building where the dental office and Dunkin’ Donuts will be located. Many commuters park in that back area, and there are currently a couple of moving vans and boat trailers parked back there.
"The shopping center is doing well, we need to enhance that back space," Green said.
"They’ll probably have to do some landscaping and make it a little nicer," Richards said.
The former decorating business was allocated three spaces and Godlewski said, "I can’t imagine that Dunkin’ Donuts will be happy with three spaces. I just don’t know where they [customers] are all going to park — they will have to park illegally or double-park."
The management company is in the process of installing crepe myrtles along one of the medians in the front parking lot; they have also promised to install lights in the back parking lot. Other than that, Kranz was noncommittal about making all the requested changes, and said, "It’s all premature; let’s get to the point and see what happens."