Georgetown Gems

As I drove back from Louisiana to Washington DC almost two weeks ago, I “went backwards” in terms of COVID-19. By the time I left Hammond, restaurants and stores were open, and life felt  like “back to normal” (which may or may not be a good thing long-term of course…). I arrived in DC to Phase 1, no indoor restaurant seating, and no non-essential retail. 

I not only returned to a city in Phase 1, I returned to a boarded up M Street. Still, it feels wonderful to be back to DC, to be back to Georgetown specifically. As boards are coming down, as we inch towards Phase 2 (Monday June 22, fingers crossed), I am reminded of my love for this neighborhood, and for the brands and businesses that make Georgetown what it is.  

Shop Made in DC 

This retail initiative was created to highlight the creative minds of the greater Washington DC area. Founded by Stacey Price of People Make Place and Michael Babin of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Shop Made DC has three locations dedicated to growing DC’s maker economy. It is very possible all of my holiday gifts this year will come from this store.

SCOUT 

Founded by Deb and Ben Johns (I love any family business!), SCOUT is first and foremost a brand of bags – beach bags, backpacks, grocery bags, everyday bags – now also offering face masks. Deb creates unique patterns every season, available at wholesalers nationwide. And, one of my girlfriends from business school works there! 

Stachowski’s 

My go to for Paris ham, steak, burger meat, and lamb lollies. And veggies from nearby farmer’s markets, good mustard and cornichons and once in a while cherry pie. Living a block away is both delicious and dangerous. 

Georgetown Butcher 

This opened March 9, 2020… and is reopening imminently. I have not yet been, but can’t wait to discover this European-style butcher shop / grocery, the brainchild of Wendell Allsbrook who has been a butcher for more than 15 years, most recently at The Organic Butcher of McLean. I love Stachowski’s and I can’t wait to discover this new gem. 

Tuckernuck 

Created by three friends, Jocelyn, Maddy, and September, in 2012, Tuckernuk offers classic and somewhat preppy apparel, home goods, and gifts. Wondering about the name? It is the name of a small island off the coast of Nantucket, where the three friends spent summers growing up. 

 

And of course… Peacock Café

Another family-owned business (Shahab runs the restaurant, his brother Maziar is the Chef), this restaurant never closed, served meals to healthcare workers throughout the pandemic, and is where I enjoyed my first meal (patio seating) back in DC. It is still my favorite, for lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails. It feels like family.

Lockdown Numbers

I love numbers. And putting these numbers down on paper was an interesting exercise… 

Number of days sheltering in place (technically in two places): 83

Number of days without airplane travel: 88

Number of scheduled trips cancelled: 14

Number of road trips back and forth between Louisiana and DC: 3 

Number of days since last Alchimie client visit: 87

Number of Zoom meetings: too many to count 

Number of virtual book clubs: 2 

Number of books read: 5 

Number of email newsletters unsubscribed from: 19 

Number of kittens adopted: 2

Number of pounds gained: 0 

Number of Botox appointments: 0 

Number of consecutive days and nights with my husband: 88

*Inspired by my very smart friend Marc Ross!

COVID-19 Coping Strategy: Baby Animals

Over the last two weeks, my family of 3 (myself, Edwin, and Chloe the cat) has grown significantly. By 6, actually. Since driving from cosmopolitan Washington, DC to lovely Hammond, Louisiana for a change of scenery during quarantine (a luxury in itself!), I have adopted four chicks and two kittens – and I must admit this has been my best quarantine coping strategy yet. 

These baby animals have reminded me to: 

Find magic in every day. One day the chicks don’t have feathers, the next they do. One day the kittens don’t know how to lap milk from a plate, the next they do. Every day brings a new development, a small miracle. 

Put my phone down and focus. Petting the kittens while scrolling through my Instagram feed leads to paws swatting my (apparently very offensive) screen. No multitasking allowed!  

Prioritize the needs of someone else ahead of mine. I like to think I often put my husband’s needs ahead of mine – but he really isn’t needy, so that doesn’t count. Defenseless baby animals however depend on others to feed them, shelter them, play with them, cuddle them, clean up after them. It feels so good to be needed. It feels so good to feel useful. 

Connect with Earth. There is something incredibly peaceful and soothing that comes from connecting with life, with Earth. Always, but in particular in these times during which live human connection is limited. 

 

What we are doing right now, right here, to help

Two weeks ago, my youngest sister Roxane, a Medical Doctor at the hospital in Sion, Switzerland, asked a very pointed question on our Polla sisters Skype: “What can our beauty businesses do to help during this time of crisis?” I did not have an answer, but I did hear her question. A few days later, I saw on LinkedIn that Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie donated products to numerous hospitals in France. And I thought, well, we also have products that help with chapped hands and irritated faces… 

So I began my week with a donation of products to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, the hospital that is affiliated with the business school I went to and that is less than one mile from my office. Similarly, in Switzerland, we donated products to my sister Roxane’s hospital (in Sion), the one affiliated most closely with my heart since she works there every day. 

In speaking of this with my sisters and my team, I was amazed to hear about their own initiatives to help and contribute to their communities. Here is what they are doing: 

Angie (NYC): “I gave a donation to New York’s Food Bank last month. This month, I am donating to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. I like that some restaurants are feeding healthcare workers and that also helps support the restaurant during these times.”

Emma (Arlington, VA): “I am buying books (used and new) from eBay US sellers instead of Amazon. It makes me feel better that I deal directly with real people and contribute something to them instead from big companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sellers that I’ve dealt with so far shipped everything from their house which is listed on the shipping label of the packages that I received.”

Jenna (Reston, VA): “I baked assortments of cookies and sent them to friends and clients to cheer them up. Also, I live across the street from a trauma hospital so every night at 7 pm people in my building and surrounding buildings go outside on their balconies to cheer for the hospital workers at shift change. A small gesture, but it makes everyone (including myself) feel good.”  

Kelli (Charleston, WV): “I have compiled lists of local restaurants offering delivery or carry out and local businesses doing online sales or online classes that I share regularly on social media.”  

Mandi (Washington DC: “I have been ordering food from all of my favorite local restaurants and taking classes from my favorite yoga instructors (some donation-based and some free) and posting pictures to my social media to help build their client base.”  

Rachel (Geneva, Switzerland): “I have been buying groceries for a few older women who are high risk and should not leave their homes, both among my neighborhood and among my Forever Institut teammates.” 

Roxane (Sion, Switzerland): “I have been extra ‘gifty’ to my friends who have had birthdays in the last few weeks, since they can’t celebrate as they usually would. I have been having cupcakes delivered to them (from a brand called Melazic, a business owned by two sisters) as well as personalized cookies with positive messages from the brand Bobiskuit, also a woman-owned brand.” 

There is no right or wrong way to help or contribute. There is no act of kindness too small or too insignificant to matter. And it makes me so proud to be a part of a family, a team that instinctively takes care of their communities, of their world, of our world. 

 

Road Trip!

To say these are unprecedented times is an understatement. In the past week, two of my family’s businesses have been forced to close (for 45 days) per Swiss government regulations (Forever Institut and Forever Boutique). Many of the amazing spas and boutiques that carry Alchimie here in the US have chosen to close for two or more weeks. I have had entire days open up in my calendar as trips and meetings and events have been cancelled. And, I listened to my father’s request to not fly from New Orleans this week (I succumbed to the “I don’t ask you for much, but I am really asking you to do this for me” argument). Instead, I drove.

Or I should say we drove. My husband Edwin, my cat Chloe, and I took a road trip this week. We left Hammond LA on Tuesday at 6 pm and drove five hours to Birmingham AL. From there, yesterday, we drove 11 hours to “home,” in Georgetown, Washington DC.

While I am still processing everything that is happening, still adapting business practices, still getting used to what (at least for now) is the “new normal,” and still wondering every morning as to what the news will bring, these hours in the car brought me some clarity.

  1. My husband thinks road trip = fast food. We stopped at Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Shake Shack (I did not partake). Also, drive-thrus are weird.
  2. Driving through 6 states, through cities and through the countryside made me realize how our country has an incredibly varied understanding of the current situation. Everyone is interpreting this reality differently – from signs on the highway encouraging drivers to “don’t travel, stop the COVID-19 spread,” to “it’s life as usual”, I saw it all. Including a gas station in VA where I was told by the proprietor I could not use the restroom because “this is my shop and now this is my bathroom, because you know, corona virus.”
  3. While we had plans to listen to a couple podcasts and finish The Only Plane in the Sky (by Garrett Graff) as a book on tape, we did no such thing. Instead, we took turns calling people. We were driving, so no emails or texts were possible. Now more than ever, talking to people is essential. We need to feel connected to each other, we need to feel like we are in this together. I am so grateful for the phone.
  4. Cats can get used to anything (except big trucks driving by and loud engine noises). Chloe spent most of the drive sleeping on the lap of the driver (which she prefers than the lap of the passenger regardless who is driving). With her being so chill and not complaining about a thing, the least I could do was act the same.
  5. Being with someone you love during such uncertain times makes everything bearable, even makes everything feel like an adventure. My heart goes out to those going through this time alone.
  6. Everyone is uncertain about everything, is questioning everything. The only things we can control are the things we can control: for example, adapting business practices to this new reality; changing our personal habits as need be; improvising and going with the flow (my dinner party tomorrow night is now happening via Go To Meeting); our reactions to news and events; how kind we are.

This morning, I woke up grateful to be in my own bed. And reminded myself, “control the things you can control.”

Be well, stay healthy, stay sane.

 

Celebrating International Women’s Month

There are many reasons to love March. The official arrival of Spring. Spring break. St. Patrick’s day. March Madness. And International Women’s Day.

I celebrate women every day (my sisters, my BFFs, my team members), but I celebrate them extra in March. A few years ago I wrote about a few of my amazing innovative girlfriends.  This year, I celebrate this week’s International Women’s Day by highlighting some of my favorite DC-area women-owned businesses.

Bellacara
This Old Town beauty boutique is owned by Angela Sitilides, a former attorney and mother of four boys who decided that entrepreneurship and beauty were a more fulfilling career path. Her store, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, carries a curated assortment of skin (yes, including Alchimie!), bath & body, hair and makeup brands, along with amazingly delicious-smelling candles.

Betsy Fisher
My favorite clothing boutique in DC, the eponymous Betsy Fisher blends trendy and
conservative, as is necessary in the nation’s capital. Too busy to shop? Betsy will personally choose items she thinks will work for you and have them couriered to your home or place of business.

Hank’s Oyster Bar
An institution in DC, I must confess to having gone to Hank’s Oyster Bar for the first time just a couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday when I woke up craving a seafood tower… and realized that their first location (opened in 2005) is walking distance from my house. I don’t know owner Jamie Leeds, but I am grateful to her for helping with my random craving!

Ninotch, an Urban Retreat
Owner and therapist Tatiana Tchamouroff’s petite size belies her strength. She has been
offering therapeutic treatments and sports massage to the DC sports community for over 20 years, and I can personally attest that her hands are both powerful and magical. With locations in Bethesda and Tyson’s, her spas also offer facials, flotation therapy, and spray tanning. A must for the stressed out among us….

Salt & Sundry
Opened in 2012 in Union Market, this lifestyle boutique carries the most unique goods from independent designers both local and global. This is my go-to source for gifts (especially for that friend who has everything), and a favorite place to receive gifts from (most recently the most amazing gold-rimmed water glasses). Last night, at Moki Media’s Dainty Doesn’t Do It event, I had the privilege of hearing Amanda McClements, the founder of this boutique, moderate a panel – which made me love this boutique all the more!

What are your favorite women-owned brands and businesses?