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Compare Foods Out at Tall Oaks

International market will close by the end of the month.

he international food market at Tall Oaks Shopping Center in Reston, will close its doors later this month.

The store is currently having a 20 percent off sale on everything except beer and wine  in order to clear the shelves. Store management said Compare Foods will likely close for good by about March 20.

Tall Oaks' anchor location has seen much turnover in the last few years. Longtime tenant Giant Food left in 2007. In the spring of 2008, Fresh World Supermarket, another international food market, moved in. That store closed in the fall of 2009, and Compare Foods moved in soon after.

Richard Holmquist March 11, 2011 at 07:59 PM
There are more pressing problems for Tall Oaks than visibility. Tall Oaks is a community shopping center. The community knows it's there and doesn't need to be reminded. I think there were a few problems faced by previous grocery tenants. 1. The location of the mall is deep within Reston, far from high-traffic road intersections. Outside of the people in the neighborhood who are likely to use the store, I doubt there is much extra traffic that passes Tall Oaks who would be attracted by larger signage or fewer trees. 2. The location problem is especially serious for an international specialty food store. This kind of store requires a narrow group of clients from a wide geographical area, while it excludes those in the community who don't appreciate the ethnic produce. Because of the difficulty reaching the store, I suspect the last two international stores couldn't draw sufficient clientelle from outside the local community. 3. Giant's prices were too high for the community. Fresh World and Compare Foods were priced well, but were so ethnically oriented (Asian & Hispanic, respectively) that many locals abandoned the store because they were uncomfortable with the selection... or fish smell...or Spanish signage, etc. The stores couldn't get enough turnover to survive. Somebody needs to devise a better business model that will maximize traffic exclusively from the local neighborhoods. We need a grocery store, and a decent pharmacy would be great too.
Richard Holmquist March 11, 2011 at 08:06 PM
...Before anybody calls me out for being a xenophobe due to my previous post, I'd like to emphasize that I frequented all three of the previous groceries and appreciated all of them, although I did lose the English directions to make the Korean rice pancakes that Fresh World sold me. They're still sitting in my pantry. In any case, my comments are based on observations and conversations, not just my own prejudices.
Karen Goff March 11, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Thanks for your comments, Richard. I get what you are saying. I think I will examine all the reasons why Tall Oaks has issues and what can be done about them in a story soon.
The BSD Guy March 11, 2011 at 10:00 PM
In my opinion, it wasn't a very good store. The first time I went there I was impressed...red delicious apples for $0.99/lb. They were great. I bought a lot of stuff that day and finally thought a decent store had opened up. The next time I went, once again, apples at $0.99/lb, but about 1/3rd of them appeared diseased. The third time, once again, apples at $0.99/lb, but this time I only bought 5 just as an experiment. 4 out of the 5 suffered from exposure to extreme heat giving them an almost clear appearance when cut open. That day I also bought some chicken, and when I opened it up, it was spoiled. These are the sorts of "tricks" that ensure consumers don't come back. The Korean food store that was there was always dirty and smelled. The Giant that was there was notorious for not having anything in stock, and when they went out of business Giant was also having financial pr0blems. If a reputable, well run store opened there, like Magruders it would be busy, possibly even crowded. There are a lot of grocery stores in the area already (2 Giants in Reston, 2 Safeways in Reston, another Safeway not far from the edge of Reston in Herndon, a Harris Teeter, and a few specialty shops) If someone wants to make a successful go of putting a grocery store in Tall Oaks, they can and will succeed. All the yneed to do is offer low prices and QUALITY. Smelly stores, rotten produce, and spoiled meats won't impress anyone and it's a sure fire way to go out of business.
Private Person March 12, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Tear the whole place down and build residential development. There are plenty of other places to shop, as noted above, and the closed, inward-facing "village" center concept is a failed idea from the 1960s that needs to be put to bed once and for all. It's failed here, it's failed in Columbia and it's failed is nearly all suburban places --- forget it and move on--not everything in Reston has to be preserved -- it's time to move on. The property is not conductive to any form of retail where visibility and access are as severely constrained as they are at Tall Oaks. The new sign, hard as it may try, is useless and one cannot even see the sign until one passes the turn onto North Shore Drive (which in and of itself gives one the impression that a beach, not a shopping center, is on that road). As a wooded, somewhat remote setting, but close to a future rail station, residents is the best use of the land. And, yes, that will being more traffic to poorly designed roads, but we've seen that retail is not viable in this location and it's time for a change. Even Hunter's Woods, which was turned inside out into a traditional strip center is struggling. Of course, the "new" Safeway is itself filthy, dark and not properly maintained (check out the rest rooms if you really want to be disgusted). Yes, it's partly the ec0nomy, but these centers, especially those without destination things like rec centers, are doomed to fail no matter who is there or what they sell.
The BSD Guy March 12, 2011 at 11:29 PM
More development is not the answer. On one of the Reston web sites some guys did a study about all the empty buildings in Reston, to see just how many were sitting empty and/or marginally occupied. They did this under the initial observations that the area was over developed, and they were right. The "monument to over-development" that sits at the corner of Hunter Mill and the toll road has been empty for over 5 years. Many of the "shining stars of development" sit around empty or partially filled. Many of the condos built during the Wall Street induced artificial real estate boom were empty (and probably still are) with developers now giving incentives for people to buy them. The predicted "growth" in this area is just a scam for developers to get people to pay them to put up more unneeded and unwanted buildings. With deficits skyrocketing the notion that the Federal Government will continue to be a "growth" industry over the next few years is ludicrous. Another housing complex would just be another loss leader. The owner of the center needs to find a tenant that can offer the residents something of value. A store like Magruders, which offers quality merchandise at very low prices would do well there. The Giant that used to be there was at one point very, very busy. The fact that the shopping center was obscured did not stop people from shopping there. The Magruders in Vienna is in a center that makes Tall Oaks look like the Taj Mahal, but you can't find a parking spot!
Tammi Petrine March 13, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Magruders in Reston? Oh, be still, my beating heart... Please, please, please!!! Magruders rocks and would be mobbed if it came to Tall Oaks. This would be such a plus for the entire community. This has been a hope of mine for 30 years.
Cathy Drake March 13, 2011 at 01:14 PM
I read the above comment and I shop at the Hunters Woods Safeway and have done so since it opened. It it a wonderful store. There have been several improvements within the store in the last several years. The folks who work there are helpful. I have never had an issue with the store. It is well lit, with good fresh food. It is well stocked and I have always left the store with what I needed. Hunters Woods shopping center is not struggling. The store that closed and still needs to be filled is the video shop and it closed due to the ability of people to get dvds online. I lived in the neighborhood when the Hunters Woods shopping center was really run down and the only store there was a pharmacy and a restaurant. I for one and am very happy there is a shopping center across the street. I can't even imagine what store you are talking about because it is not the Safeway store I shop in.
Private Person March 13, 2011 at 01:38 PM
While it's true that the new center is better than the old, there's no need to imagine; just open your eyes -- and pay attention to the details--restrooms, floors, HVAC vents, inside the coolers where you will find dirt, filth, blood from meat carcases, dessicated vegetables and more; above where you will find many burned-out bulbs and more. Attention to detail, please, and if what you can see is not indicative of what you cannot see, then by all means, continue with your fantasy. But, of course, you are free to see what you want to see, shop where you wish, and parrot the same nonsense that keeps traditional Reston from flourishing. Good luck with that. For a healthier position, all you need to do is "imagine" yourself in Reston Town Center (which, thankfully, is not part of Reston and has progressive covenants and those who enforce them are just as progressive), Clarendon, or in any other place that wants to move forward and adapt. The center is struggling financially -- just because it's filled with C- and D-grade tenants does not mean it's successful. As even you noted, we've been there and done that and, of course, it was an abysmal failure. I sure hope that those who idolize Simon pin some of those images to their temple walls and remember the past.
Cathy Drake March 13, 2011 at 02:00 PM
You certainly have an ax to grind..... It is to bad you don't fill your posts with truths. I shop at the Safeway daily and have done so since it opened. Sorry but your post is filled with to many untruths to be taken seriously and I hope others see it for what it is.... sour grapes.
Richard Holmquist March 13, 2011 at 03:21 PM
It sounds like you think an area needs to be urbanized to be successful. I'm pleased that your opinion isn't shared by most of the citizenry of Reston. You can't equate Clarendon to a local community shopping complex, and Hunters Woods can hardly be characterized as a failed shopping center. The Hunters Woods center seems financially sound and offers an excellent mix of services for the community. I lived in a Breton Ct. condo right on the Hunters Woods plaza. The Safeway is acceptable, if a bit dark inside the entrance, but it has been financially successful there for 35 years, which is most important for the success of the center. Hunters Woods might serve in some way as an example for what can be done at Tall Oaks. The Hunters Woods shopping center is successful because it adapted to change. I like your thought of replacing the current Tall Oaks center with condos, but more so if it integrates a mix of retail shops & restaurants and an express link to the new Metro station. I'm not sure whether the change is realistic, but we can brainstorm. I think a more realistic option is that an independent grocery chain fills the spot, and I think that's all that's needed if they can produce a quality, affordable store that's suitable for the local community.
Richard Holmquist March 13, 2011 at 03:22 PM
We had previously sought a Bloom store. Magruders would be nice, but Wiehle Ave. is hardly Rt. 123. I'd be surprised if they would risk expanding to Reston.
Private Person March 13, 2011 at 04:42 PM
No "axes to grind" or "sour grapes" (but I've found plenty at your beloved Safeway) here ; just ignorance to be eradicated -- including intolerance from you -- being high on the list. Despite what you may think, Reston is a part of the United States and we have freedom of expression here. I've expressed my opinions and back them with knowledge and facts. I stand by my posts, know the center's and Reston's history and have ample facts supporting my conclusions. Enjoy your Hunter's Woods experiences; thankfully, we won't be seeing each other at there.
Jeffrey March 16, 2011 at 08:46 PM
The major issue is the landlord who owns the complex. Karen you need to interview the tenants there. Everyone has left because of his outrageous demands.
Private Person March 16, 2011 at 08:55 PM
And guess who owns Hunter's Woods?
andi f. March 29, 2011 at 06:07 AM
To whomever said build more houses, research Reston. I've got two words: Planned Community. There's plenty of land in Fairfax county to build more homes, but the current new builds would probably like to see their properties sell before more homes are thrown into the market. Tall oaks just needs a better business plan. Giant was there for 30 years and closed due to so many stores within a 5-10 mile radius. I've heard the same thing.about the landlord.
Private Person March 29, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Planned communities, and their related plans, do, and most certainly should, change -- especially with all of the land-use changes coming to Reston and nearby areas. In fact, the Reston Association is clamoring to be in charge of such planning and changes along with a plethora of other entities some of whom have interests adverse to those of you and others. A business plan will do little to change the sorry state of Tall Oaks unless that plan includes demolition and rebuilding. With what is what's on the table for discussion...my vote is for housing.
cheryl April 26, 2011 at 06:32 PM
I am a new business owner in Tall Oaks and I chose this location for it's old style charm and individuality; not to mention it's convenience to all the local condos and homes on all sides of the walking paths. I do not want to have a business in a modern, concrete, Ashburn style strip mall where everyone has the same sign and the same colors and the same entryway. I think a lot of people are drawn to the older Reston areas like Lake Ann and the areas around Tall Oaks for it's character and small town appeal. All of Reston is lovely but the older sections are the most appealing to me. Giant did not go out of business like the last two stores did. It simply wasn't a large enough space for the Giant format. A smaller store like Bloom or Trader Joes would be perfect in my oppinion. The Trader Joes on Baron Cameron has absolutely no parking! And it's not any more visible than this empty space over here at Tall Oaks. A well known, small business like Trader Joes would thrive here just as the rest of us small bussiness owners are. I agree with the person who said that the last two International Markets were not a good fit here. They were nice stores but this neighborhood just doesn't have the right demographic to keep them thriving. And while I do wish the landlord would put some more efforts into the repairs here and maybe some money into the patio areas with planters etc., I do feel that Tall Oaks has the protential to turn around. I plan to help make that happen!
Karen Goff April 26, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Thanks, Cheryl. It is great to hear from a biz owner at Tall Oaks who is committed to the area. Which one is your store/business?
Karen Goff April 26, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Also, check out today's big picture story about Tall Oaks on Reston Patch: http://patch.com/A-gVqn
cheryl April 26, 2011 at 10:48 PM
I am on the lower level next to the trails. Dog Play Afternoon, LLC. We are a doggie day care and training facility that just opened Feb 1st of this year and I couldn't be happier with the location. I love all these trails as well and am I very committed to keeping them clean and free of dog waste. Yes, I have had my many issues with the landlord/management co, but I am willing to fight to stay here and I have many ideas and big plans for this place. I would like to do things like adoption days, outdoor yappy hours, meet ups, fundraisers and mini pet viesta type events out on these patios. It just has so much potential and the dog owners I have met so far are just the greatest. And while I don't think my business is as directly effected by the grocery store going out as maybe other places are, I still really would love to see a small business like Trader Joes go in there. I eat lunch at ALL of these restaurants daily and I have always supported both of the past grocery stores. We really need a good fit.
cheryl April 26, 2011 at 10:49 PM
the article was great. thanks for bringing attention to this story.
Karen Goff April 26, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Thanks, Cheryl. Email me at kareng@patch.com with your contact info. I would love to stop by and do a story about Dog Play Afternoon (Fantastic name, by the way). I will also show you how to create a free business listing in our directory.
karenkaren bobaren May 06, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Maybe something like an Aldi's would do well in this location? It would be nice to have a Trader Joe's with a larger parking lot. I always feel like I'm going to be killed/kill someone when I drive around that lot.
JAK December 06, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I don't know which Hunters Woods Shopping Center you're speaking of either, and it has one of the nicest Safeways I've ever been to.

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