Home-grown South Block — which started as a juice bar on the George Washington University campus called Campus Fresh in 2006 — has opened its 14th location in the D.C. area in McLean, Virginia.
South Block is one of several new tenants at Federal Realty’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center, which is undergoing an $8.5 million renovation.
South Block’s menu includes “skin care smoothies,” like Pink Radiance and Green Glow, cold-pressed juices, green smoothies and acai bowls.
It is a homecoming of sorts for owner Amir Mostafavi, a McLean native.
“My parents owned and operated a local video store in McLean for almost 20 years,” Mostafavi said. “I worked here with a bunch of my high school friends when I was growing up so it’s great to be back in the neighborhood.”
The first South Block opened in Clarendon in 2011, on the “south block” at 11th and Garfield Street. Mostafavi is also committed to community involvement in the neighborhoods where it has locations, supporting other local businesses and schools.
Mostafavi also runs a nonprofit called Fruitful Planet, which has purchased and donated more than 60,0000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to community programs since launching just before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
A 15th South Block location will open as part of Amazon’s HQ2 campus in Arlington later this year.
South Block has 300 employees, and while Mostafavi acknowledges the industry has staffing problems, he says he does not, citing the company culture he has tried to build.
“I had worked two weeks in a sandwich shop when I was in college, and I quit because my manager was a jerk,” he said. “So the only lesson I had in food service was if you are a jerk to your employees, they will quit. Our objective is to make people feel awesome. That’s what our playbook says on the first page: To make people feel awesome.”
Everybody knows what smoothies and pressed juices are. Many may not know what an acai bowl is.
“I had a surfer dude from San Diego come in my shop and he said he wanted to make me something. I let him make me an acai bowl, and I had never heard of it before. It is made with a Brazilian berry that is found only in the rainforest. It is described as almost like a blueberry with dark chocolate flavor. I loved it so much when this surfer dude made it for me, I had to start importing it and putting it on my menu right away,” Mostafavi said.
They can be augmented with different fruits and toppings, such as granola.
Federal Realty Investment Trust acquired Chesterbrook Shopping Center, where South Block is located, in 2021 after managing the property for 20 years. It began the mall’s renovation in September 2022, and it’s expected to be completed next year.
Other recently-signed tenants include clothing chain J. McLaughlin, which will open this summer.
Chesterbrook Shopping Center, whose anchor tenants include Safeway and Starbucks, was originally built in 1967. It is in an upscale neighborhood, where the median home value is now more than $1 million.