Bethesda Row continues its fashion binge -- Gazette.Net


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The retail face of Bethesda Row keeps changing, as its developer is moving away from restaurants in favor of clothing and other stores.

Clothing retailer Kate Spade has signed a lease to open a store on Bethesda Row, said Stu Biel, leasing associate for Federal Realty Investment Trust of Rockville, which owns the Bethesda Row property.

Biel said the company has been trying to bring in more nonfood retailers.

“That’s a direction we want to keep going that we’ve gotten momentum on,” he said.

Another clothier, Calypso St. Barths, opened Aug. 1 on Bethesda Row after opening a location in Georgetown in Washington in early February. The Bethesda location replaces a Dunkin’ Donuts on Bethesda Avenue.

“I think retail is evolving in general, and I think certainly the neighborhood of Bethesda has evolved quite a bit,” Biel said.

Bethesda is more of a regional destination than it was five or six years ago, Biel said. National brands are looking at Bethesda as an entry point for the entire Washington market, rather than just Montgomery County. For example, the clothing store Icebreaker and chocolate-centric restaurant Max Brenner both opened their first Washington-area stores on Bethesda Row, rather than in Georgetown.

Biel said Bethesda Row became successful by bringing more fashion and chef-driven restaurants into what people thought of as a suburban area. Now, it has more quick-serve restaurants and retail.

“What built Bethesda was food and entertainment ... but we’ve been able to hit more of a balance,” he said.

Meanwhile, changes are coming to the Shoppes of Bethesda retail complex that fronts Elm Street and Hampden Lane behind it.

The strip of stores on Hampden Lane, which includes a Montgomery County liquor store, is getting a new facade and new retailers. For example, the Galaxie Cleaners No. 2 is slated to move there from Elm Street, while a Japanese restaurant and vacuum cleaner store there are closed. The Irish pub Ri-Ra closed on Elm Street, to be replaced by Noodles & Co. Efforts to reach the landlord, Draiman Properties of Bethesda, for comment were unsuccessful.

And the changes aren’t done. Another large residential development is expected to open next year on Woodmont Avenue in what was county parking lot 31. Federal Realty is not involved with that project, but Biel said it will be great when the public parking garage opens there, and the influx of residents will make Bethesda more of a 24/7 market.

ewaibel@gazette.net