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The business of a broadening pride in equality

corporate, gay news, Washington Blade

Enterprise takes as much pride in standing with us as we do in joining with one another and a supportive community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay Pride celebrations across the country this summer have offered a unique reflection of an astounding moment in time. Now part internal community celebration and a simultaneous measure of external engagement and broader public affirmation, these annual events have increasingly become more party and less protest.

In D.C., some have casually predicted that the local Capital Pride festivities will soon involve attendance by as many non-gay area residents as the high-profile Halloween-themed “High-Heel Race” now does each October on 17th Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Others wonder whether gay participation in Pride events will begin to diminish in coming years, especially in localities like the District where the LGBT community enjoys a full complement of civil equality and commonplace community embrace.

The annual Pride Parade on Saturday that kicks off the early June weekend in the nation’s capital each year has gradually become at least as well-attended as the next-day downtown Festival and a broadly shared community-wide event. More than ever before, this year an entire city and metropolitan area took notice of the dual events amid a wave of unprecedented local media coverage, community news features and special publication and broadcast profiles.

Businesses large and small, and national and local, are the major event sponsors and primary financial underwriters.

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

The accelerating nationwide acceptance of lesbians and gays alongside political approval of same-sex relationships and marriage equality has heightened the focus of the larger community. With distinct national majorities now in full support of gay rights and approving of our relationships and right to marry should we so choose, locally it seemed an entire city wanted to share in a commemoration of that development. It was essentially “gay weekend” for everyone, unlike any previous iteration.

Of course, all of this might be merely a temporary phenomenon, perhaps a collective exhale that local and national culture has progressed to dominant status with normative acceptance of gays and lesbians within a framework of equal treatment under the law as the new societal standard. The larger citizenry’s involvement in marking this advance may end up mirroring our own declining and potentially growing disinterest in this tradition of memorialized revelry.

For the time being at least, broad civic engagement and corporate sponsorship of these annual Stonewall-saluting events will remain substantial and business engagement is likely to grow even more prominent. As notable as the increasing corporate participation and brand affiliation with Pride events has become, it represents an overall explosion in general marketing to the gay community year-round. While prior national outreach to gays and lesbians was largely limited to alcohol and other specific product categories with already-established consumer and venue relationships, commercial communication now involves an enlarged spectrum of commerce.

Especially significant, no longer is this association narrow in breadth of exposure or limited to being “dog-whistle” in nature. It is direct and non-ambiguous, as well as pervasive, utilizing images as authentic as our lives today. Conveyed with the nonchalance it should be, corporate outreach is now an ordinary marketplace activity.

Companies have caught on that the benefits of reaching out to a wide range of diverse market segments without hesitation or hidden from others includes the gay community. Businesses understand the value of target-specific communication, whether a national or local product or service. Nowadays it also reaps benefit within other demographics by signifying a contemporary cultural affinity critical to creating a positive brand image reflective of modern mores.

Cultural codification through corporate encouragement rivals even the impact of legislation, as it empowers the community change in attitude that paves the way for it.

Corporate America and local businesses alike are strong allies for equality. Enterprise takes as much pride in standing with us as we do in joining with one another and a supportive community.

That’s important to business and is the part of winning that should make us proud.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

02
Jul
2014

Home loan service Apex

Franckie DiFrancesco, gay news, Washington Blade

Francki DiFrancesco (Photo courtesy of DiFrancesco)

Fresh from a Sirius/XM Radio appearance last Saturday, longtime community personality Francki DiFrancesco fast personifies the passion fueling her successful career. The knowledgeable local mortgage banker at Apex Home Loans had finished discussing new lending regulations and was eager to talk the trade.

Facts and figures, however, aren’t what propelled the 45-year-old Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist (CMPS) to the pinnacle of her profession. That came with dedication and an instinct for customer service first honed as a popular local bartender and women’s nightlife event producer.

“If you can’t trust your bartender,” she jokes, “whom can you trust?” Working ‘back-in-the-day” at former nightclub Tracks and prior restaurant-lounge Trumpets on Dupont Circle’s 17th Street taught the value of an attentive ear and art of personal confidences. “Mortgage lending is more than just loan rates,” she explains, “people need to feel comfortable along the way.”

“Assisting a client should feel like I’m sitting in their living room,” says DiFrancesco, adding that her “goal is to always bring information on how to best structure a purchase or refinance a loan.” “It’s one of life’s most important financial decisions,” DiFrancesco emphasizes, “and it should be with a trusted adviser who understands their situation and future financial goals.”

In her earliest days in the business, clients would pick up mortgage documents at her bar at Trumpets. “I was their friendly gay mortgage banker,” DiFrancesco recalls. “Back then, client couples didn’t want to explain their relationship to a stranger in order to acquire ‘joint on title’ status and develop survivor arrangements,” she explains. “I was one of the first to handle same-sex couple loans.”

DiFrancesco, now a long-established Senior Mortgage Banker at Apex Home Loans headquartered in Rockville, Md., is a top producer at the award-winning firm. Apex was recently named “Best Small Business of the Year” in Montgomery County following national recognition as among the “Top 100 Mortgage Companies in America.”

Last year she handled 133 home loans totaling more than $45 million, highest volume by other than firm principals. Mission success at Apex, however, isn’t calculated in dollars – it’s measured in customer satisfaction.

Her recently launched “Francki’s Rock Bottom Rates” Facebook page provides testimonials. While mortgage processing oftentimes ranks alongside undergoing a root canal, DiFrancesco’s client commendations prove it can be otherwise. Credited with making it “easier than buying a refrigerator,” plentiful praise reaps a steady stream of referral and repeat business. Both individual borrowers and real estate agents laud her attention to the details leading to inking final documents.

DiFrancesco services D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Rehoboth Beach – as a direct lender. That’s an important distinction, she points out, allowing for an expedited process and independent underwriting brokers can’t provide. “There aren’t many who can handle all the steps,” noting her additional certifications throughout Delaware and New Jersey, with Pennsylvania and Florida licensing pending.

“Many banks don’t do business with brokers,” she notes, “they prefer to deal with mortgage bankers. We understand the local market and know our clients. We provide personalized service, handle credit vetting and hold the initial note.” That level of “customer relationship speeds up the process, allows us to shop for better rates among banks and provides the best solution for borrowers.”

Having raised two children with a former partner, DiFrancesco will soon share her Gaithersburg, Md., home with Dr. Tammy Anderson, a University of Delaware sociology professor. They met several years ago at a Mautner Project benefit while DiFrancesco was relaxing at her house in Rehoboth.

“Home is the place we feel most secure, where memories are made,” DiFrancesco says. Her clients quickly discover she loves helping them acquire theirs.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

29
Jan
2014

Aesthetic of the good life

Leslie Apgar, Pura Vida, business, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Lesile Apgar takes a holistic approach to patient care. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Schoolteachers and diplomats, men and women, young and older alike have discovered a unique aesthetic skin care and anti-aging oasis north of Washington. The holistic approach of founder Dr. Leslie Apgar and her five-person staff has engendered a loyal and devoted patronage throughout the metropolitan area and beyond.

It takes only a moment talking to the effervescent Dr. Apgar to discover her zeal for patient care and commitment to encouraging the health and happiness of her clients.

Apgar launched Pure Vida Medspa & Cosmetic Laser Center a little more than five years ago, in addition to a hospital medical group practice in obstetrics and gynecology. A board-certified physician for 10 years, the 45-year-old Apgar sought an opportunity to evolve her professional focus and was inspired by the encouragement of patients.

Although providing non-surgical treatment at Pura Vida, employing a minimally invasive cosmetic approach, it was Apgar’s skill as a surgeon that impressed her patients. “Skin is the largest organ of the body,” she points out, “and my incisions were always good.” It was that attention to the physical results of surgery that prompted Apgar to open the award-winning cosmetic laser center she leads.

Specializing in advanced aesthetic and anti-aging procedures, the business takes its name from a Costa Rican salutation translating as “the good life.” The Seattle-born Penn State medical school graduate infuses her practice with a distinctive desire to assist those seeking to enhance their appearance and maintain healthy skin. “We promote a natural approach,” Apgar notes, “to soften the blow of aging.” “None of us on staff wears makeup,” she says, “healthy skin is what is really beautiful.” Referrals for plastic surgery are available for those requiring or desiring surgical treatments.

Located at the upscale Maple Lawn Town Center off Columbia Pike north of D.C. in Howard County, Md., nestled midway between Washington and Baltimore in Fulton, clients are drawn to the personalized approach and modern technologies employed at the center. An inviting light-filled ground-level office provides a fitting introduction to Apgar’s patient-centric practice. A relaxation room, consultation office, and private treatment spaces adjoin the spacious concierge area’s soothing earth tones and wood plank flooring.

A complementary consultation initiates identifying and evaluating patient areas of concern – whether laser hair removal, brown spot elimination, skin peels or microdermabrasion, cosmetic facial fillers and toxins for wrinkle reduction and fine line elimination, laser skin resurfacing, vein therapy, acne or rosacea treatment, diet and weight management or a range of other specialties. A distinctive feature is utilization of a Visia complexion analysis unit, described by Dr. Apgar as “the Bentley of skin appraisal.” This technology allows for a detailed age-comparative survey of skin condition.

Laser treatments are key to advancements in effective skin care, a therapy for which Dr. Apgar and her colleagues are specially trained. “What is scary are the spas without trained physicians, especially those using lasers,” Apgar cautions, highlighting the importance of professional staff skilled in equipment and procedures.

Pura Vida Medspa has continued to invest in cutting-edge technologies and laser treatments providing significant benefit and impressive results. A recent advancement in permanently eliminating chronic sweating using the non-surgical miraDry procedure is available and popular. An additional specialty is expertise in treating all skin colorations, a surprisingly unique capability that distinguishes Apgar’s facility and services.

Apgar continues to split her time with the hospital group, but dreams of expanding Pura Vida Medspa into a comprehensive holistic health center, allowing for the integration of a full complement of care.

The beauty of Dr. Apgar, a self-described “down-to-earth sweats-and-tee-shirt kind of gal,” is she’s likely to reach her goal.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

10
Mar
2014

From the Farmer to you

From the Farmer, gay news, Washington Blade

From the Farmer’s weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When From the Farmer co-founders Nick Phelps and Jason Lundberg rolled out their unique Washington area enterprise three years ago, business began on a modest scale. It was a fitting launch for a farm-to-consumer purveyor linking small regional food producers with urban and suburban dwellers by providing affordable home delivery of fresh produce.

Their veritable weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of diverse top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting, as well as handcrafted bakery breads and specialties such as organic honey.

Service is offered without time-length contract commitments and is easy to turn on-and-off digitally with as little as one-day notice when necessitated by personal plans or travel. From the Farmer has become the premier service of its kind for a broad delivery area spanning D.C., Baltimore, Howard County and most of Montgomery County in Maryland, and a wide expanse of Northern Virginia locales.

Custom-made, high-quality insulated picnic-basket-style frame-and-fabric collapsible containers branded with the company logo are delivered to apartments, homes and workplaces on a designated weekday, recycling the previous container. These farm-to-kitchen packages arrive between midnight and 7 a.m., preceded by an email reminder listing six-to-10 stocked food items for menu planning.

“Transport traffic is easier” in the pre-dawn hours, explains company vice-president Phelps, allowing “more deliveries per hour. Temperatures are coolest at that time in the warm weather months and no one is waiting around for a delivery – it’s there to pick up when you wake up.”

A customization option allows specifying “none, normal or more” of each weekly item in “half, single or double bushels.” Company website “FromTheFarmerDC.com” illustrates sample volume bounties of beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, zucchini, arugula, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, cantaloupe and cucumbers.

The entrepreneurial duo, in their late-20s and friends since Colorado college days, share backgrounds in business and a passion for food – both contributing to the company’s growing stature and success. Lundberg, company president, handles financial accounting and back-end operations. Phelps concentrates on sales coordination, and customer experience and service management.

Following a two-year “beta phase” start-up, the company grew rapidly in the past year while simultaneously generating extraordinary customer satisfaction. In-house delivery fulfillment and direct interaction have been essential to maintaining patron loyalty.

“Handling all aspects of service with care and attention has been very important,” notes Phelps. Staffing has grown four-fold to meet market demand in recent months, with 21 employees and plans for adding 10 or more by the end of the year.

Five staff members currently work in downtown D.C. while others receive and sort foodstuffs, prepare packages and dispatch deliveries from a suburban warehouse. The entire staff will soon be joined at a larger Beltsville, Md., combined warehouse and office facility. In addition to allowing more efficient operations and growth potential, the new space will provide an on-site test kitchen to develop recipe suggestions in advance of each week’s harvest.

“It’s really important to be able to see and touch the food every day as it comes in from partner farms,” stresses Phelps. “The only thing I enjoy more is visiting and talking with local farmers.”

Nowadays “a few thousand customers” enjoy the fruits of their labors and that of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania farmers. “The hardest thing for local farms of 200 acres or less is how to get their products out and sold,” says Phelps. “Our goal is making good, local food more accessible and supporting the regional farm economy.”

More than that, Phelps emphasizes, the entire From the Farmer team strives to create “real long-term sustainable change” in the quality of food on home plates.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

31
Jul
2014

Stop counting cranes – it’s embarrassing all of us

cranes, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

Instead of counting cranes candidates, how about telling us how you’re going to improve the business and development environment in our city. (Photo by Kathryn Rotondo; courtesy Creative Commons)

Counting the private sector construction cranes hovering over the city in recent years has become a sort of political blood sport in D.C. Arguing over ascribing political responsibility for them is one of the sillier debates in an otherwise lackluster mayoral campaign.

Embarrassing, too, because the answer is simple. D.C. politicians don’t deserve much credit for them.

It makes as much sense as believing they’re also due homage for recent and continuing population increases. As if people move here for the high taxes. Or households with children decide to relocate to the District for the quality and performance of the city’s hyper-costly public school system. Uh-huh.

The real question they should be asking themselves and challenging one another over is how they might best get out of the way so that the number of cranes might actually proliferate.

The irony is that a shift in focus to eliminating the city’s infamously arcane obstacles to development, density, and business and economic growth would have real benefits. Improvement in those arenas would provide more needed housing that would allow continued population growth, mitigate upward pressure on housing prices to improve the city’s affordability, create more jobs particularly for low-skill and entry-level workers most in need, and expand the city’s tax base to generate the public monies officials are so wont to lust over and freely spend.

Outdated zoning laws, obtuse development restrictions and obsessive approval regulations the city has largely retreated from fixing – instead proposing only modest and inadequate revisions inching forward at painfully slow pacing – are no help, either. Why aren’t voters hearing any bold proposals for reform in these areas?

The time-consuming and costly hurdles that developers must surmount, and the outsized powers of interference wielded by tiny groups of objectors and special interest citizens associations, exact extraordinary delays incurring exorbitant costs that also encumber finance sourcing. Parking build-out requirements alone add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of both residential and commercial units. This further inflates sale prices and rents in an already housing-expensive city and inhibits growth in the number of locally originating small businesses.

To sit down with local developers and owners of small and moderate sized community businesses to discuss the impacts of counterproductive city regulations and counterintuitive processes is instructive. It does, however, require packing a lunch and bringing a seat cushion – the tales they’ll tell are not only frustrating to absorb, they take a while to recount in full.

Try not to get them started on detailing the cumbersome and complex regulatory administration by an improved yet still languid and unsympathetic city government bureaucracy that too often appears to delight in exacting pain for pleasure. Otherwise, bring a lantern, too. This little chat will run long and late.

In a city brimming with national politicians who suffer from more-than-adequate delusions that government is the source and provider of all things good, it is to be expected that local candidates are drinking from the same well of hallucinogenic liquid. That, however, doesn’t make obsessive crane counting appear any less foolish.

Mayor Vincent Gray deserves much of the let’s-play-this-game blame on this. As is all-too-natural for incumbent politicians, independent market development progress occurring on one’s watch is commonly embraced for political benefit. The mayor often exalts in a current tally of the exact number of cranes jutting skyward across the city at any given moment. He tasks an executive staffer to keep contemporaneous count.

Less forgivable are Gray’s re-election challengers righteously claiming either greater personal responsibility or assigning credit to prior administrations. Some among the four D.C. Council members challenging Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary have more of a tendency to do so, but they all engage in this gamesmanship to one degree or another.

Instead of counting cranes candidates, how about telling us how you’re going to improve the business and development environment in our city.

That’s what we’re counting on.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

29
Jan
2014

A family of food and farm

Josh Hahn, David Winer, EatWellDC, gay news, Washington Blade

David Winer (on right) and his nephew Josh Hahn are the force behind EatWellDC.

When David Winer recounts the launches of the five EatWellDC restaurant group establishments he doesn’t note openings by year. He identifies how long each has been in operation, as if doting on the ages of offspring.

It’s a fitting quirk for the serial creator of affection-winning restaurant-bars with a welcoming “family feel” extended to employees and patrons alike.

Winer, originally from the Boston area, enjoys 30 years in the industry – first honing his hospitality skills at a Back Bay restaurant. His employer partnered in Winer’s inaugural Miami Beach restaurant in 1993.

Josh Hahn, Winer’s nephew growing up a block away in Newton, Mass., worked at an upscale gourmet carryout and caterer while in high school. Completing a business degree at Emory University in Atlanta, Hahn came to D.C. 12 years ago to join the staff at his uncle’s first local venture. Grillfish restaurant, opened in 1996 at 21st and M streets near Dupont Circle, has remained popular for seafood specialties and American fare in a relaxed setting.

Featuring elevated ceilings, wood textures, warm colors and eclectic accents, the casual environment and cuisine would serve as a model for subsequent eateries. Logan Tavern, opened in 2003 off a desolate-at-the-time 14th Street corridor, was followed by now-named Commissary in 2005. Both are prominent fixtures on the 1400 block of P St., N.W.

“We were busy from opening day” at Logan Tavern, recalls Hahn, “so busy that I had to splash water on my face every so often.” It was the “right concept at the right time,” he says, noting that the venue quickly won the loyalty of locals eager for dining and socializing spots during the area’s then-nascent re-emergence. “We were able to give the neighborhood something it wanted,” affirms Winer, “and it helped the area grow.”

“Everyone thought I put together something magical,” Winer says, “but it was just something lacking and appreciated.”

“The neighborhood needed so many things,” Hahn adds, “we helped accommodate the desire for a consistently reliable and value-oriented” product that contributed to “a sense of community.”

The duo, with partner Tony Oquendo, next looked north to open The Heights in 2008, at the commercial corner of 14th and Kenyon streets in Columbia Heights. An expansive outdoor patio and light-filled interior pub-tavern ambience have made it an area mainstay.

This spring will mark the second anniversary for the newest addition to the EatWellDC family of restaurants. Usually “fiddling with a concept” for several months, Winer figured the evolving plethora of 14th Street dining options suggested something “very special, very unique.” The Pig, at 1320 14th St., offers a distinctive nose-to-tail “pork-centric menu with eccentric fare,” says Hahn. “It’s a completely different concept.”

Several years ago Winer, frustrated by the lack of reliable availability of locally sourced organic produce, found a 13-acre farm for sale in La Plata, Md., an hour outside the city. EatWell Natural Farm, initially a hard-labor-of-love, now supplies in-season vegetables, greens, tomatoes, herbs, orchard fruits, vine berries, and beehive honey. A new greenhouse extends the growing season and produce variety.

It’s taken significant investment to grow the farm, Winer points out, “but we’re committed to sourcing produce from our farm and other sustainable growers.” He notes that proteins are ethically raised, free-range and organic.

Employing nearly 200, “our staff become like family,” Winer says, “and represent an incredible cross-section,” noting many have been with the company nearly 10 years or longer. “By expanding,” notes Hahn, “we can provide opportunities to grow into new leadership positions” while serving the community.

Winer, helming the enterprise with Hahn handling managerial details, adds, “We’re always thinking about the next opportunity.”

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter:@MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

19
Mar
2014

Tax refunds for same-sex couples

refund, gay news, Washington Blade

If an employer included the value of a spouse’s healthcare coverage as an item of income on the employee’s Form W-2, the employee should ask the employer for an amended Form W-2 excluding that amount of income.

By NANCY ORTMEYER KUHN

The Internal Revenue Service recently clarified the steps needed for same-sex spouses to claim a refund of taxes paid, if one spouse included the other spouse in a healthcare plan, and the employer’s contribution for that coverage was reported by the employer as income. The couple must be lawfully married under state or D.C. law in order to claim the refund.

In a letter from the IRS to Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, the IRS indicated that if an employer included the value of a spouse’s healthcare coverage as an item of income on the employee’s Form W-2, the employee should ask the employer for an amended Form W-2 excluding that amount of income. Spousal healthcare coverage by an employer is not taxable to the employee.  Using the amended Form W-2, an amended Form 1040 should be filed claiming a refund for the excess taxes paid.

If the employer refuses to issue an amended Form W-2, the employee can complete Form 4852 and check the box indicating the employee received an incorrect Form W-2. The employee should then subtract the value of the healthcare coverage from gross income and report the adjusted amount on Line 7 of Form 4852.  The employee can then determine the correct tax on the modified amount of taxable income, and file an amended Form 1040 requesting a refund.

If the increased wages were also subject to Social Security tax, i.e., if the increased wages were below $113,700, then a refund for excess Social Security taxes can also be claimed by filing Form 843, including all attachments listed in the instructions for Form 843.

A tax refund may be claimed if a tax form claiming the refund is filed within three years after the date the original tax return is filed or within two years after the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. Generally, April 15 of the following year is considered the payment date, regardless of when the tax return was filed. Therefore, refunds could be claimed for the 2012 through 2014 tax years if employers included the value of spousal health insurance in the employee’s income during any of those years. Copies of the relevant forms may be found at www.irs.gov.

Additionally, as highlighted in a recent case filed in District Court in Massachusetts, tax savings may be found by filing amended tax returns for prior years with the “Married Filing Joint” filing status if a “single” or “head of household” filing status had previously been used.  The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and alleges unequal treatment as compared to similarly situated opposite sex married persons. See Horowitz & Vigorito v. United States, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-12839 (D.C. Mass. 7/2/2014). IRS Revenue Ruling 2013-17 states that for federal tax purposes, the IRS will recognize a marriage of same-sex individuals. To be valid, the marriage must have been entered  into in a domestic or foreign jurisdiction whose laws authorized same-sex marriages, even if the couple resides in a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage. Thus, the tax refund claimed in this lawsuit should be forthcoming without the need for extended litigation.

The contents of this article are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This is part of a series of monthly articles by Jackson & Campbell on legal issues of interest to the LBGT community. Jackson & Campbell is a full-service law firm based in Washington with offices in Maryland and Virginia. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Nancy O. Kuhn at 202-457-1621 or nkuhn@jackscamp.com. If you have any questions regarding our firm, please contact Don Uttrich, who chairs our Diversity Committee, at 202-457-4266 or duttrich@jackscamp.com.

01
Aug
2014

Harridan men’s wear pop-up shop in Baltimore

 

Saint Harridan, Pop-Up Tour, clothing, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Saint Harridan)

Saint Harridan brings its Pop-Up Shop Tour to Embassy Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor (222 St. Paul Pl., Baltimore) tonight from 7-9 p.m.

Saint Harridan is a fashion line that designs men’s suits for women and transmen’s bodies. The line started in December 2012 after a Kickstarter campaign was created. Suits and dress shirts are available for purchase off the rack or made-to-measure.

Admission is free. The shop is also open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. For details, visit saintharridan.com.

30
Jan
2014

A personal FITness place

Michael Everts, FIT Personal Training, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Everts refers to his business as an ‘institute of higher learning’ for fitness. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FIT Personal Training founder Michael Everts refers to his business as an “institute of higher learning” for fitness more than an exercise gym and workout center. That distinction has proven key to the success of the soft-spoken 38-year-old owner’s enterprise, located on the lower level at the corner of 17th and Q streets in the Dupont Circle area.

Always knowing he “would work for himself,” Everts launched what is now “the oldest personal training gym in Dupont” at 1633 Q St., N.W., in Dec. 2002. The high-profile spot at the center of the 17th Street commercial strip garnered immediate attention. “There weren’t a lot of similar options when I opened FIT,” Everts recalls.

It was his fitness philosophy, however, that attracted clients to the one-on-one personalized approach he offered, initially as the sole trainer. Everts now employs 14 part-time and full-time trainers assisting a diverse clientele that has evolved alongside neighborhood demographics.

Specializing in individualized instruction for clients with a wide range of objectives, Everts has assembled an experienced staff roster. “Our trainers have comprehensive knowledge, allowing us to teach people how to work out with a plan covering all aspects of health, exercise and fitness,” Everts emphasizes.

Hiring professionals with “very strong academic credentials,” Everts employs trainers with a minimum five years experience and multiple accreditations. “I know how much I’ve learned,” he adds, “and continue to learn about all areas of fitness. We’re not a place that checks exercises off a list, instead designing strategies for achieving goals.”

“Most new participants come from referrals,” he notes, “but we also get a lot of walk-in inquiries from people who have seen our sign or website and heard good things about us, as well as those working in the surrounding area.”

Everts – who serves on the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Nutrition – has a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Rehabilitation Science. His credentials include certification both from the American College and the National Academy of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise and National Endurance Sports Trainers Association. A former college athlete with a background in physical therapy, Everts is a NASM-certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, holds an Advanced Exercise Nutrition Certificate and is a CrossFit L1 Trainer.

He personally introduces new clients to the compact well-equipped facility, featuring both free weights and other equipment ideal for use at home or when traveling, and that “provide diversity in muscle recruitment.” Everts sits down for a complimentary one-hour meeting to discuss goals before setting up a schedule with a dedicated trainer. Optional in-home sessions and on-site workouts in residential gym facilities are also available.

One of those trainers is Alvaro Maldonado, domestic partner to Everts, and director of local non-profit dance-theatre company Ballet Teatro Internacional. Maldonado’s training in both classical and modern dance expanded expertise in stretching and alignment techniques.

The couple met shortly after Everts opened FIT and they now live above the gym in the mixed-use building with their two surrogacy-born children. In addition to training clients, Maldonado assists with administrative tasks and marketing projects. They share childrearing duties for five-year-old son Paolo and five-month-old daughter Sasha.

The motivation for Everts to provide guidance to those focusing on their wellbeing is exemplified in his obvious pleasure ducking out of the gym to meet Paolo after his pre-K classes at Ross Elementary School a block away. “The best bang for your buck,” Everts says, “is investing in your health and not being limited by coordination, alignment, or core strength.”

It’s the kind of fitness that allows him to playfully lift Paolo up as they walk home from school together.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow him @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

25
Mar
2014

Districtologie of design

Zach Sherif, Districtologie, gay news, Washington Blade

Zach Sherif plans to open Districtologie on Sept. 26. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

When Districtologie opens in late September near the Union Market food and retail warehouse emporium, the emerging enterprise will represent the eclectic design vision of founder and “curator” Zach Sherif. The freelance interior designer – also celebrated for his hand-blown glass chandelier creations ­– will soon launch a collaborative retail venture filling the expansive light-infused ground-floor level of the Union Arts building at 411 New York Ave. in a rapidly developing section of Northeast Washington nearly at the center of the District.

Set to christen the operation with a grand opening party on Friday, Sept. 26, Sherif has assembled a diverse array of local designers, sculptors, painters, photographers, antique purveyors and other creators and collectors whose works and goods will be available for purchase. Retail vendors will establish separate display vignettes throughout the large industrial loft-like space, featuring concrete floors and exposed lighting and ductwork below 14-foot ceilings.

“It’s not unlike the Meatpacking District in New York City,” the 52-year-old Egyptian-born and Manhattan-raised Sherif explains, “a place to discover unique, unpredictable and unfamiliar local and global resources and artist-produced items for living and home melded together in one place.” In addition to retail sales, handled by on-site management staff, the venue will provide an opportunity to connect with creative businesses for custom orders and contract design projects. Participating artists and vendors will serve as “a resource to one another” as well as to clientele, Sherif adds.

Carpets and textiles from Silk Road Traders, Central American pottery from Mundo Village, “up-cycled” home furnishings and furniture pieces from Yeatman & Levin, vintage clothing and fashion items alongside curiosities from Old New Collectiv, and Sherif’s own District Lighting Works are among those whose goods and collections will enliven the gallery-style environment. A multitude of items for modern living offering an unusual blend of cultural influences from the past and present and from nearby and across the globe will be offered.

Affordability is a key component, notes Sherif. An emphasis on “exceptional quality well-priced” is his customer objective. Goods will be suitable for spacious home interiors or the compact condo or apartment of nearby neighborhoods – in a wide range of price points and product types. Sherif has set a goal of incorporating diverse local talent and welcoming a broad cross-section of customers.

This dynamic new cooperative retail undertaking is as natural a blend for Sherif as the signature interior decorating style for which he has long been known. It is symbolized by the Bloomingdale neighborhood home interior he and husband and commuting New York telecom company executive Paul Cerruti spent a year renovating. A Parsons School of Design graduate with a degree in social science and fine art, Sherif has explored how art and visual elements affect the psyche and the psychology of media and color throughout his 25-year career.

Growing up in New York reveling in its diverse culture with classmates and friends from far-flung places while attending the United Nations International School, Sherif’s design inspiration reflects his personal history. The former fashion journalist, restaurant owner, creative director, publication editor, film and music video producer and business proprietor achieved professional interior design prominence by contrasting contemporary and classic elements from around the world for residences, resorts, boutique hotels, as well as the occasional office and restaurant.

Moving to D.C. five years ago, Sherif fell in love with the openness to the sky and the city’s energy. Now the world-wise and well-traveled designer’s home, he hopes to contribute to the cosmopolitan style of the place with which he and Cerruti have fallen in love.

For details on the Sept. 26 grand opening event, contact Districtologie at 202-271-3836.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

14
Aug
2014