Celebrate Spring in Easton, Maryland

July 26, 2011

In the streets of Easton, Maryland, leaves are unfolding and residents and local businesses are warming up for spring, a spectacular season in this 301-year-old historical town. Boaters, bikers, fishermen, hikers, hunters and avid outdoor diners alike are anticipating warmer weather and the explosion of activities in Easton that come along with it.


The Bay Bridge Boat Show April 28 through May 1 on Kent Island kicks off Maryland’s boating season, featuring every kind of vessel from kayaks to yachts. This year, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfisherman Association will provide a fishing tournament weigh station and AllTackle will hold casting challenges and “guess the fish’s weight” competitions. For a full list of events and show information, visit USboat.com.

To get your own taste of the open waters, you can rent boating equipment and gear at stores such as T.I. Marina Rentals LLC, which typically open their doors in April. If you’d rather sit back and let others do the sailing for you, the Selina II, which will take to the water April 23 at St. Michaels Marina, offers relaxing sailboat rides for up to six passengers.

April 29 through May 1 marks the annual WineFest at St. Michaels, 15 minutes outside of Easton. This outdoor streetscape event celebrates local food and wine and supports six local charities. The festivities will include wine dinners, wine tastings, and chef demonstrations among many other events. For more information visit WineFestAtStMichaels.com.

Also just outside of Easton, the town of Oxford will be holding its 17th annual Oxford Day Celebration on April 30. The festival will feature a parade beginning at 11 a.m., a dog show, live bag pipers and other music, a Civil War reenactment, and five and ten kilometer runs. The day will also celebrate the 327th anniversary of the Oxford Bellevue Ferry, the nation’s oldest privately owned ferry service.


While you’re in Easton, explore Easton Market Square with its numerous shops and cafés. On April 17, Easton’s Farmers Market will reopen for the summer season, setting up its tents and rolling out its fresh, locally grown produce. The Market will be open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Harrison Street. The Amish Country Farmers Market is also a wonderful place to find fresh produce and handcrafted items. This indoor market is open year-round on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.


Like Easton’s markets, its galleries and museums are also not to be missed. Begin at the Historical Society of Talbot County, where you can pick up a walking tour map of the area and enjoy the Society’s museum, historic houses, and surrounding award-winning gardens.

The Academy Art Museum features national, regional, and local traveling and residential exhibits. It also hosts concerts, performances, and workshops. Through April 10, the museum will be featuring a private collection of European paintings titled “Old Master Paintings: Narratives for Inspiration.” Visit AcademyArtMuseum.org for details on events and exhibitions.

Just outside of Easton, the Oxford Museum’s 2,500 artifacts chronicle the cultural history of its historic hometown. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels is also a wonderful place to visit, celebrating the history of the Chesapeake Bay’s culture, boats, and seafood. Its fleet of floating historic watercraft is also the largest in existence. In the warmer months, tickets to ride aboard the Skipjack H.M. Krentz can be purchased here.

Art Galleries

If you find yourself in Easton on April Fools’ Day, take some time to visit the area’s fabulous art galleries because April 1 also happens to be a First Friday featuring a Gallery Walk. From 5 to 9 p.m., shops and galleries will be open late and many galleries will be offering discussions and refreshments.

The newly refurbished South Street Art Gallery in Easton features a steady rotation of new artwork by gallery artists in a casually elegant historic Victorian home. Nearby on Dover Street, Gallery 26 will be featuring the work of photographer Robert Cavelli in his first-ever East Coast showing through March 30. April 1 through May 31, Troika Gallery will be holding its Spring Group Show featuring most of the 35 artists exclusively represented by the gallery, which is also a work studio.


If living art is more your style, get tickets to a performance at the Avalon Theater which provides a huge variety of entertainment from comedians to symphonies. The theater also showcases The Met: Live in HD, which streams operas and plays taking place live from the Metropolitan Opera. The play is projected in HD onto a movie theater-sized screen at the Avalon Theater, which is the only viewing location in the area. On April 30, the theatre will show the live production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

The NightCat café rests comfortably on the border between good food, good drink, and good entertainment. This small, intimate setting offers a nightly soundtrack of up-and-coming artists over the clink of glasses. On April 7 the club will present the indie sounds of Erin McKeown who has been featured on shows like “The L Word” and “Gilmore Girls” as well as in People Magazine. NightCat will break up its routine on April 16 when it hosts Raymond the Amish Comic.


March 20 through 27 is restaurant week in Easton, celebrating the fine dining that is to be found in the area. Many gourmet restaurants in the area will be offering two-course lunch menus for $20.11 and three-course dinner menus for $30.11.

Out of the Fire Café and Wine Bar offers delicious Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, and a large part of its menu is cooked in the stone hearth that is the center of its open-air kitchen. Scossa Restaurant and Lounge serves its patrons authentic northern Italian dishes created by Chef Giancarlo Tondin, who began his career in the famous Harry’s Bar restaurant in Venice. During the WineFest at St. Michaels, Tondin will demonstrate how to make one of his signature dishes.

Warming weather is also an excellent reason to check out the many alfresco dining options in Easton. One wonderful option is Mason’s, where you can dine in the courtyard of what was once a grand family home. Chef Daniel Pochron serves up rich French cuisine for lunch and dinner. For desert, buy a box of Mason’s signature chocolates or get a pick-me-up in their luxurious coffee bar.

Bed & Breakfasts

The Bartlett Pear is both a renowned restaurant and a beautiful place to spend a few nights. The 220-year-old home is owned by Jordan and Alice Lloyd, who met at Mason’s restaurant. The gourmet menu was created by Jordan Lloyd himself, who is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has 15 years of experience in restaurant management. Lloyd will also demonstrate one of his recipes at the WineFest, showing attendants how to make his tomato and ricotta salad.

Another B&B that’s bound to please is the Inn at 202 Dover, which was recently named one of the top 11 romantic restaurants in America by Destination Travel Magazine. Earlier this year, the bed and breakfast was also voted to be one of the top 10 romantic inns in America by Historic Inns of America. With such a ringing endorsement, a night at this elegant and stately home is sure to be the cherry on top of any stay in Easton.
[gallery ids="99624,105137,105134" nav="thumbs"]

Weekend in Williamsburg

Williamsburg Va. is a historical and cultural getaway that is a breed above and miles apart from your standard colonial fair. It’s the home of living history, where modern luxuries and cherished customs combine in a melting pot of the young and the old, the contemporary and the traditional, casting a new light on the roots of the American experience.

Anyone who took an American History class in high school has heard the story of Williamsburg. Founded early in the 17th century by English settlers, it has been a hub for the development of American culture, politics and education for over 400 years. The restoration of this historic seat of democracy began in 1926 by Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin in partnership with John D. Rockefeller Jr., eventually preserving the entire town and turning it into a living re-creation of 17th and 18th century life.

What is not commonly repeated in textbooks is that in the 21st century, Williamsburg is not a stuffy relic but a living, breathing community of over 14,000 people. Families, business folk, students from the nearby College of William and Mary and many others are keeping Williamsburg’s time-honored practice of celebrating the old and blending it into the new, creating an environment that is full of tradition and lively activity.

The town’s calendar of events is booked with a steady stream of concerts, art exhibitions, tours, lectures, educational programs and other new, exciting activities such as the Chocolate Chariot Race, held every Feb. 26 in New Town. As the winter snow is melting and the crowds of summer tourists have yet to move in, this is the perfect time of year to explore this historical, cultural and experiential treasure trove.

Whether you are seeing the sights in Colonial Williamsburg, doing some shopping in New Town or getting a breath of fresh air outside the city at the Colonial National Historical Park, Williamsburg is the perfect place for a weekend getaway.

Walking into Colonial Williamsburg, time rewinds itself, coming to a standstill sometime around the 16 or 1700s. Traveling deeper into the heart of this town out of time, visitors stumble onto hidden gems around every corner, as aspects of life in the good old days are re-created in front of their eyes. From the taverns to the historical buildings and residencies filled with costumed inhabitants, there is no shortage of things to look at in this perfectly preserved town.

While in Williamsburg, a visitor would be hard-pressed not to stop into one of the many museums – living or otherwise – for which Williamsburg is famous. At the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, a huge collection of antique American and British furniture has found its final home. The beautiful Bassett Hall, former home of John D Rockefeller Jr., rests nestled in its original 585 acres of greens and gardens. The Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary is displaying “Fall of the Berlin Wall,” a stirring collection of photographs taken by the award-winning German photographer Bettina Flitner, from now through April 3.

The shops in Colonial Williamsburg are also sure to delight with their historical charm and unique wares. Wythe Candy and Gourmet Shop, which recently reopened after renovations, offers a delectable array that will satisfy any sweet tooth, with treats ranging from candy apples to rock candy to chocolates and fudge.

Less than a half-mile down the road is Mermaid Books. This shop, part bookstore and part antique shop, is completely charming, crammed wall-to-wall with books both old and new.

A beautiful selection of handmade American crafts and artwork is offered at A Touch of Earth in The Gallery Shops. This store has amassed collections from over 200 artists with original pieces, including works in porcelain and stoneware as well as photography and watercolors. A Touch of Earth makes space for performing artists as well, inviting musicians to create their own form of artwork in the store every weekend.

The perfect transition from shopping to dining presents itself at The Cheese Shop in Merchant’s Square, where the heart of Williamsburg dining lies. Here at this family-run store, where the proprietors believe that all of life’s best memories are served over a meal, customers can pick out artisan cheeses, breads and spreads while eating a fresh, made-to-order sandwich. And the best part is, they encourage taste testing!

Also nestled in this small, quaint area are dining and culinary experiences that are nothing short of mouthwatering. At The Trellis, the chefs in the kitchen strive to be at the forefront of modern American dining, using local and organic products to stir together one-of-a-kind gourmet creations. The atmosphere is inviting, and live jazz is brought in every Friday.

A stone’s throw from The Trellis is the Blue Talon Bistro, a friendly eatery known for its emphasis on casual quality. Executive Chef and owner David Everett has a passion for simple, delicious comfort food, which is supported and supplemented by his staff of accomplished chefs. If guests like their food, the Blue Talon chefs are confident enough in their service that they give out their recipes online.

But the feast isn’t over until the Fat Canary sings. Named for a type of wine that was shipped to Williamsburg from the Canary Islands in the early days of the settlement, the Fat Canary lives up to its decadent name, winning the AAA Four Diamond Award for the past five years. Their menu is small, seasonal and changes daily, but each tantalizing dish is bound to be delicious. One of this season’s specialty entrees is free-range pheasant with gnocchi, chanterelles, apricots, butternut squash and pancetta.

Williamsburg is devoted not only to the finest in locally grown food, but also to the best in locally produced drink. Twenty percent of all Virginia wine is procured from the 33 acres of vines at the Williamsburg Winery, a vineyard, tavern and hotel whose grapes produce over 55,000 cases of wine annually. Their award-winning Governor’s White is their most popular wine and is worth stopping by to sample.

An extensive collection of quality wine can also be found at World of Wine, where the shelves offer over 5,000 bottles to choose from as well as beer, cheese and more.

Scattered throughout the town and its surrounding area like small oases, the bed and breakfasts of Williamsburg make staying in a hotel almost obsolete. Approaching the Liberty Rose Bed and Breakfast, up the gently sloping driveway and through the old oak trees, it’s easy to see why this little inn was named for a flower. The four-post beds are clad with Egyptian cotton and the rooms are decorated with an ornate attention to detail.

A traditional American colonial experience is offered at the Williamsburg Sampler Bed and Breakfast, an 18th century plantation-style inn. The quaint brick house is full of antiques and collectables, from the common room to the bedrooms.

From lodging to shopping, Williamsburg offers entertainment for both the history buff and those whose tastes are more modern. It’s a quintessential melting pot of the tried and the true, the exciting and the new.
[gallery ids="99607,105050,105049" nav="thumbs"]

Evermay Estate Sold

Georgetown’s historic Evermay Estate, which was listed by Jeanne Livingston of Long and Foster, was sold this week with a final listing price of $25.9 million, making it the most expensive home sale in the D.C. area since 2007. Mark McFadden of Washington Fine Properties represented the buyers in this historic sell.

On July 8, the property held a very successful estate sale, auctioning off items such as linens, glasses and books.

Evermay has been on the market since 2008, when it was originally listed for $49 million, according to Washingtonian. Although the final listing price was $25.9 million, D.C. Urban Turf reports that its final sales price was $22 million. Washington Fine Properties cannot yet say who is the buyer of the Evermay Estate.

This will mark the first time the property is owned by a new family since 1923 when Evermay was sold to F. Lammot Belin, the heir of DuPont Chemical, who passed the estate down through three generations.

The home, which is included in the National Register of Historic Places, is 12,000 square feet sitting on 3.5 acres, and contains a ballroom, gardens, tennis court, gate house, parking for 100 cars and enough dining space for 40 dinner guests.

Under its last owner, Evermay was frequently used as an event facility. Mark McFadden of Washington Fine Properties was unable to comment about whether this service will continue under new ownership.

West Elm Makes its Comeback


Georgetown will see the addition of a familiar newcomer to its home goods retail scene. West Elm, a contemporary furnishings chain, has opened its new location at 3333 M St. NW. It has been more than a year after closing its original branch in the Woodward & Lothrop Building in downtown D.C.

West Elm, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., has opened a “pop-up” store in Georgetown with a seven-month lease to test the success of their new location. It seems that the area’s economic climate is ripe for such an endeavor following the success of nearby stores such as BoConcept, Contemporaria and Georgetown’s newest addition, CB2.

Abigail Jacobs, a company spokeswoman, told the Washington Post that West Elm has been looking into the Georgetown area for some time now because of the high number of Internet and catalogue sales the company has made there.

At 6,500 square feet, the new store will be tiny in comparison with its former location, which was at one time West Elm’s largest branch. “Different concept, different neighborhood,” Jacobs told the Post. “If you look at Georgetown and the size of stores there, this will be a perfect fit.”

Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

Elizabeth Taylor, beloved Hollywood actress and icon, died Wednesday at age 79 of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

Taylor was a blue-blooded Hollywood star, a darling of the silver screen since her breakout role in “National Velvet” (1944) at age 14. More than 70 years later, Taylor had appeared in 50 films and won two Academy Awards as Best Actress for her roles in “Butterfield 8” (1960) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) as well as being nominated for three others. Other films such as “A Place in the Sun,” (1951) “Giant,” (1956) and “Cleopatra” (1963) cemented Taylor’s fame. Upon her death, she hadn’t acted in several years.

Taylor was also heavily involved with various philanthropic efforts, raising support and awareness for AIDS since 1985, after the death of her close friend and fellow actor Rock Hudson. Her campaign to combat AIDS was monumental in the 1980s, as up until her involvement it was an issue largely ignored by the press and national government. Using her celebrity status, Taylor played a large role in bringing the AIDS epidemic to the forefront of America’s attention. She helped found the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

The dynamic celebrity was also known for her larger-than-life personality and tumultuous personal life, with her illnesses, addictions and string of failed marriages (two alone to Richard Burton, the Anthony to her Cleopatra) a constant source of media attention. It often became difficult to tell where her public life ended and her personal life began.

Taylor had three children: two sons with actor Michael Wilding and one daughter with producer Michael Todd, who died after one year of their marriage in 1958.

Her seventh and final marriage to John W. Warner, a Republican senator from Virginia, also ended in divorce. During the six years of their marriage, Taylor brought Hollywood glamour to politics, standing by Warner through his first U.S. Senate race in 1978.

In a statement released by Sally Morrison, Taylor’s publicist, Michael Howard Wilding, 58, remembered his mother:
“My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love,” he said. “We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.”

[gallery ids="99625,105145,105139,105142" nav="thumbs"]

A Facelift for Martha Washington’s Dolls

In a box, in a corner of an office, in the Tudor Place in Georgetown, an antique collection of wax figurines lays largely untouched and unseen by visitors to the historic home.

The 228-year-old dolls, once the treasured belongings of first First Lady Martha Washington, were brought to their home at Tudor Place by Martha’s granddaughter and looked after for two centuries by her descendants and then museum curators.

Years of heat, mishandling and bugs have obviously gotten to figures; many are missing legs or arms, and the silk clothes are torn and faded of their color. But Leslie Buehler, the executive director of Tudor Place, believes that there is life yet to breathe back into these charming wax characters, and she is currently working to restore them.

The figurines make up a tableau set that was a gift to Martha Washington from Samuel Fraunces in 1783. The scene depicts the story of the military hero, Hector, and his wife Andromanche, whose romance was endearing to George and Martha, mirroring their own story of love and separation during wartime.

The scene was removed from public display in an effort to conserve the figurines and spare them any further damage.

The steps taken by Tudor Place to make the figurines more aesthetically pleasing have been more challenging than expected. The pins and dowel rods that hold the dolls together are from unidentifiable years, making it difficult to determine which ones are the originals, and details such as what the faces and clothes originally looked like are unknown. Buehler stated that it will be at least another year before the figures are ready to go back on display.

The restoration is being funded by private donors, including a remarkably generous donation which covered the initial analysis of the figurines.

“All of these objects tell extraordinary stories that relate the times these people lived in a visceral way,” Buehler said to the Post. “The more one understands about the beginnings of this country – how people lived, how they spent their time – it just informs our sense of history.”
[gallery ids="102509,120179,120169,120173" nav="thumbs"]

Q&A With Marc Fleisher

How did you get your start in the real estate business?

Marc Fleisher: In 1976 I acquired my real estate license at the suggestion of a friend and commercial developer. I chose at the time to handle the distribution and sales of roller skates and, upon meeting my wife-to-be, was convinced by her that if I were to spend so much time and energy as a sales person, I should consider activating my real estate license and perusing real estate as a career.

What was the most memorable home you’ve closed yet?

MF: Since I have had the good fortune to settle many unique and exciting properties, it is difficult to reduce the answer to one home. However, one of the most unique properties I ever handled was a contemporary home on 5-acres designed as a space ship that contained 8,000 square feet of granite walls and floors and two kitchens designed with a patrician to allow for either the chefs to view the dining guests or the guests to view with kitchen preparations.

What is your favorite thing about being a real estate agent?

MF: A number of things appeal to me about being a real estate agent: the opportunity to meet and work with many different people of many different backgrounds, the ability to pick and choose the time that I wish to allocate to the business. But foremost is the satisfaction of seeing people truly get excited about the purchases and sale of their home as a result of my efforts.

Where do you live now and why did you pick that area?

MF: I currently live in downtown Bethesda. After having raised my family and commuted to work, as well as carpooling the children to various activities, I wanted to downsize my housing and take advantage of being able to walk to the heart of Bethesda.

When you’re not closing deals, what can you usually be found doing?

MF: I have found over the years that the best way to succeed and enjoy life is to create a balance between work and other activities. I enjoy golf, tennis and particularly travel both within and outside of the United States.

What is the hottest neighborhood in DC right now?

MF: Over the past 10 years it has become apparent that Washington DC itself has become an attraction for many homebuyers. I cannot define one area over another as being the hottest neighborhood, since buyers choose different neighborhoods for various reasons. Whether it is the palisades community, Wesley Heights, Spring Valley, or Kalorama and Dupont Circle, there is demand for every one of these neighborhoods.

For more information visit MarcFleisher.com

Under One Roof

July 25, 2011

Peter Hapstak and Olvia Demetriou sit caddy corner to each other at a long table in the main reception room of their Georgetown office. Their dark clothes set off naturally graying hair in that sleek way that people immersed in the world of art and design often possess, and their easy composure is slightly at odds with their surroundings, which are going through an obvious state of transition.

The pair are the leaders of their namesake architecture and design firm, Hapstak Demetriou +,
a group that is at once a fresh, energetic up-start and a team of seasoned professionals. Hapstak, a former principal and founder of CORE architecture + design, is relatively new to this office at 3742 Q St. NW, but to Demetriou the space is familiar – it was formerly the headquarters of Adamstein & Demetriou, the architecture firm she started with her former husband, Theo. Now the office building that saw the passing of one firm is seeing the birth of a brand new venture within its walls.

Although the stenciled sign on the door has yet to be changed, plenty of businesses and residents across the city – as well as across the nation – have taken notice of their presence and lined up to have their space transformed by Hapstak Demetriou +. The firm truly hit the ground running. Almost immediately, they drummed up several dozen projects which are now all in various stages of progress and completion, backlogging the small but growing crew into next year.

Between their packed roster of projects and the familiarity with which they talk about their firm, their projects, clients and each other, it would be easy to believe that the duo has been working together for years.

Yet less than six months ago, the two had considered themselves business rivals. In fact, they hadn’t even exchanged more than five words to each other in passing at cocktail parties over the last 20 years. Serendipity, however, seemed to have other plans for the two architects.

“In a way we both had partnerships but I think we each felt very alone and we were kind of at forks in the road. And a very good consultant that we both work with said that I really need to speak to Peter and Peter really needs to speak to me,” says Demetriou. “So we got together for coffee and then suddenly realized wow, it was really a convergence of both of us needing someone like the other. And it’s been a real process of discovery.”

Although they both describe their partings from past ventures as amicable, their excitement and enthusiasm about their work and the future of Hapstak Demetriou + is palpable.

“My journey was starting in December of last year and we really did not sit down until February or the beginning of March,” says Hapstak, describing the point at which he started to rethink his career future.

“It was exactly the same timing for me,” Demetriou says, talking over him.

“So neither of us really knew until that March period,” Hapstak continues.

“Mid-February was the coffee,” Demetriou cuts in.

“And then within two weeks it was done,” Hapstak says. “I can’t believe to tell you how right this shoe fits; I mean this is amazing to me. And I really love what we’re doing. I’m just pinching myself, I can’t…I think we’re both going to ultimately going to have the firm we really both wanted to have, which was this creative, think-tank, boutique firm that is flexible and agile, that can move very much.”

Hapstak Demetriou + is what the pair describes as a full-service design firm, guiding their clients through architectural and interior design projects from inception to opening. They take on a varied array of projects, but estimate that their undertakings are divided up between residences, miscellaneous projects, hotels and restaurants at 15, 20, 25 and 40 percent, respectively.

One project that is in the final months of completion is a 300-seat restaurant on Duke Street in Old Town, a collaboration with Kendle Bryan called Ginny’s (a sit-down full service restaurant) and Esquire Dog (a small café-style beignet shop by day and hot dog stand by night), which will be reminiscent of an old-fashioned drive-in. Hapstak describes the renovation of the old building as a portrayal of the resteraunteur, a former lawyer turned CIA trained chef, putting his life and personality into architectural form.

“I think we’re both chameleons with our work. Our design really does adapt to the client and the client’s identity instead of seeing, you know, our print on any project,” Demetriou says. “But we each do have a different style and in a way I think they’ll complement each other, those styles. I tend to be more structured and ordered, maybe formalist, minimalist.”

“I’m all about chaos,” Hapstak says.

“And Peter’s passionate and creative, and a lot of adaptive re-use and so that adds an interesting dimension to his work,” Demetriou continues. “So, you know, he’ll loosen me up and…”

“And she’ll tighten me up a little bit, which is good,” Hapstak cuts in.

Although Demetriou says that one person generally takes the lead as a client’s main contact for each project, their efforts so far have been largely collaborative.

“The beauty of a small firm is that one of us is always involved,” Demetriou says. “We don’t just assign things to our younger staff.”

This sense of collaboration is one of the driving visions behind Hapstak Demetriou +. The pair envisions the firm as an open-minded and creative force producing fresh and innovative ideas, and is working to balance their artistic ambitions with the realities of the market.

“Being a design-strong firm in a world where you’re dealing with corporate clients and businesses that have bottom line issues, money making issues, deadlines you know – you’ve always got one foot in the art world, like he [Hapstak] said, the think tank, and another foot in the business world,” Demetriou says. “And I do think that we want to stay on the more creative side of doing really good work, exciting work and working with interesting people and having a chance for reinvention with each project.”

As often happens in businesses of any size, the attitudes of the bosses trickle down through the rest of the employees, setting the work climate of the office. In this case, Hapstak and Demetriou’s enthusiasm is mirrored in the relatively young staff of architects and designers that they currently employ.

The youthful energy provided by the ambitious staff of 10 will hopefully propel the firm to new heights – Hapstak says that their young staff is not only helping them produce innovative ideas, but also helping them to fully take advantage of all the new technologies that can help grow the business.

But with two seasoned professionals at the helm, Hapstak Demetriou + will be less likely to fall into some of the blunders that other ambitious start-ups get caught in. The two pointed out common examples that green-behind-the-ears architects are likely to make, such as not giving strong enough guidance to clients and promising more than can be delivered. Between the two of them, Demetriou and Hapstak have designed more than 200 hospitality, cultural, private and public spaces in the nation’s capital, and have the contacts, resources and savoir-faire to prove it.

“I think the other thing that comes from us too is there’s a level of professional experience that you just can’t get with a younger firm,” Hapstak says. “I mean, our repertoire and our knowledge and all this institutional memory that we have, it kind of gets us to this point.”

Yet the two are far from jaded, and still take deep personal satisfaction in seeing their projects appreciated and used.

“Any time we walk into a project and see it full of people we know we’ve been successful,”

For this reason, both Demetriou and Hapstak take a special pleasure in public projects such as restaurants. They both enjoy the feedback they receive from visitors and the satisfying feeling of seeing customers and the owners of the venues enjoying and making use of their work.

Demetriou describes her passion for designing restaurants: “Restaurants are – they’re theatre. They’re our main square, our town piazza, it’s where we all go, you know – what are you going to do? Let’s go out to eat. This is what people do to socialize and to gather and connect. And I think even both separately, before the alliance and now, it’s very much part of how we work. You try to create a space that delights people, excites people, reinforces that message, sometimes subliminally, sometimes not so subliminally,” she says. “There’s always a message, like Founding Farmers has a message, Zaytinya has a message. Each restaurant has built into it through the materials, through the forms, through iconographic references that kind of make people think about that food, that concept, the chef.”

But although the two take pride in their work in D.C., Demetriou and Hapstak plan on extending their firm out to the national architectural scene.

“I think what’s big for us now is a national draw, we see ourselves moving out of this market,” Hapstak says. “As much as this will always be our home and this will always be a priority for us because this is where we learned and so our greatest level of give back is here. But we are now on other people’s radar screens, which is really great for us, which allows us to continue to grow the firm, continue to expand what we’re doing.”

Although they say the plans are too premature to discuss any details, they do say that they’ve investigated possibilities in Vegas, that they have plans in the works in Miami, South Beach and Coconut Grove, and that they’ve been pursued by clients in New Orleans in addition to a couple projects they’re working on in the northeast. One project which is well enough along to mention is a collaboration with chef Robert Wiedmaier for a new restaurant in Atlantic City.

It seems that the advent of Hapstak Demetriou + is the turning of a leaf in both architects’ lives.

“Olvia and I are very similar,” Hapstak says. “I was out of a marriage and out of a business, but I have to tell you something, there’s nothing I’ve learned more than that the relationships [I’ve built] have been there for me. And that makes me value them even more and makes me want to perform for them at an even higher level.” [gallery ids="100228,106495,106493" nav="thumbs"]

New Public Transportation Sails onto DC Metro Scene

July 7, 2011

A new alternative to crowded Metro tunnels, clogged streets and pricy cabs is quickly gaining popularity along DC’s waterfront: water taxis. The American River Taxi (ART) service launched its first two yellow, bus-like boats in 2010, which service restaurant-goers, concert attendees and Nationals fans traveling between Washington Harbour, The Wharf and The Yards.

ART President and founder Shaun Guevarra launched his idea for water taxi services in 2008 as a solution for overpopulated streets and what he describes as an “underutilized river.” The company aims to provide quality service to the expanding industries along DC’s waterfront. Now, ART has plans to add two more taxis and four more stops at Poplar Point, Reagan National Airport, Alexandria and National Harbor by next year.

When designing the taxi service, Guevarra said that he looked to European transportation for inspiration. He also kept the environment in mind, trying to minimize the impact of the taxis by using hybrid, low emission engines, boats with shallow hulls to protect the shoreline and partnering with the Potomac Watershed Cleanup. ART has also taken steps to remain unobtrusive among the canoes, dinghies, rowboats and motorboats that already populate the Potomac.

“We work with our captains and our crew to make sure they’re very mindful of the kayakers and anything else that’s going on,” Guevarra said.

The taxis seat 25 to 75 people, run Mondays through Saturdays, and can accommodate bikes and dogs although not all the boats are wheelchair accessible. A ride takes 30 minutes on average and costs $9 for the general public and $7 for children under 12 and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased upon boarding the taxi and, starting in July, customers will be able to buy tickets in advance online and at kiosks located at Washington Harbour and The Wharf.

Customers will also be able to buy membership cards, which operate much like Smartrip cards, and discount 20 percent off of taxi fare. Members will also have access to various promotional deals in addition to the deals that ART offers to the general public, such as discounted tickets to Nationals games and 10 percent off meals at Tony & Joe’s and Nicks. The full list of promotional discounts will be available at a later date.

Currently, most of ART’s customers are people hoping to avoid traffic jams and parking fees at concerts, plays and Nationals games. Guevarra said that in addition to providing people with a different view of the city, water taxis are a less stressful back way to commute.

“Our guests would say that it’s a lot more relaxing,” he said.

ART operates year-round and in inclimate weather, although service is suspended during thunder storms and when wind speed rises above 30 miles per hour. To-the-minute weather updates can be found on the company’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Guevarra said that ART tries to keep customer service at the forefront of its mission. As a company that was born in DC as a response to its transportation needs and remains based in the southwest waterfront, ART is open to suggestions from the neighborhood it services.

“We’re trying to focus on being DC’s water taxi,” Guevarra said.

Historic Streetcar System Removed

June 16, 2011

The usually heavily trafficked O and P Streets in Georgetown are, of late, looking more like excavation sites than roads. DDOT is delving into the next phase in its $11 million mission to rehabilitate the area, removing the long-buried streetcar tracks and unearthing a forgotten chunk of Georgetown history.

The rails are being uncovered and removed, and the streets are being re-paved with cobblestone to preserve the historic roads yet make them even and safe to drive on. Some of the rail systems, which are remarkably well preserved, will be put back into the streets after being reinforced as remaining examples of Washington’s original, unique streetcar system.

On the day that the first rails were unearthed, the National Park Service was at the scene to document the event as part of an account called the Historic American Engineering Record which will be housed at the Library of Congress.

DC’s streetcars began their circuits around the city in 1888 and continued to service the nation’s capital city until 1962, when they finally gave way to more modern systems of transit.

Now, the old railways are making concessions to the modern world one more time as DDOT restores streets, replaces sewers, installs new streetlights and fixes up water mains and gas lines. The project is scheduled to last for 18 months.