A Tall Order For Tall Oaks?

Compare Foods is latest grocery store to come and go. What happens to the center now?

When this month, it was the third grocery store to shutter in that spot in the last four years.

Longtime anchor Giant Foods left in 2007. In its place was international supermarket Fresh World, which closed in 2009 despite signing a 10-year lease. Compare Foods moved in in the fall of 2009 and was gone within 18 months.

Tall Oaks now has a nearly empty parking lot and a big, empty space, causing some residents to wonder about Tall Oaks' future as the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force prepares to assess the village centers' role in Reston.

"The community [near Tall Oaks] really depends on it," says Ken Knueven, board member representing Tall Oaks and Lake Anne. "Tall Oaks needs a proper anchor. People who live near there want the basics.

"Tall Oaks seems to be the center that gets the least amount of discussion," he said. "I don't think it is malicious. Lake Anne and Tall Oaks represent the oldest part of Reston. The demographics are there though. I still think Tall Oaks could support a Trader Joe's, a Magruders, [or] a Safeway."

While big retail has struggled, many smaller restaurants are doing just fine at Tall Oaks. is a popular Asian food spot, and upscale restaurantis thriving. El Manantial is seeking RA Design Review Board approval to expand and add patio seating to its space.

Knueven points out that Tall Oaks has plenty of apartments, townhouses and single family homes in walking distance. And as the there will be more residents, more traffic and more desire to shop within walking distance of home.

That was the point Tara Coonin Winfree, former cluster president at nearby Bentana Woods, tried to make in 2007. Winfree felt so strongly that grocery store chain Bloom - which does not have a Reston location - replace Giant that she started a postcard petition. More than 5,000 residents mailed the postcards to Bloom executives, lobbying for a store at Tall Oaks.

"Bloom would have been successful," says Winfree. She says the two international markets that took the spot were a poor fit for the neighborhood.

"I wish I could just go up the street when I need something," she says. "But at this point, maybe it is time to try something different."

Among Winfree's suggestions: a drive-through coffee shop in the space that used to house Burger King (and has been empty for several years) and a kid-friendly play space.

"If there were a dog- and kid-friendly coffee shop, people would walk there," says Winfree, a real estate broker and the mother of two small children.

Marty Flax, senior vice president of Renaud Consulting, the shopping center's property management group, says the space "will probably not be home to a supermarket" in the future. He said he is close to signing an anchor tenant for the Compare Foods spot.

"Supermarkets have not been able to make it there," Flax said. "It is still a viable shopping center in Reston. But the way the center is situated, it is hidden. It really is a neighborhood center."

Meanwhile, some residents think it might be time to start over at Tall Oaks as Reston looks towards its future as a transit-oriented community.

"You have to look at it as 'what does Reston need? What is it lacking?" says Deb Pestronk, a Realtor with office and president of the Golf Course Island Homeowners' Association.

"It is hard for retail to succeed there," says Pestronk. "When I show buyers houses nearby, they ask me 'what is the deal with that shopping center?' The best thing they can do there is put in a mixed-use development, similar to what they are doing at the Metro.  What we lack in Reston is housing for people 60 and over, who want to stay in Reston but don't want a condo. That area could become patio homes and small retail for the necessities."

tom day April 28, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Agree with the idea of facelift and a microbrewery, or at least an upscale beer pub. Reston has no places that serve a good number of craft beers. So we have to drive to Mad Fox in Falls Church, Lost Rhino in Ashburn (soon), Dogfish Head Alehouse in Seven Corners, Arlington or DC.
Joan Salvanelli April 29, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I would like to see an Amish Market like the one that used to be in Chantilly. Also Aldi Grocery store. It is a discount version of Trader Joe's.
Sidney K. April 29, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Actually I am going to revise what I would like to see here in Tall Oaks. There is a store that is based out of PA. There are 2 locations here in VA..one in Waynesboro and one in Harrisonburg. It is called Sharp Shopper Grocery Outlet.....it is an AMAZING store. LOTS of closeout items on many grocery (food) items as well as HABA, pet food, and bulk food products such as baking needs, seasonings and just way too many to list......This store would be perfect for that space and the parking there is adequate....write to the company and suggest they come here to Reston....it is not a "BIG" chain like Wegmans, Whole Foods, Trader Joes...they simply want to give great prices for their products......PLEASE WRITE TO THEM AND LET THEM KNOW WE NEED THEM HERE...NO MORE BIG BOX STORES....ALSO IF THERE IS A SMALLER SIZE space we also need a bakery outlet like Blue Bird, Wonder/Hostess......We don't also need "expensive high end stores" all over this town....not everyone living here is made of $$$$$$.....Times are tough for many!!
Sue Porter Beffel April 29, 2011 at 11:58 PM
As a neighbor, love all the ideas! Especially the Italian Store refrain -- I used to live near that in Arlington and my carpool still makes stops there for special treats! the grocery coop! the coffee shop with pastries!
jane blanchard April 30, 2011 at 10:24 PM
I like the microbrewery idea. Three supermarkets have failed, why try another? The Italian Store is another good idea. A friend of mine suggested a bowling alley. What about indoor soccer?
jose andrades May 01, 2011 at 05:29 PM
as a neighbor love all the ideas ? but righ now lets support very strong those who are really going forward for a very better future for talls oaks in reston, and they are EL MANANTIAL REATAURANT and MAMA WOK ??
Connie Hartke May 02, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Had dinner at El Manantial last night. New thought -- how about putting the covered RA tennis courts here? I don't follow this very closely, but as I understand it, folks want it, just not in their back yard. Since so many grocery stores have failed at this location, including the original Giant, another grocer may be very reluctant to move in to that track record. Enclosed tennis courts, anyone??
IJ May 02, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Wegman's will probably never downsize but I ran across a similar concept (boutique) grocery in Baltimore County that has many of Wegman's characteristics : http://www.thefreshmarket.com/ "The Fresh Market was founded on one simple idea: To bring neighbors, family and friends products they could savor and appreciate" VA Vienna 150 Branch Road SE Coming Soon!
Humble Parent May 02, 2011 at 05:35 PM
I LOVE The Fresh Market - I go to the one in Asheville, NC. Kind of a little high end sometimes, but a wonderful store. A drive through coffee shop in the old Burger King would compliment it nicely.
Kristen May 02, 2011 at 09:21 PM
I have been to the Fresh Market in Asheville as well - very cool store. And agree we support the existing businesses as well - any great store/shops that get added there will only help Mama Wok, El Manatial and Pho 75 - definitely want them all to stay around - these suggestions are not meant to replace the businesses that are already there...
Diane Allen May 07, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I have lived in the Tall Oaks area for over 30 years. I can remember when TO was a thriving shopping center with several eateries (and not fast food), a bank, hallmark store and of course Giant. I believe the Tall Oaks Community defitly needs a grocery store with a Pharmacy. I vote for Trader Joe's, Wegman's or even a Wallmart!! The clients that are in TO have for the majority been there for years. I am handicapped and having this store (Giant) right across the street was very helpful. I am hoping the management of the shopping center listens to the reston residents...especially the Tall Oaks community. Also, family members that visit the aging parent at Tall Oaks Nursing Center often pick up medications (Giant days).
Arielle Masters November 17, 2011 at 08:20 PM
NO WALMART :-< The TJ's suggestion is excellent. Would be good to have a small pharmacy at Tall Oaks too, and a coffee/kid play/dog play space. If TJ's won't come, how about making that space into an all-year farmers' market with a corner for coffee (kid-play area adjacent to tables for the parents)?
Diane Allen November 17, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Can a survey be sent out to Bentana Park and neighboring communities? These are the people that will use it most and with a GOOD SIGNAGE - it will be no problem for a grocery store. All the people in the area of TO currently go to North Point Giant, Trader Joe's and Safeway. I remember the days this shopping center thrived!!! There is no reason it can't be a smaller size of North Point. This is especially very important with the subway coming!!!
Diane Allen November 17, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Forgot to mention....I am also all for Wegmans!!!
Richard Holmquist November 17, 2011 at 09:21 PM
As I recall from previous discussion on this topic, Giant didn't "fail" at this location. It was making money. They just scaled back and it didn't fit their format or something like that. I didn't think the other two groceries were the right fit for the spot. I join the cry for TJ's, but I dispute that it would be a "small" Trader Joe's as some have been saying. I tend to think it would be larger than the other location and with more parking. Unfortunately, the location isn't as close to major roads as the existing spot. Time for a face-lift and update, though.
Richard Holmquist November 17, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Sounds like a good Reston Patch article. Shouldn't the Chamber of Commerce be in the business of supporting an endeavor like El Manantial's expansion? I'd like to hear their reasoning.
Mike Smith January 06, 2012 at 06:33 AM
Karen, are there any updates from the management company as to what will fill the vacant grocery store location? Per the article above Mr. Flax stated they were close to signing an anchor back in April. Given the size of the location I wonder if the new tenant will be Bed Bath & Beyond or Total Wine.
Diane Allen January 06, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I am hoping "SOMETHING" goes in Soon!!! It has stayed empty and looks horrible for our community. I am often asked "what happened"??? There are many off us in Bentana Park that have been here for years and used Giant as well as the TO Restaurants, Cleaners, Vet and Dog Groomer. By the way many of these other stores have been there for some 30+ years (such as the cleaners and TO Vet). I am hoping something comes about soon....as the new metro is coming in and it will be a "missed opportunity"!!!!
Mike Smith January 06, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I agree on needing something soon but doubt this location will really benefit from the metro. As a whole it's too far away and is too hidden. They've worked to improve the latter in recent years by improving signage and cutting away some of the trees, etc. but it still struggles. I just hope they fill the space soon with something that draws customers to the remaining businesses in that shopping center and improves the center as a whole.
Mike Smith February 09, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Karen - Are there any updates from the management company as to what will fill the vacant grocery store location? Per the article above Mr. Flax stated that they were close to signing an anchor but to date there haven't been any updates.
Karen Goff February 09, 2012 at 04:10 PM
There have been no updates that I know of. The property changed real estate reps a while ago and I have no new info from them. (ie, Flax is not repping them anymore). But i will check again with the new company.
Mike Smith February 09, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Karen - Thanks again.
Mike Smith February 23, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Karen - Just following up to see if you've heard anything from the new company.
Diane Allen March 22, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Anyone heard about what is going on at the old Giant at Tall Oaks? It looks like some clean-up and activity--but no announcements so far. Just curious.....
Diane Allen March 27, 2012 at 11:29 AM
karen--what is the new company?
Karen Goff March 27, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Lincoln property management.
Karen Goff March 27, 2012 at 11:40 AM
I mean that is the new property management. I still do not know what company is opening at Tall Oaks. But when I do, you know I will tell you.
Mike Smith May 07, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Hopefully something like Bed Bath & Beyond, Aldi's, or Total Wine will fill this space soon.
Liz October 18, 2012 at 08:50 PM
An indoor play area for kids is a great idea, but it should be much bigger than the one that was at Hunters Woods. I've seen many successful ones in southern CA, but not here although I think there may be one near Ashburn. There needs to be room for a bounce house, climbing things, slides, plastic ball pit, play kitchen, other toys,... all of that in an indoor, year-round setting. Picnic table area for snack or lunch,... still indoors. It would work at Tall Oaks. Not necessarily a place to drop off your kids, but a place for them to play while with a parent or care-giver.
Ben November 18, 2012 at 01:39 AM
This place needs a Kroger!


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