Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Diplomat Cleaners to shutter after more than 48 years in Bowie

Danny and Tony Policelli
by Mike Rauck

The door swung open on a rainy Monday morning, and Danny Policelli yelled from behind the counter, “Good morning, Ms. Johnson!”  The Policelli family has been greeting their regular customers by name at Diplomat Cleaners for nearly five decades.

Another customer came in shaking his head in disbelief. “I’m bummed.  I’m bummed,” he said.  He had just learned that the store will be closing after reading a notice taped to the door.  It was the topic of conversation that morning.

Fred and Erika Policelli opened Diplomat Cleaners in the Free State Mall in 1970.  Along with Giant and Good Year, Diplomat Cleaners is one of three original tenants to still be in business at the shopping center.

The store was originally located close to where Ross is located today, but the store was moved to the current location about 25 years ago.

Fred and Erika’s sons began working full time at the cleaners in the 1980s.  Tony and Danny Policelli still run the business today.

“Our whole family was in the dry-cleaning business at one time,” explained Tony.  “My grandmother had a shop in D.C.  My uncle had a shop in Georgetown, and my aunt had a shop in Virginia.”

The brothers take pride in the fact that they have several customers who have been patronizing their store for more than thirty years, and they have loyal customers whose parents were also customers. “There’s one lady who’s been coming here since 1975,” remarked Tony.  “This is the only cleaners she ever come to.”

“We’re like bartenders,” Tony continued.  “We know ninety percent of our customers by name.  We know what they do for a living.  We know their kids, and we know their stories.”

The dry-cleaning industry has faced a growing number of challenges over the last two decades.  Smoking bans in bars and restaurant, telecommuting, and casual office dress codes have reduced the need for dry-cleaning services.  The use of wrinkle-free and other low-maintenance fabrics have made it easier to care for garments at home.

Dry-cleaning chains have become more popular in the last twenty years.  The chains have lower expenses than the family owned businesses because they can buy supplies in bulk, and the chains can offer their services at lower prices because of their ability to process higher volumes in their larger stores.

The Prince George’s County Council passed a bill in 2002 that was intended to prevent large dry-cleaning businesses from driving out the smaller mom-and-pop shops.  The bill was proposed after Dry Clean Depot planned a new store for the Bowie Market Place - not far from where So’s Cleaners had been operating for years.  The bill was not passed in time to save So’s, but it did restrict the size of new dry-cleaners in some of the smaller shopping centers from being larger than 3,000 square feet.  That restriction kept larger dry-cleaners from opening in the Free State Shopping Center for a decade.

In 2012, the Prince George’s County Council amended the 2002 bill to change the size limit to 6,000 square feet.  That paved the way for Zips to move into a 4,000 square foot location in the Free State Shopping Center – almost three times the size of the Diplomat Cleaners space.

According to Tony Policelli, the rent for their store has almost tripled since the shopping center was purchased by Federal Realty in 2007.  The lease is up at the end of the month, and the landlord made a take-it-or-leave-it offer that made continuing at the Free State Shopping Center unrealistic.

Moving their business to another location would require a large investment that the family is not willing to make.

Since the closing was announced, Tony and Danny have been reminiscing about their time at Diplomat Cleaners.

They thought about the many items that they’ve found in the pockets over the years.  They found lots of money, lots of receipts, wedding rings, and love letters.

They thought about the time they found a customer’s engagement ring.  She thought that she lost the ring down the drain, and she was relieved when they called.  The customer had flowers and balloons sent to the shop the next day.

One of the brothers’ favorite memories is providing laundry services to the Washington Capitals when the team practiced at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton.  They would launder team jerseys as well as the players’ personal clothes.  Danny played hockey in high school, and he enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to Rod Langway, Kevin Hatcher and some of the other Capitals players.

Former Washington Bullets center Manute Bol was a regular customer at Diplomat Cleaners during the time that he lived in Bowie.  “He would duck to get in through the doorway, and then he would sit on the counter,” Tony recalled.  “He didn’t need to bend down or anything.  He just sat on the counter like it was a chair.”  According to Tony, the 7-foot-7-inch Bol had pants with a 48-inch inseam.  “He had the longest pair of pants I’ve ever seen!”

Diplomat Cleaners will be accepting clothes for cleaning through Saturday, November 10th.  The following Saturday, November 17th will be the store’s last day in operation.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Remembering John McNamara

John McNamara
by Mike Rauck

“I find myself on a bit of an odd errand these days,” the email said.  It was from John McNamara, a newspaper veteran who had recently been assigned to cover Bowie, Maryland for the Bowie Blade-News, a small weekly newspaper published by the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.  John needed background information for a story, and he reached out to me after seeing a post on my Bowie Living Facebook page.  It was the beginning of a friendship that ended Thursday when he was shot and killed along with four others in his Annapolis office.

After reading that email again three years later, I realize it was quintessential John – thoughtful, witty, cynical and self-deprecating.  Throw in a huge love for sports and a few other traits, and you have John.

John’s odd errand that day was to try to understand the local folklore behind a 1960s era concrete turtle named Tommy. The turtle sat for two decades in the courtyard of the Belair Shopping Center in Bowie, and kids played on Tommy while their parents were shopping.  The turtle disappeared during a renovation, and speculation about Tommy’s fate was rampant.  A cult-like following developed on social media, and new owners of the shopping center offered a $5,000 reward to the first person to produce a suitable replacement.

One might think that a veteran reporter like John might chafe at having to cover such a story, but he seemed to relish the assignment.  It was an outlet for his wit, and it was a break from the more mundane and controversial stuff.

 “A lot of folks think Tommy – like Elvis – lives on, despite all evidence to the contrary,” John wrote.

Bowie was new territory for John in 2015, and he sometimes needed background information and contacts.  I helped when I could, and I made story suggestions from time to time.  John would often call and say, “What do you know about….?  Who can I talk to about.…? How do I get in touch with….?”

John had the impossible task of single-handedly covering news stories for a city of 55,000 people – a responsibility that was once divided between four reporters and a dedicated editor.  It’s the new normal in the local newspaper business.

John dug in.  He cultivated relationships.  John made it a priority to attend city council meetings, debates, community forums and sometimes PTA meetings.  The Silver Spring resident was frequently in Bowie late at night, and he was often writing stories in the early morning hours.  Despite his efforts, John expressed on more than one occasion that he wished that he could do more.

John was such a personable guy – to the point that I know he struggled when he had to write articles that were critical of others.  When those times came, he would put on his reporter hat, write a fair piece, and people understood.  Despite any anxiety he had about it, John always found a good balance.  It’s a real testament to the excellent journalist and person that he was.

I last talked to John on Wednesday afternoon.  “What’s up, mon?”, he said when I answered the phone. The weekly publication deadline for the Bowie Blade-News had passed, and John was in a good mood.  That was typical for John on Wednesday afternoons.

John was looking for story ideas for next week’s paper.  The July 4th holiday meant an extra day off, but it also meant that he had to come up with a week’s worth of content in less time.  Neither one of us realized at the time that John would be next week's headline.

Now three years after John and I first met, I find myself on a bit of an odd errand – writing a tribute to a friend who was taken too soon, and the words aren’t coming easily.  I’ll miss you John McNamara!


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Most Popular Facebook Posts for 2017

It's the time of year to reflect on what's happened over the last twelve months, and to look forward to a new year.

As John McNamara reported in the Bowie Blade-News this week, development projects, the Maglev project, the Blue Sunday triple homicide, and attempts to recall city council members were all noteworthy stories from 2017.

Development projects in the City of Bowie have dominated the news for the last two years, including stories about the Marketplace apartments, the Jesuit property, the Melford property, and the new indoor sports facility.

A group calling itself Bowie Citizens for Accountable Government attempted to recall Bowie city council members Diane Polangin, Jimmy Marcos and Mayor Fred Robinson.  The group succeeded in recalling Polangin, thus forcing an upcoming election for the District 2 council seat.

Plans for a magnetic high-speed train included routes that would bisect some Bowie neighborhoods.  The plans were refined, and by the end of the year, only one Old Bowie neighborhood is still threatened.

All of those stories were certainly covered on Bowie Living, but popular posts on social media don't always coincide with the biggest news stories of the day.

Below are the ten most popular Bowie Living Facebook posts of 2017 in order of popularity, followed by a few "honorable mentions."


#1: Blue Sunday Bar & Grill Triple Homicide

January 29, 2017

When Bowie Living first reported this story, two people were dead and one was critically injured.  The third victim died a short time later.

The Bowie Blade-News covered the homicide and subsequent reopening of the store with the following articles.






#2: Miami Police Kill Temple Student Accused of Running Over Cop

October 9, 2017

Here is an excerpt of a Baltimore Sun article about the incident:

A 22-year-old Temple University student from Bowie who was in Miami Beach to celebrate her birthday drove her BMW into a Florida police officer and was fatally shot by another officer in front of a crowd of onlookers, police said.
Cariann Hithon crashed into several cars Sunday evening as people watched from sidewalk cafes in the tourist district known as South Beach. Video posted by the Miami Herald showed people standing around the wrecked car, wondering aloud what had happened. Then the BMW suddenly started moving again and took out the officer standing in front of it. Another officer fired three shots into the car.


#3: Father and Son Shot in Bowie

January 31, 2017

Here is an excerpt from a Bowie Blade-News article about the incident:

At about 2:15 Tuesday afternoon, Bowie police got a call about a shooting at the corner of Church Road an Urbana Lane. 
There, they found two men inside an SUV who had been shot. One was an adult, the other a teenager.

Photo courtesty of Melinda Machado Caldwell


#4: Three Year-Old Bowie Resident Arrested after Burglary Spree 

April 1, 2017

Each year Bowie Living creates its own "fake news" for April Fools' Day.  2017 was no exception, although this story was a repeat from 2011.

A joint investigation between the Bowie and Prince George's County police departments into a rash of recent burglaries resulted in the apprehension of the youngest suspect ever to be arrested in the county. A three year-old boy was detained by police on Thursday after detectives working a stakeout in Bowie's Whitehall section observed the preschooler exiting a house through a "doggy door" with stolen goods.





#5: Bowie residents weigh in on Belair Drive traffic measures

October 11, 2017

Residents' concerns were heard during a stakeholders' meeting about traffic calming plans for Belair Drive. Here is an excerpt from a Bowie Blade-News article about the meeting:

Belair Drive has long been used as a short-cut for drivers who use the residential street to avoid traffic back-ups during certain hours of the day on Route 197 or Route 3.
The road figures to get even busier when the Melford residential/retail complex is completed. The main road through the complex – Melford Boulevard – becomes Belair Drive on the west side of Route 3.

#6: City of Bowie sponsors fundraisers for Hurricane Harvey relief

September 1, 2017


#7: Student stabbed at Bowie High, ex-student arrested

May 17, 2017

Here is an excerpt from a Bowie Blade-News article about the incident:

An 18-year-old former Bowie School student was arrested last week and charged after he came to school, confronted a current student as part of an ongoing dispute, and stabbed the student with a pocket knife. 
The student, who is a juvenile, suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to Bowie police.


#8: New Chick-Fil-A Coming to Bowie

September 28, 2017

Several people have asked about the construction project between the Chick-Fil-A and Rip’s on Route 301. The new building is going to be a larger Chick-Fil-A, and the existing Chick-Fil-A building at that location will be torn down.
One of the benefits of the new design is a modified drive-thru configuration. The current drive-thru line frequently backs up onto East Ballpark Road, and it makes several parking spots unusable – including the handicap spaces.
The new drive-thru line will be longer, will be two lanes wide in some spots, and will block fewer parking spaces. The parking lot will have more parking spots overall, including more handicap parking spaces, and the handicap spaces will be more accessible. 




#9: Honeybaked Ham Opening Soon

September 26, 2017




#10: Bowie PD collecting donations for Houston Officers

September 3, 2016

The Bowie Police Department had been collecting donations for Houston Police Officers through last night (Saturday).
Lauren Brown captured this photo in the Bowie Police Department lobby Saturday morning. Lauren saw a line of cars waiting to donate their change to victims of Hurricane Harvey at City Hall Saturday morning, and a steady number of people were dropping off toiletries and other items inside the police department's lobby.

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Brown





Honorable Mentions


Theft from Swim Club

An Edgewater woman was charged and later plead guilty in a theft of more than $100,000 from the Belair Bath & Tennis Club.


Freak storm

April 6, 2017

Freak storm takes down trees in Meadowbrook, Victoria Heights, Yorktown and other Bowie neighborhoods.


Madeley Lane.  Photo courtesy of Kathy Mock.


Iconic Bowie sign to be stored for safekeeping

November 29, 2017

Here is an excerpt from a Bowie Blade-News article:

But the sign will live on somewhere in Bowie. It’s now in the hands of city officials, who plan to display it as a historical artifact.
“It is very much a piece of mid-century Bowie history,” said Pam Williams, the city’s manager of historic properties and its unofficial historian. “Everybody thought it was a critical piece of our culture.”





City retrofitting stormwater pond

September 20, 2017

Multiple people sent notes to Bowie Living asking about the construction taking place next to the Belair Swim & Racquet Club (BSR).  The Midwood Pond stormwater retrofit is the first of a dozen stormwater pond upgrades that the City of Bowie will be performing over the next five to seven years.  The retrofits will mean less pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.

Photo coutesy of the City of Bowie



Bowie Branch Library Reopens after 6-month renovation project

June 29, 2017

Photo courtesy of Gant Brunnett Architects



Mishap at Tulip Grove Elementary School construction site

November 29, 2017

The new Tulip Grove Elementary School is still expected to open in the fall of 2018 despite a mishap at the construction site.

Photo courtesy of Mark De Russo



Promised improvements made to the Bowie Race Course property

September 22, 2017





Bowie High School Football field gets turf and lights

October 22, 2017

Courtesy photo


Vigil held for slain Bowie State University Student

May 22, 2017

Here is an excerpt from a Bowie Blade-News article:

Hundreds filled the Samuel L. Myers Auditorium Monday for a candlelight vigil to honor Collins, who was murdered Saturday on the University of Maryland campus in what police said was an unprovoked stabbing. A Severna Park man, Sean Christopher Urbanski, has been charged with first and second degree murder and is in custody, being held without bond.




City of Bowie Centennial Finale

May 6, 2017

The celebration of the City of Bowie's centennial culminated in an event at City Hall that included the burial of a time capsule .










Thursday, March 2, 2017

Belair at Bowie Aerial Photo - 1963


Robert F. Kniesche was a Baltimore based photographer who once worked for the Baltimore Sun.  Kniesche took aerial photographs of the Belair at Bowie development during the early 1960s, and Bowie Living acquired two of those photographs from the family of Don Westcott.  Westcott was a spokesperson for Levitt & Sons, the developer of Belair at Bowie.

The picture below was probably taken in the second half of 1963.  Somerset Elementary School, Kenilworth Elementary School and Belair Junior High School were already built, but Buckingham Elementary School and Foxhill Elementary School were not.  The Somerset, Buckingham, and Kenilworth neighborhoods had been developed, and the Tulip Grove neighborhood was under construction.  Only a portion of the Foxhill neighborhood appears in the photo, and it's clear that the Heather Hills and Meadowbrook neighborhoods had not yet been constructed.

The two Kniesche photos that Bowie Living acquired from the Westcott family have some damage.

Below are two images of one of the Kniesche Belair at Bowie photographs.  One images includes labels for some well known landmarks.  Click on the images for a better view.  Consider downloading the images to zoom in.

Robert F. Kniesche areial photo of Belair at Bowie circa 1963



Robert F. Kniesche areial photo of Belair at Bowie circa 1963 - with labels

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Most Popular Facebook Posts for 2016

It's the time of year to reflect on what's happened over the last twelve months, and to look forward to a new year.

As John McNamara reported in the Bowie Blade-News this week, development projects dominated the news this past year, including stories about the new Bowie Marketplace, the Marketplace apartments, the development plan for the Jesuit Property, the Melford property and the progress on the new indoor sports facility.

Funding for the Route 197 widening project was taken away and later restored.

Long-time Bowie City Manager David Deutsch retired in June, and replacement Alfred Lott was announced in November.

Repairs to the City of Bowie water supply system were estimated to cost $14 million over the next ten years after the city conducted a review of the system.

The Bowie Police Department activated its new 24-hour call center, and officers began patrolling with body cameras.

Renovations at Tulip Grove Elementary School continue to be delayed.

All of those stories were certainly covered on Bowie Living, but popular posts on social media don't always coincide with the biggest news stories of the day.

Below are the ten most popular Bowie Living Facebook posts of 2016 in order of popularity, followed by a few "honorable mentions."


#1: David Bowie Bushes

The top post was a photoshopped picture created by Neil Allen after the passing of singer David Bowie.

Kudos to Neil Allen for creating this masterpiece!
Interestingly, Bowie is a stage name. His real name is David Robert Jones. According to some reports, he changed his name to avoid confusion with David Jones - a popular theater actor in London at the time who would later be known as Davy Jones of the Monkees.
David Bowie claims that he took the name "Bowie" from the "ultimate American knife" - the Bowie Knife. However, the pronunciation of "Bowie" in "Bowie Knife" is the same pronunciation that we use for Bowie, Maryland. So David Bowie took the name, but changed the pronunciation.


Photo Courtesy of Neil Allen


#2: Threat At Bowie High School Brings Extra Police

A Twitter user named "Unknown Kid" posted a threat indicating that shots would be fired at the Bowie High School Annex at 1:55pm on May 18th.  There was a noticeable police presence at both Bowie High School and the Annex that day, and the threat was determined to be a hoax.


#3: City to Sell Belair Mansion

Each year Bowie Living creates its own "fake news" for April Fools' Day.  2016 was no exception.
After owning the Belair Mansion for more than fifty years, the City of Bowie will  be selling the historic property.  The revenue obtained from the sale is expected to help fund the purchase of a property for a new indoor recreation center in the city,



#4 Water main break causes temporary road closures

The fourth most popular post of 2016 was a Washington Post story about a water main break on Mitchellville Road.



#5: Beech trees on Belair Drive

A Bowie Living photo of the Beech trees on Belair Drive after an early-morning snow on March 4th.



#6: FBI involved after two commercial robberies

A crime report from the City of Bowie Police Department on March 15th.
On 03/15/16 at approximately 1014 hours, Bowie Officers responded to the CVS on Laurel-Bowie Road (Route 197) for a robbery. Initial investigation determined that two males entered the store, walked back to the pharmacy and jumped over the counter. Both suspects proceeded to fill their duffle bags with prescription cough syrup. A third male stood guard at the entrance of the door with some sort of pipe. All three males exited the store and fled in a dark color Chevy Camaro, possibly driven by a fourth suspect.
At 1026 hours, Bowie Officers responded to the Walgreens at Hilltop Plaza (Race Track Road) for a robbery. Initial investigation determined the same suspects entered the store with two jumping the counter with dufflebags. A pharmacist attempted to stop them and one suspect stated he had a gun and to move out of the way. Both suspects proceeded to fill their duffle bags with prescription cough medicine while the third suspect stood guard at the door with a pipe. All three males entered the same vehicle and fled westbound on Route 450. A short time later, a Prince George’s County Officer spotted the vehicle and gave chase into DC where they broke off the pursuit.
Prince George’s County CID Robbery was notified and is currently assuming control of the investigation. Also, the FBI responded to the scene to assist due to numerous similar incidents that they are investigating. There were no injuries to report at either location.

#7: Bowie family featured in Washington Post

This post was a link to a story in the Washington Post about Bowie's Fatzinger family.  Click here for the story.
Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post



#8: Bowie Marketplace renovation progressing

Bowie Living featured several stories about the Bowie Marketplace.  This story by John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News is Bowie Living's 8th most popular post of 2016.
Photo Courtesy of John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News


#9: The future of Glenn Dale Hospital

Exploring the shuttered Glenn Dale Hospital is a rite of passage for Bowie's youth, and news stories about the hospital bring out the memories on social media. This was true in February when John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News published a story about the future of the hospital property.
Photo Courtesy of John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News


#10: Melvin Motors Closes

After selling cars in the area since 1946, Melvin Motors closed.  This story by John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News is Bowie Living's tenth most popular post of 2016.





Honorable Mentions


Meteor Suspected as cause of Brush Fire

A meteor was initially suggested as a possible cause to a brush fire in the woods near Whitemarsh Park in April.  The news media ran with the story, but a scientist at NASA said, "not so fast!"
Photo Courtesy of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department



Tommy the Turtle Back in Bowie

This story by John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News tells the tale of Tommy the Turtle - from his time in the old Belair Shopping Center to his return the the new Bowie Marketplace.
Photo Courtesy of John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News 



The City of Bowie Celebrates its Centennial



Bowie Railroad Museum gets a new Caboose

Photo Courtesy of David Mocko

Governor's Bridge won't reopen until 2019

Story by John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News.
Photo Courtesy of John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News 

Images of America: Bowie

Pam Williams, Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie, co-authored a book that was published in October called "Images of America: Bowie."




Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Comedy Magician & Illusionist coming to the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts

Alex "Speed" de Tessieres (credit John McNamara at the Bowie Blade-News)

Alex "Speed" de Tessieres will be performing at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) next week. I've heard great things about this show. The city hired De Tessieres for BowieFest, and according to the event organizers, he wowed adults as well as children. Jaws were dropping they said. Tickets are available on the BRAVA web site at http://bravamd.org (Bowie Regional Arts Vision Association). Come out and support a local Bowie magician, the BCPA and BRAVA!



Thursday September 15, 2016

High Energy Magic of Speed – Comedy Magician & Illusionist
High Energy Magic and Comedy. Speed is the original “High Energy Magician and Illusionist” known for his hyperactive, fast-paced, fun and modern performance style. This amazing magician has performed over 4,000 live shows across the entire East Coast and Canada over the past 23 years. The High Energy Magic of Speed Show Includes: High Energy Magic and Fun, Exciting and Original Stage Illusions, Massive Audience Participation and Interaction, and Sophisticated Dove Magic.
Doors Open at 6:00pm. Show at 7:00pm

Links






















Sunday, August 21, 2016

Samosa Supreme brings Kenyan Style Samosas to Bowie

After selling samosas at area events including Bowiefest and the International Festival, Samosa Supreme has opened a carryout store in Bowie.  Co-owner Rose Musonye-Smith said that the restaurant will initially be open three days per week as part of a "soft opening," and the hours will be expanded in October after a grand opening.

Although samosas are commonly thought of as Indian food, the triangle shaped stuffed pastries can be found in many cultures throughout the world.  The Samosa Supreme menu items have a Kenyan influence.

According to  Musonye-Smith, the British brought Indian indentured servants to her native Kenya in the 19th century.  The servants introduced Indian foods, and food like the samosas were then "Kenyanized" to suit the tastes of local people.

Although Indian style samosas are often served with flavorful and spicy sauces, it's more common to squeeze lime juice onto samosas in Kenya. Samosa Supreme serves fresh lime wedges with its samosas.

The Samosa Supreme menu includes samosas stuffed with spiced meats including beef, turkey and chicken.  Samosas stuffed with lentils or other vegetables are also available.  Samosas can be ordered spicy or mild.  Sides such as Jollof Rice or Mombasa Slaw are available, as are a few dessert items.  Although vegetarian and vegan options are available, the menu does not include gluten free items. Samosas can be purchased individually, but a discount is offered when purchasing a box of four.

Musonye-Smith said that the owners would eventually like to franchise Samosa Supreme.

Samosa Supreme is located at 14207 Old Annapolis Road - on the same property as the former Main Street Catering and J-Mart, but it is located in a separate building on the lot.

Until the grand opening, the hours are:

  • Friday: 11am to 8pm
  • Saturday:  11am to 8pm
  • Sunday: noon to 5pm

Order over the phone at (240) 929-4403.

Stop in and let them know you heard about Samosa Supreme on Bowie Living.


Links