December 31st, 2021

2021 Year-End Roundup: Long Branch Holds Historic Election, Hosts Santa

Santa Claus (as seen in Flower Park before heading to ZP Tax)

A historic election – the first such election in a decade — and a visit from Santa Claus were high points for downtown Long Branch this November-December.  

Meanwhile, increased loitering and drinking, among other bad behaviors, have caused headaches for stores along the Flower Avenue and Piney Branch corridors. 

Election Success

This November the Long Branch Business League voted in John Angel as its new president, replacing the long-serving and much-admired outgoing president Carlos Perozo, owner of ZP Tax on Flower Ave.  Ada Villatoro, owner of El Golfo Restaurant, was elected VP.  The owner of Takoma Laundromat, Siu Wong, was elected Secretary Treasurer.   

John Angel, who also lives in Long Branch, served for many years as the manager of Long Branch’s El Gavilan Restaurant.  Today he works with La Casita restaurant as well as other food ventures in the Silver Spring area.

Angel is well known to many in Long Branch as the force behind a wide variety of community-oriented events: the Long Branch 5-K Race; the weekly Arts and Crafts classes for children which were held for many years at Rainbow Laundry; festivals at the Community Center swimming pool. 

Angel told the Newsletter that his main priority, aside from community events, will be initiating a conversation with local property owners about their development plans, post-Purple Line completion.  For small business owners to have a say in their own fate, it is crucial, he feels, to hold an honest dialogue with local property owners.

Both Villatoro and Wong have been deeply involved in the Business League and community building activities over the past ten years, the same period during which outgoing treasurer Art Cobb has faithfully kept the books. 

Without Carlos Perozo and Art Cobb, the LBBL would not have come nearly as far as it has. Indeed, it most likely would not exist at all.  All of the above deserve the community’s warmest gratitude.

Crime and Other Headaches

At the November LBBL meeting, Villatoro and Wong expressed concern about a sharp increase in local loitering and public drunkenness in the business district.  Among other unwanted behaviors they have noticed:  a fistfight that led to a broken window at the County wine store; an increase in other acts of vandalism and theft.  In response, the Business League met, in early December, with Police colonel Lisa Engestrom and officer Glenda Franco, the community outreach officer for our area.   

Engestrom and Franco told the Business League that one important step is getting more timely and detailed information to the police. Store staff should not wait for an emergency to make the call.  Any suspicious or concerning activity is worth reporting to the police non-emergency number (301) 279-8000.  What is more, it is now possible to send a text message, silently, to 911.  What is more, if more calls start coming in from our area, this helps direct police resources to where the problems really are. 

To alert County social workers to attend to the homeless or others in need of special services, officer Engestrom urged store staff members to call the Homeless outreach line:  240-907-2688 or (for Project Home) 301 569-2732, or, finally, the HHS Crisis Center (to assist person with mental health challenges) at 240 777-4000.

Santa and S’mores

Saturday, Dec. 17, Santa Claus spent an afternoon in Flower Ave. Park handing out candy canes and getting the inside scoop from neighborhood children who eagerly climbed up into his lap. Some children came with letters in hand, others told Santa that their letters were in the mail. 

After the meet and greet with Santa, children roasted marshmallows over hi-tech smokeless fire pits to make a dessert called ‘s’mores’.  This classic American campfire dish is made by placing a roasted – sometimes a burnt — marshmallow onto a slab of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers.  Santa’s helpers estimate that at least 100 s’more deserts were made and consumed, mainly by children. 

Local restaurants El Gavilan, El Golfo and Veronica’s Café had hot-drink specials available for the event. Their special beverages will remain available throughout the winter season (and got excellent reviews from those that sampled the offerings, which included seasonal spiked hot drinks).   

Sources close to the Newsletter saw Santa heading after the event to ZP Tax, the local tax and accounting firm run by outgoing LBBL president Carlos Perozo.