Part of what makes Del Ray so unique is the small-town feel of Mt. Vernon Avenue. From the new Del Ray Shoe and Luggage Repair to the Greener Cleaner of Del Ray, most of the storefronts wouldn't seem out of place on a Main Street in any American hamlet.
But upon closer inspection, a few of these businesses would appear better suited west of the Beltway, near Dulles and alongside similar companies—those that specialize in web design, social marketing and search engines.
But it's no mistake; each of these organizations consciously chose Del Ray as a home base, creating the community's very own "tech corridor" along The Avenue.
While the average passerby might not have a hankering for web design with their ACKC chocolate, these businesses play an important part in the community.
Bean Creative is the veteran technology company in Del Ray, making its home at 2213 Mt. Vernon Avenue for a decade. The company provides web design, web development, online games and applications for education, nonprofits, museums and other interests.
"We used to have to explain to customers what a website was and why they might benefit from having one," said Layla Masri, Bean Creative's president who co-founded the business in 1997. "Now we are making all sorts of online and mobile experiences, so the times have really changed."
With clients like PBS, Worldwide Wildlife Fund, National Geographic and the Smithsonian, Bean Creative benefits from its close proximity to Washington, D.C.
But proximity is just one reason why Bean Creative chose Del Ray as its home. Another reason is the "creative coolness" of the neighborhood.
"Tech is often seen as a cold, sterile, nerdy industry, but good technologists are always striving for creative solutions that make our lives better in so many ways," said Masri, who lives in the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Alexandria. "Del Ray is a neighborhood that supports creativity in all forms."
She cites her neighbors as a benefit of Bean Creative's location, mentioning that customers often want to meet on Mt. Vernon Avenue so that they can take advantage of the trendy restaurants and services in the neighborhood.
Bean Creative also gives back to the community, often lending use of its backyard for community events. The company has used the space to host the Spooky Bean Halloween haunted graveyard for the last three years.
Silverback Strategies is one of the newer tech companies on The Avenue. The company provides search engine marketing, search engine optimization, Google AdWords management, web design and social-media consulting. From managing search-engine advertising campaigns to helping ensure web pages show up at the top of search results, Silverback Strategies helps clients increase their exposure online.
According to president Neil Welsh, "Silverback Strategies' distinguishing factor is that the company is a Google Qualified AdWords Management company," meaning that Google has certified the company as an expert in Google search advertising.
The company works hand in hand with Google on a daily basis and beta tests new products. This adds to the services Silverback Strategies provides its clients, which range from local businesses to cosmetic companies and everywhere in between.
Though the company has been around for three years, it just recently moved to Del Ray. Welsh grew up in the neighborhood, attended George Washington Middle School and watched the neighborhood transition into what it is today.
Welsh was on the lookout for a spot on Mt .Vernon Avenue soon after starting Silverback Strategies in 2007. When the company's current location (2212 Mt Vernon Avenue, Suite 100) became available, he jumped at the chance to bring his company to his old neighborhood.
"Del Ray is hip and trendy, which is something that appeals to tech companies," Welsh said.
Forum One Communications has been in business since 1996 and, like many tech companies, started in a basement. But in the past 14 years the company has grown to almost 45 employees and now boasts three offices, with a home office located at 2200 Mt. Vernon Avenue.
Forum One is a digital communications firm focused on accelerating progress on important issues—health, education, environment, international development and others.
"We design and build powerful websites, and help clients use those sites and a range of Internet services to make progress on important global issues," President and CEO Chris Wolz said.
Forum One chose Del Ray as its home base in 1998 because of the convenience for employees and proximity to clients in Washington, D.C. Through the years, the company has come to love Del Ray for its friendly atmosphere, livability and its growing number of shops and restaurants.
It seems the characteristics of Del Ray that attract many residents are the same that appeal to tech companies. All seem to appreciate—and contribute to—the creative environment and community atmosphere that makes Del Ray so unique.