Harris Teeter Plan Threatens 40-Year F.C. Institution
For over 40 years, Anthony’s Restaurant at 309 W. Broad St., in downtown City of Falls Church has been an informal community center. City residents who don’t want to run into a half-dozen people they know avoid it, because that’s the kind of place it is.
Anthony and Faye Yiannarakis and their two children have maintained a consistent, reliable, affordable and enjoyable dining experience serving the area in the same location since 1972. It gradually expanded from just the current kitchen area to incorporate three more spaces in the building, growing to its current 4,000 square feet.
But now, all this is being threatened by news that a deal is being struck by the City of Falls Church and its Economic Development Authority (EDA) as reported in last week’s edition to combine three properties, one including Anthony’s, into a single parcel for purposes of the construction of a major mixed commercial and residential use project with a Harris Teeter grocery as its anchor.
If that plan goes through, and it is due for another Falls Church City Council vote on Monday, then Anthony’s may be literally plowed under.
But a lot of people in the community don’t want that outcome one bit. Next to the historic Falls Church Episcopal, from the 1730s, and Brown’s Hardware, from the 1880s, Anthony’s stands as just about the most iconic symbol of Falls Church and all the values it cherishes.
A petition drive has been mounted to keep it alive and well. The petition, circulated by citizens and long-time patrons of the restaurant including Silvia Koch, doesn’t call for killing the Harris Teeter project, but does call on the City to find some way to preserve Anthony’s at its current or a nearby location.
The first wave of signatures on that petition is expected to be presented at the City Council meeting this Monday night, with word that a lot of Anthony’s supporters will also there to demonstrate their desire that Anthony’s stays.
The official word from City Hall is that everybody wants Anthony’s to find a way to stay, but there have been no specific proposals about what might be done to help that happen. According to Tony Yiannarakis, it’s all be just lip service from City Hall so far, and time is running out with the expiration of his lease on the site coming in January.
“Words are cheap. Actions count,” he told the News-Press. “I haven’t heard any suggestions or assurances that ‘you’re wanted here.'”
Yiannarakis has been an avid supporter of local causes, including at St. James School in Falls Church where both children attended. A native of Sparta, Greece, he came to the U.S. in 1964 and attended college here before founding Anthony’s. He was honored as the recipient of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s Pillar of the Community award in 1973.
Hundreds of devoted friends and patrons came to Anthony’s for its 40th anniversary celebration earlier this year on May 21. Everyone was treated to a generous slice of a huge cake and appetizers, and most also got commemorative t-shirts.
The event was lionized in a News-Press editorial of May 23, which noted the large number of City legends who were in attendance, including former Chamber of Commerce executive director Robert S. “Hap” Day, former City Manager David Lasso, and current Mayor and Vice Mayor Nader Baroukh and David Snyder.
It is in the hands of Baroukh and Snyder, and their five City Council colleagues, to determine what will happen to Anthony’s now.
The two compelling reasons for doing something to preserve Anthony’s are these: 1. it is the only business currently on the property in question with a long track record of success and 2. it is truly a community icon, a gathering place where every Little League team has come for pizza after a game, and families have celebrated special events, large and small.
The leverage the City has to make something work is the need for the developer to obtain a “special exception” approval from the City Council to allow residences in the mixed use plan that is based in a commercial-only zone. The City can obtain concessions, called proffers, in such cases, from the developer, and in this case, that could include means to keep Anthony’s at or near its present site.