A La Carte

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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Above the Clouds at The Greenbrier

June 28, 2012

Private golf course, The Snead, near Howard's Creek (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Private golf course, The Snead, near Howard's Creek

“We’d been going on and off for years,” said Gardner Gillespie, a Washington, D.C. attorney. It was the summer of 2010 when he was playing golf with his wife Stevie that The Greenbrier put the Gillespies "with a guy who had a house there. We weren’t even aware you could buy a house.” Stevie asked if they could take a tour of a few houses around Howard's Creek and up on The Summit.

On the path to The Summit Lodge (Photo by: Judith Beermann) On the path to The Summit Lodge

"Up on The Summit … Wow, we could design a house there? Hadn’t occurred to us. What a fabulous thing to do.” What Gillespie was referring to is the top of Greenbrier Mountain, 3,300 feet above the famed Greenbrier resort nestled in the Allegheny Mountains.

"We had our own idea, a little different from the other houses," Gillespie explained. "We built the house in seven months 150 feet below the top of The Summit. The house is a reference to old barns structures and the Shaker-inspired simplicity of Hugh Newell Jacobsen (incidentally an internationally acclaimed Georgetown architect).

Rear exterior of Gillespie home (Photo by: Gardner Gillespie) Rear exterior of Gillespie home

The Gillespies eventually decide on architects Justine Kingham (D.C.) and Madison Spencer (Charlottesville, Virginia). Thrilled with the design, the Gillespie family was also "so impressed by the local tradesmen and builders."

Gillespie living room (Photo by: Gardner Gillespie) Gillespie living room

Part of the attraction, Gillespie said, was buying a piece of property overlooking 35 miles of wilderness, with cool mountain air in the summer and all the amenities of The Greenbrier.

View from Gillespie home (Photo by: Gardner Gillespie) View from Gillespie home

Driving to their "home above the clouds" now as often as they can (which means twice a month), this Alexandria, Virginia couple has two grown children, three grandchildren and "one on the way" who are all excited by the family's new mountain retreat.

This "fishing family" who also golf, swim and play tennis had been enjoying the Greenbrier vacation lifestyle for many years, but until they'd actually seen the private homes and land for sale around The Greenbrier, purchasing a second home was not something they'd ever considered.

"In 2010 when we fell in love with property, Jim Justice had already rescued The Greenbrier, and was building the casino. We knew The Greenbrier was in good hands."

From the Gillespie screened porch (Photo by: Gardner Gillespie) From the Gillespie screened porch

Access to all The Sporting Club facilities also surprised us," said Gillespie. "We had no idea that we had access to the pool, golf courses, squash courts and climbing wall. That infinity pool on the summit is our neighborhood pool!" Besides that, he added, "The restaurant is fabulous and now we even have miniature golf on The Summit."

View from Greenbrier Mountain (Photo by: The Greenbrier Sporting Club) View from Greenbrier Mountain

"It's quite something to arrive up here and not see any man-made structures. Eight minutes below are four golf courses."

The Greenbrier Sporting Club is a private residential sporting community and equity club on the 6,750-acre grounds of the legendary Greenbrier, developed by the Greenbrier Hotel Corporation. Members enjoy access to an array of private amenities including a Members’ Lodge, award-winning golf at The Snead – an 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf course, Eastern-inspired spa (Ananda in theAlleghenies), full-service equestrian center, sports complex with infinity pool, indoor squash courts and 25-foot climbing wall. Members also indulge in exclusive mountaintop amenities at Greenbrier Summit Village and so much more. Home ownership at The Greenbrier Sporting Club also means complete access to more than 50 amenities and activities at The Greenbrier resort, including three championship golf courses, The Greenbrier, The Old White TPC and The Meadows.

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A Visual Feast at the NASFT Fancy Food Show

June 19, 2012

Imagine Rodman's purchased an empty planet and filled it with everyone who made, packaged, distributed and sold the international gourmet foods, beverages and accessories they offer. Add cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs, 30 languages spoken all at once, and more samples of cheese and chocolate and gelato you can dream of.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Welcome to the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Normally in New York at the Jacob Javits Center, but here this year while they renovate. It's put on by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT) and they've been doing this since 1952.  Their shows have helped launch household brands including Ben & Jerry's, Perrier and Walker's Shortbread.

Truly overwhelming (2,250 exhibiting companies) but lots of fun. Here's my take away after three hours:

1. The rest of the world really does love soccer.

Somewhere between the aisles of Germany and Italy (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Somewhere between the aisles of Germany and Italy

2. Himalayan pink salt is not only pretty but better for you.

Amelia Bonanni of HimalaSalt, 250 million year old pure salt (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Amelia Bonanni of HimalaSalt, 250 million year old pure salt

3. Belgians really do make the best chocolate.

Frederic Blondeel Belgian truffles (Photo by: chocolateque.com) Frederic Blondeel Belgian truffles

4. Good packaging matters.

Monte Ida olive oil from Ayvalyk, Turkey (Photo by: Eliunt) Monte Ida olive oil from Ayvalyk, Turkey

Many familiar brands like Rao's pasta sauces and Bahlsen cookies, and clever new products already on the shelf like Corkcicle, the icicle that goes inside your wine bottle.

Mike Hamburger from Bahlsen (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Mike Hamburger from Bahlsen

Eric Miller from Corkcicle (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Eric Miller from Corkcicle

Sometimes costumes help draw attention to the product (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Sometimes costumes help draw attention to the product

Vivianna Martinez-Gonzalez of Eliunt, the beautifully packaged international collection of olive oils (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Vivianna Martinez-Gonzalez of Eliunt, the beautifully packaged international collection of olive oils

Japanese fish cakes (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Japanese fish cakes

Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate

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