Shoe-leather reporting and non-cybersized


For those of us in the beleaguered print media business, learning from an Associated Press dispatch last month that the editor of an online newspaper in Pasadena, Calif. had outsourced his City Hall reporting to India seemed like an ice-breaking trend of apostasy. was started in 2005, the same year we kick-started the printing presses here at The Alexandria Times.

Newsgathering at the local and sometimes micro level in a bustling community like Alexandria is an expensive proposition; you must hire reporters, photographers, copy editors, graphic designers and the like, if youre going to do it right.

I think it could be a significant way to increase the quality of journalism on the local level without the expense that is a major problem for local publications, said James Macpherson, editor to the Associated Press. Whether youre at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, youre still a phone call or e-mail away from the interview.

Call me old-fashioned, but good shoe-leather reporting originates from developing deep sources at those crime events or meetings, not over the phone from India.

Which brings us to City Limits, a new column that we hope will celebrate the ancient art of shoe-leather reporting, shedding both light and levity to the people, events and things which make Alexandria the community in which we live and work.

Welcome to City Limits.

Cash Grocer packs up
For almost a third of a century, Cash Grocer Natural Foods had a special place in the hearts and minds of Alexandria shoppers. Where else could you find soy protein nutritional yeast flakes, or that rare bottle of Thai kitchen coconut milk?
Well, that was before Whole Foods moved in up the street. I spent 30 years in this building, owner Peggy Kleysteuber said Saturday on her last day of business. And I spent the last two years watching it die.

Kleysteuber owned the building at 1315 King Street and raised her daughter in the apartment above the cramped, but usually-bustling grocery store. She now lives in Del Ray but is planning to spend much of her second chapter re-opening a former Bed & Breakfast in Elkins, WV.

It was great for awhile, but when the Whole Foods opened we really noticed the decline, she said Saturday, while long-time customers filed in for that last container of energy shake mix or flaxseed meal. My customers were really my friends.

A longtime activist in the Chamber of Commerce and the Old Town Professional and Business Association, Kleysteuber tried to bring good business-sense practicality to City Hall, to no avail, she said. Most people feel this is the city of no. You cant do this and you cant do that, she said. I dont feel the city has committed itself to the small and unique retailer.

The 3-story building was built in 1804 as a private home. By the 1950s it was the site of Fagelsons Toy Store, and then a pharmacy. By the 1960s, it morphed into Casablanca Bar, touting the longest bar on the East Coast. Now it has been sold to a young attorney who plans to remodel it and rent out the ground floor to a new retailer.

Ive had it. I need a break. I just think I hit a wall, she said.

E-mail Kleysteuber your remembrances at