20 Years of CORE Building the Cornerstones of Georgetown

January 17, 2014

For the team at CORE Architecture and Design, their story of success began with Dean & Deluca.

Twenty years ago, the fledgling practice was building its business in the middle of a recession, finding most of their projects redesigning corporate interiors.

When Dean & Deluca hired the company to redesign the historic market house on M Street, a landmark piece was added not only to Georgetown’s growing pedigree, but also to CORE’s.

“That’s what really launched our retail and restaurant practices because, once it was built, we had immediate credibility,” said Dale Stewart, managing principal of CORE. “People said, ‘Well, if you can do Dean & Deluca, you can certainly do my retail.’”

That project lead to increasingly creative ventures in retail, restaurants and historic renovation and adaptation. Fast-forward to the practice’s 20th anniversary, and CORE has grown to hold one of the largest and most diverse resumes in the District.

Some of the company’s most recognizable projects include Mei n You, Ping Pong, Georgetown Cupcake and the Bank of Georgetown’s multiple locations, among others.

Located at 1010 Wisconsin, just a couple blocks away from Dean & Deluca, CORE’s office is a sleek, modern space conducive to the firm’s collaborative nature, one of the keys to its many achievements.

In the back room where all of CORE’s members can see them, idea boards are filled with pictures, fabrics and trinkets that will eventually grow to inspire the architecture and design of spaces across D.C.

“The great thing about us right now is that we have this diversity of projects and also this diversity of talent,” said Guy Martin, CORE principal. “We have people who will work on some place the like Sweetgreen for two weeks, then switch to an office building, then switch back.”

The practice consists of over 30 architects and designers. Many of those people will work on multiple projects simultaneously, and communication about projects is encouraged throughout the office.
“I think the culture of our office is very casual. We’re a very collaborative office so there’s not a lot of hierarchy,” said Allison Cooke, a senior designer at CORE. “We’re lucky to have a lot of people who are very talented but also very self motivated.”

Over the 17 years CORE has been located in Georgetown, it watched the community grow around it.

“Georgetown is still a very design-centered community. The sheer number of architects, interior designers, show rooms, furniture retail – it’s kind of marvelous,” Martin said.

“It’s definitely our home,” Stewart added.

For Martin, who joined CORE in 2007, moving to the firm was a true homecoming. He was raised here, and his father, now at the healthy age of 101, still resides in Georgetown. He remembers the replacement of biker bars with French bistros, the migration of antique dealers up and down Wisconsin, and the old storefronts of hardware and tack stores on M Street.

On many occasions, CORE aided that transformation. Sweetgreen, for instance, used to be a Hamburger Hamlet.
The projects Stewart, Martin and Cooke enjoyed most are those that tested them in their abilities and acted as catalysts for the expansion and growth of surrounding communities. Dean & Deluca was one example, along with the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street.

Their restaurants, retail stores and other venues draw people in, helping businesses grow their brand and communities profit.

The ultimate goal of the practice, according to Stewart and Martin, is to take on a project that will converge all of the firm’s talents in one building: a boutique hotel that they would build from the ground up.

Such a space would challenge their knowledge of the restaurant, hospitality and retail industry, it would draw on their experience building luxury apartments and hotels, and would stretch them further by combining them in ways they haven’t faced before.

The business itself, however, does not want to build up too far.

“We don’t ever want to get awfully, awfully big because I think the success of the firm rests on this collaborative effort,” Martin said. “You can’t do that with 100 people.” Stewart agreed, saying that he never wanted to grow so large that the principals couldn’t be involved in every project.

“I think that high level of quality,” Cooke added, “is something that we’ll stress overall.” [gallery ids="100518,119188,119180,119160,119173,119168" nav="thumbs"]

Helen Hayes Awards Nominations Released

June 18, 2013

Nominations for the 27th Helen Hayes Awards were announced Feb. 28 at the Helen Hayes Gallery in the National Theater, highlighting 156 artists and 45 productions as outstanding contributors and contributions to DC theater.

This year, Arena Stage tied with the Kennedy Center in their total number of nominations with both venues receiving 23 nominations in categories such as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Residential Musical and Outstanding Set Design in a Residential Production. The Arena Stage, however, received most of its nominations in residential production categories while the Kennedy Center gained more recognition for its non-residential performances.

The Shakespeare Theater was close behind the Arena Stage and Kennedy Center with a total of 22 nominations split between six different productions, the most recognized of those being “Candide” with 12 nominations.

The Folger Theater also received a substantial 19 nominations, an admirable number especially considering the fact that it only presented three shows in the 2010 season: “Henry VIII,” “Orestes, A Tragic Romp” and “Hamlet.” All three productions were nominated in various categories.

Other venues and companies whose names frequented the list of nominees are the Synetic Theater, the Signature Theater and Theater J, among others.

The ceremony revealing the winners of the 2011 awards will be held April 25 at the Warner Theater.

DowntownDC BID and PepsiCo Team Up to Fight City Waste Problems
By Samantha Hungerford

In an effort to green up our streets, DowntownDC BID and the Department of Public Works announced their partnership with PepsiCo on March 1. This joint venture will place 363 new recycling bins and interactive kiosks in convenient areas throughout DC as part of PepsiCo’s Dream Machine recycling initiative.

The initiative, introduced by PepsiCo in 2010 on Earth Day, aims to increase the recycling rate of beverage containers from 34 to 50 percent by 2018. The project will also help to advance the Greening Downtown DC initiative.

For every bottle and can recycled in DC’s new kiosks and bins, as well as other bins across the country, PepsiCo has agreed to make a donation to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, a program that trains disabled post-9/11 veterans in entrepreneurship and small business management.

“This latest public-private partnership achieves the BID goal of providing citywide approaches to environmental issues while enhancing the quality of the visitor experience Downtown,” said Richard H. Bradley, executive director of the DowntownDC BID in a Downtown DC BID news release. “This partnership will have real results.”

Bradley stated that DowntownDC BID is estimating that more than one million pounds of recyclable bottles and cans will be diverted from the owntown area’s annual waste output.

While DC is the first city to join with PepsiCo’s venture, 20 states have already signed on and about 1,500 bins and kiosks have been placed throughout the U.S. in high-traffic areas such as retail stores and gas stations.

The DPW will install the bins and kiosks in batches of 75 through May and will convert 63 existing recycling bins into Dream Machines.

Old Post Office Pavilion May Find New Purpose
By Samantha Hungerford

The Old Post Office Pavilion, a landmark on Pennsylvania Ave. for the past 112 years, faces an uncertain future as the General Services Administration renews its efforts in seeking a private partner to restore the space.

The 400,000 square foot property is currently the home of the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Park Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Although it also contains over 100 boutiques and restaurants, indoor putt-putt and a multimedia theater among other attractions, a large portion of the property remains underutilized.

The building and its currently vacant pavilion could be repurposed so that its facilities are more actively used. One suggestion has been to transform the space into a hotel, a solution that might fix the imbalance between the building’s revenue and operating costs due to unused space, low retail rent and high operating costs.

Several months ago, the Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released a report stating that the government spends about $12 million annually to maintain the historic building, producing an operating loss of $6 million.

Is This a Bit Too Much?

May 3, 2012

The latest buzz circling around the Mall isn’t this week’s congressional goings-on, a new display at the National Gallery of Art, or a festival taking place on the green. It’s PETA’s newest, shockingly graphic promotional display titled “Glass Walls,” an initiative backed by Sir Paul McCartney to convince people to go vegetarian or vegan.

Situated across from the Museum of Natural History, the display will be in place through Sept. 3 and features 12 large panels that draw similarities between slavery, child labor and female oppression, and animal cruelty in its various forms. It also boasts a large-screen TV playing McCartney’s “Glass Walls” DVD, which gets its name from its tagline, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” The video shows some incredibly horrific and heart-wrenching scenes, enough to put a damper on any passerby’s day – I had to watch the whole thing through my fingers.

Needless to say, PETA is making a huge statement with this. While there are definitely some major flaws and inhumane practices going on in the meatpacking industry, is it necessary to slam the thousands of tourists and residents that cross the Mall daily with such grotesque images?

We asked our followers on Twitter if they though PETA’s display was a bit too much and so far have heard an almost unanimous answer: yes. Nikki Burdine said the display is “a bit disturbing,” and Margarita Noriega responded with a definitive “Yes. A bit too much.” Kayleigh Irby, an intern at the Georgetowner and a vegetarian, responded to the tweet with “Ugh PETA is THE WORST.”

However, I dare say that this is exactly what PETA is going for and from their standpoint, the venture could be labeled a huge success. The longer the display stays up, the more it affects, disturbs and inflames people’s opinions. Positive or negative, any response is, in the end, better than none, right? According to the PETA website, 10,000 copies of the “Glass Walls” DVD were distributed in the first month of the venture alone. The site also tells stories of people who saw the display and vowed never to eat meat again. Couldn’t that be called effective?

One commenter named Carla posted on the PETA saying “Awesome Peta!! Way to go!! If you can change a few minds, it’s all worth it!!”

Please keep in mind that the video below is graphic.

But what do you think? Post your comment below and become part of the buzz.

Ins and Outs


AllSaints Spitalfields
You may or may not have already seen the construction along M St. for this one, but it is well on its way. At 3235 M St. NW., AllSaints Spitalfields will open soon this summer. The British clothing retailer will be adding their international touch to Georgetown’s fashion with their signature bold and edgy pieces.

Babette, located in 3307 Cadys Aly NW, is a nationwide fashion boutique with a collection of original, handmade microfiber pieces, which were inspired by modernist architecture and industrial graphic design. For many Georgetowners, especially those who are always at work and on the move, Babette might be a retailer to take a look at. The clothing pieces are tailored to flatter all body shapes and sizes and to provide comfort and functionality.

Michael Kors
In addition to the many big name-brand stores and boutiques that run along M St. and Wisconsin Ave., Michael Kors will open a new location at 3103 M St. NW, replacing White House Black Market. Known to have spectacular fashion-forward pieces and the hottest looks, the new retail location will be sure to capture the attention of any shop-aholic.

Metro area’s Tallest Building
As one exits the city off of Key Bridge and drive toward the Rosslyn metro stop, you’ll notice some construction at 1812 N. Moore Street that’s been on-going since October 2010. At a whopping 35 stories, Monday Properties will have erected the tallest building in the metropolitan area by the end of 2013.

IMAX at Lowes
The Albert Einstein Planetarium at the Smithsonian isn’t the only place with IMAX. Loews Georgetown 14 (3111 K Street N.W) will soon add IMAX capabilities for those who are willing to pay the extra couple bucks to enjoy the more dramatic experience of movie-watching. No longer will Georgetowners, along with other DC residents too, need to waste gas and travel the distance to Virginia or Maryland for the same viewing. Watch it in Georgetown!


Aditi Restaurant
After 23 years of business, Aditi Restaurant at 3299 M St NW. will be replaced by Grill Kabob. Aditi was the go-to place for anyone with a savory or spicy pallet. Do not fret though, Aditi-lovers. There are multiple locations, so in the meantime, satisfy your curry craving, at Aditi Spice Depot in Vienna or Herndon, Va., or in the food court at Union Station.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center Closed

After 102 years of operation, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center officially closed yesterday with a stirring ceremonial retiring of the hospital’s colors. The Medical Center, which provided care to present and former military members and their families, will relocate, splitting their operations between the newly renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Fairfax by Sept. 15.

This Friday, Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland, commander of the medical center, will transfer her position to Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr.

According to an article by Meredith Somers for The Washington Times, the hospital’s former location, although it consisted of 72 buildings on 172 acres, did not have the space it needed to expand and accommodate the changing needs of its patients. The move has been planned since 2005, when the Medical Center received orders to close from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

At the new site in Bethesda, construction projects have begun to alleviate traffic congestion outside the hospital as an estimated 2,500 additional workers are expected to be commuting to the area each day along with patients and visitors. According to the Chevy Chase Patch, the intersections at Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road, Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road and Old Georgetown Road and Cedar Lane are all scheduled to be improved.

Outerbridge Horsey: An Architect of Georgetown

The name Outerbridge Horsey sounds more like an honorific title than the personal name of a tall, red-headed Georgetown resident who is fond of his job, community, wife and two greyhounds. Yet its bearer, who is the seventh in his family to inherit his name, seems to think little of it, other than the fact that people find it easy to remember. Horsey’s is a well-known name throughout the neighborhood; he is an active and passionate member of the community and is the principal of a Georgetown-based architecture and design firm, Outerbridge Horsey Associates, PLLC.
The firm specializes mostly in residential additions remodeling around the D.C. area, although they do some institutional work. Horsey estimates that he has worked on 15 to 20 houses in Georgetown itself but his work is scattered around the east coast – his most recent project was the remodeling of a house in Nantucket.

Samantha: So what first drew you to architecture?

Outerbridge: I grew up abroad. I grew up in Japan, Italy, Rome, Prague, Czechoslovakia and Sicily. And so I think that laid the foundation. Then when I went to college, my first year of college, I was a classics, Greek and archaeology major. I’d been on archeological digs for a continuous two summers and enjoyed it tremendously; I studied Greek in high school. But when I got to college I found that archaeology in the classroom was not nearly as interesting as it was in the field and I fairly quickly, my first year in fact, migrated over to the architecture program called Designing the Environment at Penn, the University of Pennsylvania, and went on from there.

And then I came back here, I majored in design in the environment – it’s just sort of a mixture of landscaping and architecture, landscape design. And then came back here for a year, took some classes at Georgetown and applied to architecture schools and ended up back at Penn again for my master’s degree. So it’s worked out very well. But I have a feeling all that exposure to, especially in Italy, to beautiful buildings and ruins and even archaeology, sort of, was the foundation.

S: And why have you continued doing it?

O: Because I love it. I’ll never be rich, but that’s okay, I’m rich in loving what I do and I think that’s the most important thing. My wife, fortunately, is interested it and appreciates it and tolerates my love for it. I get up every day and I love to do what I do every day, most of it anyway. And it’s great, you know, there’s always something new. Every client, every site, every project, doing something new so it’s never dull. Not to say there aren’t some tedious times running a business and making sure the little details are attended to by the builders and all that, but the whole process is really pretty enjoyable from the beginning, meeting the client, to seeing the project through construction to finalizing the details and seeing the building emerge. So, it’s fun.

S: What has your favorite project been that you’ve worked on and why?

O: Well, the house in Nantucket is certainly the most memorable one…well, there have been several, actually. The house in Nantucket and the complete redo of a Watergate apartment. I’d never worked on the renovation of an apartment, I’d only worked on new apartments. The house in Nantucket was great because it’s a fairly tight regulatory review process […] so they start very early in providing parameters for new buildings throughout the island in Nantucket. It’s very fortunate that the entire island, I believe, is governed by the town council and all the building departments and so on and so forth – all their regulations apply all over the island.

They started in the 70s and they wrote this book called “Building with Nantucket in Mind,” which basically lays out all the dos and the don’ts and the cans and the can’ts, and it’s really quite helpful. But within that there’s a great deal of flexibility that you can work with, but that sort of gives you the vocabulary. Everything has to be natural, white shingled, and it all works, you can see why they did it.

Have you ever been to Nantucket? I’d never been before three years ago, but all the house sizes are different and there are certain parts of the island that are very dense, but there’s a sort of, not homogeneity, but, nothing jumps out at you, which is important. Other places you go, houses are very different, paint colors are very different, the materials are very different, the aesthetic style is very different, and it can be somewhat discordant. And Nantucket’s not like that. So that was interesting to work within those parameters and working with the Historic District Commission was interesting, it went pretty well, actually, surprisingly, and in the end they thought very highly of the design which I took as a compliment. […]

S: What was your vision for your firm when you first opened it, and have you lived up to that dream or has it changed?

O: I was trained as a modernist at Penn and at the time I came out there was very little modern architecture even in D.C. But the training I had, I guess you could call it a classical training in architecture, and we were both familiar with architectural design and the history of architecture. […] But I ended up, when I went to work in Philadelphia for a year and I came back here knowing I wanted to start my own firm and I worked for a couple of firms doing my apprenticeship for three years.

I think the vision I had was just designing beautiful buildings without any particular emphasis on style or period, design. Traditional architectural design tends to have a stylistic period that they sort of focus on, but I like almost all of them, all the architectural periods and styles, so I’m less concerned about being particular to any one. So designing in a variety of styles and designing some modern buildings has ended up what we’ve done and I’ve been very pleased with that. You know, I’d be nice to do a little bit more modern work and we actually are doing a little bit more now, which is nice. I think the vision is pretty much the same.

It’d be fun to design my own house some time, but I haven’t quite gotten there, I’m not sure that’ll happen. I think every architect wants to design their own house, some are lucky enough to do it, others aren’t.

S: And speaking of your house, you are a Georgetown resident. What do you like or dislike about the neighborhood?

O: I love the area. My wife has lived her whole life in Georgetown so that’s been important but my parents moved here in the early 70s and I was in high school at the time just going to college, so I didn’t really live here the whole time. I came back here for the summers and enjoyed it immensely but I didn’t really live here full time till the early 80s when I came back from architecture school. And I’ve always lived in Georgetown, my jobs have always been in Georgetown. When I worked for other firms, they were both located in Georgetown.

I like the river, I like the parks, I think it’s a pretty remarkable environment in that it offers something, a lot of diversity, to people of all ages. Children to teenagers to young professionals to older people. I think it’s the sense of community, village-like atmosphere. In those days there were a lot more stores that catered to the neighborhood than there are now and that was a nice aspect that has been lost, I think, which is too bad. But what we gained in exchange for that is more vitality in the commercial district, which I think is important, there were always doors shuttered in the old days. And that wasn’t a blight, but there’s a much more vibrant commercial district and that’s good for the community, good for the city, it brings people from the city into our neighborhood which is good too.

When we first were married my first house was up the street here, 31st and N, and our whole sort of outlook was towards the river, walking down there, and we moved five blocks about six years ago, we moved to the north to 32nd between Q and R, and our whole focus sort of changed. It’s now at the parks on the north end of Georgetown, plus we got two dogs so that kind of encouraged that interest in the parks.

S: You’re also a very active member of the Georgetown community.

O: I have been at times, it’s true.

S: And what compels you to speak up, so to say?

O: What compels me to get involved? I guess it’s a disposition, a personal disposition I have. It probably runs in my family to do something for one’s community or public service in some way even though I have my own firm I guess I’m just personally inclined to want to participate and want to help and give the necessary time.

S: What kinds of projects have you spoken up for in the past? You were just featured in the Georgetowner speaking about the Tudor Place and everything going on there.

O: That’s right, I’m trying to find what’s best for Tudor Place in the neighborhood. But I guess the early things that I was involved in, probably the most meaningful ones, were the Georgetown Ministry Center where I was involved for many years. I was president of the board for four years at the very early stages so that was very interesting, it was very much needed, it still is needed and they’re doing a fabulous job now. […]

And the other early initiative was Trees for Georgetown which I helped to start along with two other people, Flow Stone is still around and very involved with various things in the community and Ann Witherspoon who is now living in California. And the need at that time was that the District of Columbia had no money at all for their tree replacement program. Their funds were completely dry, the nursery was empty, and the tree maintenance division of the government was really down to a skeleton staff. And they had the whole city to deal with, so we started to raise money to plant trees and worked hard at it. We got contractors working in concert with the government and it was very successful, we raised enough money to plant empty tree boxes every year. […]

There are other things, I was on the Citizen’s Association Board for five years, so there was a period when I was very involved.

S: But not so much anymore?

O: I did get involved with another board downtown for five years which took a lot of my time but now I’m back focusing on my practice which needs me more than ever in these trying times. [gallery ids="100261,106959,106954,106968,106972,106949,106976,106980,106944,106964" nav="thumbs"]

Warm, Hearty and Healthy: a Fall recipe for you and yours

The first signs of fall are blustering in to the District—the sudden temperature drop, overcast skies, the cold nights, the smell of rain hanging in the air. You spend the workday fantasizing about putting your robe and slippers back on, throwing a log on the fire and curling up for a cozy evening with whomever you hold dear.
It’s no secret that the colder months reawaken the lovebug in us all. Movie marathons and window gazing with your inamorato just don’t do the trick in the summertime. But when the leaves turn to golden brown and the cold wind starts stirring, it’s all you can do to say goodbye.
One ritual near guaranteed to bring couples closer together is cooking a meal together, and fall is full of seasonal recipes that will keep you warm and happy.
But, just like trying to agree on a movie, striking the right epicurean balance can be tricky. Men often tend toward heavier, more savory dishes, while women frequently enjoy eat lighter meals. But with the right ingredients and spices, it’s possible to cook up some fall favorites that will satisfy that craving for hearty dishes and won’t put you in a food coma until next spring.
Chili is a warm, filling autumn staple perfect for those chilly nights ahead. However, with its abundance of red meat and salt, traditional chili recipes are not so perfect for the waistline. This recipe substitutes ground beef for ground turkey, and offers a range of spices in place of an overabundance of salt, so that even though the calories are cut, the flavor is not.
Whether shared with your partner by the fire or served on game day with chips and cornbread, this recipe is the perfect meal for a fall evening at home.
Hint: Experiment with spices! Make this recipe your own. Add less or more of any of these spices or try adding a few extra favorites for a personalized recipe.
Optional: Make your own chili powder. Plump chipotles and any other dried chilies of your liking in a dry skillet then grind into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. This adds a wonderful depth of rich flavor quickly.

Light Autumn Chili

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 small can tomato purée
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans
1 medium can corn
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Serrano chilies
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. paprika
Your favorite hot sauce

In a large pan, sauté the onion, garlic, pepper and chilies in olive oil on medium-high heat until the onions are clear, 3 – 5 minutes. Mix in ground turkey and let fry until the meat is cooked through to the center, about 5 minutes. Add tomato purée, diced tomatoes, kidney and black beans and corn. Mix together, then add the spices and stir. Bring to a simmer, turn to low heat and cover. Cook until corn, peppers and beans are tender and all flavors have melded together, stirring occasionally, at least 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce and serve.

Beloved Environmental and Political Leader Dies

Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, died late Sunday in a Nairobi hospital at age 71, ending a long battle with cancer. She is survived by her three children.

Maathai, an environmental and political activist, was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, an organization that aimed to stop political injustice through creating a healthy environment. Her idea was that healthy forests made lives easier by providing necessary elements for survival such as clean water, thereby lessening people’s need to fight for such resources.

Her ambition lead the Green Belt Movement in the planting of some 30 million trees, prompting the U.N. to pick up her torch in a worldwide movement that saw 11 million trees planted.

She earned degrees from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas, and the University of Pittsburgh before going on to become the first woman to receive a doctorate from the University of Nairobi in 1971 where she later became a professor.

Maathai was both beaten and praised for her determination, fighting for the environment, democracy and women’s rights.

She was on the board of several organizations including the UN Secretary General Advisory Board on Disarmament, The Jane Goodall Institute, Women and Environment Development Organization, World learning for International Development, Green Cross International, Environment Liason Center International, the WorldWIDE Network of Women in Environmental work and National Council of Women in Kenya, according to the website of the Nobel Prize.

Maathai also served as a member of Parliament beginning in 2002 and was soon after appointed Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Recourses and Wildlife in Kenya’s ninth parliament.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

Talkin’ ‘bout my Generation

Samantha Hays Gushner, The Phoenix

The small back office of The Phoenix is a jumble of papers, family photos and brightly colored do-dads. The single overhead light hangs low over the desk, illuminating the dark hair and olive face of Samantha Hays, the representative from the third generation of business men and women in her family. She has just returned to the shop after spending the morning apple picking with the fourth generation.

“I think I always knew I would end up in the business,” Hays says. “There was a time when I was living in Aspen, and I was skiing and I was really having a great time. I was out there for seven years and I thought, ‘You know, I should get back to reality.’ It’s just such a great business, and such an amazing way to live my life.”

The Phoenix was opened in 1955 by Hays’ grandparents, Betty and Bill Hays, who she continues to draw on for inspiration. The two founded the store with nothing but a station wagon full of folk art brought back from Mexico and a bit of business savvy.

“That tradition of travel and working directly with the artists that we buy from is one of the reasons that I am so passionate about continuing in the business,” Hays says. “We have seen communities grow and thrive through the success of the art that they produce. It is very exciting to be a part of that.”
Hays, who started working in the shop when she was 13, now works with the third generation of artists that her grandparents first discovered, as well as newer international artists and retailers.

“I think that because we have been here for so long, the store has an image as ‘that Mexican store,’ when that’s really not the case anymore,” Hays says. “Our heart will always be in Mexico and that kind of relationship is something that we don’t ever want to lose. But I think that what we’ve tried to do as we move forward is let people know that we have this incredible jewelry and clothing collection that isn’t just from Mexico anymore.”

Although she is the next rising generation in the family business, Hays still works very much in tandem with her parents, who each take on separate responsibilities at the store.

“I am fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my parents,” Hays says. “We have great communication and are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other about new lines and the mix that we have at the store.”

Hays largely handles the clothes buying for the store, while her parents buy the jewelry and handle the accounting. Recently, Hays has scaled back her duties at the shop to focus more time on her two children, five-year-old Clara and three-year-old Theo, along with three dogs, two cats and a fish pond to round out her brood.

“There’s a constant feeling of having one foot in both places and feeling like you’re not doing either one particularly well,” she says. “But it seems to work out. It’s nice to have a balance between the two.”
Hays says that one added bonus of working in a family business is knowing that someone is always responsible for the store, whether she’s at home with her family or her parents are gone traveling.
Of course, that’s not to say Hays and her parents always agree on things. During the recent renovations of the store, tension rose around the old peg board on the walls, which her parents thought to be iconic, but Hays thought was no longer functional.

The walls are now painted a clean, fresh white.

Other changes include fresh paint, more functional displays and 30 solar panels that were recently mounted on the roof in keeping with The Phoenix’s message of social consciousness.

The store’s Oct. 15 trunk show and styling event with Eileen Fisher will also be held with a socially conscious theme, as it will support So Others Might Eat, an organization Hays’ grandmother was passionate about.

The Phoenix
1514 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Hope Solomon, Wedding Creations & Anthony’s Tuxedos

Hope Solomon is a fast talker in pearl earrings and a leopard-print blouse.

At 27, she has a thriving career on Capitol Hill in emergency preparedness, is a highly active member of the Georgetown Business Association and makes it clear that she will be taking over the family business sometime soon with no intention of giving up her passion for politics. Most people who know her describe her as a firecracker.

“Anyone that’s been raised in a family business will know that it’s very difficult to sort of kick the parents out so that you can take over,” she says between sips of San Pellegrino. “Like I was talking to Samantha and Karen and we all have the same sort of issues. No matter how much you get your foot in the door, old dad over there, he’ll never retire. I’ve sort of tried to develop my own career while taking over just so I’m keeping busy.”

Five feet away, Ed Solomon, or “old dad over there,” sits working at his desk and doesn’t seem to take offense to this statement.

The Solomon family business, Wedding Creations & Anthony’s Tuxedos, has been open for 34 or 32 years, depending on whether you ask Hope or her father. The business began with Ed and his wife, Gerri, in 1979 when they opened up a boutique providing bridesmaid dress rentals. Eventually, the store moved on from renting to selling bridesmaid dresses and wedding gowns, finally branching into short-notice tuxedo rentals with more than 400 tuxes in stock.

Solomon grew up with the store playing a leading role in her life. Her crib was in the back of the shop, and she spent her days in the store with her dad.

“I’m an only child, so for me this store is like a fourth family member,” she says. “So, no matter where my passions go, this is my number one priority.”

Solomon says that her current schedule is to work her “day job” on the Hill and spend nights and weekends “moonlighting” at the shop. Although this amounts to a practically 24/7 work schedule, she says that she doesn’t recognize being at the store as work because it’s “just something you do.”

The store, which is small and uses “every square inch of space,” according to Ed, gets much of its business from generational customers: families who got their tux or dress there and are now bringing their children in. They refer their friends to the business, and the circle grows. He notes that for as small as their shop is, they rented out 60 tuxedos last weekend.
And the daughter has plans to grow the business further.

“I think the highlight is you have the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want and however you want,” she says. “It’s very different from having worked in the corporate world where you’re given a direction and then you only have the ability to do that. I like the creativity and reaching out to other businesses and the teamwork in Georgetown. That’s what I find just great. Being able to walk across the street and say ‘Hey, I need this from you,’ or ‘I’ve got this idea,’ and everyone sort of chips in and helps.”

Solomon has already begun to bring accessories into the store, making it possible for brides and bridesmaids to shop in one stop, and plans to incorporate more event planning into their services once she starts working at Wedding Creations & Anthony’s Tuxedos more full time. Her idea is to guide brides through Georgetown weddings, highlighting small businesses and the services they offer.
Her goals, however, are not limited to the future of the shop. In her passion for politics she rules nothing out, whether it’s helping others with their platforms or running for a position herself. Her main concerns are for education, as a product of the D.C. school system herself, and the welfare of small businesses. She says that she got her political mind from her father.

“I’m a little Ed,” she says.

Wedding Creations & Anthony’s Tuxedos
3237 P St. NW
Washington D.C. 20007

Karen Ohri, Georgetown Floorcoverings

Karen Ohri, a petite, young blonde, kneels down on the showroom floor of Georgetown Floorcoverings to wipe syrup and pancake crumbs from the face and hands of her 2-year-old son, Jayson.

“I’m ‘ticky,” says Jayson, as his mother gives him a final check before sending him off to play with the carpet samples and few toys lining the walls of the store. Half an hour earlier, he had trailed his mom in to work, announcing to all who would hear that he’d gotten mom to buy him fast food from McDonald’s.

“So, this is a lot of what it’s like,” says Ohri. “There’s good, and there’s bad. You’re always multitasking, Blackberry going off, child screaming in the background, the whole nine yards. But the nice thing, too, is that now the businesses [The Phoenix, Wedding Creations & Anthony’s Tuxedos and Georgetown Floorcoverings] are more established than when our fathers and grandfathers started them.”

Ohri is a wife and mother of three kids, ages two to 13, and is steadily taking on more responsibilities at Georgetown Floorcoverings, the family business which her grandfather first opened their 1417 28th St. location in 1954. Now located at 3233 K St. where they’ve been since 1962, the business specializes in commercial flooring in everything from hardwood to linoleum, although they do some work with residential architects and designers.

Like her father before her, Ohri started to work at the shop regularly as a teenager emptying trash cans, but she helped out around the shop since she was five, answering phones, dusting shelves and labeling samples. In 1998, she began working in the store full time.

As a teenager with two siblings, Ohri never thought she’d be the one to take over the family business. Yet when her brother, the most likely candidate, followed his dream of becoming a firefighter and her sister moved to Minnesota to become a teacher, she found herself next in line.

“I’ve always liked it, but in high school I never thought I was going to run the family business. But as far as my dream job, now it is. I love what I do. And it does allow me some flexibility like bringing this little guy in to work,” she says, patting Jayson who is now slumped against her thigh.

Ohri worked alongside her father, Ronald Swarthout, who is very involved in the business, until last Mother’s Day when Swarthout suffered an aortic aneurism.

“It was the call in the middle of the night you never want to get,” Ohri says. “It was terrifying.”
The family rushed together, her sister flying in from Minnesota that day. Strangely enough, Swarthout had just talked to his doctor about the possibility of an aneurism the day before, prompted by Ohri, whose intuition told her he might be at risk.

“If anything is going to make you get into the ‘what are we going to do in the future’ train of thought, that’ll do it,” Ohri says.

Since then, she has jumped in to take over the payables and many of her father’s other duties. Although Swarthout made a swift and full recovery, Ohri has kept these responsibilities.

“I don’t know if he’s wanting to [retire], but I’ve kind of just continued doing what I’ve started doing because I feel like it allows him to have a life besides thinking ‘every Thursday I’ve got to cut checks and every Friday I’ve got to mail checks,’ ” Ohri says. “It’s been kind of nice for him, I think. And then he’s been travelling. Right now, he’s in Italy, which is huge. He would’ve never been able to go away like this.”

Inevitably, things have changed about Georgetown Floorcoverings since Ohri’s grandfather first opened up shop. The family no longer lives or holds office upstairs in the “Watch Tower,” and her grandfather’s old organ – which he could and did play – is no longer stored in the back room. Yet aside from bringing the business into the 21st century, Ohri is dedicated to keeping as much the same about the business as possible.

“I’m not changing anything besides updating and enhancing,” Ohri says. “I’m not the bratty daughter coming in to change everything and knock down walls. I don’t really want to go and reinvent the wheel too much because dad’s always been a great businessman.”

Most of the changes Ohri has prompted have been aesthetic.

“This is what it looked like before,” she says, whipping out a picture of a dated showroom which, upon second glance, is an older version of the room she’s sitting in now. “We had a tiki-style roof for the samples.”

The warm, muted tones that now decorate the space are aimed at making their residential clients feel more at home in the shop and can use the showroom as a functional space. Yet even without making any major changes, Ohri’s family and business keep her constantly busy.

“The first day of my vacation we went to the beach and my phone rang at seven o’clock in the morning, and my husband said, ‘Why do you even leave it on?’ Well, because you have to! It’s a big responsibility, and I take it very seriously because it is my dad’s reputation and the reputation of the business,” Ohri says. “If something goes wrong with a job, I take it very personally because I just have such respect for my grandfather’s legacy and my father’s legacy. I just want to make sure I keep things going the same way they did,” she says as the youngest member of the next generation plays with stacks of carpet samples, just like his mother remembers doing as a child.

Georgetown Floorcoverins, Inc.
3233 K St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
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Oh Shucks: Best Oyster Bars and Festivals

For true Washingtonians, oysters are more than just a seasonal treat—they’re in your blood. Chesapeake Bay oysters have been a culinary and cultural mainstay for over a century. In the early 1900s, this city had over 150 oyster bars, which were frequented by politicians and day laborers alike. Those salty little pearls, small in size and full of flavor, bring us together, bridging the gap between blue-collar informatlity and culinary opulence. The District is still full of places to indulge our cravings, from Old Ebbitt Grill—where tickets for their Annual Oyster Riot last year sold out in ten minutes flat—to Hank’s Oyster Bar, which offers a half-priced raw bar every night from 11 p.m. to midnight.

And the surrounding Delmarva area is brimming with festivals and restaurants celebrating these briny little treasures. Oysters are in season in a big way, and there is plenty of time left to partake in this regional, epicurean eccentricity. So don’t waste these prime “R” months—head toward the water and try out these seaside bars, shacks and festivals for all the shucking oysters you could ask for.

Oyster Festivals

At the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., you can learn how to harvest your oysters and eat them, too. At the museum’s annual Oysterfest, sample Chesapeake Bay oysters right out of the water while exploring an oyster nursery, learning how to make a dip-net and viewing the museum’s restoration of the skipjack Rosie Parks, which once sailed the bay dredging for oysters.
Attendees will be challenged to an oyster slurping contest, while local chefs will be challenged to an oyster stew-making competition, with the winners of both taking home the grand prize of bragging rights for the rest of the year.

With other activities such as riverboat cruises, face painting, scavenger hunts, a touch tank, live music and cooking demonstrations, there are plenty of amusements for all ages.

There will also be educational opportunities to learn about the bay’s oyster culture, which is not only vital to the ecosystem but also part of the region’s heritage. A century ago, the bay had perhaps the largest populations of oysters in the nation, and though their numbers dwindled enormously due to over-fishing and pollution, they have been making a thundering resurgence over the past decade thanks to rehabilitation efforts and preservation initiatives.

To celebrate Chesapeake Bay oysters, head out to Oysterfest on Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit Cbmm.org.

In a small town in Virginia, the locals are gearing up for the fast-approaching Annual Urbanna Oyster Festival, now in its 54th year. What started as a small gathering to promote the local economy has now grown into a two-day event that draws some 75,000 people from across the region.
The festival features over 125 craft booths, more than 50 food vendors, wine tastings, two parades – the Fireman’s Parade and the Festival Parade – and the crowning of a Festival Queen and a Little Miss Spat. And of course, there will be mountains of oysters, cooked or served raw in their myriad forms.

Attendees can participate in an oyster shucking competition, browse through vendors selling everything from jewelry to furniture, and learn about the rich local history at the Oyster Festival Waterfront. The exhibits will highlight the restoration and preservation of the bay and its oyster industry, while providing live music and cruises. You can even attend demonstrations that will teach you how to be a pirate.

The festival will take place Nov. 4 – 5 from 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. Visit UrbanaOysterFestival.com for more information.

Oyster Bars

If you can’t make it to these festivals, don’t worry—you haven’t missed your chance to sample the best of oyster season. There are plenty of oyster bars surrounding D.C., big and small, white collar and blue, which offer up the freshest catch any day of the week.

In Annapolis, three oyster bars never fail to please an oyster-loving palate: O’Brien’s, McGarvey’s and O’Leary’s.

O’Brien’s Oyster Bar is the restaurant with history. The building has been some form of eatery or watering hole since it first opened as the Rose and Crown in 1744. It has been a tavern, a pizza pie shop, a cabaret, and was even rumored to be a brothel before it settled in its current incarnation as a celebrated seafood haven. Let’s hope it stays this way. Don’t miss out on their Chesapeake fried oysters—they’re the best around.

McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar is the great neighborhood pub. Relax in a casual atmosphere with a beer, an order of their delicious crab dip, and a dozen oysters. Voted Best Bar and Best Raw Bar last June by the Readers’ Choice Awards for The Capital Newspaper, this bar is clearly a people-pleaser. With oysters served raw, steamed and Rockefeller-style, there’s plenty of briny fare to sample.

O’Leary’s Seafood Restaurant is the fine dining restaurant. Enjoy fresh oysters while surrounded by paintings rendered by restaurant owner Paul Meyer himself, whose vision for O’Leary’s “attempts to capture the combination of sophisticated fine dining and ultra-fresh ingredients within a contemporary Annapolis environment.” Pique your appetite with Oysters Italienne, baked with prosciutto, basil, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

In Solomon’s Island, Md., try the appropriately named Solomon’s Pier, which serves the kind of delicious oysters you’d expect from a town surrounded by water. Munch your way through a basket of fresh-fried oysters while enjoying the view through the restaurant’s wide, arching windows overlooking the water.

But maybe you want an expert’s opinion on where to go to get your bivalve fix. Noted chef Jordan Lloyd of the Bartlett Pear Inn, in Easton, Md. has some excellent recommendations. For great oyster shacks, Lloyd says, it’s good to get off the beaten path. He and his wife Alice, who own and operate the inn and restaurant, recommend Brasserie Brightwell Café & Comptoir in Easton, which offers an oyster-loaded raw bar, and The Bistro St. Michaels, whose Oysters Du Jour are always worth the trip.

But Lloyd doesn’t have to go far at all for great oysters – Pear, Bartlett’s restaurant, has its own version of Oysters Three Ways that would knock the socks off even the most critical oyster connoisseur. Pear, which was awarded five stars by Open Table and received a near perfect score across the board by Zagat, serves its guests six Chincoteague Bay oysters, four prepared cold and two hot. The first pair is served cold with pickled shallots and tobiko caviar; the second pair, also cold, is plated with lemon preserve mignonette and ponzu sauce; and the final hot pair is served Rockefeller style with leek fondue and bread crumbs. With such delicious oysters, you might be inspired to spend the weekend away at the cozy inn and try them every day.

To try Lloyd’s Oysters Three Ways for yourself, visit Easton, Md. For reservations, email Reservations@BartlettPearInn.com.
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