It might be the middle of winter, but things are “blooming” in Mason District. The grand opening this week of a new Bloom grocery store in the Annandale Shopping Center signifies an important investment in revitalization.
According to its web site, Bloom, which is operated by Food Lion, promises “fun” in the grocery shopping experience. A taste of that fun appeared a couple of weeks ago when a giant shopping cart, about 8 feet tall, appeared in the parking lot at the corner of Columbia Pike and Gallows Road. Bedecked with information about the opening this week, the cart contains a three-foot long bunch of carrots, a huge quart of milk, and what looks like a very large pastry. Following the celebratory opening for invited guests on Tuesday, Bloom opened to the public on Wednesday.
The store replaces a Magruder’s, which had occupied the corner site for decades. More than two years ago, in the face of declining revenues, Magruder’s moved out of the shopping center. A lengthy search for another anchor store identified Bloom’s interest in siting a new grocery store inside the Beltway. The new store needed a larger footprint than the old Magruder’s, however, which required a shop or two to move to other locations in the shopping center so that space could be consolidated. The existing space was gutted to the steel superstructure, so everything you see at the new Bloom is brand new. During the past several months, the question on everyone’s lips was “when is that new store going to open?” Now we know the answer: January 20. Congratulations to the McWhorter Family, long-time owners of the Annandale Shopping Center, and to center manager Carol Zach Reuss. Their motivation to attract a first-class, national-chain grocery store to the Annandale Revitalization District, and their patience with a myriad of local and state regulations, reaffirms Annandale and Fairfax County as a great place to live, work, play, and do business.
The devastation and resulting human tragedy following the earthquake in Haiti last week leaves one nearly speechless. It is hard to imagine the chaos and misery that now is commonplace in that small island nation. In the United States, we rely on our local, state, and federal government distribution systems that, fairly quickly, can provide basic assistance in the face of manmade or natural disasters. Yes, the systems failed to address the severe problems in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but even if you think back to those difficult days, it was amazing to see the outpouring of help in moving people to safety in Texas and other states, in just a few days. The emergency planning of local and state jurisdictions is so important, and testing those plans, as desk top exercises or in the field, is extremely important.
Late last fall, I was asked to participate in a late-night training exercise with our Virginia Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team. I was given the role of a provincial governor who was supposed to interact with the team leaders after a nuclear plant explosion wiped out the generating capacity for the province. I was pretty aggressive with the team members, demanding why they hadn’t solved the problem yet, and pushing them to move farther and faster. It was supposed to be reality for the team, interacting with a government official whose input was unanticipated. It was play-acting for me, but the lessons came home very quickly this week, as the same urban search and rescue team is facing the same demands from Haitian officials: “thank you for your help, but please do more, and faster.”
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org