- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 14, 2004

Alexandria has gone to the dogs — the Scottie dogs. Focusing on itsScottish heritage, Alexandria, including Old Town and Del Ray, has created a festive program to attract shoppers to the area for the holidays.

Alex, a Scottish terrier, is the official “spokesdog” for the campaign. Merchants are decorating their shops with tartan ribbon and candles in their windows. Shoppers who spot one of three toy Scottie dogs in one of the participating shops can enter to win a $2,250 shopping spree in Alexandria during January and February.

Local hotels are offering holiday discount packages like the Embassy Suites Alexandria’s “A Scottish Holiday/Shopping Package” that includes a stuffed Scottish terrier, guides and coupons to Alexandria merchants and a full cooked-to-order breakfast.

Officials say it’s a collaborative effort by Alexandria businesses to attract more shoppers during the critical holiday season and showcase the town’s heritage — which dates back to the 18th century when Scotsman John Alexander bought the land that’s now occupied by the city.

The city of Alexandria contributed $125,000 for the holiday program, while the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association contributed $50,000 and the Alexandria Hotel Association gave $12,000.

The majority of the funds will go toward advertising, which includes print, radio, local bus and e-mail ads and direct mail. The program is targeting the Greater Washington area and places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Mervis is moving

Mervis Diamond Importers, which has its flagship store in Tysons Corner, is moving and expanding its two other locations in Rockville and in the District.

The diamond retailer is spending between $1.5 million and $2 million for the move.

The two new locations — 1775 Rockville Pike and 1700 K St. in Northwest — are scheduled to open in March and August respectively.

The District store will be 2,030 square feet — about 20 percent larger than the current store on L Street Northwest. The new Rockville store will be about 65 percent bigger than the current one with 3,300 square feet of space.

“The three most important elements in retail are — in this order — location, location, location,” said president and founder Ronnie Mervis.

Mall offers WiFi

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is giving mall patrons who have a wireless-equipped laptop or notebook the chance to log onto the Internet. The Arlington mall recently installed high speed public access wireless equipment in the common areas.

Free week-long trials are available. Once the free trial is over, computer users can pay $3.95 hourly, $9.95 daily or $49.95 monthly for the WiFi connection.

“We thought the WiFi service would be a useful service to the many people who conduct informal off-site meetings in our food courts,” said Suzette Timme, general manager of the mall.

In other news…

The Sheraton National Hotel is undergoing the final stage of its $25 million renovation with the redesign of the Rooftop Galaxy Ballroom and the adjacent Stars Room. Both rooms will be complete in the first quarter of 2005.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884.Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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