The Wash
Image of Westbard Shopping Center new building
Westbard Shopping Center new building

Small businesses to vacate space for Westbard Shopping Center redevelopment

Bethesda small businesses were ordered to vacate the development zone by November 30. With a long history in the neighborhood, shop owners said higher rental prices are forcing them to close for good.

Solie Darvish has spent the last 38 years connecting children to toys inside Anglo-Dutch Pool and Toy Store. As you enter, the shelves are lined with colorful toys and games. The plastic robot, the princess castles and Halloween costumes welcome children at the door. 

He spends hours wrapping up Barbie dolls, teddy bears and games for kids in the community to play with each holiday. The end of the year is always a special season for him. 

But, unfortunately, the reality is far from joyous this year, he said.

“We actually decided to close up as the rent is too expensive for us. I was hoping to continue till December at least since we’re a toy store, and it’s a great time of the year for our business,” said Solie Darvish, the toy store owner. “But we have to vacate the space before that.” 

The transition from the prospect of making kids’ dreams come true to packing up toys into boxes is a shift from joy to sorrow that weighs on Darvish and the community.

As part of a new shopping center development, Montgomery County officials years ago asked small businesses in the area to vacate their current spaces by the end of November. Developers said they offered the affected businesses space inside the new mall but at higher market rate rental rates. Businesses, who spoke with The Wash,  said they cannot afford the new rent, forcing them to decide between relocating or closing. 

It’s not just the toy store that feels the impact. 

Image of Fashion Craft Dry Cleaners flyer informing relocation update
Fashion Craft Dry Cleaners closing up

Scott Kotus, owner of Custom Framers, said he’s been framing memories into carved wood since 1974.  

“It’s the end of the business for us. We’re going to close up and move away,” said Kotus. “It makes me sad. I wish I could stay longer.”

Kotus said he resented the redevelopment for forcing him to give up his business he had spent a lifetime building.

Kotus emphasized the struggles of closing up, especially coming off the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the store survived business downturns after 9/11 and due to the pandemic, but this redevelopment was the last straw. 

“It’s such a huge job and cost. It would have been better if it was affordable. COVID shutdown was crippling for the store. It took a while to recover from that. We survived all economic downturns over the years. But this is just too much for us,” Kotus continued. 


Image of small businesses currently at Westbard
Small business stores currently at Westbard Avenue

The other community staple stores like the dry cleaners and martial arts studio face the same concerns.

“It’s a good thing for the neighborhood, but I spent so much time, energy and money in this space, and now I have to move my business away because of redevelopment and go through it all over again,” said Young Lee, owner of Master Lee’s Martial Arts and Taekwondo. 

Westbard shopping center, soon to be known as Westbard Square,  will include new shops and restaurants, parks, townhouses, a multi-level senior living facility, and more parking and pedestrian pathways. 

The currently operating Giant Food store will remain open until the new, adjacent site, located on the third floor of a brand-new building, is ready for consumers.

The building will have 200 new parking places, stores and offices on the second floor, while eateries on the first floor. A centrally positioned green space will be located across from the building. 

Westbard was purchased by Regency Centers, a national retail complex developer, and an existing construction plan proposed by previous owners Equity One in 2016 was revised. 

Image of road closure at the intersection of Westbard and River Road
Road closure at Westbard and River Road due to realignment

“We are creating more (and better) shop space than is there today, which will allow for more shops and restaurants – many of which will be small/local businesses, including not only some of the current but new businesses we hope to announce in the near future,” said Eric Davidson, senior manager of communications at Regency Center.

The Wash reached out to Montgomery County but did not receive a response about its take on small business owners having to vacate the space.

Siddhi Mahatole

Siddhi Mahatole covers Bethesda and Chevy Chase for The Wash. She currently studies international journalism as a graduate student at American University. She is also a Fulbright Scholar from 2022.

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