Bethesda Row management company Federal Realty said a retail store may replace the Bethesda Avenue Dunkin' Donuts when the coffee shop's lease expires at the end of May.
Federal Realty leasing manager Ralph Ours confirmed to Patch that Federal Realty has decided not to renew Dunkin' Donuts' corporate lease at its Bethesda Avenue location. However, Ours said the management company did offer Dunkin' Donuts the former Medifast space on Arlington Road.
“It’s not a black and white issue, it’s more of a balance issue for us,” Ours said. “The most compelling reason behind the decision was, 'Do we continue to have more food on the street or shift it back to retail and apparel?' Ten years ago there were a lot more restaurants, and now there’s a lot more retail and we want to take Bethesda Row in that direction.”
Boris Lander, chief operating officer of a local franchise group that operates the Bethesda Avenue coffee shop and subleases the space from Dunkin' Donuts, told Patch their business will be impacted when the store closes.
“It’s a really popular store. It’s always packed," Lander told Patch Friday. "People love us…we do think it’s a little bit unfair, but it’s out of our hands. It’s not our lease.”
The Luis group is in the process of finalizing two new locations in downtown Bethesda. One is in the basement of the Clark building near the Bethesda Metro station. The other, which will be a combined Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins, is set for the first floor of a building under construction at Norfolk and Cordell avenues, Lander said. The owner of Tommy Joe’s is planning a restaurant with a roof deck for the second floor.
Even though the chain is opening two new locations, Lander said it would likely take time for patrons to become familiar with the new locations and grow back the customer base.
“Bethesda Row has a philosophy of ‘an uncommon mix,’” Ours said. “They’re probably going to be adding another store a couple blocks away, so it takes away from the luster of them being on Bethesda Row.”
Ours said Federal Realty hasn't heard back from the franchise group as to whether they're interested in the Arlington Road space.
“I certainly appreciate the interest in having Dunkin stay there,” Ours said. “We have offered them space on Bethesda Row.”
Ours said Federal Realty is in discussions with a retail company about taking over the Bethesda Avenue space, but the deal hasn't been finalized. An announcement about the new tenant was expected in about a month.