Friday, June 22, 2012

Shaw Expert REALTOR® Interviews Long View Gallery

As a Real Estate Agent specializing in Shaw, and through my website I write a blog which interviews the business proprietors of Shaw.  This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing both Drew Porterfield, Curator and Director for Long View Gallery and Suzi Molak, Long View's Events Director.

Kevin:  How long ago did Long View as a concept and initial infrastructure begin?

Drew:  Long View started seven years ago half a block up the street, occupying a small, 800 square foot salon/gallery space.  We were there for five years.  Our lease was up and we had to make a decision whether we were going to try for the larger space.  We were getting a lot of requests in our old space to hold birthday parties and corporate events.  So, luckily, before the decision got too difficult, we met Suzi through her friend Kari Becker Beard, our graphic designer.  And I’m not sure how long Suzi had been working with events at that point…

Suzi:  Some years by that point.

Drew:  Right.  So we were much more confident with Suzi.  We decided to move ahead with our plans, build the new space, and make the events happen.  From the beginning of the decision it made sense to combine the events (Suzi’s responsibility) and the art gallery (Drew’s responsibility).   

Suzi:  Yes.  We ended up here October 22, 2009.  It has only been two and a half years, but the momentum behind the space has accelerated drastically.   

Kevin:  Only two years and you already have celebrities coming here, correct?

Suzi:  We do! (laughs)

Kevin:  What about the concept?  Is Long View as simple as it seems?

Drew:  I think it is.  We are a fine art gallery during the day that operates exactly like a fine art gallery during the day, similar to a museum.  By night we are still a fine art gallery but what’s more is that Suzi is able to bring fantastic clients and hold amazing events here:  weddings, concerts, car companies come, film screenings, celebrity events, etc.

Kevin:  Suzi, how has word spread about you so quickly?

Suzi:  We started doing tours for Long View long before the official opening.  For this reason we really hit the ground running when it opened.  The buzz on the street was there.  And, the events world in D.C. is a very small world…

Drew:  …as is the gallery world.   There is no other space that looks like this in D.C.  The space itself generates press because it’s the only space that is unique and different because it doesn’t feel like a typical D.C. space.  We pride on it being non-pretentious.  It’s real.  We want to abolish the stereotype of the typical, high-brow fine arts gallery.

Suzi:  That’s right.  And the rules are more lenient.  Because we are creative with the space we encourage others to be creative with the space so everybody gets to make it their own.  So, whereas other museums have a ton of rules that guests have to abide by our only rule is that we ask you don’t touch the art and hang on the white walls.  Other than that, the space is yours to play with.  The space never looks the same for any single event.  

Kevin:  Why was Shaw your destination?

Drew:  We all own homes in Shaw.  

Suzi:  Yep.  We all own homes in the neighborhood.

Drew:  And we knew what we were doing was a destination.  We could have done this anywhere and it would have worked.  We are just invested in Shaw and we love Shaw.

Kevin:  What about the people of Shaw?

Drew: Shaw is a fantastic neighborhood.  

 Suzi:  Other neighborhood residents are as invested as we are.  The neighborhood is very supportive.

Drew:  The commercial start-up in 7th and 9th street slowing down slightly when the economy took a turn, and because of that, now, with the economy getting better there is an internal vigor in the people who live here for new businesses opening.  People have been talking about Shaw for so long and everyone wants to see it change for the inclusive better.

Kevin:  I understand what you mean by vigor.   Every one of the business proprietors I have met in my interview series has contained an incredible, undying work ethic.  And they are friendly too.  It is so rare for a neighborhood to sustain that.

Drew:  Definitely

Kevin:  What’s next for Long View?

Drew:  We kind of like what we are doing right now (laughs).

Suzi:  Yes!  More of the same.  

Drew:  We like to think we can keep attracting excellent artists and exhibitionists, the same way we like to think we would keep attracting acclimated clients, celebrities, and cool stuff like that.

Suzi:  We like working with whatever we feel comfortable with.  I really enjoy setting up the local weddings.  A lot of people who live in Shaw have gotten married here because it’s close to home.  It says a lot when the community is giving your space such a compliment as that.

Kevin:  That is for sure.  Well, I really appreciate the interview and good luck in the coming months.  You have a fantastic space here.

Drew:  Thanks a lot.

Suzi:  Thank you, Kevin. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shaw REALTOR® interviews Che Mille-Vierra of SugaMama Sweets

As a Real Estate Agent specializing in Shaw, and through my website I write a blog which interviews the business proprietors of Shaw.  This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Che Miller-Vierra, Owner of SugaMama Sweets.  SugaMama Sweets offers some of the best frozen novelties that can be found in Shaw.  Below is the interview where Che speaks about her life before cooking, how she met paths with her dream to start a business, and her attraction to Shaw.  

Kevin:  Che, as a real estate agent who specializes in Shaw, I really appreciate you sitting down to speak with me about your up-and-coming business, SugaMama Sweets.

Che:  I’m glad to talk about SugaMama Sweets.  It’s my life (laughs).

Kevin:  Let’s talk about how you got here.

Che:  Well, I have had different jobs in the past.  I spent five years teaching at Thompson Elementary School on 12th and L.  After some years at teaching, I felt a very organic pull to go into cooking, which has always been a deep-rooted passion of mine.  I love to cook, but I never thought about a making it a career out of it until after I retired.  So I went to culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg.

Kevin:  And after culinary school, where did you go?  

Che:  I started at the Oval Room for a while.  Then I found a job on the Red Hook Lobster Truck (an extension of the Red Hook Lobster Pound in Red Hook Brooklyn).  I did a lot of different things at first so I could get a sense of different business models.  Originally I thought I wanted to own a food truck.  After working with Red Hook Lobster, which is an awesome experience, I’ve realized it is a lot more complicated than I thought.  So I decided to start simpler and dedicate myself to a focused niche.  

Kevin:  So you instead found your own niche, small and simple enough for you to control.  

Che:  Exactly.  I decided to work solely with ice cream sandwiches and frozen novelties.  I found my niche in something tiny and sweet, packing big and original flavors.  Thus was born SugaMama Sweets. 

Kevin:  And you are currently selling your frozen novelties out of a few different places. 

Che:  Yes.  Mainly Seasonal Pantry and the Red Hook Lobster Truck.  It’s going well.  I’m very thankful to have a place like Seasonal Pantry, as well as the truck.  Seasonal Pantry is stationary though…

Kevin:…as opposed to a mobile truck…

Che:…and I’m seeing how a business in one place can be a benefit for one’s brand. In many ways the logistics are just easier.  It has been a gift that Dan O’Brien has shared his space with me.  I am very thankful for that as well as the support from Red Hook which really helped SugaMama get off the ground.

Kevin:  You also have the “Sandwich Club.”  

Che:  Yes, we also have the sandwich club, which we call the Ice Cream Goodness Club. Basically you get a monthly dose of our handcrafted ice cream or ice cream sandwiches made from all natural, and primarily local ingredients. You can find out more by checking out our newsletter

Kevin:  Now, SugaMama Sweets is two people, correct?  

Che:  Yes.  Myself and my partner, Lyndsey Miller-Vierra.  She has complete control over the communications and operational side.  I’m the one behind the food, trying to keep people with a sweet tooth consistently coming back to try SugaMama Sweets’ new flavors.  

Kevin:  What about the frozen novelties?

Che:  Our signature flavor is the S’More.  It’s toasted marshmallow, ice cream, graham cracker and a little bit of chocolate.  We have the Cracker Jack, which is caramel popcorn  ice cream and peanut butter graham cracker.  It’s got that salty-sweet thing going for it.  

Kevin:  What else?

Che:  Shake and Fries, which is chocolate ice cream and a “French fry” cookie…think about dipping your French fries into a milk shake.  I tried to get it to taste like that.  And the Irish Car Bomb:  an ice cream sandwich based on the drink.  Our goal is to find a sandwich for everybody.  

Kevin:  Which gets to our next question, what is it like starting up your own business?

Che:  Well, it’s scary.  You put your heart into something and there is the possibility it will fail.  At the same time it’s exciting because you are looking at something which really could succeed.  Much of the reason I got into this is because my heart really rests in this.  My earliest memories are of food and the people who fed me.  I still remember the people who fed me in my earliest years.  Some sort of wonderful connection takes place between the cook, the food, and the served.  I like being a part of that.

Kevin:  How do you go about the creative process?

Che:  I am always looking for flavor combinations starting with my observations of real food combinations.  It doesn’t start with the ice cream.  For example, beer and pretzels are classic.  I then put myself to the challenge of making an ice cream sandwich that tasted like the combination of beer and pretzels . . . only better!  It could work but if it doesn’t at least I’ve had fun trying! And what if you were having breakfast and some syrup rolled off of your waffles into your bacon?   Thus we created a bacon and waffle ice-cream sandwich.  People either love or hate that one (laughs).

Kevin:  So why Shaw?  Why not somewhere else?

Che:  I just love Shaw because Shaw is a good place to get a sense of D.C. history.  After the riots in 1968 Shaw went through its struggles.  Shaw is an integral part of D.C. and the history is important.  I’ve been living next to Shaw for a decade and have seen it change incredibly.  There have been houses boarded up since the riots that are only now being renewed.  And I used to teach in Shaw, so I have students who now are playing an active part of the community.  Recently one of my students was part of a Duke Ellington exhibition at the Kennedy Center.  Another student now works at the garden center right around the corner.  So I’ve had a stake in Shaw for a number of years and it felt natural to begin my business here.  Shaw is very motivated, very proud.  I love the energy of Shaw.

Kevin:  Che, thanks so much for giving the time for this interview.  I wish SugaMama Sweets the very best of luck.

Che:  My pleasure.  This has been great. 

(Photos courtesy of Rachel Tepper, Authorized by Lyndsey Miller-Vierra)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shaw Expert REALTOR® Interviews Tony Lucca, Owner of 1905

As a Real Estate Agent specializing in Shaw, and through my website I write a blog which interviews the business proprietors of Shaw.  This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Lucca, Owner of Shaw's 1905.  1905 is a European restaurant frequently hosting live jazz.  Below is the interview where Tony speaks about how he got to this point in his life, the joy of running 1905, as well as what he thinks about the community of Shaw. 

 Kevin:  Tony, as a real estate agent specializing in Shaw with Evers and Company, and through my website, I first want to thank you for having the time to sit down today and speak with me about 1905 and the community of Shaw.

Tony:  Kevin, it’s my pleasure.

Kevin:  So how did you get here?

Tony:  Well, I am originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I grew up in a small Portuguese fishing village on the outer Cape, which is both a fishing town as well as a major tourist attraction.  Growing up in a small tourist town, most kids started working at a young age.  I got my first job when I was 10 at a fruit and produce company that delivered goods to all the area restaurants.  A few years later, I started working on a fishing boat, and after that transitioned to working in restaurants.  I paid my way through high school and college working at restaurants on the Cape and in Boston.  I majored in Finance and Economics, as well as Business Entrepreneurship, and took a liking to real estate.  During college I worked doing real estate investment portfolio management, but transitioned to real estate development when I left college.   That first job is what brought me to DC.  After five years of development, I found myself getting the urge to do something on my own. 

Kevin:  Did you ever think you would want to own your own restaurant?

Tony:  The idea of owning a restaurant kept coming back to me.  Eventually I decided to take a six month leave of absence from my career in real estate to clear my head and focus on the future.  I went back home to the Cape in the dead of winter, which was the perfect reprieve.  I was only on the Cape for two months, during which time I wrote a few business plans, and then got called back to DC for jury duty of all things.  When I came back, it just kind of struck me:  I am going to give owning my own restaurant a shot.  I began networking, trying to figure out what the process entailed, and in June of 2009 I bought 1905.  

Kevin:  So a big change?

Tony:  Now my entire life is centered around 1905.  It’s a constant, vibrant challenge.  We are on 9th Street, and just because Shaw has grown a lot doesn’t mean 9th Street is popping yet.  Shaw has had an increase in the amount of foot traffic, and so has 9th Street, but we aren’t 14th Street yet.  And to be honest, I’m not sure we should try to be 14th Street.  We’ve got an incredible thing going on over here.  Beyond being located on a still emerging street, 1905 is also located on the 2nd floor of a rowhouse, and it’s been a real challenge getting our name out there.

Kevin:   So what was your answer to that challenge?

Tony:  From the beginning of owning 1905, I had dreamed of adding on a rooftop deck, which in DC, is a huge draw.  Every dollar the restaurant has made since 2009 has gone right back into the rooftop deck.  After nearly 3 years of work, the deck just opened in mid-May.

Kevin:  What has the response been like?

Tony:  We are getting great press, a lot of good exposure, and it has become everything I envisioned it would:  a highly successful catalyst.  We used to be a 7:30PM to 10:30PM establishment.  Now we have people pouring in right when we open.  The challenge is:  “How do we maintain 1905’s coziness, accessibility, and its neighborhood feel with the new rush of activity?”  We have stayed in business for three years because of our neighbors and neighborhood.  We cannot lose that.  I am now focused on keeping our long time patrons happy, while also trying to please a whole new clientele.  A rooftop deck can very easily change the environment of a restaurant, and we are watching closely to ensure the rooftop deck is an addition to an already great restaurant, not a paradigm shift away from what people have loved.

Kevin:  1905 is a townhouse situated in a residential neighborhood.  Is it easy to keep the neighbors happy?

Tony:  (laughs) For the most part, yes.  Listen, I am not a guy who feels comfortable when I know people are unhappy with either my own self or my business.  I am always trying to reach out to my neighbors and ensure they are comfortable with the rooftop deck and the rest of the business.  Almost every neighbor is happy, complimentary, and excited to see us growing.

Kevin:  What about the concept?  European restaurant mixed with New Orleans Jazz?  Your idea? Or an idea already instilled?

Tony:  The concept was here before I got here.  Can’t take any credit there.   One really cool thing in addition to the obvious concept is the interior.  Every single thing you see inside of 1905 is handmade.  If it wasn’t handmade it was found at some thrift shop or community yard sale that was converted to fit the space.  The chandelier in the middle of the dining room has countless layers of paint on it to make it look the way it does.  Mick Mier was the original designer and he poured himself into this space, and it shows. 

Kevin:  And the rooftop deck?

Tony:  Everything hand made.  I think the concept has worked out really well.  I wanted it to be an extension of the downstairs, but with its own unique feel.  I always envisioned it being the garden area of this beautifully appointed home.  Keeping the skeleton key and the address as the title of the restaurant maintains the speakeasy concept.

Kevin:  What about the food?

Tony:  Our chef is Matt Richardson.  We are very proud to have him here.   He’s been here for three years.  Matt instantaneously picked up the concept I was pushing for:  simple, accessible home cooked food.  With such a small menu, it’s a challenge to appease everyone, but Matt has done an incredible job.   From the start, Matt understood how the food needed to speak to the space, and he has captured the essence of what we were striving for.  He’s been a huge part of our success.
Kevin:  What type of character does your food present?

Tony:  I hate pretension (Laughs).  Matt agrees.   Nothing here is pretentious.  There are 1,000 food fads running around at any given time, but the one staple that never evades someone’s stomach is well-prepared, simple food.  We don’t want to price gouge our clientele, which is why we do our Neighborhood Appreciation Nights on Tuesday and Wednesday.  We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel either.  We are just cooking really badass food.  

Kevin:  The drinks?

Tony:  Our wine list is eclectic, trying to meet as many palates as possible with a relatively small amount of wine.  My wine reps tell me I have a very general palate that resonates with a wide spectrum of wine tastes, which they say is a good thing.  A sommelier would probably pick my wine list apart, but it has worked out great so far, and I receive positive feedback from our customers.  So I feel confident about the wine.  The beer has gone through a change, especially with the deck.  When I bought 1905 I felt the unfounded pressure to present very unique European beers.  I take full responsibility in admitting this was not the way to go at all (laughs).  People know their beers – they aren’t looking for obscure stuff that nobody has heard of.

Kevin:  Well, it is admirable that you are intelligent enough to admit when you are wrong.  That is the sign of an honest, sincere business owner.  

Tony:  Yeah.  I’m always learning from my mistakes.  We have since revamped our beer list and it’s been working out great.

Kevin:  What about the Jazz?

Tony:  We work with four great jazz bands. They range from acoustic guitar, to bossa nova jazz, to New Orleans gypsy jazz, to French jazzWe work with Laissez Foure, Matvei Sigalov, The Gene D’Andrea Trio, and Hot Club of DC.

Kevin:  And what about Shaw?

Tony:  I love Shaw.  I moved over to Church Street after my first year in D.C., and now live on Corcoran.  My entire DC life has been entirely Shaw oriented.  Shaw is accessible and livable.  It isn’t pretentious.  It is a compliment when the people of Shaw come to 1905, because the people are so down to earth and committed to our community, that I feel it’s an honor to have them share 1905 with me. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shaw expert REALTOR® interviews Ali Bagheri from SUNdeVICH

As a Real Estate Agent specializing in Shaw, through my website I write a blog which interviews the business proprietors of Shaw.  This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali Bagheri of Shaw's new sandwich shop, SUNdeVICH.  SUNdeVICH is part of the DanAli projects, which includes Seasonal Pantry, run by Dan O'Brien.  Below is the interview where Ali speaks about how he got to this point in his life, the craft required for running one of Shaw's most popular small businesses, as well as what he thinks about the community of Shaw.
Kevin Poist:    Ali, as a real estate agent specializing only in Shaw, I truly appreciate you sitting down to speak with me about your business.  How about we start with some background on how you got to the point where you opened up SUNdeVICH?

Ali Bagheri:  I've been in the industry for about 15 years.  Dan O’Brien and I met in a kitchen and developed the concept for Seasonal Pantry before SUNdeVICH.  Dan was living already in Shaw close to P Street.  I was moving into Shaw.  So we saw this property (that SUNdeVICH now sits upon) and the apartment on the third floor was available and I moved into the apartment.  A year later, we opened up our commercial spaces here.

Kevin:  So what was the inspiration for opening up your commercial properties in Shaw?

Ali:  Well, necessity is the mother of invention.  At that time you either had to go to U Street or Chinatown.  There was little in between.  The convention center is a double edge sword because people think it’s a prime location yet the convention center is only occupied on occasion, so new business start-ups were confused about how to creatively fill commercial spaces in Shaw.  I was working on the SUNdeVICH concept at that time and we ended up seeing this space (under the apartment where I was living) as a great space for both SUNdeVICH and Seasonal Pantry.

Kevin:  How did SUNdeVICH begin?

Ali:  We opened Seasonal Pantry a month before we opened SUNdeVICH.  SUNdeVICH began as an operation July of 2011, but it took a year before that with construction permitting and so on.  Now we are where we want to be:  the two stand on their own and SUNdeVICH and Seasonal Pantry are doing their own thing.  Our original business model is now in full momentum.  Our business model has always specialized towards residential neighborhoods with a strong sense of community.  Everything is close so everything is cohesive and the inner-workings of management are seamless.  It’s not like our headquarters is in California and we are running a shop over on the East Coast.  All of the energy that goes into SUNdeVICH happens right here in Shaw.  This is our neighborhood.

Kevin:  And what is that business model?

Ali:  Dan and I wanted to have a couple of places very close to each other, very competitive with each other.  We wanted to create our plans in a neighborhood that needed and desired small, neighborhood-friendly businesses. 

Kevin:  For being open only a year, it seems Shaw has received SUNdeVICH and Seasonal Pantry quite well.

Ali:  The people of Shaw, as well as media exposure, have been very good to us thus far.  Word of mouth from the people of Shaw, the Washington Post, the Washingtonian, this month’s Food and Wine:  we have been very fortunate from the exposure perspective, bloggers in the neighborhood, and a couple of promotional deals we ran that really helped get out name out there.  The people of Shaw have been amazing with their excitement towards our businesses.

Kevin:  What about the name, “SUNdeVICH”

Ali:  The name is just a pun on the word "sandwich."  The Middle-East, Eastern Europe, all pronounce it "sun-deh-vich." Dan and I use to joke that we would speak with an accent when everyone came.  I wanted to establish the brand and I knew I would trademark it.  The domain name was available.  All these variables came together.  It's fun too.

Kevin:  Let’s talk about the food.

Ali:  There is no reinventing the wheel.  The tastes of SUNdeVICH are all rifts of things that I have tried and tasted from my travels.  I have family in Germany, and the Germans have a high Turkish population.  This was the first exposure to street food:  sausage and gyros and kabobs from street carts.  We applied this concept to the need for Shaw to have a staple sandwich shop.  Since most urban sandwich shops deal with Italian sandwiches, or simply lots of turkey, we wanted SUNdeVICH to reinvent the idea of your neighborhood sandwich shop:  steering our customers away from the roast beef repeat-offenders and other usual turkey-suspects.

Kevin:  How are you incorporating your travels into your food?

Ali:  I want the food to be familiar enough that people are like "yeah I've had that before" and still diverse enough for them to say "I've never had anything like that!  We want our customer to feel the balance of familiarity and exploration in our food.  We don't want people to grow bored with the ingredients.  It should be fun!  We don't take ourselves seriously.  SUNdeVICH is in a garage. We’re in a back alley.  It’s relaxed.  I want people who visit our shop to say:  “Damn that little garage puts out a good sandwich!”  And we already have embraced the fun atmosphere in SUNdeVICH.  I've got some customers who are like "I'm going to try every sandwich in the first 30 days!"  Alex Padro, head of Shaw Main Streets, did just that.  Alex was gung ho!  He was methodical.  We want to make it fun and interesting.   

Kevin:  What about your emphasis on local and eco-friendly?

Ali:  Being a small business gives us a lot of opportunity to be “green” while supporting local farmers.  Since SUNdeVICH’s output is slightly higher than Seasonal Pantry (which prides itself off of its ingredients being 90% local) we cannot be as "local" as Seasonal Pantry is, but we are very close.  I am proud that we only work with small businesses.  SUNdeVICH is a small business, and therefore I want to support small businesses.  We don't deal with Sysco or any of the large suppliers.  We aren’t a franchise and we will never be “corporate” like that.  We have the luxury of working with farmers, local suppliers, and other small suppliers that we find it comfortable to work with.  Our sausage supplier is in Alexandria.  We don't have a freezer.   Our deliveries are on a daily basis.  We sell what we sell that day and start fresh the next day.  We got an '86 board because we run out of food on a daily basis.  I like the 86 board because it contains a live element.  When we are out of something it shows it’s popular.  We have a lot of fun with the board.

Kevin:  And what about Shaw?

Ali:  Shaw is awesome.  I love history and when I moved into Shaw I did a lot of research about the history of the alleys around SUNdeVICH, where the rich people lived facing the street and the poor people lived in the back alleys that took care of the horses.  I just love the history of the streets around me.  It contains a lot of character.  Furthermore, Shaw is located in the middle of the city.  Urban renewal is in full effect.  Even in the three years I have been here a lot has changed.  There is a very strong community here.  I think DC is starting to catch that New York state of mind, in that, people don't live in “New York,” they live in Tribeca, the Village, or whatever small community they are proud of.  Now, DC residents don’t live just in “D.C.” They live in Shaw, they live in Bloomingdale, they live in Logan Circle etc.  People are proud of their existing neighborhoods in D.C.  As far as I’m concerned, everybody wants to live in 2-triple-0-1 (20001, the zip code for Shaw).  Therefore, I’m proud to have a business in D.C.  And I’m more proud to have a business in Shaw.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

First-Time Home Buyers: The Process of Buying a Home

Buying a home can be a complicated and stressful process; not to mention it is most likely the largest financial transaction you will ever undergo (that is, until your next home purchase). 

The most obvious variable you can use to make the process much easier is finding an expert real estate agent.  How do you know if they are expert?  Meet the prospective agent.  The best way to figure out who you want to use as an agent is to sit down with an agent (usually at their office) and go through the Buyer-Consultation.  You should feel a strong trust towards the agent you want to work with, which is why meeting an agent and seeing them in person is important.

A Buyer-Consultation is when an agent and a customer sit down and ultimately for the customer to decide if the agent is a good match for them.  A Buyer-Consultation can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours based on how many questions the customer may have.  Usually, they last about 45 minutes to an hour.

After the consultation and an agreement has been reached, the real work starts:  beginning the process of finding your home. 

I have listed the process below to give Buyers a context for what to expect.  This is simply a generalized list which is not representative of every transaction.  Though each home-buying process is individualized, below I have provided a general list of what to expect. 

  1. Before you find the agent, ask yourself, "Why do I need/want to buy a home?"  You should have a good sense of your answer to this question before you meet with an agent.  
  2. Find an expert real estate agent:  With the internet today it seems that buying a house is going to be much easier than it actually is.  Buyers are at a loss if they are not using an agent, most importantly, because a Buyer's Agent usually does not cost money.  The Sellers will pay both the Listing Agent and the Buyer Agent (usually).  Going through the paperwork, the inspections, the financing, the pricing, and the negotiating are not processes a buyer wants to undergo without a real estate agent.  Also, out of the 1 million realtor members of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), only 20% have a GRI (Graduate of the Realtor Institute).  A GRI qualification exhibits commitment above and beyond those agents who do not have such a qualification.  Ask your agent if they have a GRI
  3. Finding a loan:  9 out of 10 first time home buyers finance their purchase, meaning:  They have to get a loan.  This is one of the most important steps in the process:  getting pre-approval through a lender.  An expert real estate agent has a lender list that they can recommend to a client.  The meeting with the lender allows for the client to understand what type of loan program is best for them.  Agents have access to the MLS, which is the most extensive, accurate, and up-to-date database available to only agents.  Trulia, Zillow, and Craigs List cannot compete with an expert Agent's ability to use the MLS thoroughly and efficiently.  And remember, the agent you trust is giving you the best searches for your future home, and they are doing it for free.
  4. Now, let's look at homes:  It is now time for the agent and client to view potential homes.  The agent and client have an honest dialogue about which houses they like and which houses they do not like, and why.  This will help the agent understand what houses to show and not to show in the future of the search.  
  5. Making an Offer: So you have spent time searching with your agent and have finally found the home you love.  Now comes the offers and negotiations, and this is the point in the process which truly makes you appreciate the agent.  This is the most complicated, personal, and variable part of the process, when sellers and buyers negotiate.  Legal counsel should be present for parts of this process (which the agent should know about) in order for all contracts to be confidently written without mistakes.  
  6. Getting Insurance:  There are different types of insurance that are essential for first time homeowners.  Title insurance, Homeowner's insurance, Flood Insurance, and Home Warranties.  These are not the only types of insurance available, but these are the basic types.  Your agent will explain about the different types and how to secure them.
  7. The Closing, or "Settlement:"  This process, which used to take place around a table, is now taking place more and more around the computer.  Settlement is a process where all of the necessary paperwork is completed.  Usually closing is done in an office.  
  8. Before you move in!  Before moving your stuff into a vacant house, make sure to take pictures or a video of everything the way it is.  You will want to have this as proof of the way the house looked before you start living there.  Insurance providers can help first-time homeowners with advice on what to photograph and video.
  9. Keep good care of your home and enjoy it. 
Kevin Poist is willing to help any first time home buyers search for their home in DC, MD, or VA.  Call 202-441-1757 to set up a Buyer's Consultation.

See his website here:

(Note:  To examine the first time buyer process in greater detail, please visit's page regarding Basic Tips for First-Time Home Buyers which information was taken to produce this blog article).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Townhouse Values Jump from 2011

Shaw real estate expert Kevin Poist (Evers and Company Real Estate) developed a report for Shaw's residential townhouses, comparing the year-over-year findings from January to June 2011-2012.  The findings were exciting.  The townhouse market in Shaw is escalating quickly. 

Recently, a report documenting condominium values was released exhibiting similar good news for Shaw residents. 

Buyers looking to purchase should contact Kevin now for a buyer's consultation before prices rise too high,

Sellers ready to list should contact Kevin now to begin discussing the powerful marketing strategies for getting the best price for their home.

Kevin Poist

(ReTweets of this article are appreciated.  Information in graph may not be used unless given written permission by Kevin Poist). 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shaw Condo Values Up 4%

Shaw real estate expert Kevin Poist (Evers and Company) developed a report for residential condominiums, comparing the 2012 and 2011 first quarters.  The findings were promising, exhibiting the promising future of Shaw's real estate market.

The graph below displays the average statistics from 2011 to 2012: 

One bedroom condominiums display a 21.24% increase  in average close price value.

Two bedroom condominiums display a 1.93% decrease in average close price value. (This minimal decrease essentially purports prices for two bedroom condos have sustained and stabilized, which is excellent).  

Three Bedroom condominiums display a 17.38% increase from 2011 in average close price value.

The Average Close Price for a condominium (before making the # of bedroom distinction) was $424,251 in Q1 2011 and $441,233 in Q1 2012.  The Percentage Change = 4% increase.

Buyers looking to purchase should contact Kevin now for a buyer's consultation. 

Sellers ready to list should contact Kevin now to begin discussing the powerful marketing strategies for getting the best price for their home.

Kevin Poist

(Re-Tweets on Twitter are always appreciated and permitted.  The information in this blog article is not to be re-used outside of Twitter unless given written permission by Kevin Poist.  Thank you)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

HomesInShaw Interviews Business Owner Erica Skolnik, Owner of Frenchie's Pastries & Desserts

Frenchie's, a dessert and pastries company run out of Shaw's popular Seasonal Pantry and SunDeVich, can be said to be a hidden gem within a gem.  Seasonal Pantry and SunDeVich just took both first and second place for Best New Small Business 2011.  Frenchie's, owned and founded by Erica Skolnik, has undoubtedly contributed to the success of Shaw's favorite new businesses.

Erica Skolnik is the creative force behind Frenchie's.  I had the privilege to sit down with her at Seasonal Pantry on June 4th, 2012 and discuss with her her story, the origin of Frenchie's, and her thoughts about Shaw.  Below is the interview by HomesInShaw.

Kevin:  Well I really appreciate you taking twenty minutes out of your busy day to sit and meet with me, Erica. 

Erica:  Oh it's not a problem.  I love talking about Shaw, and I love talking about Frenchie's, so I look forward to the interview.

Kevin:  Great.  So, how about we begin with a little bit of your background?

Erica:  Well, I've been baking forever and have always been involved in restaurants and cooking.  When my parents were pushing me to get a degree in business, I stayed true to my passions and majored with an undergraduate degree in Restaurant Management.  After that, I headed out to California.  It had always been a dream of mine to go to culinary school so I finally did.  I attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Napa, specializing in their pastry program. 

Kevin:  What is one of the important, broad lessons you took from your studying at CIA?

Erica:  It allowed me to organically develop m own style.  I like this sound byte when describing my food:  "I want it to look really delicious.  I want it to taste really delicious."  (laughs)  You know? 

Kevin:  Sure.  You want to cut out all the nonsense and just contain the essence of the food's taste.  So when did you move back home from California?

Erica:  Well I moved back to D.C. because I missed it.  And I knew that when I came back to D.C. I wanted to attempt my goal of starting up my own business.  I knew that is what I really wanted to do.

Kevin: So how did that go?

Erica:  Well, finding a commercial space to share in D.C. is difficult.  Obviously you want a good space where the scheduling will accommodate your business.  You want the owners of the space and the landlords to treat you right.  So, for a long time I didn't find anything.  After looking around a little bit, I decided to sell in farmer's markets.

Kevin:  Did that work out?

Erica: Serendipitously I met Dan O'Brien at a local cheese shop.  He told me he was starting Seasonal Pantry and we spoke about connecting.  So instead of being in a farmer's market, I decided to produce for a food market, Seasonal Pantry.

Kevin:  So what about the name?  "Frenchie's?"

Erica:  My husband is also really into food.  While brainstorming about the name, he said, "we need something homey, retro...we love France and Parisian pastries...what about 'Frenchie's'?"  And the name stuck.

Kevin:  Very cool.  Can you talk about the "classes" you offer and the "pop-ups?"

Erica:  The classes are offered every so often.  We can schedule private baking classes at someone's home or at Seasonal Pantry. They can contact me for details.  The classes are instructional and involve all things baking.  We do something different each time and it is a lot of fun.  The "pop-ups" are more of tasting the bakery.  We have everything set out to buy and eat.  You walk in and you are looking at what slice of pie you want to eat.

Kevin:  So the classes the guests actively learn, and the pop-ups the guests actively indulge?

Erica:  (laughs).  Sure!  

(While I ask Erica these questions, she is moving throughout the kitchen effortlessly, baking and prepping numerous things.  She moves towards the oven to take out a cake).

Kevin:  What is coming out of the oven?

Erica:  This is a chocolate zucchini cake

Kevin:  Sounds delicious.  What else is on your baked goods line-up?

Erica:  Lemon Blackberry Whoopie Pies, Blueberry Kuchen, croissants, various cookies; a variety of pastries, sticky buns, and breads.  I can talk to the customer about what it is they are trying to plan for and we plan from scratch.  I like to think I can bake whatever it is they desire for whatever occasion.  Special orders from customers are my favorites because its always a unique and creative experience. 
Kevin:  What are you working on right now? 

Erica:  Right now, at this very moment I am working on organizing the plan to cook 14 pies in one day for a wedding. 

Kevin:  Wow.  How can you cook 14 pies in one day?

Erica:  With a lot of planning (laughs).  It's for a wedding.  There seems to be a neat idea out there catching on with weddings.

Kevin:  Which is?

Erica:  Rather than a wedding cake get a lot of different pies and/or pastries and let the guests taste a lot of different things instead of one cake.  I am also very excited to be working with another couple for pies for a ceremony in October.

Kevin:   What about the neighborhood Shaw?  Why are you selling your stuff here?
Erica:  Well, the space was here and I live in Petworth.  Shaw and Petworth are my two favorite D.C. neighborhoods.  My base is here, and the support I get from these two communities is surreal.  And Shaw is so diverse, so active.  There is just this really great vibe running through Shaw.  It is also family oriented.  As a mother of a two-year-old, I think about the neighborhood I want my child to grow up in family-friendly neighborhood, and Shaw truly captivates that. 

Kevin:  Well, it is easy to see why the neighborhood knows you.  Your personability is very inclusive

Erica:  I just love people.  I love croissants, I love food, and I love making people happy (Laughs).  That love for people is where the idea for the storefront comes in.

Kevin:  Storefront?

Erica:  Mentally I am 100% ready to open up my own bakery.  I feel a bakery in Petworth or Shaw would be a success since the neighborhoods are very residential and people love to buy food.  So I feel comfortable thinking about opening up something in one of those two neighborhoods.

Kevin:  Well I know either neighborhood would benefit greatly with your presence, and I really appreciate this interview and your time, Erica.

Erica:  It's my pleasure.  Thank you so much for the opportunity.