Category: Business

Businesses Celebrate Completion of 12th Street Storefront Improvement Program

If you noticed 12th Street businesses looking better than ever, it could be because of improvements to five storefronts sponsored by the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).

DSLBD paid for exterior painting, lighting, awnings, signage, glass, and security gates for five businesses that applied to a grant program targeted exclusively at 12th Street businesses.

According to a DSLBD spokesperson, each business received $10,000 to $15,000 in storefront improvements.

Not only did DSLBD pay for all the work, but District employees coordinated with the contractors to make it all happen. The only expense picked up by the business owners was permit fees.

Doris Johnson, owner of Total Relaxation, was ecstatic about the increased visibility of her store, which sells bath and spa products, spa services, and gifts.

“People are calling more, they are getting out of their cars and coming in, and they are getting off the bus and coming in,” she said. “It so changed the face of my business that after it was completed, I just wanted to sit outside and stare at it.”

Doris Johnson said that as a small business owner, she never would have been able to accomplish the improvements on her own. Ms. Johnson gave particular credit to Camille Nixon, DSLBD project manager. “In terms of excellence and outstanding service, she went to the highest level—even above that,” said Ms. Johnson. “She handled every detail.”

Charles Oguh, owner of Brookland Grill (formerly called the Ice Cream Station) was equally thankful.

Mr. Oguh said his new sign and freshly painted storefront were generating compliments from customers.

He said DSLBD also helped him rename his restaurant “Brookland Grill” so customers would know he sold more than ice cream. Brookland Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, including items like rotisserie chicken, macaroni and cheese, and crab cakes.

“If I was doing it myself it would have been very difficult,” he said.

Mr. Oguh also commended the work of Camille Nixon. “She is one of the best DC employees I have run into,” he said. He added that the experience was so positive that he is now planning to make improvements to the restaurant’s interior on his own.

Nadeem Ali, owner of Pizza Boli’s, said his storefront received a new sign and new glass. He credited the improvements with increasing his sales by 5%.

Mr. Ali, who applied to the program when it was first announced several years ago, said he was glad to see the improvements finally come to fruition. “It took forever but it was worth it,” he said.

The 12th Street storefront improvement program was initially launched in partnership with the Brookland Community Development Corporation (CDC) in 2006. The Brookland CDC was awarded $300,000 to make improvements to more than two dozen storefronts on 12th Street.

The District government rescinded the funds in 2007 after determining that the Brookland CDC had misappropriated $10,000.

In 2008, DSLBD restarted the program in partnership with the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF), but reduced the total amount of funding to $87,000.

Shakti MindBody Studio Comes to Brookland

Brooklanders interested in yoga and Pilates now have a new place to take classes. Ieshia Ali, Brookland resident, opened a satellite location of her Shakti MindBody Studio here in Brookland. Ms. Ali co-founded the main branch of her studio, located at 1015½ 7th Street NW, with business partner Faith Hunter. The Brookland satellite location is operated out of a studio in Ms. Ali’s home at 3805 13th Street NE.

Co-owners Ms. Ali and Ms. Hunter describe their Studio as a “bohemian chic yoga urban hang suite” that is much more than a place to take classes. Ms. Ali says that clients are invited to stay and relax, enjoy cookies and tea after class, make lasting friendships, and achieve “good health, inner peace, and a free spirit.”

Shakti MindBody Studio has 12 instructors and offers a wide range of classes and other services, such as several types of massage, yoga for expecting moms, yoga for runners, and various forms of “natural healing” such as Reiki. The Studio also offers a 200 hour yoga teacher training course.

At the Brookland site, Ms. Ali has offered a “Mama and Me” series of classes for moms and infants, and a “Mat Fusion” class, which combines elements of yoga and Pilates. Other offerings include evening yoga classes and an “Aha Basics” yoga workshop that teaches beginning and returning yoga students the fundamental principles of pranayama (breathing), asana (postures), and meditation. Clients can also take private lessons in-studio, at home, or at their office.

Ms. Ali came to yoga with a background in gymnastics and dance. In the 1980s, Ms. Ali lived in the Cloisters on Michigan Avenue while studying at Howard University. In the mid-90’s, after an injury, Ms. Ali began practicing yoga and Pilates to help recuperate. Later in her career she became an Operations Manager for France Telecom, and found that yoga and Pilates were great ways to stay healthy on long business trips.

Neither yoga nor Pilates requires complicated equipment or a lot of space, so they can easily be practiced while on the road and living out of hotel rooms.

A bout with thyroid cancer led Ms. Ali to reevaluate her priorities, and she decided to pursue her passion for yoga and Pilates full time. In 2005, Ms. Ali started teaching yoga and Pilates at several locations in the District. However, her ultimate goal was to create a space for “joyous living, divine play, mindful awareness, and the freedom to be who you are.” She found that her friend Faith Hunter shared similar views, and the concept of Shakti MindBody Studio was born.

To those who are concerned that yoga is only for people who are flexible, or that it may be too difficult, Ms. Ali emphasizes that yoga is not a competition but an individual experience. No matter where you start, she says, yoga can help you to build physical qualities like strength, agility, flexibility, and endurance.

Ms. Ali adds that it is important to understand that yoga is not a faith or religion; it is a philosophy and a way of life that encourages both physical and spiritual health, wellbeing, and balance. Ms. Ali hopes that no matter what their previous experience with yoga, Pilates, or other practices/therapies, people will find the Studio to be a place where “smart compassionate people with introspection” will have an opportunity to “make connections and live a more proactive life.”

Ms. Ali’s Mat Fusion classes begin with a short period of relaxation, lying flat on one’s back on a yoga mat in order to slow down and become “centered.” The class then moves into a series of exercises that varies in each session.

Some of the exercises focus on building a particular physical skill, such as balance, strength, or flexibility, while other exercises draw on many different physical skills at once. In addition to leading the class, Ms. Ali provides gentle guidance to individual participants, and interjects humor to help everyone relax after a particularly challenging set of exercises.

She creates atmosphere by lighting candles and playing background music that is both soothing and invigorating. She also ends each class with an insight from a favorite teacher or author (at the last class, it was a quote from the book The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav).

In the future, Ms. Ali and Ms. Hunter hope to expand their offerings both downtown and at the Brookland studio, and possibly open a third location.