Tuesday, October 31, 2023

"Obscene material" reported to police at school in Sandy Spring

Montgomery County police were summoned to a school in Sandy Spring yesterday morning to investigate a report of "obscene material" at the campus. The report was made at a school in the 300 block of Olney-Sandy Spring Road at 9:22 AM Monday. Sherwood High School is on that block.

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Phantom of the Shady Grove Metro station

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Tomorrow is Halloween, and what is Halloween without a ghost? There's one who haunts the area around the Shady Grove Metro station in Derwood, and has since his untimely death there in 1864. Walter "Wat" Bowie was among many Marylanders who were Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. Like some, such as Bethesda plantation owner Nathan Loughborough, Bowie couldn't resist getting in on the fighting action himself despite living in a state that hadn't seceded from the Union. And yes, Wat Bowie was a member of that Bowie family, whose home turf is now a fast-growing city in Prince George's County.

Bowie's final adventure began on an ambitious note: a botched plan to kidnap the governor of Maryland. Retreating back to Virginia from Annapolis via Montgomery County, Bowie made the mistake of trying to loot a store in Sandy Spring. Tired after previous pillaging by earlier Confederate raiders, the store owner rounded up a posse, and pursued Bowie and his men as they traveled toward Poolesville. 

The vigilantes caught up with Bowie in Derwood, near the site of today's Metro station. His party escaped, but Wat himself wasn't as lucky. Bowie was shot off his horse with a shotgun blast. Historian Earl Eisenhart pinpoints the exact location as being next to the Metro tracks off Somerville Road, by the McDonald's. Bowie's ghost is said to haunt that area to this day.





Last Office Depot in Montgomery County closes in White Oak

The last Office Depot store in Montgomery County has closed at 11130 New Hampshire Avenue in White Oak. Signage has been taken down from the storefront, and windows have been papered over. I'd like to thank a loyal reader who brought to my attention another, more notorious, reason this store location was notable in the past. A Montgomery County police officer, Phillip Carl Metz, was tragically killed in the line of duty here when it was a W. Bell & Co. store on March 27, 1981. Officer Metz was 33 when he was fatally shot by a gunman who had broken into the store.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Route 666, the real-life Highway to Hell, is in Kensington

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Did you know there is a real Route 666, and it is located in Kensington, Maryland? The Satanic-numbered Maryland highway designation was given to Armory Avenue, a portion of Howard Avenue, and St. Paul Street, when they served as the original route to cross the Baltimore & Ohio (now CSX) Railroad tracks in Kensington. Today, the newer Connecticut Avenue serves that purpose to the west, with a grade-separated bridge crossing. The controversial 666 route number was removed in 1958, but you can still drive the real-life "Highway to Hell" today. However, the only way to travel the entire length continously is on foot, by using the pedestrian crossing at the Kensington railroad station. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The creepiest license plate in Montgomery County

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Today on the Montgomery County Halloween Countdown, we have the creepiest license plate you're likely to find in MoCo. "Casket" is the vanity tag for a Chrysler 300 sedan staff vehicle at the Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home in downtown Bethesda. The black car also features the flashing emergency lights for funeral processions that have become standard on most funeral home hearses in recent years. Don't expect an actual casket to fit into a Chrysler 300, despite the spine-chilling tags.

District Bistro update in Wheaton (Photos)

District Bistro
, which will share the former Umberto's space at 11230 Grandview Avenue in the Wheaton Triangle, is getting close to opening. Sister restaurant Frank's Burger Place already opened on the other side earlier this month. Logo signage and operating hours have been applied to the front windows; inside, booth seating and tables are in place. Stay tuned for an opening date. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Rockville Mall had a newspaper, and it could be as creepy as the mall was (Photos)

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Today, as we count down the final days to Halloween, let's take a look at the Halloween 1976 edition of The Rockville Mall Times. Yes, Rockville's ill-fated dead mall of the 1970s and 80s had its own newspaper, and it could be as creepy as many considered the mall to be. Especially the Halloween edition. Who was Mr. Barfly, and was he a denizen of the shadows of the mall? Are you encouraged, or discouraged, to visit Ransom's, with Mr. Barfly as the face of the business? His disturbing visage suggests a ransom may indeed be involved to secure your release from his clutches, and from the mall's infamous dark parking garage.

Mr. Barfly, a denizen of the darkest
corners of the Rockville Mall

"Hey, kids! Let's all pile into the station wagon and pick up a copy of Adolf Hitler by John Toland at Waldenbooks at the Rockville Mall." With Roots as the other choice highlighted, talk about a stark contrast in offerings. Some lighthearted reading for the whole family at Waldenbooks.

Name-brand leisure suits were 50% off - if Herb Tarlek didn't get to Crane's Men's Shop first and clean 'em out. It's hard to get more 70s than leisure suits. But Beyda's gave it the old college try with corduroy, gabardine and velveteen pantsuits.

The front-page story in the Halloween 1976 edition of the The Rockville Mall Times looked back at the tragic demolition of the Rockville's historic town center with an almost-giddy glee. Vinson's drugstore and the Milo theater are visible in a bustling scene from 1945. Thirty years later, the Rockville Mall fills the field of view from the same photographic vantage point (and only 20 years later, the mall itself would be demolished). 

"Progress comes to Rockville," the headline reads. "Shopping sure has changed in Rockville," the article begins. The uncredited reporter made sure to thank the city politicians who approved the demolition of most of the original, historic buildings in downtown Rockville. "During this week, Rockville Mall also salutes the City of Rockville for the many years of progressive city planning that has made Rockville a model city for responsive government, and a convenient place for residents to shop."

A 1976 mall directory shown lists more than 30 tenants. But in a sign of the mall's struggles, previous department store anchors Lansburgh and Lit Brothers were already conspicuously missing from the roster. The interesting names among the remaining tenants were Roy Rogers, Franklin Simon department store and W&J Sloane furniture (both from the same ownership group as Lansburgh and Lit Brothers, coincidentally), King's Court (an original tenant when the mall opened, the restaurant closed in 1984 when its space was replaced with an elevator shaft in the "Rockville Metro Center" makeover of the mall), Friendly's Ice Cream and Real Rich Ice Cream (2 ice cream shops! Which one was better?), Masi's Fun House (was Mr. Barfly ever lurking in there, as well?), Kurly's (what's that?), Empress Restaurant and Waxie Maxie's record store. 

In case shoppers didn't already have it penciled in on their calendars, The Rockville Mall Times noted that National Alcoholism Week was rapidly approaching on November 12. But just when the gloom became too much, the Times promised that "Santa arrives at Rockville Mall Friday, November 26 at 10 AM." After a reminder to "Support your local Rockville Mall merchant who supports you with low prices," the front page ends with the mall's 70s logo, and the tagline "GOOD NEWS/GOOD TIMES."

Maryland Governor Wes Moore endorses Angela Alsobrooks in U.S. Senate race

Maryland Democrats suddenly have a barnburner of a primary race on their hands in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Senator Ben Cardin in the 2024 election. Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks' candidacy got a twin jolt of energy when primary opponent Will Jawando dropped out of the race and endorsed her, and Maryland Governor Wes Moore unexpectedly weighed in on the contest in her favor. Moore appeared free to move once Jawando, a friend, ended his campaign. But Moore's endorsement of Alsobrooks is a risky political move, as Alsobrooks' top rival David Trone is a wealthy fundraiser who counts former president Barack Obama among his political allies.

Trone not only handily funds his own campaigns with his Total Wine fortune, but is a powerhouse fundraiser for Democrats nationally, including Obama. He has hosted Obama for fundraisers at his Montgomery County home in the past. But Obama endorsed Moore in his successful 2022 gubernatorial campaign, and Moore's name entered the 2028 presidential race discussion before he had even been sworn in as Maryland's first Black governor in January. Along with Moore's central casting persona, and stellar resume, the fallout for the rookie governor may be minimal.

The Moore and Jawando tag-team endorsement has potentially united the Black vote in the race behind Alsobrooks. She leads the second-wealthiest majority-Black jurisdiction in the nation, and the wealthiest - Charles County - is also in Maryland. The Black vote is critical to victory in the state, although that didn't help Donna Edwards in her U.S. Senate race against eventual winner Chris Van Hollen. Trone is popular among independents, and among the growing number of Republicans who switch to the Democratic party for primary elections in Maryland. Even many conservatives respect his business acumen and success.

Former state legislator Robin Ficker is the only current Republican candidate in the race with any statewide name recognition. Former Gov. Larry Hogan was well-positioned to run - and had an outside chance to win. But he chose to focus on a potential presidential campaign instead, and remains among those rumored to be under consideration for the No Labels independent ticket, should it materialize next year. Fantasy GOP candidates like Cal Ripken and Pat Sajak have shown no interest in running, and the Republican farm team is virtually non-existent. The absence of a prominent MAGA Republican candidate in the race means there is a wide lane open for a Hogan-style moderate GOP candidate to enter the race.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Signage installed at Solaire Social food hall in Silver Spring (Photos)

Additional signage has been installed on the exterior of the future Solaire Social food hall at the Solaire 8200 Dixon apartment tower in downtown Silver Spring. "Eat. Drink. Be Social." is joined by a couple of half-circle sculptures to the left of the entranceway. The existing "Solaire Social" signage on top of the one-story extension of the ground floor is now lit at night. Inside, however, there's much left to be done, with not much more than ductwork and some drywall in place at the moment.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Toby Walker to perform at J. Hollinger's in Silver Spring October 29

Blues singer and guitarist Toby Walker will headline a special dinner event at J. Hollinger's Waterman's Chophouse at 8606 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring this coming Sunday, October 29, 2023. Seating times available will be at 5:00, 5:15 PM., 5:30 PM and 5:45 PM, and the concert starts at 6:00 PM, and will run until 8:00 PM. Tickets are $15 - those funds go to pay for Walker's performance, and do not include food or drinks, which will be a minimum of $40 per person. The full dinner menu, and $32 and $40 prix fixe dinner menus, will be available. Reserved seating available here.  

Friday, October 20, 2023

Will Jawando ends campaign for Maryland U.S. Senate seat

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D - At-Large) announced this morning that he is ending his campaign for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat of Ben Cardin (D), who will retire in January 2025. In a statement released by his campaign, Jawando said that "after a lot of thought and prayer and late nights with my wife Michele, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a step back from the race. Not because we believe any less in the cause that started it. The fights we talked about in this campaign are and always will be the fights of my life. But after thinking long and hard about this race in particular, I frankly no longer see a path for myself to victory. And because I have so much respect for my loyal supporters, my constituents in Montgomery County, and my loving wife and children, I cannot remain in a race I do not believe I can win."

Jawando's exit is disappointing for progressive voters who supported his campaign. "I am sorry for those who will find this news disappointing – believe me, I am also disappointed," Jawando said. To his supporters, and the local and state-level elected officials who endorsed him, the councilman said, "I am so proud to have earned your support. I look forward to fighting alongside you each and every day. Thank you again to every supporter of my campaign, it truly means the world to me that you believed in me, my message, and our vision."

Barring a late entry by Congressman Jamie Raskin or another established progressive candidate, Jawando's exit is most likely to benefit Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. While many - including a few journalists - have questioned Alsobrooks' progressive bonafides based on her law enforcement record, she is still considered to stand to the left of her biggest rival, Congressman David Trone (D - 6th District). Police reform and transparency were niche issues for Jawando in the race, and those will likely fade into the background now that neither Trone nor Alsobrooks are likely to raise them going forward. 

While Jawando is folding his Senate campaign, he assured supporters he won't be stepping away from politics. "I am not going anywhere!" he said. "I will continue serving the people of Maryland no matter what." Some observers have theorized that, should a referendum barring Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) from seeking a third term appear on the 2024 ballot and pass, Jawando might be a candidate for that top County office in 2026. An open executive seat is likely to be pursued by Jawando, Councilmember Evan Glass (D - At-Large), and Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D - District 1), among other notable Democrats. As Jawando signed off in his statement today, "This is not the end – it is only the beginning."

Wiseguy Pizza opens at Wheaton Plaza (Photos)

Wiseguy Pizza
has opened at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall. The pizzeria serves whole pizza pies, and by-the-slice. A stone deck oven and special water filtration system add up to a delicious, New York-style pizza experience. Operating hours will be 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Thursday, 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Sundays. Look for Wiseguy Pizza in the food court on Level 2 of the mall.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Frank's Burger Place opens in new Wheaton Triangle location (Photos)

Frank's Burger Place
has moved up in the world, to a nicer location at 11230 Grandview Avenue, in the Wheaton Triangle. A new, expanded menu features all the burgers and chicken sandwiches you loved from the original location, plus more sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items. Operating hours at the new location are 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM Wednesday through Sunday, and 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Mondays and Tuesdays. Check out a recent review of Frank's that was recorded shortly before the restaurant made the move.

Pick up the horn and call;
curbside pickup is available

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Target limits self-checkout to 10 items or less in Wheaton

Signs posted at the Wheaton Plaza Target

is the latest retailer to address the shoplifting epidemic by making life more difficult for its law-abiding customers. The big box chain is now introducing a new limit of 10 items for self-checkout. Giant supermarkets recently limited their self-checkout machines to 20 items or less. Amusingly, Target is telling media outlets that it has implemented the new policy to speed up lines at the self-checkout machines, rather than to stem the loss of merchandise. At least Giant was honest, in stating that "a significant increase in crime" was the reason for its new limit on items at self-checkout.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Lali Market, Fancy Cakes by Selam opening in Montgomery Hills; Milk & Honey now open

Leasing activity is heating up in Montgomery Hills this week. Milk & Honey has opened at 9326 Georgia Avenue, in the former Willie T's Seafood Shack space. The southern-inspired cuisine restaurant will soon be joined by two more new tenants. Lali Market and Fancy Cakes by Selam have leased adjacent spaces at the same retail strip. Currently located in Rockville, Fancy Cakes by Selam offers a variety of baked goods, but also specializes in custom cakes and cupcakes for birthdays, weddings, and other special events.

Mi Mariachi opens in Wheaton

Mi Mariachi
has opened at 11301 Fern Street in Wheaton. The Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant that hosts live mariachi music returns to the Wheaton dining scene in this new, landmark location, which was once home to the famous Sir Walter Raleigh Inn steakhouse. Mi Mariachi just opened yesterday. Curbside pickup is available for takeout orders.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Signage installed at Outback Steakhouse in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

The sign is up at Outback Steakhouse, opening soon at the Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. A separate sign denotes the takeout/delivery entrance to the restaurant, appropriately using the alternative word "takeaway" as one would in the former British Empire. Inside, we can see the final seating being installed in the dining room. 

A sign will remind diners that "Each of our steaks [is] hand-trimmed for marbling & juiciness[,] then seasoned with a blend of secret 17 spices." Will this be the finest steak dinner in all of Montgomery County?