Ins & Outs: Green Almond Pantry, The Lantern, Sandlot, Budd & Co., L. Priori
Georgetown Senior Center at F. Scott’s for Fundraising and Founder, Virginia Allen
Robert Devaney • June 29, 2012
The Georgetown Senior Center, headquartered at St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street, held a fundraiser May 9 at the legendary F. Scott’s restaurant, part of the Clydes Restaurant Group, on 36th Street. Hosted by Sally Davidson, John and Ginger Laytham and Lila and Brendan Sullivan, the happy group celebrated the center and its founder, Virginia Luce Allen, who died in 2009 and whose birthday is May 10. The center’s fundraising campaign has reached about $15,000 for its programs and services, which includes its popular lunches and lectures at St. John’s Blake Hall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Neighbors are invited to participate, whether as cook or guest, or to assist with the center’s day trips. To donate your time or money, visit GeorgetownSeniorCenter.org, or call 202-316-2632 [gallery ids="102451,121113,121119,121130,121124" nav="thumbs"]
The Georgetown Inn at 50 Celebrates Its History, Plans Renovation
Mary Bird • June 18, 2012
Fifty years after the Georgetown Inn opened to the public, its new owner is planning a multi-year renovation of the 96-room property, located at 1310 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. The hotel will throw a birthday party for itself and friends on June 6.
Nayan Patel of Your DC Hotels purchased the hotel in November 2011. The upcoming renovation will be welcome news to those who remember the glory days of the Four Georges restaurant and piano bar, where pianist Mel Clement, bassist Louis Saverino and Julian Allman held forth, often accompanied by visiting artists from the Kennedy Center or National Theatre. Allman played his signature “Alley Cat” on a Stradivarius stolen from Carnegie Hall. That discovery made the front page of The New York Times when his widow followed his instructions to inspect the violin case after his demise and found the evidence.
Sheldon Magazine, president of American Mortgage Investment Company, built the Georgetown Inn, which opened May 20, 1962. Welcoming the first guest Peter Caruso, vice president and general manager Collins Bird threw the key across the driveway manned by “Tex” Aldridge in full livery and said the doors would not be locked again. After Collins retired in the early 1980s, the doors were abruptly locked during a peremptory shutdown in 1991 with Tex still at the helm. But—back to better days.
In 1968, a young Herb Miller brokered the sale to Collins Bird and several partners. The hotel offered unique luxury for its day. A Washington Dossier magazine article acclaimed, “After Blair House, the Georgetown Inn on Wisconsin Avenue is probably D.C.’s spiffiest place to go for bed and board.” The hotel was later lauded by Fortune magazine as “A Way to Escape the Washington Stockade.”
A third generation hotelier, Collins Bird intended to return to his job a general manager of three hotels in Georgia after the Georgetown Inn opened but instead stayed on for 30 years and became synonymous with the property that welcomed many notables, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Charles and Ann Morrow Lindberg, Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum, many Kennedys and the cast of the film, “The Exorcist.”
The Inn was the Washington base of the original Mercury astronauts who became personal friends. Collins had a tailor on call to add new honors to the astronauts’ uniforms, as they obligingly signed photo after photo of their exploits. It was a sad occasion when friends gathered at the Inn for an Irish wake honoring astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who were killed in a fire during a prelaunch test of Apollo 1 in 1967.
Another frequent guest was Hubert Humphrey, who framed an enormous key from the “frozen Chosun” hotel in South Korea for “his favorite innkeeper.” Once again, Collins made certain that the former vice president’s family was pampered when they arrived for Humphrey’s funeral. The banquet room was filled with treats for all ages. In a gentler era, the Secret Service was pleased when Humphrey visited the hotel because the exits could be easily guarded.
At the height of the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins rivalry, the Inn hosted then Cowboys owner Clint Murchison and his entourage. There was always a lavish party in Potomac with an unending fleet of limousines ferrying guests from the hotel and back. Collins held a pre-game brunch replete with a bus and police escort to RFK Stadium. One year, the bus waited for a late-arriving Elizabeth Taylor.
The first time the Four Georges closed for a private party was to celebrate Playboy magazine’s “The Girls of Washington.” David Chan took a number of the photos upstairs at the Inn. Party guests included the then-infamous Fanne Foxe, who had jumped out of the car of Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.) for a dip in the Tidal Basin, and Elizabeth Ray, who famously did not take dictation from Rep. Wayne Hays (D-Ohio).
Harry “Doc” Dalinsky was a treasured fixture at his Georgetown Pharmacy at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and O Street, half a block from the hotel. He was a character, a cigar connoisseur and a confidant. The drugstore was a favored hangout of Ben Bradlee, Art Buchwald, David Brinkley and Herb Block. Collins started sending bagels and coffee to the pharmacy as people fetched their Sunday newspapers. A New York Times article on Doc’s Sunday brunch brought an overflow crowd to the consternation of the regulars.
For all its glamour quotient, the Inn was foremost favored by Georgetowners who could find a civilized haven with good food, drink and music. When you heard, “Let’s go to the Inn,” you knew it would be fun and you would see familiar faces, both locally and perhaps internationally known.
The Georgetowner often wrote about the Georgetown Inn and Collins. A sizable portion of the September, 8, 1977, issue was devoted to the lead story by Suzie Gookin, headlined “Collins Bird to Marry.” I was that lucky person. We had 23 wonderful years together. Collins had been quoted as saying that his previous two marriages had ended in divorce with both ex-wives citing his hotel as “the other woman.” The third time must have been a charm, unless you count the hotel, making me the fourth wife.
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Finding Passion in His Soles
Michelle Kingston • May 17, 2012
Stepping inside the Running Company near Key Bridge in Georgetown as a runner is like stepping in to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for candy lovers. The space might be small, but the contents inside are top-of-the-line shoes and apparel to make every runner’s experience on parkland paths or marathon routes not just a success but a stylish race, right on time for spring.
Much of this can be credited to the store’s manager, Edoardo Rincon, who says he cannot imagine working anywhere else. “I’ve been doing this for almost ten years, and I don’t think I want to do anything different,” he said.
An avid trail runner while growing up in Colombia, Rincon brings personal expertise to the shop on the corner of 34th and M streets. All his wisdom comes from his passion for the sport and the time he has spent experimenting with gear from different companies.
“Find what you like to do, and you never have to work. A lot of people like to run but do something else for work but not me,” he said.
For almost ten years now, Rincon has helped communities around the globe find the right pair of shoes and articles of clothing for the sport. He also puts on races all along the East Coast, including a 5k race each December back in South America.
Once a week, the company has experienced athletes lead nightly runs around the area. “It is great for people who are new or don’t know where to run, what is safe,” he said. All paces are welcome to join in on the three- to six-mile loop on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
Rincon is also a huge supporter of the non-profit, D.C. Road Runners. While proudly wearing one of its t-shirts, Rincon says that the organization offers training programs for beginners to highly skilled runners.
He hand delivers shoes to children back in Colombia twice a year and sends shoes through the mail to his home country as well as to Africa whenever he receives a phone call that someone is in need. Rincon says people are encouraged to drop off their old sneakers at the store so that they, too, can help make a difference.
“Changing people,” he said. “You know, that’s my favorite thing about working here. The people in the community and the feeling that I’m changing a lot of lives for the people here.”
“A lot of people think I own this store,” he said laughing. “I don’t.” He just simply loves what he does.
For more info on running, visit DCRoadrunners.org.
Get the Potomac Off This List
Saturday evening we stood out at the terrace of the Kennedy Center and watched canoes and boats move serenely on the Potomac River, the spires of Georgetown University and the lights of Washington Harbor in the near distance.
It was a bucolic, beautiful scene, one which inspired admiration for the river if you were inclined to think about matters like that. One thing you weren’t thinking was that the Potomac–the “Nation’s River”–was in serious trouble.
But according to American Rivers, a non-profit organization that helps protect America’s rivers and which yearly lists and issues a report on the country’s ten most endangered rivers, the Potomac River is the Most Endangered River for 2012. The causes: urban and agricultural pollution.
It’s not that the river hasn’t been maintained properly or that the Potomac isn’t cleaner than it was before. It’s because it’s the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, which may be in danger of having Congress roll back critical water safeguards. American Rivers is of course a group, as its president, Bob Irvin, said, that will try to “get decision-makers do the right thing”, which would be to preserve all possible safeguards.
We concur. The Potomac, our river here in Washington, and the nation’s river, will keep right on rolling. It needs to do that without being in danger of more pollution. Let’s get the Potomac off the Most Endangered List
Ins & Outs 5.16.12
MIKE ISABELLA’S BANDOLERO SET TO OPEN MAY 24
It is official: Bandolero, the long-anticipated restaurant at 3241 M Street, where Hook once stood, will open May 24, proclaims its website. And it adds, “Bandolero is a modern Mexican restaurant in the heart of Georgetown. Chef Mike Isabella is the chef/partner behind the taco-centric, margarita-laden menu. Bandolero is owned by Pure Hospitality LLC, including veteran restauranteur, Jonathan Umbel. The two-story, 5,000-square-foot, high-energy space reflects a Day of the Dead motif, and plenty of bar space to imbibe. The menu showcases classic Mexican dishes with untraditional flavor profiles, including dips served with housemade chicharones and masa crisps, tacos, taquitos, enchiladas, empanadas, albondigas and carbons.”
LIGNE ROSET RE-OPENS IN GLOVER PARK
Just up Wisconsin Avenue, the contemporary furniture store Ligne Roset has re-opened in a shiny, hip locale, close to Whole Foods and Vice President Joe Biden’s back gate. The French company held a May 3 grand opening reception, which was headlined by its own executive vice president, Antoine Roset, of Roset USA Corp. at the new retail showroom at 2201 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., along with new business partners in designers David Zein and Olivier Valette. DZein Studio is along the same ground-level space as well. The exclusive, freestanding Ligne Roset showroom features items from the company’s extensive catalog. One thing is for sure: architect Christy Schlesinger wants that red sofa.
‘MAD MAN’ DINNER PARTY AT PEACOCK CAFE
Peacock Café and Fashiontographer will hold a one-night-only dinner event, May 23, featuring entrées from the “Mad Men” era to benefit the Shoot for Change Scholarship at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre. The theme for the event is 1950s, 1960s or “Mad Men” inspired. For $60, Peacock Café and chef Maziar Farivar will offer a three-course menu, inspired by the “Mad Men” era, that includes Oysters Rockefeller, classic Beef Wellington and homemade cannoli. Fashiontographer’s executive editor, Walter Grio, will be taking photos of guests for the online fashion editorial, “District of Fashion.” Photos will be featured on fashiontographer.com. The after party will be at L2.
JP’S NIGHT CLUB RETURNS TO STRIP
According to Hyperlocal Glover Park: The new owners of JP’s Night Club (2412 Wisconsin Ave.) intend to return nude dancing to the club’s long-vacant former home. Paul Kadlick, a representative of the ownership group, discussed the group’s plans at the May meeting of ANC 3B. JP’s operated as a strip club from 1986 through January 2008, when a fire destroyed its original building. In the intervening years, the building has been replaced and the business sold. A group of neighbors and the ANC opposed the dormant club’s liquor license renewal last year. Though the license was renewed, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board did impose new limits on the club in the process, forbidding it from offering live entertainment before 5 p.m. [gallery ids="100795,124379" nav="thumbs"]
The Water Street Project Kicks Off This Week
Marit Fosso • May 3, 2012
The Water Street Project Space is a temporary art gallery located at 3401 Water Street N.W. in Georgetown that will run from April 19 to April 29 showcasing their newest creative concept by No Kings Collective and plans to be a premier cultural anchor displaying 15 featured artists. The exhibition will be open to the public daily from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The project will also host nightly events and musical acts including a few highlighted below:
Thursday, Apr. 19: PechaKucha Night- A networking event for young designers to meet and show their work in public from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in a fast paced format to present concisely and rapidly.
Friday, Apr. 20: The Water Street Grand Opening- Free and open to the public, this night will showcase the artists, the core collaborators of the project.
Saturday, Apr. 21: Listen Local First- a local music initiative promoting local musicians and venues, will present acts from artists Les Rhinoceros, Shark Week, Akshan and Silver Liners. These concerts are free and open to the public.
Thursday, Apr. 26: The WW Club will celebrate menswear, featuring a whiskey tasting and burlesque performances.
Please visit thewaterstproject.com for more information and a full list of events.
Georgetown Business Forum displays delicate balance between community and local business
In Georgetown, business always tends to be a balancing act. When your neighborhood is a college town, a high-end retail district, one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Washington, and home to a vibrant nightlife scene, it can be difficult to move around without stepping on anyone’s figurative foot.
On July 13, the Georgetown Business Association and the Georgetown Business Improvement District hosted Georgetown Business Forum on D.C. Nightlife and Hospitality. The Forum included community and business leaders from all sides of the Georgetown Nightlife industry from business owners and District government, to neighbors and Georgetown University. In addition to being very informative about how all these parties interact in this area, the forum highlighted the many different parties and voices that have a stake in the nighttime hospitality industry in Georgetown.
After the panelists introduced themselves, Georgetown business leader Janine Schoonover led a discussion that highlighted the current state of business and relations between community leaders. Concerns about regulation, competition with new developing neighborhoods, fake IDs, and the future of Georgetown were leading topics of discussion.
To set the tone, Anthony Lanier, president of EastBanc said “All I know is that my grandmother told me never get involved with a business that takes place in the dark.”
Skip Coburn, Executive Director of the D.C. Nightlife Association believes that collaboration is essential to retain the balance between those who live in Georgetown and those who come to Georgetown. “We all have to pitch in to make this successful,” he said.
In a statement made on July 23, Coburn wrote, “There are certain neighborhoods in the city in which the pendulum has perhaps swung way too far toward having too many ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control Board] establishments at too much expense to the residents, with resulting traffic, parking, noise, and other problems. There is an economic development aspect as well. Do more ABC establishments attract customers and business to a neighborhood? Or, do newer, more-creative, imaginative, higher-quality ABC establishments attract business patrons to a neighborhood?”
In the past decade, other neighborhoods in Washington have developed their own nightlife scenes; U Street, H Street, Gallery Place, and Logan Circle attract a quickly growing group of young professionals living in the city. Reliable standbys can retain a clientele, but it can be hard to compete when new neighborhoods with exciting new restaurants to be explored.
Paul Cohn, President of Capital Restaurant Concepts which includes Neyla, Paolo’s in Georgetown and Georgia Brown’s, thinks that Georgetown needs to loosen up or risk losing business to other neighborhoods. Cohn discussed how the voluntary agreements restrict restaurants, and that it can be easy to break the law without trying. He also said that it is too difficult to physically get people in to Georgetown, and its lack of Metro is a handicap. He also does not want Georgetown to be a tourist trap.
The regulation of licensed bars and restaurants was a large point of discussion. Leading off, Fred Moosally, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Association, stated that his main concern is controlling underage drinking and fake and fraudulent ID usage. ABRA also stays on top of businesses so that establishments licensed as restaurants meet the requirements of one. Captain Gresham of the Metropolitan Police Department in Ward 2 echoed Moosally’s concerns, stating that proper education about spotting fakes is essential as fake IDs become more sophisticated. This February, approximately 20 fake IDs were seized at Third Edition.
Business leaders like Britt Swann, owner of Rhino, Modern, Serendipity 3 and Sign of the Whale, brought up concerns that the regulation of fake and fraudulent IDs is too harsh on businesses, and not hard enough on those using them. Swann stated that the costs of dealing with a fake ID charge can reach up to $6,000. “We have to be responsible for other people’s behavior,” he said.
“Restaurants are made to pay a heavy price for something happening on their turf that is not condoned, approved, endorsed or in any way desired by the business,” wrote Greg Casten, operations director for the family-owned Tony & Joe’s, Nick’s Riverside Grille and Cabana’s, in a statement on July 22. It is most important that a spirit of accountability should be taken with the individual. “This would be wonderful to begin seeing – the perception now is the restaurateur gets punished and treated like it was his intention to serve the minor, like he has criminal intent in mind when serving such.”
Cohn believed that Georgetown is doing well as it is now. “We’ve matured,” he said. “We used to be edgy.”
According to Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, there were approximately 102 restaurant liquor licenses in Georgetown when ABC put its liquor license moratorium in place in June 1988. For example, Wendy Furin, co-owner of Furin’s Bakery on M St., says that there was concern of so many bars and restaurants being close to the Washington International School, which then occupied the Philips School at 2735 Olive St. The moratorium was “a much needed step to halt the rapid deterioration,” wrote Altemus.
Last June, ABC ruled to continue the liquor license moratorium for five more years, but added seven liquor licenses to raise the total number to 68. According to ABRA’s ruling, ANC2E stressed the importance to preserve the moratorium in order to “preserve peace, order, and quiet in the neighborhood.”
A variety of different businesses applied and received these new licenses. Existing businesses, like Tackle Box and Puro Café, are now able to serve alcohol in their current establishments. The owners of Café Bonaparte will be opening Lapis. Other new licensees include Spin DC and Paul’s Bakery, a café on Wisconsin Avenue that is currently under renovation.
Perhaps the most interesting on the list was Hu’s Wear, a designer clothing store on M and 29th Streets. Eric Eden, co-owner of the shop, says that when they heard about the additional liquor licenses, they sprung at the opportunity to apply for one, which, at the current rate, was nearly once in a blue moon. Eden says that they will be opening a restaurant and bar next door within a year in the location where Bartleby’s Books stood until a few weeks ago.
Other voices from the community understand that doing business in Georgetown is tough, but that such care is needed to protect the neighborhood. “We can be successful while being mature,” said Linda Greenan, associate vice president of external affairs at Georgetown University.
ANC2E SMD 05 Commissioner Bill Starrels says that Georgetown has evolved greatly over the years, and that the community is strong.
Ins and Outs
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.
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!
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.
Georgetown’s Cake Boss
When Furin’s closed on July 31, Georgetown lost a landmark eatery. After 27 years, the family owned caterer and deli decided to close due to rising food prices and the economy. Over the years, Furin’s has gained the reputation of having some of the best baked goods in Washington. Chris Furin, son of Owners Bernie and Wendy Furin, is continuing to sell his signature-style cakes under his new business, Cakes by Chris Furin.
When Furin began working at the family business at the age of 13, the cakes were always more traditional, shaped like circles or rectangles. Over the years, shows like “Ace of Cakes” and “Cake Boss” inspired customers to ask for more exciting shapes.
“For example, one woman called and asked for a cake that looked like their dog. I’ve even made cakes that look like beer cans. If people have a favorite wine, I can make a cake that looks like the bottle. People’s requests get more outrageous by the week.”
Furin’s new business is based out of his home, which he has set up as a commercial kitchen in his house. He even has the bakery chef at Furin’s helping part time.
“You can get a cupcake on every block in Georgetown, or you can get a cake at Safeway, says Furin. “My cakes create memories.”
Furin says that closing the restaurant has been difficult, and will miss the neighborhood gathering place. “I’ve seen billionaires walk in the door and I’ve seen homeless people too.” [gallery ids="102539,120036" nav="thumbs"]
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.
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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