A La Carte

Washington Design Center Sells for $200 Million in Merchandise Mart Sell-Off

July 17, 2012

The Washington Design Center (WDC) has been sold. This, according to a July 5, 2012 press release from New York City based property owner Vornado Realty Trust.

Vornado announced the sale of 409 Third Street S.W. for $200 million which will result in net proceeds of $186 million and a net gain of $120 million. This office building, which is part of the Washington, D.C. segment is contiguous to the WDC and is being sold to the same purchaser. 

Both of these assets were acquired as part of the original Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. (MMPI) acquisition in 1998 from the Kennedy Family.

Home to seven floors of luxury showrooms, WDC has been the premier one-stop shopping for area decorators, architects and design-savvy consumers just a few blocks from Capitol Hill.

The D.C properties are part of a larger Vornado sell-off that includes two other MMPI properties: the Boston Design Center, the L.A. Mart, and the Canadian Trade Shows.

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Richard Engel: From Syria to Georgetown

July 16, 2012

Award-winning journalist and foreign correspondent for NBC News, Richard Engel was spotted in Georgetown Monday.

At Le Pain Quotdidien, gracious and friendly, the New York native told The Georgetown Dish, "Just got back from Syria last week and I'm in town having lunch with my friends."

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Engel reported as recently as last Thursday on the rebel uprising against the Assad regime.

A veteran covering Middle East conflicts, Engel was the first broadcast journalist recipient of the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his report "War Zone Diary."

A winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award in 2009, Engel won the Peabody Award for his reports covering U.S. Army Viper Company fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan. In 2011, Engel was honored with the David Bloom award for his outstanding service to journalism. Engel was on assignment covering the 2011 Libyan civil war.

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From Beauty Queen to Queen of Beauty One Jar at a Time

July 8, 2012

Before you buy your next miracle cream from Neiman Marcus, you’ll want to meet D’Andra Simmons. The recession detour her Hard Night Good Morning skin care line was forced to take turned the former Texas beauty queen and philanthropist into an international ‘Queen of Beauty.’

D'Andra Simmons (Photo by: Amy Karp) D'Andra Simmons

“No one would talk to me,” Simmons explained as she literally went door-to-door marketing her organic skin products in 2008.  “I’m the only woman in my family who doesn’t have cancer. What you put on the outside affects the inside,” Simmons told The Georgetown Dish.

For more than a decade before launching Hard Night Good Morning, she was actively involved in the nutritional and skin care industry. As vice president of Ultimate Living, founded in 1996 by her mother, Dee, D’Andra learned all about production and development, traveling the globe for the finest ingredients.

The timing may not have been right for upscale boutiques to begin carrying her luxury skin care, but it's social media that Simmons credits for discovering her.  When she decided to post product information on her Facebook page, Whole Foods Market took notice.

“Why don’t we have these products?” Austin, Texas Whole Foods asked Simmons in 2009. “Would you like to compete with Dr. Hauschka?” After all, Hard Night Good Morning met all the guidelines for product purity in the company’s ‘bible.’ Vegan, no animal testing, no paraben, no chemical preservatives, no phthalates, or gluten. Just organic rose ether, which, by the way means that instead of an average 12 year shelf life that most commercial products have, hers has only three years.

They were eager. “Just one thing,” Whole Foods said,” You need to lower your prices by 60%.”

Instead of changing the formula, which includes “lots of exotic African ingredients,” Simmons decided to cut deeply into her profit margin in the hopes of reaching a wider audience through the country’s leading socially responsible food supermarket chain.

D'Andra at Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom in June (Photo by: Amy Karp) D'Andra at Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom in June

“I couldn’t let this fail,”  Simmons went on, “The way I started the company was from the inheritance left by my father … who committed suicide right after I came home from my honeymoon.” This company was meant to be Simmons' legacy as much as a tribute to her beloved father.

(Photo by: D'Andra Simmons)

The nine product line includes a signature ‘Hard Night Good Morning Facial Cocktail’, a lifter, toner, tightener and primer “that makes me look like I have had a full night’s sleep even if I have had only one full hour!” A celebrity favorite, the serum is currently favored on the set of Dallas by Brenda Strong.

Her best seller today is the eye cream, in the running for Best Eye Cream of the Year by Natural Health Magazine. As Simmons says, "What sets us apart is not only the aloe vera base, but also the amount of 'actives' in the line. It is almost unheard of to have four ingredients in an eye cream and charge $38.99! That would generally run several hundred dollars in luxury department stores."

Now in Whole Foods Mid-Alantic region including Georgetown, Simmons is about to launch on Shopping Channel of Canada, their version of Home Shopping Network (HSN), and poised to reach Europe by fall. Simmons' Hard Night Good Morning is changing the landscape of the beauty industry one jar at a time.

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