- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

Local men’s clothing shop Universal Gear has outgrown its Dupont Circle store.

Universal Gear, which was founded in the District in 1993 and has since become a national chain, has signed a lease to open a larger store.

The new, 5,000-square-foot store, at 1529 14th St. NW in the Matrix Condominiums building, is nearly twice as large as the existing shop.

With the move, Universal Gear plans to expand its merchandise line with men’s skin care products and home accessories such as candles, vases and picture frames, said owner David Franco. The new shop also will have an expanded selection of designer clothes for the office. Mr. Franco said he is expanding his line of designers to include Dolce & Gabbana, Theory and Ted Baker.

He also has a deal with Diesel, the Italian jeans brand, to open the nation’s second Diesel shop within his store.

Mr. Franco said he is excited to move to 14th Street, which he calls the “future of retail” in the District.

“We feel very strongly about 14th Street as an up-and-coming vibrant retail area,” Mr. Franco said. “We’ve watched it grow for many years — the past decade.”

The 14th Street corridor became a popular neighborhood for retail, restaurants and live theater since Whole Foods opened a grocery store in 2000 at P Street near 14th Street Northwest.

The new Universal Gear store, which is expected to open in early September, will be the prototype for future Universal Gear expansion. The company also has stores in Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

Fueled for growth

Fuel, a healthy meal delivery service, is on the road to expansion.

The D.C. company, founded nearly five years ago, prepares meals daily and delivers them to Washington-area customers from Reston to Laurel. Fuel makes the meals at a tiny kitchen at 17th and I streets Northwest.

Fuel also operated a sit-down restaurant, but company President Ken Stewart said the shop’s 1,000-square-foot location turned out to be too small for both the restaurant and the kitchen.

“The home delivery service took off and overran it,” he said.

Now, Fuel is moving to 400 H St. NW — a 3,200-square-foot space that is three times larger than its current location. It will be large enough for a kitchen and two restaurants: a smoothie cafe and a full bar and restaurant, Mr. Stewart said.

“Our client base grew and we had no choice,” Mr. Stewart said. “We couldn’t do any more in 1,000 square feet.”

Fuel’s clients are “people who understand the benefits of eating healthy but don’t have the time to do it,” he said. A plan of two meals per day starts at $21 a day.

The new Fuel is expected to open in September.

In other news …

Johnny Rockets restaurant, Le Village Marche home accessories stores, Diana Nails salon and the Hair Cuttery salon have signed leases to open space at the Village at Shirlington in Arlington.

The Federal Realty Investment Trust project also got approval from Arlington County to build a 142-room Hilton Garden Inn on the site. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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