Lexington business landscape: summer newcomers, fall shake-ups

Restaurants and retail close, open, and expand, altering downtown options available to students

Nuoya Zhou

Tong Dynasty Restaurant Temporarily Closes

Tong Dynasty restaurant, a favorite among Washington and Lee students, has temporarily closed due to what owner Hoi Tong says is a health condition.

Speaking in Mandarin, Tong said he is recovering from a broken leg. As a result, he claimed he would not have the time and energy required to manage his establishment. In an effort to alleviate costs and workload, Tong said he is planning on selling his adjacent “T Bar” building for $875,000.

If he can’t sell the building before the restaurant is scheduled to reopen in October, Tong said he will make unspecified alternative arrangements.

This isn’t the first time the restaurant has closed.

About a year ago, Tong voluntarily shut down his eatery for a week after City Manager Noah Simon filed a complaint with the Lexington office of the Virginia Department of Health.

Tong Dynasty received more health-related complaints and violations than any other local restaurants last year, according to inspection records. However, Environmental Health Specialist Kenneth Hearst said the Department of Health has never forced Tong to close the restaurant.

Tong said he is focused on improving his restaurant in the run up to its expected reopening. Meanwhile, he plans to travel to China at the end of September to receive further medical treatment.

Blue Phoenix Cafe Expands, Goes Digital

Blue Phoenix, the vegetarian restaurant located across the street from the Hillel House, has doubled its size to include an expanded dining room with almost 60 seats.

In addition to this increase in capacity, within the next three weeks, students and local residents will be able to order delivery from the restaurant online.

Blue Phoenix’s breakfast and lunch menus have also been expanded, and beginning in January, the cafe will serve dinner three nights a week, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

“This place was literally my heaven last year. I used to come here every day, especially when things on campus were closed,” Muskaan Soni, ‘19, a vegetarian, said. “When I first came back after the summer, I saw [the restaurant] doubled…and they doubled the grocery. It was so nice because you [can] get really organic stuff.”

Walkabout Outfitters Moves to Main Street

On June 1, athletic clothing shop Walkabout Outfitters relocated to Main Street, taking the place of former interior design studio Hamilton-Robbins Limited.

New features, including a hat, backpack and sleeping bag display have been added. Painted skylights, a signature of the shop, remain.

Craig Vinecombe, sales associate and office manager at Walkabout, said business has been steadily growing since the store opened at its new, more centralized location.

Walkabout Outfitters continues to be a key partner in Washington and Lee’s annual “Get Downtown” event, in which first years participate in a tour of downtown Lexington shops and explore the area when they first arrive in Lexington.

Mikey Barro, ‘19, is an Outing Club Key Staff member and an avid rock climber.

“When I need something — whether it’s a specific piece of gear or advice — I know I can go there, because staff are very knowledgable and passionate about their profession,” he said.

Earth, Fire and Spirit Pottery is now operating its business on Washington St. Photo by Nuoya Zhou

Earth, Fire and Spirit Pottery Relocates to Washington Street

Following a months-long search for a larger space, Earth, Fire, and Spirit Pottery, a family-owned business that sells artwork from more than 25 local sculptors, moved to Washington Street over the summer.

Store manager Stephanie RiCharde said she hopes the gallery’s new location will allow it to become an “art destination for people and tourists” alike.

The annual Lexington Block Party will take place just outside the gallery on Sept. 29 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. According to its website, there will be live music, plein aire painting, dance performances and craft displays. The event is free and open to the public.

House Mountain Yarn Co. Opens its Doors

While The Stitchin Post, formally located on Main Street, may have permanently closed its doors, four local women refuse to let the practice of professional knitting die in the Lexington area.

Ellie Boylan, IT Literacy Administrator at Washington and Lee, co-founded the House Mountain Yarn Co. with her three colleagues shortly after the demise of The Stitchin Post, relying on some of the leftover inventory from their predecessors’ shop.

“We have come up with the phrase ‘The yarn connects us.’ because we include everyone from all ages and all walks of life—people you wouldn’t hang out with, but both of you knit, and you are connected by that,” Boylan said. “[It] makes for a community gathering that is a friendly, safe place.”

Come November, the shop plans to excite and intrigue passersby with a window display that combines knitting with scenes from the popular HBO series Game of Thrones.