News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bummer: Compare Foods at Tall Oaks To Close By Month's End

cpare.jpegHome to sexist bread and a full-service jewelry counter, Compare Foods at the Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland Shopping Center is closing its doors by the end of the month, just shy of its first birthday.

Compare Foods will be the second international-themed grocery store to fail in the same spot following the departure of longtime grocery store Giant from Tall Oaks in 2007 (remember Fresh World? It actually lasted longer than Compare Foods). It's a shame for a number of reasons, not the least of them the viability of the shopping center, which somehow managed to have both a Burger King and a 7-11 -- just about two of the most fail-proof franchises out there -- go out of business.

But mostly, we'll miss the advertising:

Sigh. So long, "Susie de Los Santos." We hardly knew you.


  1. What a pity! For all that commentors on this board kvetch about Hudgins' ethnic constituancy, why can't this burg support an ethnic grocery?

    Where else am I going to find that gormet delight, Inka Cola?

  2. Tall Oaks is ripe for redevelopment. It needs to include more housing and offices to support the stores that never seem to have any customers.

    While we're at it, can we get the county to connect that end of North Shore drive with Becontree lane? That would increase the visibility of the shopping center with more cars passing by, and give the Uplands crowd a closer shopping center.

  3. While I'm surprised, I'm also not THAT surprised that they're closing down. It's basically a revolving door there for supermarkets.

  4. If Reston won't flatten Winterthur for a new Rec Center and Roller Rink, I can't think of a better place than Tall Oaks.

    Sorry, El Manatee. Your space is needed for the Swinging Singles Juice Bar.

  5. Like Fresh World before it, you could see this coming. The place was frighteningly deserted most of the time.

    The strange thing was that the Giant always seemed to attract enough traffic to make it viable. I thought Giant closed the location primarily because it was focusing on bigger stores, not because Tall Oaks wasn't bringing in any traffic. So what would it take for a grocery store to be viable there?

  6. I just found out today that Compare Foods will close. I live down the street, and it is a convenient place for me to stop to do quick shopping. Not exactly Whole Foods, or Giant, but adequate.

    On my way home from work, I saw the sign about a going out of business sale. 'Oh no, not again' I thought, but at least Compare Foods gave a week's notice, whereas Not-So-Fresh-World (that from time to time ran out of orange juice, they never seemed to mop the floors, and it stank, what a sh*thole) basically picked up and left.

    Compare Foods supposedly 'knows the neighborhood;' apparently not. And they have no problem with abandoning their neighborhood, or telling their employees, who I thought were helpful and had a good attitude, that they have one week to find another job. Giant gave several month's notice, and had to give due consideration to their unionized employees (and despite the unions had comparable, if not lower, prices).

    That Giant was there for years and always seemed to me to have a decent amount of patronage. I think I know why: People who drive by will be much more likely to stop at a store they are familiar with, as opposed to one they've never heard of. Though the store can't be seen from the main road, there was a sign with 'GIANT' in bold letters.

    Ideally, that Giant would still be there, but I don't think there is any realistic prospect of them coming back. Or of any other viable supermarket being there: Three supermarkets have closed in as many years, and in its current configuration Tall Oaks is doomed to rot away and fall into ruin, and risk becoming a ghetto eyesore that will drag down the rest of this part of Reston.

    At this point, the only solution is to completely redevelop Tall Oaks. Knock it down and build something else. When it was built, it was one of the few places to shop in Reston. Now, there are plenty of other options within a short drive, and Reston has some nice trails but is not exactly a place where you can walk everywhere.

    If you live in Fresh World's 'neighborhood' but have to get in your car to go there, why not drive an extra five minutes or so to the North Point Giant, or Harris Teeter, or Whole Foods? With the Metro coming in a few years, this is an opportune time to consider what to do about Tall Oaks, and how to integrate the site as part of a walkable community. Leaving it as it is isn't an option.

  7. Much as I hate to agree, I think Tall Oaks should be redeveloped completely.

    It needs a Wheile Ave entrance and some sort of 'anchor' establishment.

    Maybe another apartment building complex and stores...

    Whatever it is it should be done because the shopping center can't hold tenants.

  8. "Tall Oaks is ripe for redevelopment. It needs to include more housing and offices to support the stores that never seem to have any customers."

    Nonsense. There are plenty of people close to Tall Oaks. I myself live much closer to Tall Oaks than Whole Foods or Harris Teeter, and Tall Oaks is even conveniently on the way home from the park and ride (for now, anyway). However, I never go to Tall Oaks because Compare Foods SUCKS. Giant sucked, Fresh World sucked, Compare Foods sucks. Build a decent store there, and I will patronize it!

    Tall Oaks does not need more people around it. Tall Oaks needs better stores. This is the exact same problem as that other wasteland with stores that never have customers, Lake Anne Plaza! Build better stores, and the people - who are already there! - will come to Tall Oaks and Lake Anne Plaza.

  9. I have to agree with Dexter. I think it's all about quality in whatever the store or product is offering. I also think that people would love to do business with local owners but it has to be good.

  10. The problem especially with Tall Oaks and it has always been this way is visibility.

    Back in the late 1980's while Giant was still there and the center did not have to compete with the Clown Center, Tall Oaks still languished.

    While working at Reston Pet, which had been there for years, customers would call and ask where we were even though they had been residents of Reston for years.

    Tall Oaks needs to be opened up from Wheile. It might as well be a complete tear-down a rebuild because as it is now, the center is just another strip mall which happens to be facing the wrong way.

  11. Yeah, HKCD, If any place needed a tsunami more than Lake Anne, it would be Tall Oaks. But, then, I doubt that even Tall Oaks could use a tsunami more than Lake Anne.

    Ah, screw that, let's just blow up a nuke plant near the both of them and call it even.

  12. I doubt any large supermarket would survive in that space. Maybe they should break it up into smaller stores, and see if they can get tenants that way. A good and inexpensive Mexican restaurant there would get my business!

  13. Not again . . . just give us a place to buy coffee in the morning and to send the kids to get popsicles on their own. We don't really need a public community center either. Will miss the grocery cart art in the creek.

    If the Master Plan visionaries follow through with the dreams(??) of no-driving in Reston, little village centers will have to exist.

    Connecting Beacontree to North Shore 86fd? Do you own Colvin Woods? The only thing stopping their application for higher density is the traffic problem in front of the elementary school.

  14. Convict,

    I assume you are a fan of breadsticks then?

    But seriously, like it or not, Lake Anne is a place of architectural interests and is significant to the history of Reston.

    What Lake Anne needs is a good marketing campaign and also some decent places.

    Tall Oaks suffers from being hidden. Unless you had a real reason to go back there, most people would not know it is even there.

  15. Aye, there lies the rub, HKCD. Lake Anne could you some good PR, and a good marketing campaign may help. Still, you can put all the lipstick on that pig that you want but, in the end, it still oinks and rolls around in its own excrement.

    No retailer with its wait in breadsticks is going to want to go there simply because it Lake Anne can't attract the kind and quantity of traffic that they would like. Now, that could be turned around (maybe) if somebody were to subsidize them, but I would have some serious problems with using my RA dues to subsidize a retailer.

    Lake Anne's place now is to be the gray haired lady of Reston. Sure, you might like to stop by once in a blue moon to visit, but its definitely not the place to go and party.

    Now, if Lake Anne were to get something really useful, like a massage parlor, that might be a different story.

  16. Meanwhile, back to Compare Foods and Susie de los Santos...we have team coverage from the House of Peasant. Mrs. Peasant, a.k.a. Daniela Boone, was there yesterday to pick up a few discounted goodies. According to her, the place looked like a morgue with only a handful of customers, almost no shopping carts, and a totally empty fish counter. Not sure if the world-famous Bimbo Bread was still in stock. According to the cashier whom Daniela spoke to, the employees of this store are getting transferred to other Compare outlets, so I guess some good news in that at least no one from the Tall Oaks store seems to be losing their job in the current not so great economic climate.

  17. Convict,

    I think you should try out Jasmines, Go Sushi, Roti Grill, and Thai Singh. Each of those places are (especially for the value) as good as you may find elsewhere.

    The kid's consignment shop and the used bookstores are also great places to pick up a bargain and are decent establishments.

    Too many consumerists could not bring themselves to buy a good second hand stroller or a gently used set of clothes for their kids, or to get a used paperback that they will read once.

    But yeah, Tall Oaks is a sad story, one that might be changed by a redesign. If you put the best grocery store in the universe there, people still would not go to it because a lot of folks around here are oblivious.

  18. You're kind of hinting around the problem, HKCD. I've been to all of those establishments and they're okay, except for Thai Singh, which I haven't tried because I neither like Thai or Indian.

    The thing is that there are no nationally or regionally recognized chains in the place. It's all about comfort and chains bring a certain comfort and reassurance that they are all about taking care of the masses, unlike the Mom and Pop shop, who are a relative unknown. After all, if Mom and Pop were any good, why haven't they spawned 10,000 duplicates?

    This is the same problem with Tall Oaks. People don't mind paying more for Giant's or Safeway because they recognize the brand. Compare, on the other hand, looks like it might be owned by a pack of illegals who are using it as a shell for laundering their drug smuggling money. However, if a stripped down Wegman's were to suddenly appear in the Compare space, that shopping center would come alive -- in spite of the fact that prices would be a good 50% more expensive.

    So, in order for either place -- Lake Anne or Tall Oaks -- to thrive as anything other than a quaint distraction, they're going to need a name in their with some cache. Your best bet might be to try and get a 5 Guys there. That could be the chain that gets the ball rolling.


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