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Meet Our New Board Member: Jim Rowland

James RowlandJim Rowland, Senior Vice President of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, recently accepted an invitation to join the board of directors of Barracks Row Main Street.  Jim is a native of Milwaukee but no newcomer to Barracks Row. “I remember when the trees were small,” he reflected when we called to welcome him to the board.

Jim arrived in Washington, DC in 1991, not long after completing law school. Realizing he did not want to practice law, he joined the office of his home state senator from Wisconsin and found serving Wisconsin in the nation’s capitol very much to his liking.  Over the years the purchase of several historic Capitol Hill properties deepened his appreciation of the area.  His house was on the Capitol Hill Restoration Society House and Garden tour this spring. A great supporter of the buy local philosophy, Rowland shops regularly at Eastern Market and has watched with admiration as the vendors rallied and prospered after the fire.

Seven years ago Jim Rowland was recruited to join the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers (WSWA) of America. “I come from a family of wine lovers,” he observed philosophically.  By accepting the WSWA offer he transitioned overnight from national politics to meeting the challenges of small business. “All of the companies that comprise the membership of WSWA are family owned,” he noted. “I have a deep appreciation for what the sole proprietor is facing today, especially the restaurants and bars.”

A passionate baseball fan, Rowland also helped create a political action committee to bring major league ball back to Washington, DC, and, today, as owner of six season tickets behind the home dugout, attends Nationals games as often as possible.  After spending a childhood in New England, Rowland is a lifelong member of Red Sox nation, while maintaining loyalty to hometown Nationals.

The two blocks below the freeway are of special interest to Rowland as the pivotal connector between the new development near Nat’s ballpark, the waterfront trails and the commerce along Barracks Row. With the two local rivers, the Potomac and the Anacostia “tantalizingly close” to Barracks Row,  Jim Rowland dreams of water views  on or near 8th Street to add a further unique attraction for those working and living on the lower two blocks of our historic corridor.

His hobbies include skiing, with visits to Aspen, Vail, Sun Valley, and Jackson Hole every year. In the summer Rowland spends as much time as possible at his vacation home on Cape Cod.  With two black Labrador Retrievers, Winston and Wally, as part of the family, it’s easy to spot Jim Rowland around Eastern Market and Barracks Row whenever he is in town.

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Meet Our New Board Member, Jonathan Shartar

Jonathan ShartarJonathan Shartar was recently elected to the board of Barracks Row Main Street. He is a member of the management team at real estate developer, Madison Marquette. In 2008 Madison Marquette purchased the ‘Blue Castle’ at 8th and L Street, SE, the old red brick car barn, painted blue in the 1970’s.

Shartar will be involved in shaping the future of the car barn. He noted that this is the first development project for Madison Marquette in Washington, DC since their successful Tenleytown project.  Between 1999 and 2005 the company redeveloped a Sears building on Wisconsin Avenue, built in 1941, converting it to smart shopping area flanked by an unusual curving condo building which quickly sold out.

Shartar confirmed that the ‘Blue Castle’ will remain blue just a little longer.  The leases of the present tenants, PSI Services and Eagle Academy Charter School, don’t expire until 2012. He was clear to point out his respect for the DC Charter Schools  which mirrors the philosophy of Madison Marquette to be a good neighbor, treating the property and its tenants responsibly as the company defines a new role for the century old building.

It turns out that Jonathan Shartar’s appreciation for urban schools is also grounded in his own story. After graduating from Amherst College, he served in Teach for America – the prestigious organization which puts the brightest college graduates to work for two year stints teaching in challenged city schools.  A job in residential development at Winter Properties (known for their imaginative Atlanta renovations) soon followed. While completing his MBA at Emory University, he helped launch the real estate program there.  In 2007, he moved with his wife, Kim to Washington, DC to join Madison Marquette.

Shartar’s goal as a board member of Barracks Row Main Street is to further the development of 8th Street as a retail center for Capitol Hill and Washington, DC. He has been actively involved with the recent “Visioning Process for Eighth Street” sponsored by the Capitol Riverfront BID and Barracks Row Main Street. He also participates in the ongoing CIMP process, sponsored by the United States Marine Corps. to involve the community in repositioning four dated barracks buildings. Prior to joining the Barracks Row Main Street Board of Directors, Shartar was a member of the BRMS Fundraising Committee.

His hobbies include photography and running. As the car barn redevelopment picks up momentum Shartar is looking forward to spending more time on 8th Street where he plans to pick up tips for his most recent extracurricular interest: cooking!

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Belga Café Celebrates Belgian Independence Day!

Belga CafeIn honor of Belgian Independence Day, Belga Café will be hosting the following events this weekend:

Friday, July 16
Join Belga Café for Happy Hour Belgian Style with draft beers half off and classic Belgian appetizers from 2-7 p.m.

Saturday, July 17th
Enjoy authentic Belgian Brunch with special “Waffle menu” with favorite waffles of Belga Café’s Chef Bart Vandaele, Robert Wiedmaier of Brasserie Beck and Claudio Pirollo of Et Voila.

At noon, Belga Café will host the first ever “Mussel Throw Down” between the sous chefs from all three restaurants. The event will be on the patio. No reservation needed!

Sunday, July 18th
Relax with a Belgian Brunch with special “Waffle menu” featuring all three Chefs’ favorite waffles.

Belga Café is located at 514 8th St. SE.

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Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Cafe on NBC4

Chef Bart Vandaele was a  guest on Washington’s NBC4, grilling mussels and talking about Belgian Independence Day!

Watch the videos of Chef Bart below, or click here for the recipes.

Part 1 and Part 2

Want more mussels? On Saturday, July 17, Chef Bart will host Chef Robert Wiedmaier of Brasserie Beck and Claudio Pirollo of Et Voila for a Mussels throwdown at Belga Café. The contest start at noon and will be judged by some of DC’s finest foodies!

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Barracks Row in Roll Call!

Barracks Row Revival Begets a Foodie Haven
June 23, 2010
By Alison McSherry
Roll Call Staff

There was a time, not too long ago, when Barracks Row was no man’s land. The strip of Eighth Street Southeast that is now known for its burgeoning dining scene once housed vacant storefronts, carryout restaurants and a video rental store.

“The only thing you would go to Eighth Street for was Blockbuster, and you’d go in and out,” recalls Ari Gejdenson, who grew up in the Eastern Market neighborhood in the 1980s. “Eighth Street was scary when I was little.”

As more and more restaurants open on Barracks Row, it is easy to forget that the strip of Eighth Street Southeast that begins at Pennsylvania Avenue and ends at the Southeast Freeway struggled for decades to find its footing.

The area that was home to oyster houses and a variety of retail stores during the first half of the 20th century fell victim, like many areas of D.C., to the 1968 race riots. During the days following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., rioters broke into several stores on the street and looted them. Once the riots ended and the smoke cleared, the street and the city had a hard time recovering.

“I think that Barracks Row has always been a neighborhood with great potential, and on occasion through its 150- to 200-year history, it has failed to live up to that potential,” says Martin Smith, director of Barracks Row Main Street, an organization that works to promote and rejuvenate the neighborhood.

That all changed in 2003. Crime was down in the District, and the city was on an upswing. The D.C. Department of Transportation launched a Barracks Row streetscape project, which included tearing up the road and sidewalk in an effort to create an aesthetically appealing and safe street. The project, which was completed in 2006, also involved coordinating signs that ftell the neighborhood’s history and help direct visitors.

“The street has really undergone a complete transformation,” Smith says. “Vacancies are down considerably.”

With these renovations came new businesses. Belgian chef Bart Vandaele opened his restaurant, Belga Café, in 2004, shortly after the streetscape project began. He was drawn to the neighborhood because of its European feel.

“It had potential, but was rough around the edges — just like me,” Vandaele says. “I thought it would be a neighborhood I could grow with and really make a relationship with the area.”

Now, Barracks Row is home to more than a dozen bars and restaurants that are drawing customers from all over the city. Some come for an after-work drink, while others come to grab a quick bite before heading to Nationals Park. Most recently, Ted’s Bulletin, a kitschy throwback to the diners of yesteryear, and the Chesapeake Room, a seafood restaurant with locally sourced ingredients, have opened. In addition, the Hill’s first cupcake shop, Hello Cupcake, will open its doors in the coming months.

“You could just feel the community here,” says Perry Smith, owner of Ted’s Bulletin and the nearby Matchbox. “People were saying, ‘We don’t have dining options.’ People would go downtown to eat.”

Realizing an opportunity when he saw one, Perry Smith and his partners opened a second D.C. branch of Matchbox on Barracks Row in 2008. After that success, he and his partners opened Ted’s Bulletin earlier this year and have plans to open a third eatery, hot dog joint DC-3, later this summer. Perry Smith says he sees nothing but growth in the neighborhood’s future.

“People are starting to rediscover Eighth Street,” he says. “You’ll probably have more restaurants coming.”

Xavier Cervera, owner of Molly Malone’s, Lola’s Barracks Bar and Grill, and the Chesapeake Room, is so confident in the neighborhood that he plans to open a fourth property, Senart’s Oyster House, later this year.

Several of the street’s restaurateurs are helping to ensure that the neighborhood’s dining scene is a success. While Barracks Row is accessible by the Eastern Market Metro stop, parking is a perpetual problem. Cervera, Perry Smith and Gaynor Jablonski, owner of the bar the Ugly Mug, have pooled their money to turn a nearby parking lot owned by the Marine Barracks into a public lot. Now there are an additional 75 parking spaces available to those who visit the neighborhood. The owners also pitch in to run a shuttle back and forth from Barracks Row to Nationals Park.

With more parking and the success of the restaurants, Martin Smith says it has become easier to draw businesses to the neighborhood, as well as customers.

“I think the biggest change in Barracks Row has been the confidence in the street,” he says. “Ten or 15 years ago people did not have confidence that this was a good place to invest. I think that people now look at Barracks Row and they are confident that this is the place that they need to be.”

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2010 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved.

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Barracks Row Business Owner in Roll Call!

Cervera Brings Life to Street in Need of Aid
June 23, 2010
By Alison McSherry
Roll Call Staff

When native Washingtonian Xavier Cervera returned home three years ago after living elsewhere for nearly 20 years, one of the first things that he noticed was the disappointing bar offerings on Capitol Hill.

At 45 years old, Cervera didn’t feel comfortable going to the intern haunts on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, the ones with $2 beers, a barrage of fake IDs and sticky floors. He craved a grown-up bar with friendly service where locals could mingle over good food.

“I wanted a small little neighborhood place where Congressional types and people my age could hang out,” says Cervera, now 48. “There wasn’t really anything — as far as bars go — where I felt comfortable going.”

Since he had owned some bars in Miami Beach, Fla., Cervera took it upon himself to create his own watering hole on the Hill. He found space on Eighth Street Southeast and set to work on what would become Lola’s Barracks Bar and Grill, named for his late mother.

The bar opened its doors nearly two years ago and was a hit from the start. Congressional staffers, journalists and other D.C. professionals flocked to this 40-seat bar to catch a baseball game or rehash the day’s news over a plate of sloppy joe sliders. In fact, Lola’s was so popular that Cervera and his staff were turning away upward of 100 would-be customers a night.

“The response was overwhelming,” he recalls.

Cervera has been snatching up real estate on Barracks Row ever since. He has three properties open on the street — Lola’s, Molly Malone’s and the Chesapeake Room — and a fourth is in the works. He says he was initially drawn to the neighborhood because of its friendly vibe.

“It’s a very familial neighborhood where most people know everyone,” he says.

Molly Malone’s was the second bar that Cervera opened, a year after Lola’s. The place was named for a 17th-century Irish woman who spent her days as a fishmonger and her evenings as a prostitute.

“I wanted to go with a woman’s name next to Lola’s so the two ladies would be next to each other,” Cervera says. Molly’s now plays host to many fundraisers and receptions. Cervera says the second-floor bar is rented out eight to 12 times a week.

After opening two bars, Cervera decided it was time for a restaurant. He called up his old friend Robert Wood — a chef in Savannah, Ga. — and together they opened a seafood haven, the Chesapeake Room. The restaurant, which opened last month, is located less than two blocks from Lola’s and offers ample outdoor seating on the corner of Eighth and E streets Southeast.

“I wanted to go more organic, sustainable and high-end on the food,” Cervera explains.

The restaurant was designed to have a local feel. Several giant oil paintings that depict scenes from the mid-Atlantic region decorate the eatery, including one of a sailboat on the Chesapeake and another of the horses at Assateague Island. The bathrooms feature photos by Aubrey Bodine, who spent 50 years shooting regional scenes for the Baltimore Sun.

The menu at the Chesapeake Room is decidedly more upscale than Cervera’s other properties and offers local dishes, such as smoked Virginia oysters and roasted rockfish.

While the food may vary, one thing that Cervera’s restaurants and bars all have in common is craftsmanship. Each space is filled with long, gorgeous wooden bars and tables.

“I design every aspect of every place,” Cervera says. He first began remodeling places 20 years ago in Miami Beach.

“I would buy old boutique buildings and turn them into boutique bars,” he says. He opened his first bar, Norman’s Tavern, at age 28.

Cervera is working on opening a fourth property on the strip, Senart’s Oyster House. The building currently houses the Capitol Hill Veterinary Clinic, but it was home to Senart’s back in the early 20th century. Barracks Row “was one of the primary corridors in D.C. and was known for oyster houses,” Cervera explains.

After the oyster house opens, Cervera will own more bars and restaurants than anyone else on Barracks Row. With the growth of his restaurants, Cervera is also hoping to see other establishments open.

“I think Barracks Row will soon become part of the scene where there’s a lot of respect for restaurants,” he says. “If you look at the last seven restaurants that opened, you’re looking at only a two-year period, so word is out.”

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2010 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved.

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