Our daily franchise? Barracks Road loses two locals

In our final issue of 2003, Dish gave thanks for new eateries, but one fact of restaurant life is that the arrival of the new often accompanies the departure of the old.

And so, if new bakeries like the locally owned and operated Baker's Palate in SoSo give downtowners a reason to smile, the closure of an old favorite like Our Daily Bread in the North Wing of Barracks Road leaves a gaping hole in the heart of the new year.

Run by Dan and Alice Malcolm, the six-year-old bakery closed on November 28 when Federal Realty raised the rent over 18 percent and revealed that the rapid-rise national bakery-café chain Panera had the option of moving into their turf. Barracks Road representative Janet Harper confirms that Panera will in fact be coming to the shopping center, but she says that it will not be taking the North Wing space recently vacated by Our Daily Bread.

"We really hoped the Malcolms would stay," Harper says. "They developed such a loyal following, and they will really be missed. I think they could've done well in this location, even with Panera across the street."

Still, Panera's imminent arrival was bitter news for the Malcolms, who say they were always careful not to compete with nearby businesses. "We didn't offer meat sandwiches because of Padow's Deli, or cappuccino because of Greenberry's. Everyone needs their turf. But we can't compete with Panera," Dan Malcolm told Dish in mid-December.

This trend of raising rents– which some locals believe favors national chains– seems to be spreading at Barracks Road. The Kathleen and Thomas Ashfield boutique, owned by the O'Rourke family, was recently nudged out of its prime spot by Barnes and Noble. "This mall is going to become all franchises," veteran boutique worker Lise Coan tells Dish.

Speaking in Barracks Road's defense, Harper says the O'Rourkes were offered another location at the mall, but opted instead for a competitive offer from Short Pump, near Richmond.

"We had a great and loyal following, and it's made our hearts sick to close," says Our Daily Bread's Malcolm. Ignoring the papered windows and "closed" sign, several regulars came into the cold, empty bakery to pick up their loaf of Dakota bread or a few vegan muffins.

"What do you mean you're closing? You can't close," lamented one woman. When Malcolm mentioned Panera's planned arrival, she replied with a scowl, "Well, we don't want that."

If this is true, then Malcolm's advice may serve as a warning: "People need to be more intentional about supporting local businesses, or they will not be able to survive."


Bigger dumplings

 Downtown, the New Year brings fresh evidence that small businesses-­ in this case very small– are thriving. Marco and Luca, the closet-sized dumpling and noodle shop operating out of a window on Second Street (next door to The Hook) inaugurated a comparatively enormous eat-in restaurant on December 31-­ exactly two years after serving the first dumpling.

Marco and Luca is owned by chef Sun Da and his wife, Dragana Katalina-Sun, and named after their two young sons. Designed by Sun Da, the new space at York Place now seats 30 at light wooden tables and chairs in a bright, simple space accented by a few Chinese antiques. The four-item menu– fried dumplings, hot and sour soup, or cold spiced or sesame noodles with cucumber and apple garnishes– will remain the same for now, but you can expect warm noodle dishes, some with organic beef, to appear over time.

I couldn't help noticing that Marco and Luca gives new symmetry to York Place, the little mall across from Miller's that's home to several shops and (now) three restaurants. On a recent Saturday, crowds of panini- and omelet-eaters at Higher Grounds were counterbalanced across the corridor by crowds of noodle slurpers.

And Japanese sushi eaters at Miyako on the Water Street end of the mall were mirrored by Chinese food lovers at the opposite entrance. What better way to start the new year than with a heightened sense of harmony?

Sun Da and his wife, Dragana Katalina, in their new shop