The Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store on 14th Street revealed its fall 2013 collection at an event cosponsored by the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Studio Santalla on Aug. 22. Â Randy Fiser, CEO of the American Society of Interior Designers, served as the guest speaker. (Washington Blade photos by Tyler Grigsby) Â
Chanel Turner says her realization that many drinkers view vodka as something to be masked, inspired her to create something that âcould be consumed naked.â
By day, the 29-year-old Queens, New York native works as a government contractor. But since 2009, sheâs been using much of her free time to create, market and sell her own vodka.
It started with about six months of research into what it would take to create a vodka, what kind of base would be used, what kind of distillery would work best and a legion of other considerations. Working with collaborators in South Carolina, the basis for FOU-DRE came out of an eight-month experiment. Turner selected the 88th formula that was sent to her to test and thus her brand, an 80-proof vodka that has flavors of pomegranate, ginger, kiwi and lime infused in it during the distillation process â the flavors in many vodkas are added later, she says â gave her something different.
Turner started selling in January and FOU-DRE is now available in the Maryland/D.C. area. Her company just expanded into New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Look for her Saturday at the g.life expo from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park (2660 Woodley Park Rd., N.W.) where sheâll be offering samples and selling bottles for $35. Visit fou-dre.com for a list of local spirits shops where FOU-DRE can be purchased.
âThis is my baby, this is what I would love to do full time,â Turner, a lesbian, says. âItâs been a family-funded business. My mother helped with a lot of the funding. I have a staff of about 10 people helping me with this and yes, I would like to give it my full attention if possible at some point.â
Turner came to Washington to go to college on a basketball scholarship at Bowie State University when she was 18.
Sheâs single and lives in Upper Marlboro, Md. She enjoys computer programming, working out, cooking and relaxing on the beaches of Jamaica in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Iâve been in the life since the age of 16. The hardest person to tell was definitely my mother.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Describe your dream wedding.
That would be to have all family members present. It will be a wonder if that happens.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Bullying. I grew up witnessing kids from all different walks of life being bullied for various reasons. This is something that really got under my skin and I always felt the need to defend them.
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The passing of Michael Jackson.
On what do you insist?
I insist that people practice truth and honesty no matter what they feel the outcome may be.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
âConfidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.â
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
âThe Come Upâ
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Remain true to self and not become a statistic.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in the heavens, not necessarily in hell. I believe that beyond life here on Earth, there is a paradise. Once our flesh leaves this earth and returns back to dust, our spirit lives on within this paradise.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
That we canât change peopleâs minds but hopefully we can change perspectives. The goal should be to get people to understand us, but they donât always have to agree.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I would run across hot coals to save someoneâs life.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Just because I like women doesnât mean I like ALL women.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Not sure if this would count, but I enjoyed watching Kerry Washington in Spike Leeâs âShe Hate Me.â
What’s the most overrated social custom?
That would be American football.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Best Athlete Award in high school
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had known the power of economics and the stock market at age 18.
Washington gives me solitude. I get a little bit of the city life like New York and I have the option of the suburban life like Florida.
The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has named five individuals and one company as recipients of its 2013 Annual Awards, which will be presented at its April 19 gala ceremony at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington, D.C. Hotel.
âThe awards recognize excellence in business, dedication to community, and development of new entrepreneurs,â the group said in a statement.
âWe are thrilled with the slate of honorees,â said CAGLCC President Ernesto Santalla. âFrom promoting equality in corporate boardrooms to knocking on doors as volunteers, these are people and businesses that are committed to making a difference in the LGBT community.â
The award categories and names of the recipients, as released by CAGLCC, are:
- Excellence in Business Award, honoring long-term achievement for the greater benefit of D.C. metro area and national LGBT community: David Franco, founder of the Universal Gear âchain of menâs retail fashion,â with stores in D.C., New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Rehoboth Beach, Del.
- Business Leadership Award, honoring an LGBT individual for their leadership, accomplishments and example for the D.C. area LGBT community: Christine Delucchi, âwho has drawn on her 30-plus years of marketing and public relations experience to launch two strategic communications firms.â
- Corporate Ally Award, recognizing a non-LGBT business that has made significant accomplishments in partnering with the LGBT community: KPMG, the international consulting firm.
- Emerging Entrepreneur Award, honoring an LGBT individual, group or business that has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and success in new and creative endeavors in the LGBT community: John Caldwell of Malvin, Riggins & Co.
- Community Advocacy Award, honoring an individual, group or organization whose activism has benefited the health, well-being and position of the Washington area LGBT community: Amanda Simpson, âwho under President Obama became the first-ever out transgender woman political appointee.â
- Volunteer of the Year Award, honoring an LGBT individual for outstanding dedication and service to the broader LGBT community: Ashley Smith, âwell-known in the community for his work with both the Human Rights Campaign and the D.C. Coalition of Black LGBT People.â
Friday, April 19
The D.C. Center (1318 U St., NW) hosts a âsilent lunchâ in honor of Day of Silence today at noon. Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT harassment in schools and those who participate in the day take their vow of silence in hopes that their comrades will address the problem. The lunch provides a space for those who are participating and need a silent place for lunch. The Center will also be putting together a âWall of Silence,â made of different quotes and pictures sent in from the community. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.
The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce honors exceptional business leaders in the area at the Mayflower Renaissance (1127 Connecticut Ave., NW) this evening at 6:30 p.m. The awards dinner was created to showcase the impact of LGBT business and community leaders in the Washington region. Tickets range from $175-$465. Visit caglcc.org for more information.
The Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival screens the film âLife In Stillsâ by Tamar Tal tonight at 7:15 p.m. at the Angelika Film Center and CafĂ© (2911 District Avenue, Fairfax, Va.). The film tells the story of Miriam Weissenstein and her grandson Ben Peter as they try to defend their familyâs Tel Aviv photo studio from demolition. Weissensteinâs late husband was the unofficial photographer for Israel and documented the countryâs political and daily life from the 1930s until he died in 1992. Tickets for this particular screening is $11. Attendees can also buy a festival pass for $60. Visit jccnv.org for more information
Life In Stills trailer
The noon-time pipe organ series âMagical, Mystical, Musical Machineâ resumes today at National City Christian Church after going on hiatus in November. The church had to provide restoration to its sanctuary and famed pipe organ as a result of the August 2011 earthquake. This concert will feature organist Kristine Adamaite and saxophonist Artis Semanis from Latvia. This performance is free. For more information, visit nationalcitycc.org.
Saturday, April 20
Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers today at Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation at Falls Church PetSmart (6100 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, Va.) starting at 11:45 a.m. For more information, visit burgundycrescent.org.
The AFI Silver Silent Cinema Showcase (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.) begins today at 2 p.m. and features silent film actors Mary Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Janet Gaynor, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. Tonightâs showcase is âSparrows,â with Pickford starring as the oldest girl of a group of orphans held as slaves in a âchild farmâ in a Southern swamp. Tickets for this screening are $7-$11.50. For more screenings and their tickets, visit afi.com.
Trailer for Mary Pickford in Sparrows
The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop presents âCHAWbaret 10: Take a Chance on Me,â an evening performance featuring pop songs, standards and show tunes that celebrate gambling, taking chances and the risks we face tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 and 8 p.m. at CHAW (545 7th St., SE). The performance features members of the D.C. Cabaret Network, including Amy Conley, Tim Gavagan, Maris Wicker and Dean Reichard. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Visit chaw.org for more information.
Filmfest D.C. continues this evening with the screening of the âThe Paradeâ at the Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave., NW) at 4:30 p.m. The film follows a gay rights march organizer and the prejudiced former soldier he hires to provide security for one of the events. The film recently won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Tickets for this individual screening are $12. Following it is a screening of âLaurence Anywaysâ at Landmark E Street Cinema (555 11th St., NW) at 6 p.m. The film follows Laurence after he tells his girlfriend he wants to become a woman. Tickets are $12. Attendees of the festival can buy individual tickets at each locationâs box office or may purchase the directorâs package, which is 10 tickets for $95, or the weekday package, which is four tickets for $39. For show times, locations and more information about the films, visit filmfestdc.org.
Laurence Anyways trailer
Sunday, April 21
Special Agent Galactica hosts her show âAcross the River!â at Freddieâs Beach Bar (555 S. 23rd St., Crystal City) from 7-9:30 p.m. tonight. The show begins in the era of gin and juke joints, Vaudeville and Sinatra, and ends with rock and pop acts. Admission is free. For more information, visit pinkharedone.com.
Monday, April 22
The D.C. Center (1318 U St., NW) holds coffee drop-in for the senior LGBTÂ community today at 10 a.m.-noon. The Center will provide complimentary coffee and a community to chat with. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.
Bears do Yoga is this evening 6:30 p.m. as part of a series at the Green Lantern (1335 Green Court, NW). This is part of a basic yoga series that takes place every Monday and is open to people of varying body types and experience. There is no charge. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.
Tuesday, April 23
Capital Pride and the D.C. Center host âA Toast to Pride Happy Hourâ at Lost Society (2001 14th St., NW) this evening at 6 p.m. The venue evokes an underground, Victorian atmosphere. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.
Green Lantern (1335 Green Court, N.W.) hosts its Safer Sex Kit-packing program tonight from 7-10:30. The packing program is looking for more volunteers to help produce the kits because they say they are barely keeping up with demand. Admission is free and volunteers can just show up. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Wednesday, April 24
Whitman-Walker Health (1701 14th St., NW) holds its HIV+ Newly Diagnosed Support Group tonight at 7. Itâs a confidential support group for anyone recently diagnosed with HIV and the group welcomes all genders and sexual orientations. Registration is required and attendees must call 202-797-3580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For details, visit whitman-walker.org.
Thursday, April 25
Eight-time Grammy winner Gladys Knight brings her rich soulful voice to the Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md) tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $58-$128. For details, visit strathmore.org.
Gladys Knight – Love Overboard
Martha Stewart gives a lecture on learning, teaching and inspiring others to do what they love and enjoy at the Smithsonian Craft Show today at 11 a.m. at the National Building Museum (401 F St., NW). This particular event is $50 to attend and has limited seating. The festival continues until Sunday at 5 p.m. General admission is $15, a two-day pass is $20 and special group rates are $10. For more information, visit smithsoniancraftshow.org.
The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards dinner at the Mayflower Renaissance on Friday. Honorees included Amanda Simpson, David Franco, John Caldwell, Ashley Smith, Christine Delucchi and KPMG. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen) Â
The clothes have changed since the first store opening 20 years ago.
As Universal Gear celebrates its platinum anniversary on Saturday with an all-day customer appreciation event, serving Champagne and cake and giving away $20 gift cards with purchases of $100 or more, one trend is still in vogue. The menâs clothing establishment remains a landmark commercial enterprise and an ever-popular retail destination for menâs casual dress and athletic wear.
The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce this month honored co-founder and owner David Franco with the organizationâs 2013 âExcellence in Businessâ award. In accepting the honor at the CAGLCC annual dinner last week, Franco noted that the longtime success of the business âis measured by the relationships we develop and the sense of community with those we serve.â
On Saturday, April 24, 1993, during the weekend of the âMarch on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberationâ that attracted nearly a million people to the National Mall, the first customers lined the blocks outside a new clothing store catering to gay men. Located above the former Trumpets Restaurant and Lounge at the corner of 17th and Q streets, where Franco was also a business partner, the then-named Off Gear was at the epicenter of the cityâs gay business district in the Dupont Circle area.
Once inside, seasonal âclub wearâ offerings of the era were quickly snatched up â a pair of âDaisy Dukeâ frayed-hem denim shorts, printed vest or tan nubuck construction boots with stripe-accented white athletic socks among them â in preparation for going out later. In fact, Franco recalls the wildly successful store launch as akin to a nightclub opening.
With D.C. overflowing with locals and visitors for the gay rights event, it was a momentous chapter in local LGBT history and a frenetic time for Franco. Launching the store in less than six months with then business partner and former architect Keith Clark, now an artist in Ft. Lauderdale, the entrepreneurial duo sped toward a grand opening coinciding with the equality march.
Franco additionally served as co-chair of the âSpring to Lifeâ mega-dance party at the Old Post Office Pavilion that night benefiting the march and AIDS research. He was also a partner at the time in the legendary former Tracks nightclub that hosted round-the-clock events throughout the weekend.
After a brief foray adding womenâs fashions at a second suburban Rockville location that prompted a name change to Universal Gear, the original store expanded to include an upper level in 1996. Refocusing exclusively on menswear, the addition of successful stores in Chicago, Atlanta and the first of what are now two New York City locations over the next five years followed. A Rehoboth Beach store opened in 2011.
Seismic cultural shifts including gradual dissolution of âgay ghettosâ and growth in online shopping options, along with the recession, led to store closings in Atlanta and Chicago after a decade of brisk business. In November 2008, the D.C. store followed its customers to Logan Circle, opening a spacious retail space in a new mixed-use building on 14th Street. A second Manhattan location was launched in Hellâs Kitchen last spring. In-store celebrations are scheduled at all four current locations.
The D.C. store will move north on 14th Street in December to storefront space in a new residential building being built near U Street by the real estate development firm Franco operates with a business partner.
Proud of this weekendâs milestone, Franco leads Universal Gear into a third decade adapting to, and reflecting, the constant changes in the marketplace of fashion â and the communities it serves.
Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.
An unlawful entry charge filed by police in October against D.C. gay business leader Mark Guenther will be dismissed in four months if Guenther successfully completes community service work under a deferred prosecution program approved Dec. 13 by a D.C. Superior Court judge.
D.C. police charged Guenther, executive director of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, with entering a male neighborâs apartment without permission at 3 a.m. on Oct. 26.
A police charging document says Guenther emailed the neighbor to apologize for his action shortly after the neighbor, who was in bed, told him to leave the apartment. Guenther lives in an apartment across the hall from the neighborâs apartment in a building on the 1400 block of Chapin Street, N.W., according to the charging document.
At a Dec. 13 court hearing, Judge Marisa J. Demeo approved a joint request by Guentherâs attorney and the prosecutor that Guenther be admitted into what officials call a deferred prosecution-diversion program involving community service work. Demeo left in place her earlier order that he stay away from the neighbor whose complaint led to the arrest.
The judge scheduled a status hearing for April 12, when she is expected to dismiss the charge after determining that Guenther fulfilled his obligations under the program.
Guenther and his attorney and the complainant have declined to comment on the case.