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by Daniel Levitt — July 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm 543 1 Comment

MidCity Dog Days

MidCity Dog Days is set to return to the Borderstan area this weekend.

The annual neighborhood sidewalk sale will take place this Saturday and Sunday on 14th Street NW from Thomas Circle to Florida Avenue NW and along U Street from 7th to 17th streets NW.

The sales will start at 9 a.m. and last until 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Though the festival started in 2000 with six businesses, more than 70 business are expected to show up this year. Participating retailers include Home Rule, Lee’s Flower Shop, Crown Pawnbrokers and Urban Essentials.

MidCity Business Improvement District Formation Director Aaron DeNu says the event has become an area tradition.

“The Dog Days Sale and Festival has been a central unifying event that brings together otherwise disparate efforts,” DeNu said in an email.

“We’re excited to continue this tradition and expand upon its base in the future.”

MidCity BID is a nonprofit that aims to create and explore business opportunities in the area.

by Tim Regan — July 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm 311 0

Hobbit House, photo via EstatelyA distinctive-looking property near Adams Morgan and Meridian Hill Park is now for sale.

The 952-square-foot home at 1732 V Street NW, known for its small doors and squat appearance, can be yours for $749,000, according to real estate website Estately.

The home sits along a row of properties known to some locals as the “hobbit houses.”

Some of the property’s history was previously chronicled on Ghosts of DC.

The home is being sold by realty company Thos. D. Walsh. Read the full listing summary below:

Wow! Location, location, location! This home is in the Sweet Spot. Steps to Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and U St. Metro, restaurants, shopping. Walking distance to 2 metros. Federal style w/great bones. Being sold “AS IS.”

Image via Estately

by Jared Holt — July 8, 2015 at 11:45 am 4,978 14 Comments

buildings-8

A longtime family-owned Caribbean restaurant and lounge has left U Street.

The Islander last week set sail from its location at 1201 U St NW after 46 years of operation.

The closing follows the June departure of “Da Queen” Chef Addie, who worked as the restaurant’s chef since its opening in 1970.

A Borderstan reporter met The Islander owner Curtis Green yesterday afternoon, but Green said he’d rather comment at a later date.

Green did not say what might replace the business.

by Jared Holt — July 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm 501 1 Comment

Joel Pollack Big Planet Comics

Big Planet Comics founder Joel Pollack loves to be compared to Jeff Albertson, the comic book guy from the Simpsons.

“Oh, you mean my idol,” he says with a laugh.

But in many ways, Pollack, who opened the first Big Planet Comics location in Bethesda 29 years ago, has surpassed his role model.

Since founding the company’s first shop, the 65-year-old comic seller has grown the company to include its own in-house publishing company and four locations — one of which resides in the upstairs space at 1520 U Street NW.

That store, along with its sister locations in Bethesda, Vienna and College Park, celebrated the company’s 29th birthday last weekend with a big sale.

Over the years, Pollack says his clientele has changed.

Though comic collecting was once thought of as the chosen hobby of basement dwellers, its appeal has grown to include businesspeople, educators and families.

“I’ve had many parents come in and thank me for getting their kids interested in reading again,” says Pollack.

When will Pollack stop selling comics? That’s debatable. But he adds the shop is doing so well that it might just outlive him.

“I still have people shopping with me from day one,” says Pollack. “I wish I was as healthy as the business.”

Image via Big Planet Comics’ Facebook Page

by Jared Holt — June 30, 2015 at 12:45 pm 0

Audiophiles who crave the warm sound of vinyl records with their coffee at Songbyrd Record Cafe have a new place to roost during the evening.

Songbyrd’s new bar and restaurant, Songbyrd Music House, located adjacent to the cafe at 2477 18th St. NW, opens tonight at 5 p.m.

The new bar will feature an exposed brick wall, wood paneling and a long bar that stretches through much of the space.

The Music House will be open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Like the cafe, the bar will be closed on Monday.

by Tim Regan — June 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm 0

14th and R streets NWLuxury brand Shinola will open its permanent store at the intersection of 14th and R streets NW in the summer or fall of this year, a media spokesperson for the company said.

Shinola currently sells upscale — and pricey — leather goods, bicycles, watches and other accessories out of a pop-up location at 1534 14th St NW.

As noted by the Washington Post in October, the building, a mixed-use development, was formerly occupied by the Central Union Mission shelter.

Central Union Mission is now located at 65 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

by Jared Holt — June 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm 246 2 Comments

Riccardi Clothier

The Dupont neighborhood will soon lose another local business.

Riccardi Clothier owner Alex Brown says his store, located at 1300 Connecticut Avenue NW, will move to its original location in Georgetown in just three days. Why? Because the rent is just too high, says Brown.

Brown has sold of Italian suits and fashion consultation from his storefront since it moved there from Georgetown five year ago.

He admits business on Connecticut has been lackluster for a while.

But Brown also says he’s glad his menswear store is moving, primarily because his going-out-of-business sale has helped him sell more suits than he’s sold in months.

And there’s another silver lining: At least the store won’t have to worry about  wayward chicken odors from when The Chickery opens next door.

by Jared Holt — June 23, 2015 at 2:20 pm 100 1 Comment

Fadi Khalaf is worried a new law could send his business up in smoke — or rather, vapor.

Three months ago, Khalaf opened M Street Vape on the second floor of 1821 M St. NW and began selling e-cigs, the electronic vapor devices sometimes marketed toward people quitting smoking.

Khalaf stocks the glass counters at the front of the store with handheld vaporizers that vary in shape and size. He also sells nicotine-infused e-juice in flavors that have names like “Superman’s Ice Cream” and “Rotolo Di Zurca.”

Though his products contain no leaf tobacco, an amendment in the D.C. Council’s proposed 2016 Fiscal Year budget would tax them as if they did.

The proposed amendment would tax vape products under the “other tobacco products” category, meaning vapor products would see a 70% tax at wholesale — the same rate as cigarettes. Premium cigars, which are defined as cigars costing more than $2, are still exempt from the 70% tax

Khalaf said the new tax would force prices increases that would largely outweigh his appeal as a boutique retailer, especially since most of the equipment and e-juices are already cheaper at online retailers.

“It’s already hard enough to open a small business,” Khalaf says. “For the local government to potentially shut my store down, with such a high tax of 70%, is unbelievable. It’s just going to drive customers across the bridge or online for their business.”

Khalaf said he feels the tax isolates small vape shops like his own. In fact, he offers discounts to customers who call and advocate against the tax.

He’s fearful that the new law would drive vapor stores out of D.C., leaving behind only major corporations who can absorb the cost with e-cigarette brands  such as Blu and Njoy.

“We’re just small shops,” Khalaf says. “All those cig-alike companies you see in convenience stores are owned by big corporations. While [D.C. Council is] going for the big corporations, they’re throwing us out of the market.”

It is still unclear how the District plans to enforce the law on out-of-state wholesalers, which Khalaf and many other vapor shops uses to source their wares.

D.C. Council is scheduled to make its final vote on June 30. If passed, the law will go into effect Oct. 1.

by Jared Holt — June 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm 562 0

Thrill-seekers in the U Street neighborhood will have a place to rent scooters starting this weekend.

Andre Esser and his crew at U Scoot are revving up for their grand opening at 12 p.m this Saturday at Vermont and U streets, steps away from the U Street Metro station.

Though the store is currently open and selling merchandise, Esser says it will not start renting out its 20 electric-blue bikes until Saturday.

Rentals work like this: Customers with a valid driver’s license and credit card are allowed to ride the bikes wherever the included gallon of gas in the tank can take them. Esser said he only asks that customers stay in the District, even though the bikes can travel up to 100 miles on that gallon.

Tentative rental rates are $25 for one hour, $49 for three hours and $99 for a day, but that those prices are still being finalized. Rates will go up to $39 per hour during prime time hours from 6-12 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Esser says his goal is to have over 100 scooters at the new location within a year.

In addition to renting out scooters, the store also sells folding electric bikes, helmets, clothing and locks.

Esser says he hopes his business will bring a new crowd to the U Street neighborhood.

“Having an added attraction down here is going to bring in people who might not usually come to U Street,” Esser says. “Where they might usually go to Adams Morgan or Georgetown, now they might come rent scooters for an hour or two and then they’ll go have dinner on U Street.”

by ARLnow.com — June 16, 2015 at 3:15 pm 0

Hemphill_BorderstanBorderstan is back and once again bringing you local news from around the community.

To celebrate our relaunch, we are for a limited time offering a special deal for advertisers. Advertise with us and support our local journalism, and we will support a local nonprofit or cause of your choice with a free ad.

It’s our version of the famous TOMS shoes promise and we’re planning to continue it as long as there’s ad space available. Whether it’s the PTA bake sale or a large charitable organization, we will help you get the word out about their good work — and your business.

For more information about our affordable rates and innovative advertising options, check out our advertising page or contact Sam Dennis at [email protected] or 703-348-0583.

by Tim Regan — June 1, 2015 at 3:00 pm 448 2 Comments

It’s easy to overlook Monarch Novelties.

Wedged between coffee and cocktail bar Slipstream and and an organic dry cleaning store, the shop’s faded, cracked sign looks messy in comparison. Two hand-lettered signs on the front door read, “RING BELL.” Four stuffed hippos wearing jester caps, an inflatable Tweety Bird, and a jovial, bug-eyed Santa Claus sunbathe in the store’s cloudy storefront window.

To some locals, the run-down shop is an eyesore.

“I can’t wrap my head around how it’s stayed open,” wrote a PoPville forum user last June. “Are any of [these buildings] slated to get torn down and rebuilt into new condos? Or will this block lag behind the rest of 14th for all time?”

But inside the shabby shop overshadowed by luxury condos and flanked by trendy bars lies a wealth of history and an assortment of odd items that are hard to find elsewhere in D.C.

Douglas Robinson, Monarch’s owner, is always the first person patrons see upon entering. From behind a small table cluttered with pads of paper, a rotary phone and a worn-down cash register, Robinson buzzes in customers, then watches them with an unwavering gaze. From time to time, he rises from his chair to follow shoppers as they browse, presumably to make sure they’re not pilfering raffle ticket rolls, plastic party hats, old postcards, finger traps or vintage political buttons inscribed with slogans like “I Hate Everybody,” and “Go Go Goldwater in ’64.”

The eclectic assortment of wares often prompts patrons to ask whether they’ve wandered into a store or a private residence. But Robinson, who actually does live above the store, always replies the same way: “You can shop here, as long as you have green currency.”

Many of the store’s wares come from garage sales, roadside stands, and going-out-of-business bargains. And those items are likely cheaper than you’d find elsewhere. Vintage buttons, for instance, sell for between $2 and $5 apiece. Postcards decorated with the portrait of President Nixon are fifty cents.

On a street where a night of cocktails might cost as much as a new pair of shoes, that’s quite a bargain.

Robinson, who’s lived in D.C. for 64 years,  also likes to dispense historical knowledge. “President Johnson used to go to mass at the National City Christian Church,” he says softly to a patron holding a Lyndon B. Johnson inauguration button. “This city has gone through its ups and downs. Lots of changes.”

Of course, Robinson has his quirks. For instance, photography is strictly forbidden in the store. He also has a unique and quiet way of speaking, so it’s not always easy to understand what he says.

Fathom Creative founder Drew Mitchell has lived and worked in the building next to Monarch Novelties since 2009, and has gotten to know Robinson well.

He’s a little like cotton candy that’s been sitting in the sun for a little too long,” says Mitchell with a laugh. “Kind of hard on the outside, but really warm and approachable when you get to know him.”

“He knows every bus route, every street, every building,” Mitchell says. “He’s explored every nook and cranny of the city. He has the memory of an elephant.”

But how can a store that sells plush animals and kazoos stay open? When asked, Robinson is tight-lipped. But Mitchell says he fields that question a lot.

“A lot of people think, with the rent on 14th Street, how in the world does this place exist?” says Mitchell. “His family owns the building outright, so [they can afford it].”

According to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, the property is owned by Lilly Robinson, and is worth over $1 million.

“It’s one of those places that gives our neighborhood its urban texture,” says Mitchell. “It can’t be manufactured.”

“We’re the last novelty store like this left,” Robinson says with a smile. “We’re the only ones.”

by Tim Regan — June 1, 2015 at 11:45 am 0

Pacers Running's new space on 14th Street

Pacers Running on P Street will move up to 14th Street near the Black Cat.

The new store, located between El Centro and City Paws at 1821 14th St., NW, will open on July 5 and carry running shoes, clothes and other accessories. It will also serve as host for events catered to local runners.

A Bluemercury franchise will move into the vacated space later this summer.

The new 14th Street Pacers location will span 300 more square feet than the old store and will be a “better space for retail and events,” says Pacers CEO Kathy Dalby.

Earlier this year, the company announced it would close its Pentagon Row location on June 28, but open a location in the Navy Yard in late August.

by Borderstan.com — June 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm 0

"borderstan advertisers"

Borderstan thanks this week’s advertisers for their support. Remember to Think Local First and support local businesses in DC and the Dupont-Logan-U Street neighborhood.

The Bike Rack: The Bike Rack is a full service independent bike shop. We’re a community of people who care about cycling, and we strive to improve the cycling experience of every customer. We pride ourselves on building a strong cycling community with weekend rides, clinics, local partnerships, clubs, teams, and active involvement in local cycling advocacy.” At 1412 Q Street NW.

Mike Brown/McEnearney Associates: “Reality. Only better. Try our new Mobile App.”

Hemphill Fine Arts: ‘Artist Citizen, Washington DC’ runs through July 27. “There are persistent romantic notions that the artist is a tortured soul, standing apart from social conventions and ordinary concerns. Popular media frequently depicts the artist as possessed by reckless freedom and lacking accountability. These generalizations are narrow and misguided. The contemporary artist is just as likely to be a good citizen as anyone else.” At 1515 14th Street NW, Suite 300, just north of P Street.

Java House: “A neighborhood cafe where the coffee is roasted in the store. Happy Hour all day Monday through Friday with $4 beers.” Located at 1645 Q Street NW with indoor and outdoor seating.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe: “Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is DC’s only full-service restaurant and complete bar combined with an independent bookstore.” Just north of Dupont Circle at 1517 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Pizza No. 17Dinner Special, Monday through Friday (Dine-in only)… any bottle of wine and two personal 8″ Pizzas for $39.95.” At 1523 17th Street NW, south of Q Street NW.

Rice/DC Noodles: “The Rice menu that both traditional and contemporary Thai cuisine in a very simple setting with minimal decor in the Logan Circle neighborhood. In addition, you can now order the DC Noodles menu at Rice during most of the week.” At 1608 14th Street NW, north of Q Street.

Jo Ricks/City Houses: “Serving downtown buyers and sellers since 1979. This Realtor Is Not Your Average Jo.”

The Rutstein Group: A Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. “In today’s market it’s important that your agent has the latest technology working for you! Drop us an email and tell us what you are looking for.” Office at 1606 17th Street NW.

Urban Igloo: “Over 65,000 renters use Urban Igloo each year to take the stress out of DC apartment hunting. We connect them with hundreds of condo owners and large building landlords… Rent out your DC area condo, house, townhome or basement apartment. Fast… Property manager? Apartment building owner? Let us help you find tenants.”

VIDA Fitness: “Start a new fitness plan or continue in your fitness journey with VIDA Fitness at any of our 5 downtown urban chic fitness clubs. Change the way you look, feel and think about fitness.” In the Borderstan area, VIDA is at 1612 U Street NW and at the Metropole, 1517 15th Street NW.

Chen Wen/Fairfax Realty: “Chen Wen has been a long time Dupont-Logan resident, having lived here since before Whole Foods was a reality. With more than 20 years of real estate experience, Wen takes pride in the fact that his clients keep coming back to him for their real estate needs.”

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by Borderstan.com — June 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm 0

From John Shannon, who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.

"economic"

The world economy is the country’s economy. (Courtesy)

As the world economy improves, national economies are being carried aloft by a rising tide of success in other countries.

Now that we are living in an ever-more globalized world, nations are no longer entities unto themselves. While they were once insulated from the economic successes or failures of other nations, that is profoundly no longer the case.

A recent example is the United States financial crisis of 2008 which was at first confined within the U.S., but later spread to Europe, Japan and China, with those countries experiencing varying degrees of economic malaise directly attributable to the original fall of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage segment.

Adding to the entire long chain of negative events in the U.S. were the hapless attempts by ‘some individuals and corporations’ to obfuscate the primary reasons for those failures, namely, a weak American banking sector regulatory environment and personal judgment lapses by some senior banking and other corporate executives.

This timeline of regulatory insufficiency and judgment lapses:

  1. Caused the initial crisis
  2. Allowed widespread economic damage
  3. Ensured a longer U.S. recession
  4. Delayed economic recovery

Had a financial crisis of this sort taken place within the 1950-1980 timeframe, it would have been seen as an ‘America only’ affair as the (then) economic islands of Europe and Asia had little interest in the internal workings of the American economy.

How the world has changed in the 21st century

Recently, ‘America sneezed’ — and most of Europe along with Canada ‘caught the cold’ – and whilst Asia felt unwell, it didn’t need a doctor, nor did it miss a day’s work.

Globalization is a process. Every year, countries are harmonizing their diplomatic relations, international trade and laws, walking through the remaining issues towards true interdependence between nation-states.

Along the way, we have seen dramatically lower prices for consumers within the participating nations and a strong downward pull on inflation within the globalization community. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows toward nations with lower land, factory and labour costs, while competition ensures that prices reflect those newfound cost savings.

One of the unfortunate effects of globalization from the Western perspective are the jobs that have fled the West to Asia. Over the span of (almost exactly) four decades, millions of manufacturing jobs have gone to the nations which feature lower-cost land, factory, and labour rates.

The transition of trillions of dollars of investment from the West to the Emerging and Frontier economies has spawned a rising economic tide in the Middle East, Asia and India. In fact, the rise of the BRICS nations are easily traced by the FDI inputs into their nations, as a welcome effect of, (but not the primary cause of) their success.

Since 1998 China and India have often been described as the two economic engines of Asia, and during recent recessionary times, were noted as the economic engines of the world. Even as some nations were falling away from their traditional economic rankings, the unprecedented demand for raw resources and high tech originating from the ‘rising tiger’ economies, slowed the fall of the Western economies and have even spurred their quicker recovery.

Historically, it was axiomatic that when the United States was doing well, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were doing well — as the U.S. economy had the power to float those economies no matter the ‘local’ economic conditions.

America is no longer alone with this power

Now, not only can American demand float the economies of countries or entire regions — the combined demand of the BRICS nations can float national economies and regions.

The U.S. population seems ‘torn’ at this juncture, with some in that country lamenting the loss of the unipolar world which was theirs since the end of the Cold War, whilst others welcome the strengthening and broadening-out of the world economy into a truly interdependent and open economic model.

For those Americans who believe in the open economic model (which is the name given to the free enterprise system by economists) the strengthening and broadening-out of the world economy is exactly in line with their beliefs and is seen as an adjunct to American economic and political clout.

“We told you the open economic model was the way to prosperity, and now you are ‘our firm converts’ to that, and to the democracy which necessarily accompanies successful free enterprise systems.”

For those Americans who secretly or publicly wish for a closed economic model (known as the communist, or the statist economic model, by economist’s) globalization is the root cause of all American economic woes — when in fact, America’s recent economic problems were caused by a perilously-lacking regulatory environment in but one segment of the U.S. economy and poor decision-making by a handful of individuals.

All the nations advancing towards interdependence will see rising demand in their own countries from other partner nations (as at any given time certain of them will be experiencing growth) thereby helping to balance-off the occasional lack of demand.

De-facto: Interdependence between nations means facilitation of effort, FDI, and countless other forms of assistance towards whatever is the weakest link of the chain that day.

This contrasts with the decades of ruthless competition which played itself out (even between allies) for decades and ruled every diplomatic and business decision. De-facto, that became a ‘sink all the other boats — before we get sunk’ game, played in the global economy.

Wherever interdependent nations are working to improve upon an open economic model, they are in effect, working to create a rising tide for all of the participants within that interdependency, because it is simply and profoundly, in their best interests to do so.

Interdependency creates the incoming tide that will float our boats.

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by Borderstan.com — June 26, 2013 at 8:00 am 0

"Diego"

14th and V NW: From AM-PM Carry Out to Diego. (Luis Gomez Photos)

One more restaurant opening on the 14th Street corridor will be happening this summer. Diego will join the latest opening of Piola, Taqueria Nacional, bar di Bari and Kapnos (the last one now scheduled for July 5).

We have been looking at the transformation of the AM-PM Carry Out to Diego at the northwest corner of 14th and V Streets NW; Eatonville and Busboys & Poets  are already at that intersection. Now, after months of dealing with city permits and a lengthy renovation process, the Tex Mex restaurant NW restaurant is gearing up, probably for a late summer opening. Diego is owned by brothers Tony and Michael Askarinam, proprietors of Dupont Italian Kitchen on 17th Street NW.

With two levels, outdoor seating and a Tex-Mex menu it will be hard to wait for it.  Missy Frederick at Eater DC has more details.

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