EDITOR’S NOTE: Carpool is expected to open its Fair Lakes location in October.
Fair Lakes: known for big-box stores, franchise restaurants and one of the last remaining Barnes and Noble locations in the area. Nightlife hot spot? Not so much.
“There’s a lot of places you can go eat but no place you can go do something,” says Mark Handwerger, owner of auto-themed and game-filled Carpool’s longtime Arlington location, slated to reopen in September in its new Fair Lakes location.
Bedrock Management, a company that Handwerger began with business partner Geoff Dawson in the 1990s, is responsible for bars and restaurants in the Metro-D.C. area and beyond, including Atomic Billiards, Buffalo Billiards and The Board Room. Dawson and Handwerger fashioned Carpool in 1995 from an old auto shop and used car lot in Ballston and loaded the new restaurant with automobilia. Handwerger now runs the company alone and is heading up the move to Fair Lakes. (The Herndon Carpool location is run by a former business partner.)
“Everything’s brand-new, and the building’s different. We’re just trying to create what we had there in Arlington,” Handwerger says of the new site, former home to Logan’s Roadhouse. “We have some of the bones, which are the pool tables, the bar top and that sort of stuff. We also have some of the—I’m hoping—heart and soul, which is the customers and obviously the staff. Many of the staff there had been there since opening night in 1995.”
Carpool’s new Fair Lakes home will sport two large bars—one of which will incorporate the original Arlington bartop—each with 22 beers on tap and encircled by a couple dozen flat-screen TVs. In keeping with Bedrock’s tradition of offering patrons more than mere food and drink, Carpool will also house shuffleboard tables, pool tables, darts, skeeball and other diversions. And its ample parking lot may occasionally transform into cornhole-tourney turf.
Handwerger sold the Ballston site to make way for a luxury residential high-rise in an area that’s growing exceedingly more pricey. In recent years, he’s noticed clientele streaming in from towns farther out on I-66, such as Centreville and Gainesville. Bringing Carpool westward may meet many of his patrons where they are and attract some newcomers looking for something a bit different in the exurbs.
“In this day and age, it’s a bar, a social place without an attitude,” Handwerger says. “It’s just good old-fashioned camaraderie.”