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Dimples Dental Suite Ribbon Cutting



CHAMPS joined Dr. Takeisha Presson last month as she celebrated the one year anniversary of Dimples Dental Suite with a grand opening and ribbon cutting.  Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie attended and spoke of the important role small businesses – and their owners – play in connecting the community, and reminded attendees how it important it is to support our small businesses. CHAMPS executive director Julie Aaronson also spoke and noted that CHAMPS stands ready to support and serve Dr. Presson as she cares for our Capitol Hill community. You can learn more about Dr. Presson and Dimples Dental Suite here.

Congratulations Dr. Presson! #champsmember #womanownedbusiness




Ari Gejdenson

A Capitol Hill Native Who Has Built a Restaurant Empire

It’s very fitting that I am sitting across from Ari Gejdenson in Ari’s Diner, one of three new establishments the young restaurateur has recently opened in Ivy City. Why? Because about 15 years ago, at the age of 20, he was opening his first restaurant in Florence, Italy, where he was playing professional soccer. It was an American-style diner named Ari’s Diner.

It is safe to say that the intervening years have kept Gejdenson busy. If you didn’t already know him, if you met Gejdenson on the street, you’d never believe he now owns eight restaurants across three neighborhoods in DC and employs over 300 people.

Exceptionally friendly and kind-spirited, and casual in a t-shirt and ballcap, he seems more like a best friend from college you’d grab beers with. But don’t be fooled by his modest, unassuming demeanor: Gejdenson has always been an incredibly driven, ambitious person. He cares deeply about his employees and is greatly involved in every establishment that comprises his Mindful Restaurant Group.

A native of Capitol Hill, Gejdenson has had an unconventional career trajectory. His mother taught at Montessori schools and his dad was a congressman. Displaying an early talent at soccer, Gejdenson was spotted by a scout. He dropped out of high school and followed his passion for the sport that would take him to Bolivia, Chile, Connecticut, and finally Florence, playing for San Gimignano.

Already showing signs of decision-making skills, he decided that professional soccer wasn’t a viable career choice. “Much like every other professional sport, in soccer you are considered obsolete at a comparatively young age. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t broke at 35,” Gejdenson says.

But what business opportunities could a 20-year-old American soccer player pursue in Italy? Gejdenson noted two things: that there were no late-night food options to end a boozy night out at before going home, and that many hotels were offering popular yet mostly terrible American-style brunches.

With the number of ex-pats and study-abroad students in Florence, Gejdenson decided to open Ari’s Diner. He flew a friend out to help him (a former server at The Diner in Adams Morgan), and went forward, maybe a tad naively, with his plan.

“I remember thinking, I’ll open a restaurant in Italy where I have no experience. I figured it’d take off real slow so I’d have time to work with it, and it didn’t. I started to get my ass kicked on levels that – it was so hard the first two years. But I learned through necessity.”

As Ari’s Diner took off, Gejdenson became friendly with Stefano Innocenti, the owner of a neighboring restaurant, Acqua Al 2. Innocenti took an instant liking to Gejdenson. Upon first meeting, he exclaimed, “Who are you? You remind me of me!”

It’s hard to imagine what a young American soccer player had in common with the middle-aged Italian proprietor of a popular Florentine restaurant, unless you know that Innocenti opened Acqua Al 2 at age 18. Not only a friendship but a partnership was born. Innocenti invested in the diner, and Gejdenson helped out at Acqua Al 2. They ran both together for about five years, before Gejdenson began feeling pressure to move back home, mostly from his mother.

“She kept saying, ‘Barracks Row is coming alive, you need to be opening places in DC, not Italy!’” he recalls.

However, Gejdenson met an obstacle in finding the perfect spot to open his inaugural DC restaurant, until Kitty Kaupp of Stanton Development Corporation (currently part of the team behind the massive Hine Project) called him and pitched 212 Seventh St. SE. And thus the DC iteration of Acqua Al 2 finally found a home.

Gejdenson dove headfirst into the design of the restaurant. He had so many ideas swimming around in his head, and found it challenging to incorporate everything. He had to be more focused. “As I was building Acqua, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t get to do. I kind of wanted to open another place, but running Acqua was so much that I didn’t really think of doing it.”

He did end up opening a speakeasy, Harold Black, nestled right above Acqua Al 2. But it didn’t take the same amount of work that opening a whole new restaurant does, and Gejdenson was busy with other establishments.

That changed at a fortuitous meeting at Peregrine Coffee, where Gejdenson was introduced to Jody Greene, of Greene & Associates, who offered him a lease at the building that housed the former HR-57 jazz club on historic 14th Street. Here was another outlet for Gejdenson’s creative spirit and drive. He opened Italian gastro-pub Ghibellina, named after the street he lived on in Florence, just before the explosion of restaurant openings along the 14th Street corridor. Le Diplomate, B Too, and Tico all opened within months of Ghibellina.

Despite his investors being nervous about the location, it struck a personal chord with Gejdenson. “I usually don’t like being in the mix of things, but as a kid, 14th Street just always felt like it needed to come back alive, so to be able to be a part of that was not something that I was going to turn down,” he says.

If there is one running theme in Gejdenson’s restaurant empire, it’s that he has a personal connection to each spot. Harold Black is named after his grandfather. “My grandfather always talked how, you think speakeasies are below a laundromat or something but it was much more common that they were just bars in people’s houses.” Gejdenson designed the space in keeping with that residential, homey speakeasy feel.

If Harold Black is a cozy nook, then the Denson, Gejdenson’s other liquor bar (obviously a play on his surname), is on the other range: sleek and sophisticated, all leather and brass.

When Gejdenson opened a jazz den in the basement space next door to Ghibellina, he called it Sotto, which means “below” in Italian. It has a sycamore slab bar, cozy booths, and bistro tables that look onto the stage. Gejdenson wanted to pay homage to the renowned musical history of the street.

The most recent additions to the Mindful Restaurant Group family are situated on a corner on Okie Street NE in up-and-coming Ivy City, where the Hecht’s Warehouse serves as a geographic centerpiece and is dotted with craft distilleries.

Gejdenson learned of Okie Street back when Dream nightclub (later Love nightclub) was the only thing on the street. He likened Ivy City to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the late 1990s, where there were no restaurants and little to motivate people to visit. Gejdenson knew Ivy City would be the place to go next. “It just feels good here, I got here and it felt great – like when I was a kid – and I try to do what feels good and not think about it too much.” Gejdenson even lives in the area now, with his wife (who operates Mindful Restaurant Group together with him) and their daughter.

The bartender shakes up a cocktail at Dock FC, Ari’s new sport’s bar in Ivy City.

In Ivy City, there’s Dock FC, a converted loading dock turned sports bar, mostly soccer, of course. La Puerta Verde (The Green Door) was inspired by a bar that Gejdenson saw on a beach in Mexico, and he wanted a Mexican-meets-warehouse feel. The result? Incorporating cutout shipping containers to form booths.

And then there is Ari’s Diner, his restaurant group coming full circle to that first establishment in Florence. Ari’s Diner is indicative of Gejdenson’s commitment to the people he employs. The diner serves as an informal training school where entry-level short-order cooks can learn the ropes and eventually move on to Gejdenson’s other restaurants.

“It’s a great place to train people, so when we need our next line cook at Acqua or Ghibellina or Sotto, we’ve already moved people from here to La Puerta Verde. I really believe that working with your staff and helping them be better at their jobs is so important; we’re all responsible for building them up. It doesn’t matter how good a restaurant you are or location, you can’t operate a restaurant without people.”

His establishments also organize and participate in fundraisers for the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Capital Area Food bank, and local youth soccer leagues, further emphasizing the commitment to the DC communities they call home.

It’s an exciting time for Mindful Restaurant Group and Gejdenson, who may be one of the youngest (and most hardworking) restaurateurs in the DC area. As a DC native, he’s especially tuned into the spaces he creates, the neighborhoods he operates in, and, most significantly, the people that help make Mindful Restaurant Group successful.

CHAMPS Member and Founder of Serve Your City, Maurice Cook, is the National Co-Chair of the March for Racial Justice.  #M4RJ would like to partner with local businesses to promote and support.

On September 30, 2017, the March for Racial Justice will be a powerful gathering of over 50,000 people on the National Mall in Washington, DC, calling for racial justice and equity. “Not one more!”


Here’s how your business can be involved:

  1. DONATE –> Watch our Generosity by Indiegogo campaign video and donate to our cause!
  1. ENDORSE –> Officially endorse the march and partner with us!
  1. REGISTER –> You and your employees can register for the march and join us on 9/30!
  1. VOLUNTEER –> Interested in being more actively involved? Sign up here!
  1. PROMOTE –> Help us get the word out! Help us amplify our message!



Maurice Cook

Phone: 202-341-1732




Wine shop owner teams up with customer filmmaker to screen a story about Dreamers in an effort to bring together the community to listen, learn, and taste wine.

Washington, DC: DCanter, a Capitol Hill wine shop, is teaming up with Capitol Hill resident and film director, Hilary Linder, to raise funds to support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals by hosting a wine tasting and film screening of Indivisible – Love Without Borders, an award-winning documentary film about the real people at the heart of our nation’s immigration debate. Two screenings will take place at DCanter: Saturday, September 30, 2017 (4:00 – 6:00 PM) and Sunday, October 1, 2017 (4:00 – 6:00 PM).  Tickets are $20 through September 25 and $25 after that and are available at

In early September, President Trump announced the end of the DACA program.  DACA enabled nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrant youth–including the three profiled in Indivisible–to work and go to school without the fear of deportation for the first time in their lives.  More than 150,000 DACA recipients only have until October 5, 2017 to renew their DACA status at a cost of $495.  Money raised from this screening weekend will be donated to The DACA Renewal Fund.

Indivisible is the story of Renata, Evelyn, and Antonio who were young children when their parents brought them to the U.S. in search of a better life. They were teenagers when their mothers, fathers, and siblings were deported.  Today, they are known as Dreamers.  Indivisible takes place at a pivotal moment in their lives, as they fight for a pathway to citizenship and a chance to be reunited with their loved ones.  With the future of immigration reform uncertain, will they see their families again?

“The film really resonated with me because I was a dreamer before the word DREAM was an acronym. My mom brought me to the United States from the Philippines as a child in the 90s, and I was undocumented for a brief period.  My mom, who worked as a housekeeper, got us sponsored by her employer. That was a different time in US immigration, and I know we got lucky. Now I own a business; I’m creating jobs and proudly contributing to my country as an American citizen,” DCanter co-founder and CEO, Michelle Lim Warner says of the film.

Film director Hilary Linder hopes that viewers will see this as a story about families, “Knowing that immigration reform is a highly politicized topic, I set out to make a film that would humanize the issue and that both undocumented and documented audiences could relate to—a film about families.  We hope that audience members will be inspired to act, and we’ll give them all the tools they need to contact their Members of Congress and ask them to vote for a clean DREAM Act.”

A wine tasting will accompany the film screening featuring wines from immigrant winemakers whose wines are well-regarded around the world. The US wine industry is supported greatly by the labor of immigrants, some of whom are helping to shape the industry as winemakers.

“The screening at DCanter combines so many of my favorite things–supporting local businesses, working with female entrepreneurs, and, of course, wine!  Michelle’s immigration story and idea to feature wines produced by immigrants makes this screening even more powerful,” says Hilary Linder of the collaboration with DCanter.  This is an effort to bring together members of our community to learn, listen, and taste wine!


About DCanter:

DCanter is a wine boutique in Capitol Hill (545 8th Street SE Washington, DC 20003) specializing in wines from small producers and family-run wineries as well as wine education for the community. Their selections are available in-store and through a personalized wine shopping service called Concierge by DCanter ( DCanter was named DC’s Best Place to Buy Wine in 2015, 2016, and 2017 by the Washington City Paper’s Best of DC Readers’ Poll. Address: 545 8th Street SE Washington, DC; Phone: 202-817-3803


About Hilary Linder:

Hilary Linder combines her knowledge in the fields of international development and humanitarian relief with her passion for nonfiction storytelling as the director and producer of Indivisible. Hilary is the founder and president of Kudzu Films, a production company dedicated to spreading social justice through film. She is currently directing the documentary Muji Blades ( and producing the podcast Do No Harm (

It’s not easy being a local business in the age of Amazon.  The Washington Post recently profiled Leah Daniels of Hill’s Kitchen on how hard she works to survive and thrive.  When you shop at Hill’s Kitchen you get convienience, product knowledge, and an extra smile.  My love for Capitol Hill is rooted in the feeling of living in a small town in the midst of a big city.  And nothing shows that off more than our locally owned and run small business retailers.

Read THIS ARTICLE and don’t forget to shop local every chance you get!

Displayed picture Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Finding a new edition of HillRag on the newsstand monthly always brightens my day and I love pouring through it.  But these days you can enjoy HillRag’s pulse on our neighborhood daily via email updates and browsing their fresh new website.  Check it out:   Here’s a few recent articles you need to read!

Capital Candy Jar Opens Storefront in Northeast

Flowers for Lincoln Park

Stanton-Eastbanc Welcomes Flea Market Home to Hine School Site

South Hall Merchants React to Eastern Market Appraisal

Thai Massage Comes to the Hill (featuring CHAMPS members Lavendar Retreat & Freed Bodyworks)

Wines to Drink Now! – Featuring List from Schneider’s of Capitol Hill

Hard Hats at Hine Event Celebrates Businesses Old and New


National Capital Bank, a CHAMPS Gold Member, was recognized by the Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA) for its strong commitment and involvement with our Capitol Hill community.

Learn more about the honorable mention in the full article from The Hill Rag HERE.

Two Lions Antiques & Interiors at 507 11th St. SE is celebrating the 33rd anniversary of the shop. Janet Crowder, the owner and  interior designer, has had a beautiful shop that features contemporary mirrors and lamps, as well as a carefully selected inventory of antique furniture and accessories. Janet also offers interior design and decorating services, including window treatments, reupholstery, and custom carpeting and contemporary custom ordered upholstered furniture and much more!
Two Lions is marking the anniversary with a sale through Labor Day weekend.

CHAMPS Member Paul Rivas has written an informative article for Hill Rag helping neighborhood parents identify when their children might benefit from professional guidance and who on Capitol Hill can help.  Check out the full article below or as orginally printed HERE.



Your Kid Needs Help, But Who You Gonna Call?

There is a lot of help available for kids today who are facing social or academic issues. Some of it is good, even life-changing; but some of it is ineffective, or worse.

Parents want the best for their children, but don’t want to overreact. When should a parent seek help for their child, where can they get it, and how should they choose?

Capitol Hill learning specialist Colleen Buchanan, who has helped hundreds of children overcome academic obstacles, urges parents to not be afraid to take action.

“If the child’s level of confidence in her capacity to meet her learning challenges wavers, that’s a red flag,” warns Buchanan. “I often find that one parent has had a nagging suspicion [there was a problem] from early on and was shot down and minimized, with the outcome being the loss of critical time to build foundational skills.”

“Any time a teacher, another parent or even your spouse says, ‘Oh, it’s just…’, remind yourself that whatever follows the word “just” is a wholly unsubstantiated diagnosis by an unqualified practitioner. It’s better to know for sure by getting a thorough assessment by an experienced, impartial professional, so that you can chart a timely – and thus maximally effective – course of action.”

Consider the case of Eric (not his real name), a Stuart-Hobson middle school graduate, as shared anonymously by his parents:

“When our son was in first grade, he’d gotten into about his 12th or 15th disciplinary situation. Almost all of these situations centered on impulse control. We were walking out of the school, and I was deliberately trying not to pile on, trying to keep things calm, and he turned to me out of the blue and said: ‘Why can’t I be like other kids?’

Now you could read that as absorbing the judgment of the outside world. I felt like I was hearing his own unvarnished self, and I felt like he was asking for help. And I thought: Okay. Let’s find this kid some help. And we did. And seven years later, we’re still finding help because he needs it.”

Financial Cost of Help

Local educational consultant EV Downey, who is also a mom of a child with special needs, notes that testing doesn’t have to be expensive.

“You can call Child Find, you can talk to your school, you can request evaluations and testing, insurance covers a lot of that. There’s a lot of resources for families; there doesn’t necessarily have to be money involved,” Downey says. The DC Early Intervention Program (DC EIP) – Strong Start Child Find Program is a system to locate, identify and refer children birth through two years of age, who may have a disability or developmental delay in one or more of the following areas: speech, language, fine and/or gross motor skills, social/emotional skills, vision and hearing.

“Good testing will always give you recommendations for things you can think about or do, and that doesn’t necessarily mean therapy or interventions,” explained Downey. “It could be that you up the protein because your child is falling apart at 3 p.m. It could just be very simple things that you just might not think of.”

Quoting advice that she once received and now frequently passes on to her clients, Downey added, “You will never regret finding out that nothing’s wrong.”

Here’s Downey’s personal account of how parents can know when to seek help for their children, based on her experience raising her son, Charlie, 15, who now attends Kennedy Krieger School in Baltimore, paid for by DCPS:

“If parents feel like there’s something going on that’s more than what they’re seeing their peers go through, they’re usually right, especially if the problem is keeping your child and your family from being able to be happy and conduct your daily life.

If a 3-year-old throws himself at the ground at the playground and screams and cries, it’s disruptive, but you put them in the stroller and walk them home, and everybody gives you a sympathetic look.

When your autistic 12-year-old throws himself on the ground, and you’re lying next him, giving him deep pressure, talking him down, telling him it’s OK, and gradually helping him to get out of the situation, no one looks at you sympathetically.

A friend of mine called him a “more” child. He’s more intelligent, more intense, more good-looking. Everything is more. He’s just a holy handful, God bless him.”

Capitol Hill psychologist Samantha Sweeney encourages parents to seek peace of mind when their students are struggling with emotional issues.

“If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, you need to consult with somebody. If your fears are confirmed, you’re being proactive and getting your child some help before they’re drowning halfway through the school year.”

Is Your Child Ready For Help

The struggles that Angie (not her real name), an 8th grader at a private school in Virginia, was having in school were ruining her life and that of her parents. She had ADHD and mild dyslexia, and was morbidly depressed. She was in therapy and on medication, but none of the school’s many academic interventions had worked. In March, the family’s school placement consultant recommended a local academic coach. By the end of the school year, this is what Angie’s mother had to say:

“The academic coach was a tremendous influence in our daughter’s academic and emotional world during the last 11 weeks of her 8th grade year. Our only wish is that he had been a part of our team earlier in the year.

He has the gift of getting a student motivated with his ability to connect with them, to gently guide them into realizing that they can and will succeed in their own unique way. We are grateful that our paths crossed and that he had such a strong impact!”

My guess is that Angie probably wasn’t ready to hear it until March. Everybody I know who’s in the helping business agrees: you can only help people who want to be helped.

Not everyone needs help, either, but that’s no reason to not seek an expert opinion.

“Even if a professional tells you that you don’t need to worry right now, then at least you’ve started a relationship with somebody that you feel comfortable talking to, who will give you good information going forward,” says Sweeney.

Capitol Hill therapist Laelia Gilborn summarized what’s most important when choosing a specific practitioner to help your child, be it a psychologist, therapist, learning skills counselor, or academic coach: “Whether it’s for an academic or emotional challenge, you really just want a good rapport between the kid and the person.”

Where To Find Help

Word of mouth and the MOTH listserv for Capitol Hill parents can be a great source for local recommendations. To marvel at the range of services offered in the DC area, start with WISER (, the local organization for independent educational professionals serving students with learning differences.

You can find licensed psychologists, including ones who do comprehensive psychoeducational testing, and therapists, by searching the Psychology Today website ( Some of these folks are also in WISER.

When it comes to testing, the range of tests and quality of the final report are crucial. Reports should be comprehensive, but also give the school the information it needs in an easy-to-follow format. Ask people you trust which psychologists’ work they have evaluated and can recommend. The best reports I have seen have 20 honest hours of high-brainpower work behind them, not including testing time for a dozen or so tests.

For heavy-duty help with school placement or college planning, including for students with learning differences and emotional disorders, search the membership database of the Independent Education Consultants Association (

Finally, remember that the goal of most of this type of work is that it should end, whether due to the child learning new skills that will help her manage her situation, or simply outgrowing the challenging circumstances.

Paul Rivas is the director of Smith Rivas Study Skills & Academic Coaching ( and can be reached at 202-615-7791 or His new monthly study skills enrichment group at Hill Center for 9th-11th graders, Capitol Hill ACES (Academic Coaching for Empowered Students), is almost full for 2017-18.



SEPTEMBER 9 and 10, 2017

WashingCon offers a weekend of board, card, and other games for the growing tabletop gaming community.


Washington, DC (August 8, 2017): The third annual WashingCon tabletop game convention comes to the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10.

With over 1,200 game fans of all ages expected, WashingCon offers hundreds of chances to try face-to-face gaming, from party games to complicated strategy to fun games and activities for kids. The con is a short walk from the heart of historic Georgetown.

Kathleen Donahue, owner of Labyrinth Games and Puzzles on Capitol Hill and co-sponsor of the event, says, “It’s incredible how many people in D.C. love board games and card games, so we are excited about serving this community with WashingCon 2017.”

WashingCon’s dedication to tabletop games gives a unique opportunity for a growing community to gather, play together, and learn. This year’s expanded convention features:

  • Library of over 500 games to borrow and play.
  • Tournaments for all levels of gamers, run by professional judges.
  • Demonstrations from major game publishers.
  • Chance to buy games at special prices.
  • Dedicated room for role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons™.
  • Door prizes, free games, and giveaways.
  • Famous game designers from around the world.
  • Panels about games and game design.
  • Unpub Protozone showcase of upcoming games from local independent designers.
  • Costume parades and special Family Zone for kids 3- 12.

All events are free with a WashingCon registration.

Tickets for adults are $40 for both days or $25 for Sunday only. Kids under 12 get both days for $30 or $15 for Sunday only. Kids 2 and under are free. Tickets can be bought online at or on the day of the show.

For more information contact Ben Rosset at (202) 669-1782 or email at