When the Giant grocery store at Tall Oaks closed its doors to customers on Nov. 29, nearby resident and lifelong Restonian Tara Coonin sprung to action. With some help from her neighbors, she started a campaign to find a replacement for a much-needed grocery store.
"I think that without an anchor store there, that would be the death of that center," said Coonin. Growing up in Reston, Coonin remembers the fight the community put up to save Hunters Woods Shopping Center. "I still have the Save Hunters Woods T-shirt. I know if the neighborhoods stand up, things can get done," said Coonin.
In an effort to bring another grocery store to Tall Oaks, Coonin started a postcard campaign, distributing over 1,000 postcards for community members to send to Bloom, a Food Lion store concept that utilizes technologies to enhance shoppers’ experience. Coonin said the community had heard that Bloom was considering the site. The postcard campaign is meant to send the decision-makers at Bloom over the edge. "If I came to work everyday and saw 50 postcards saying the same thing, I would consider it," said Coonin. "Five, 10 [postcards] you can throw away. One thousand you can’t ignore," she said.
Coonin, and other members of the Tall Oaks community, have been knocking on doors, leaving the postcards on doorsteps and with businesses that see traffic and support the cause.
"IT SEEMS to be working really well, because I’m getting a lot of e-mails," said Coonin. "People all over Reston are contacting me," she said. Coonin added that the campaign is making its way to Reston’s office buildings and that people from Herndon and Vienna have also asked to have postcards provided to them.
Dick Rogers is one of the community members helping Coonin in this effort. The president of the Golf Course Island Cluster, Rogers said Tall Oaks really needs a community-oriented market. "I will personally write a letter to Bloom for what I think is an opportunity in this area," he said.
Rogers visited the Bloom store in Herndon and said he thought it would fit well at Tall Oaks. He added that people in the neighborhood, such as the residents of Island Walk – an affordable housing community in Reston, relied on a grocery store at Tall Oaks in the past. Those residents often do not have cars that can take them to other shopping centers for every day needs.
"REDEVELOPMENT is inevitable, especially with the metro. It is important that Tall Oaks in that redevelopment remains a neighborhood shopping center," said Rogers. He said neighborhood shopping centers were a good idea, and are a part of Reston’s success stories. "That was Bob Simon’s goal," said Rogers.
Robin Smyers, the Reston Association (RA) representative for Lake Anne and Tall Oaks, said she is meeting with Fairfax County Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) and property manager John Bone to discuss further plans on the Tall Oaks center on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Smyers added that the RA board would vote on a resolution at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, Dec. 13, to send a letter to the property owners and managers on behalf of its members.
Smyers said she did not know much about Bloom, "but the bit I do know, that would be a perfect fit for the community," she said. As for the postcard campaign, Smyers said she was a big fan of people in the Tall Oaks district and their activism. "They not only get involved, but stay involved," she said. She promised to have their voices heard at meetings she attends with county and property representatives.