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Longtime Rosslyn coffee shop owner angry over store's closing

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Note: Lee's Coffee is located feet away from WJLA-TV. Over the years, it has served many, many cups of coffee to ABC7 staff.

(Photo: TBD Staff)

Young Lee has no idea how many cups of coffee he has sold during his 12 years as the operator of Lee’s Coffee, a small store on the first floor of 1100 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn, but he is certain of one thing – come the end of the business day Thursday, he will have peddled his last cup of joe.

Monday Properties, which owns the towers, didn’t renew Lee’s lease or those of the two small stores on either side of his establishment, a jewelry store and a newsstand. The New York-based company plans to gut the space to make room for a new gourmet restaurant expected to open in fewer than two months.

Lee, and Nancy Lim, whose family has run the newsstand the past 12 years, say neither had any clue about the changes until about two months ago.

Lee, who is 67, says he's “very upset, very upset.”

“They just pushed us out," says Lim. "It’s ridiculous. I’m very angry – angry and scared. They hardly gave us any warning.”

Not so, according to Timothy Helmig, executive vice president for Monday Properties.

“First of all, I surely sympathize with them, and we’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Mr. Lee and the other operators of those individual stores,” Helmig says. “[But] they were informed several years ago about a strategy that we were working on to consolidate those three stores into one.

Helmig says Monday wants to bring "a different experience" to the building's tenants and patrons.

The newsstand has been having a fire sale the past few days, but when one of the workers, Lucky Ban, put a colorful homemade sign on the store front advertising the specials, Monday security ordered him to remove it.

“We have rules and regulations," says Helmig, "and one of those regulations is not to have any type of signage that’s not pre-approved by the landlord.”

Lim, who had hoped to retire in a few years, doesn’t know what her next step will be, adding she hasn’t been able to find a suitable place to re-open.

Lee is going to sell his equipment at an auction, and then perhaps retire.

The man known fondly to his customers as simply “Mr. Lee,” said one the things he’ll miss the most are his customers, which over the years have included employees of WJLA-TV, Politico, U.S. government workers, and USA Today before the latter moved to McLean about 10 years ago.

“I’ll miss the money, too,” he says.

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