When I first began my ARLnow internship, I knew nothing about Arlington. A native New Yorker, to me, Arlington was just some place across the river from D.C. I was a bit of a “big city” snob, so I expected very little from the area.
Three months later, as my internship comes to a close, my view could not be more different. After writing dozens of articles about Arlington, from covering the opening of a Clarendon tattoo parlor to a piece about the county’s decreasing homeless population, I’ve developed quite a fondness for the community.
“Arlington is the smallest self-governing county in the U.S. And no, the Pentagon is not in D.C., it’s actually in Arlington,” I would proudly tell my friends when they asked about my job.
Of course, I am no “Arlington expert” but I have dipped into the pool of what Arlington has to offer and boy, is it deep!
There is something for everyone here: urban enclaves like Clarendon or Crystal City are just minutes’ drive from quintessential suburban neighborhoods with cozy brick homes and tumbling gardens. There are free yoga classes every Sunday throughout the summer and so many events that we publish an event calendar that is updated daily.
The variety in Arlington’s food scene made me feel like I was back in my hometown, except here, there’s elbow room and you’re not rushed after paying your check. I have eaten dinner while watching artists paint at Palette 22 and I’ve tried ice cream made with Nitrogen. I slurped up bubble tea from bottles shaped like lightbulbs at Kokee Tea and had my first taste of kangaroo at Oz (in case you were wondering, it tastes like a hamburger).
Perhaps more impressive than the free events and delicious food are Arlingtonians themselves. Every week, ARLnow publishes a weekly Startup Monday article, in which we write about a startup based in the county. I remember when I wrote my first Startup Monday, I was told to find a startup in Arlington that our website had yet to write about.
I wondered how many startups this one county can have. It turns out, it’s enough that ARLnow has been able to write about a new one almost every week since September 2013. That goes to show the incredible talent and creativity found in Arlington. There’s a guy giving free rides thanks to his advertising model; a couple with a company that plans “surprise” vacations; somebody creating an app to ensure people know their rights.
Even my boss — the founder of ARLnow — Scott Brodbeck, was once one of those Arlingtonians with a startup dream. He noticed that parts of Arlington had very little news coverage and saw an opportunity for a business. Seven years later, ARLnow is alive and thriving, and I got to intern with it and you’re reading it right now.
Tonight, as I leave Arlington to return to New York, I will wave goodbye to this place that has shown me so much, as I relish one of my favorite vistas: the sprawling Pentagon and graceful Air Force Memorial, set against a backdrop of pink skies.
It takes a special talent to make strangers pause and smile during the rush of their busy days. Yet Adrienne Ellis does it on a weekly basis.
Ellis is the general manager at the Circa restaurant in Clarendon (3010 Clarendon Blvd), and she also provides the witty, colorful quotes that adorn the chalkboard on the sidewalk outside. In fact, Ellis’s work is so popular, she created an Instagram account to showcase it.
“Nothing is more fun than seeing someone stop out there and take a picture of [my work], or giggle and keep walking,” said Ellis.
Ellis has been drawing and painting since she was a child. She used to want to be an art teacher, until she led an art class in middle school. She began chalkboard painting at her previous job at Chef Geoff’s. She mainly did advertising on those chalkboards, but once she moved to Circa almost two years ago, she gained more creative liberties with her work.
“I free-hand everything,” Ellis said. “I just try to get an idea of what would be entertaining more than anything and catch people’s eye.”
Ellis uses the internet for inspiration and generally makes one new chalkboard painting per week.
“I’ll update funny quotes or do a new picture, a little bit of everything,” she said. “I do a lot of cartoons. If it’s Easter, [I’ll do a] Bugs Bunny, [or] something like that.”
Mainly, Ellis paints the current Clarendon trends, including brunch, kale and summer restaurant week.
“Clarendon, I think, is very particular,” Ellis said. “I mean, they love to brunch out here, they love their Champagne. Wine night is really big here so I pick those [things] to poke a little fun at and make people laugh.”
Ellis uses chalk paint for the illustrations and currently, non-waterproof chalkboard boards. The quote paintings usually take around 30 minutes to make while the more intricate paintings can take two hours.
“That’s just me being meticulous,” she explained.
Ellis said her favorite paintings so far have been a Scooby-Doo and a Bugs Bunny. However, passerby seem to have really enjoyed the food puns, like “Champangry,” a cartoon painting of Doug and the Disney figures.
“Any pop culture [reference], people respond really well to,” Ellis said. “I think, again, it’s the area. It’s a lot younger area and they appreciate that humor.”
That’s a good thing, for himself and his clients, because Robinson is very often in front of a judge, trying cases for his areas of practice, which include criminal and traffic offenses, family law and contract disputes.
“I’m in the ‘people problem’ business,” he says. “Since I’m a solo practice law firm, I’m the one who always handles the case directly — and the client deals only with me. My business number is my cell number so I’m easy to get a hold of.”
Robinson, a Ballston resident who has been practicing for almost a decade in Northern Virginia and D.C. and knows the lay of the land like the back of his hand, comes from a family of attorneys. And one major bit of wisdom he took to heart early was to be accessible, to put clients at ease with what they are going through.
When asked what he likes best about his chosen career, Robinson takes a moment to consider his answer. Finally he concludes, “On one hand I enjoy negotiation with the opposite party, and on the other I’m determined to win at trial.”
“But ultimately, I’m lucky to be able to work with people from all different backgrounds and problems in a fast-paced region, working to help them get the relief they are looking for.”
Robinson’s law practice includes criminal and traffic defense, family law, contract and lease negotiations, and civil litigation.
The preceding sponsored post was written by Buzz McClain.
2350 Clarendon Boulevard
When Fire Works opened its first urban location, in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington, the owners thought it would be best to start from scratch, to create a space to suit the needs of both the restaurant and the community it’s in.
Fire Works was built from the ground up, taking the same ideas of the wood fired pizza restaurant’s successful Leesburg location, and going bigger, upscale and trendier. The construction included bars inside and out, a huge patio and glass windows.
To take on this project, the owners of Fire Works hired Jon Hoffmeyer. He’s been in the business for 25 years, but this was the first time he took a restaurant from conception to operation.
Hoffmeyer worked with engineers and the restaurant owners. He says because the restaurant is family-owned, he got more autonomy than he would have with a corporate owner.
“I took it from a shell,” Hoffmeyer said. “It’s been rewarding actually, because it was something I hadn’t done in that scope before, and got to go from the ground up.”
Once construction was completed, Hoffmeyer hired and trained the staff, and opened Fire Works in August 2010. Training is very important to Hoffmeyer, because in his philosophy, the staff come first.
“First and foremost staff is well trained and equipped, and they can take that to the guests,” Hoffmeyer said.
When employees are well-trained, they can take a positive attitude and transfer that to guests, he says. When the focus is only on the guests of restaurants, staff members don’t love to work there — and it shows.
The restaurant business tends to be transient, but Hoffmeyer has been pleased at how many staff stick around. He says some bartenders and servers have been there since day one, and a good portion of the kitchen staff.
“It’s a fun place and a good place to work and people can make a living at doing it,” Hoffmeyer said.
The pizza at Fire Works is very good, but is not the sole reason people come back, Hoffmeyer says. With music on and a crowd inside and out on the patio, the atmosphere is lively. It’s the energy, he says, that really sets Fire Works apart.
Something that makes Fire Works fit into the Northern Virginia restaurant landscape is its interest in finding locally-sourced foods.
It’s something that has become popular in recent years, but Hoffmeyer says “farm-to-fork” eating has been a priority of the owners since before the idea was trendy.
The standards for farm-to-fork mean it’s harder to make it work from the Arlington location — the meat comes from about 100 miles away, for example. In Loudon County, where the owners’ other restaurant locations are, it’s easier to get local foods.
Fire Works has now been in Arlington for more than five years. Hoffmeyer appreciates how businesses in Arlington look out for each other. He says the mix of business and residential spaces nearby make for an interesting balance.
He says Fire Works gets a chance to interact with that community, partially because of the glass walls of the building. When there’s light coming inside, guests can see out and pedestrians can see in. Because of that, he says the dining area isn’t removed from the outside world, and it feels like part of Arlington.
The preceding was a sponsored profile written by Eleanor Greene for ARLnow.com.
You may have heard the Sagatov name around Arlington, especially if you’re house shopping. It graces signs in front of new homes and work trucks traversing local streets.
The man behind the name is Lou Sagatov, but he’s no longer in charge of his eponymous design-build business. Lou passed the business to his son and has started a new career as a real estate agent.
Lou, who also has a daughter-in-law who works in real estate, is proud of his family business. He’s also proud to treat his clients like family.
“One of the things that I offer personalized service to people. I’m not trying to capture the whole world, I just like working on a one to one basis with people and helping them reach their goals,” Sagatov said. “I’d rather work with less people and have a full relationship than try to be so stretched out that I can’t fully service the people I’m dealing with.”
That philosophy for real estate clients is influenced by Sagatov’s 28 years of previous experience in design-build.
When he works with a seller, he uses market analysis to help him determine the current value of the home. Then he helps the owners figure out if they need to make any improvements to maximize its value on the market.
“We do whatever makes the most sense so they can sell their house to meet their goals,” Sagatov said.
After that, he manages the marketing, using online promotion and open houses to help sell the homes.
With buyers, it’s important to set priorities, whether it’s to find a home that’s perfect today or finding a property that buyers can expand or renovate, Sagatov says.
Sagatov says what keeps his clients coming back and referrals rolling in is his transparency and personalized service.
There are challenges in working real estate, Sagatov says. He’s used to dealing with them, because they’re similar to those he’s faced before. It’s about communicating with clients and helping clients get what they want out of the experience.
“I’m working with a builder right now, there are a lot of new builders on the market, how do we get his product sold in a competitive market?” Sagatov said. “For clients, it’s how do we find the right home for them that will allow them to end up with what their dream is? For sellers, it’s how do we sell the house quickly so they maximize their net profit?”
From speaking with him, it’s clear Sagatov puts a great deal of thought into his interactions with clients, as he does with his family.
“I try to figure out how can I support my son and my brother and my daughter-in-law,” Sagatov said. “How do I support them in their business and help them achieve what they want to do too.”
The family is based in Northern Virginia, an area Sagatov has called home for decades. Whether working with a buyer or seller, Sagatov himself is sold on the Arlington area, because of the parks and trails balanced with cultural events and local businesses. Sagatov said Arlington “gives you all the elements you want,” but noted it wouldn’t be the same without the people.
“What I really enjoy about Arlington is the people, there’s a great diversity of people so that makes living here a lot of fun.”
The preceding was a sponsored profile written by Eleanor Greene for ARLnow.com.
Founder: Alison Cardy
Do you wish you had a group of fellow professionals who could help you with your career and personal goals?
Alison Cardy did, and that’s why she started Belleconnecta.
Cardy describes Belleconnecta simply as “A community of women who are interested in improving their lives in some way.”
What these women have in common is that they’re professionals living in Northern Virginia who want to increase their sense of community and make positive changes in their lives.
Cardy’s main work is as a career coach who specializes in guiding men and women through career transitions. Cardy has been doing this work for almost seven years, and while she enjoys helping people with their careers and giving specialized advice, she wanted to connect with clients and the local community in an ongoing way.
So in January, with the encouragement of several of her friends and clients, Cardy launched Belleconnecta’s first six month women’s coaching cohort.
The members meet once a month for a structured coaching workshop over dinner. Cardy provides frameworks and exercises that can be applied to any area of life, and members work through this material together and share their insights with one another. They also have a monthly group phone call to share updates and reconnect to the improvements they’re focusing on. Cardy says these two touchpoints mean clients’ goals are never too far from their minds.
“Most things in life improve with attention. This program is really about giving yourself the time and space to pay attention to your life, so that you can make the changes you want to see,” Cardy said. “In addition, the program emphasizes courage. A lot of what we want is on the other side of a hard or scary action. It’s so much easier to take those uncomfortable steps that will really move your life forward when you know there’s a group of wonderful women right beside you cheering you on.”
Cardy was pleased with the outcomes from the session that started in January. Healthy routines were implemented, closets were organized, boundaries were set, outlooks were improved, leadership opportunities at work were snagged, and cross country moves were embarked on. She is wrapping up her second cohort this December and will be launching a new group in January.
There is a second component to the Belleconnecta community. Cardy puts on a personal Self Care Day for Belleconnecta members and the general public a couple times a year. The next one is on December 12 at the Lyon Park Community Center in Clarendon.
“For most of us we think ‘self-care’ and wind up coming home and watching TV at the end of a long day,” Cardy said. “This is more active. It’s a time and space to reflect, a day to recharge and reconnect.”
Cardy knows hers isn’t the only group that provides space for area professionals to connect with one another. But these groups tend to be framed around industry specific professional development or networking events, where it’s often hard to get past small talk level connections.
“I’m so attracted to the in-person format where you get to see the same people every month and talk about things that really matter, because it allows connections to strengthen much more easily,” Cardy said. “This is something the average professional can participate in, get a great result, have a good time and make new friends.”
To receive an invitation to Belleconnecta’s next coaching cohort Open House and a community discount to Self Care Day, join the Belleconnecta community at www.belleconnecta.com.
The preceding was a sponsored profile written by Eleanor Greene for ARLnow.com.
ASAP Printing is small, no doubt about it. But that’s kind of what owner Mohammad “Mo” Shiekhy likes about it: he has to take responsibility for everything.
He says his customer service is what sets ASAP apart from the others. But with a decline in paper printing — there aren’t many others like ASAP.
When Shiekhy took over the business from his friend in 1990, he says there were 13 print shops from Rosslyn to Glebe Road. Now, there are three.
What’s kept his business alive when so many have withered? That dedication to customer service and a willingness to keep up with new technology.
Shiekhy said being good to customers is the cornerstone of his business philosophy.
“I take [customer orders] very personally. I stay on top of the work until it gets done,” he said.
The business has a small staff of four, one to do each job — screen printing, offset, graphic design and front desk. Shiekhy says people who work for him tend not to last if they don’t take service as seriously as he does.
That said, two of his employees have been with the business for over 10 years. One of ASAP’s former employees started working the front desk in 1990 and worked there until she was 33, when she left to pursue accounting work. Shiekhy participated in her wedding.
Shiekhy explained that he includes consulting to make sure that the materials he’s making suit the clients’ needs and offers services at the lowest prices he can.
“I understand their goals when printing, the cheapest way and the best results,” he said. “They get marketing consultation, budget consultation, then they get their print done.”
As far as technology goes, ASAP is “101 percent up to date in that department,” Shiekhy says, talking about the new six-color screen printing machine he acquired last year. He also aims to keep up with whatever is best for the environment in both inks and fabrics in the screen printing industry.
Owner: Dr. Mehdi Adili
McLean Officee: 703-442-0442
Arlington Office: 703-528-0800
For Dr. Mehdi Adili, being a good dentist is about being a thorough educator.
The founder and owner of Ideal Dental Solutions is a firm believer in teaching both his staff and his patients. For patients, he says, knowing about their options makes them feel the most at ease when it comes time to get work done.
One of the reasons he came up with the name of “Ideal Dental Solutions” back when he opened his practice in 1995 was because it emphasizes that everyone has options that they should know about, and the ideal solution is different from person to person. That’s why informing each patient about all of the possible solutions to fix their dental concerns, including the pros and cons of each procedure, helps put each patient at ease.
“It’s so important to me that everything is explained and everyone is educated. I don’t want them to shy away from treatment, I want them to understand what their needs are.” Dr. Adili said. “We leave the door open for them to come in, call or email with questions. We do our best to make ourselves quite available in every sense.”
Part of this education process is offering free consultations to all patients, so they can know what they’re getting into before they get in the chair on the day of the procedure. Sometimes it takes up to two appointments before the patient can settle on what should be done, but Dr. Adili says it’s worth it to comfort patients so they know what to expect. Prospective patients can even have their questions begin to be answered online in Ideal Dental Solutions’ extensive FAQ section.
Prospective patients are often concerned about what their dental insurance will and won’t cover. The staff at Ideal Dental Solutions are committed to telling patients what their insurance will cover, and part of finding those ideal solutions is something that works within insurance, or within a budget if they do not have insurance, Dr. Adili says.
Talking to patients isn’t the only educating Dr. Adili does. Once a week, he meets with his 18-person staff in the McLean or Arlington office and talks to them about the newest procedures or technologies so that patients can receive the best and most modern care. He says he has staff in administrative work, insurance and dental assisting who know as much as most practicing dentists know. This way, all of his staff can answer questions and know what is going on with patient care.
Once patients move from the consulting or educating step in their dental process, and actually get into the chair, they are treated to the best in both dental technology and entertainment technology.
Yes, entertainment. Every patient is different in what they find comforting, so each station is tricked out with personal audio/visual equipment that the patient controls, and a headset. Instead of reading an outdated magazine or listening to the dentist’s tools at work, patients can comfortably watch television or listen to music.
Though Dr. Adili has always had his practice in Northern Virginia, he opened his second location in Arlington in July, near the Courthouse Metro station (1920 Clarendon Blvd). He says what brought him to Arlington was that the area is “vibrant and the location will be helpful for patients old and new.”
The new convenient location has been working well so far, he says, especially because both locations are designed to be similar to each other, with the same technology and the same type of comforting color scheme and modern, clean design. This is another way to put patients at ease as soon as they walk in the door.
Dr. Adili says that what sets Ideal Dental Solutions apart from other dental offices is that they have such a strong emphasis on customer service — that good dentistry is more than about just fixing teeth.
“We make sure that the quality of work is to patients’ satisfaction and the results are predictable,” Dr. Adili said. “Everyone is taken care of, comfortable, even pampered. Dentists are patient-oriented, listen to patients to understand their needs, and provide them with the best service.”
It seems like good dentistry isn’t so complicated after all.
To book an appointment or free consultation, visit Ideal Dental Solutions’ website, or call the Arlington office at 703-528-0800.
The preceding article was written by ARLnow.com and sponsored by Ideal Dental Solutions.
When people think of graphic design, they might picture a single person in their basement designing printouts and posters, banners and brochures. But at Top Shelf Design (TSD) in Rosslyn, you’re more likely to see a team of designers and developers sitting at their computers, bouncing ideas off of each other and thinking of solutions to their client’s design problems.
This scene has changed in the past 11 years since the business opened its doors because the company does 70 percent web development work instead of 40 percent, as they did five years ago. Design in 2015 is about staying current and going mobile, says Gregg Hurson, lead developer at TSD.
“What we’re seeing now is we’re seeing a shift towards digital which is universal. We’re seeing that we’re doing digital annual reports and things like that whereas 5 or 7 years ago that would be straight print, straight to the printer,” said Brendan Kiel, founder and CEO of the company. “We’re also seeing clients that, even if they do a print piece, they’re thinking about how they publicize it on the web, and how people access it on the web, and how they market it that way.”
Kiel and his business partner at the time, started the company around Kiel’s kitchen table in 2004, and the business grew rapidly, from six to 65 clients in the first year. Since then, the company has grown to a staff of 10 and has worked on about 7,000 projects for 1,000 clients, president Kathryn Kiel estimates.
Kathryn says that even as the company has transformed and grown, the staff has had a commitment to what they believe are the most important aspects of their company: great design and attentive customer service.
“I know a lot of clients are really scarred from bad past experiences where their designer goes MIA, or never knowing what they’re going to get or when they’re going to get it, or what’s the next step in the process, or they’ve been trying to reach their developer for who-knows-how-long and they can’t, so I think that’s something that sets us apart,” Kiel said.
When she began doing market research, Kiel called ten design firms, asking about pricing and just general information about them. She says she only got one phone call back from one of the firms. That’s when she knew that an emphasis on communication with customers was going to be a big part of TSD.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is going to be easy. Respond to people quickly, give them what they want, make sure that your deadlines are hit and exceeded their expectations,'” Kiel said.
Another way TSD gets inspiration for its customer service is from an employee, Cassie Stewart. Stewart started at the company working in sales and marketing, but had an idea. With lead designers managing their own projects, much of their work time was spent answering clients’ questions.
“We wondered, how much more creative could we be if designers weren’t interrupted by the phone ringing?” Brendan said.
In January, Stewart became a project manager. She is dedicated to managing client’s successful project. She says it gives our designers more time to focus on excellent and innovative design.
Labor Protests in Rosslyn — Two labor unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Union Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, held separate protests near the Central Place development in Rosslyn yesterday. The unions were protesting the use of non-union labor, and used an inflatable rat and an inflatable “fat cat” to underscore their complaints. [Twitter, Twitter]
Boundary Channel Bike Path Plans — Conceptual plans for a new bike trail from Long Bridge Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail have been revealed. The trail is set to be built as part of the reconfiguration of the I-395 and Boundary Channel Drive interchange. [The Wash Cycle]
The Life and Times of Preston Caruthers — A brief biography of Preston Caruthers, the Arlington developer who built Dominion Towers, among others, and who at 88 still shows up daily at his Ballston office of his firm, Caruthers Properties LLC. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Airamangel
Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO and co-founder of Yelp, might not have made it as a tech titan if it wasn’t for bike rides to Ballston Common Mall as a kid.
Stoppelman grew up in Arlington, near Military Road. He attended Taylor Elementary in the 1980s and swam on the Donaldson Run swim team. Though Stoppelman and his family later moved to Great Falls, where he attended Langley High School, it was those early days in Arlington that set him on the path to Silicon Valley stardom.
“I used to ride my bike to Ballston mall to buy video games… they had one of those little video game stores,” he told ARLnow.com in a phone interview. “I was always interested in technology and computers. It probably started early with my love of video games and fascination with how you build them and the machines they run on.”
After high school Stoppelman attended the University of Illinois, where he graduated with a degree in computer engineering in 1999. He would come back to Northern Virginia to intern at UUNET, an early commercial internet service provider, for two summers. After graduation, however, he left the D.C. area behind for the Bay Area, where he would work for @Home Network and Paypal before attending a year of business school and founding Yelp in 2004.
Now 37, Stoppelman is the head of a publicly-traded company, a member of Vanity Fair magazine’s vaunted “New Establishment,” and at last check worth an estimated $222 million. Despite a demanding schedule on the West Coast, he says he’s able to come back to Washington a couple of times a year, sometimes for work — weighing in on legislative issues on Capitol Hill — and sometimes just to visit his mother, who now lives in Reston. (His father died in 1998, according to a San Francisco Chronicle profile.)
Asked about advice he would give to local students hoping for a career in tech, Stoppelman said getting an early start learning computer programming is key.
Stoppelman himself took a Turbo Pascal programming class in high school. He supports efforts to bring more coding classes to students as early as the elementary school level, including online coding lessons from Code.org and Coursera.
“A deeper understanding of technology is good for everyone,” he said.
With talk of a new tech bubble and an ever-growing list of “unicorns” — startups that have attained the previously-rare valuation of $1 billion — the temptation might be there for young D.C. area entrepreneurs to decamp to Silicon Valley in search of ultra-quick riches. Stoppelman, who guided Yelp’s growth for eight years before taking it public, cautioned against the myth that there’s easy success to be had in tech, particularly in the local space.
“I think in a lot of cases it looks like there’s easy bucks but there’s often an easy story,” he said. “For a lot of companies, the ‘overnight success’ was four or five years in the making, where they struggled with a bunch of different ideas and things that didn’t work and one day they were finally able to get something to click.”
“Doing something in local generally means going deep in a lot of geographies, which takes a freaking long time,” he continued. “So we always had a long-term mentality.”
National Public Radio kicked off a nationwide series on commuting Thursday morning with a lengthy profile of Arlington’s transit system on Morning Edition, saying the county “sets the bar for suburban transit.”
Morning Edition host David Greene interviewed former Arlington County Board member Jay Ricks, who was on the Board when it decided to build the Orange and Blue Metro stations underground, spurring the eventual urban development around each station.
Greene, reporting from the Ballston Metro Station, interviewed commuters and Robert Brosnan, the director of the county Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
Greene noted that because of the Metro’s appeal, housing prices have skyrocketed — which is forcing out some of the county’s lower-income workers. Additionally, Greene reported, the county’s reliance on Metro means that a train or track malfunction during the commute affects thousands of Arlington residents simultaneously.
When Chie Tamaki walked into one of Virginia’s Toastmasters speech clubs four years ago, a member asked her if she was interested in speaking.
She wasn’t. At least not yet.
After moving from Japan to Arlington 13 years ago, Tamaki was shy and lacked English speaking skills. She was so timid that even after one year with Toastmasters, she remained quiet, unable to overcome the language barrier. Now, four years after joining, the Arlington resident is winning public speaking competitions.
Last month, Tamaki defeated 200 local participants to win the district level of the largest speaking competition in the world: the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. On Aug. 21, Tamaki will travel to Cincinnati for the semifinals, representing District 27 — D.C., Southwest Maryland and Northern Virginia. If she qualifies, Tamaki will be one of nine people participating in the finals two days later.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through various events and conferences. During the competition, participants’ 5-7-minute speeches are judged on content, organization, gesture and style.
Tamaki, who works as a translator and as a bilingual paralegal, said she joined the Toastmaster organization to learn English. But she quickly learned that the only way to come out of her shell and improve these skills was to participate in other speech contests. She had been to conferences before and wanted to be like the people she saw on stage, but her poor language skills hindered her.
“But I did step by step and I did my best,” she said. “Sometimes, I have to work harder.”
When she won the district-level competition, she only thought one thing: It’s a miracle.
One hundred and fifty-one marathons. Three thousand shorter races. Nineteen minutes and 19 seconds on his first 5K more than 30 years ago, and 39:39 on his first 10K. His first marathon — the Marine Corps Marathon — he ran in three hours and 27 minutes. He finished his first Boston Marathon in 2:47.
Consider another number: how many people in Arlington know more about running in the area than Wind? Probably zero.
Not only has Wind published a local running blog/column, the Arlington Running Roundup, for years, and served as a inspiration and mentor for a generation of younger runners, but he has also been such a presence in the local athletic community that he was appointed chairman of the Arlington Parks Commission from 1996-97 and was later named an “Arlington Community Hero.”
(The honors were detailed in a Washington Running Report article that also quoted Wind as saying, “I want to be the known as the guy who got all of Arlington running.”)
ARLnow.com struck up a conversation with Wind this week to discuss the past, present and future of running in Arlington with the county’s foremost authority on the matter.
ARLnow: When did you move to Arlington, and when did you first start running?
Jay Wind: I moved here in June of 1978. That spring, I was in graduate school at the University of Georgia when I ran my first race. I had been running for years and years before I even knew there was such a thing as a race. Those were my first races after about a decade of training. When Frank Shorter won the Olympic marathon in 1972 and came in second in 1976, I had no idea. That thing that fired up thousands of Americans about running was totally lost on me.
ARLnow: What was the running scene in Arlington like back then compared to today?
JW: Back then there were still lots of people running. The Cherry Blossom 10-miler was 10,000 people instead of 30,000, and the Marine Corps Marathon was the same. There weren’t charities doing races. Race For The Cure changed all that, and it proved that really huge money could be made by charities, because the net proceeds of a race are generally half of the gross proceeds, and it’s really hard to find that kind of margins in any other event. The running stores — in particular Georgetown Running Company — have recognized they can promote their store by being a generous sponsor of a race. The fact that we’ve got so many runners, and therefore so many running stores, and therefore so many core sponsors has really made a huge difference.
ARLnow: What’s been the biggest change in the running scene since you started?
JW: The biggest single change has been the proliferation of private gymnasiums to get fit. It used to be that there were community centers and a handful of other gyms, but now, there are way, way more private gyms, and there are a lot of people who would prefer to work out on a treadmill or an elliptical on a hot day in the summer or a cold day in the winter, so it’s enabled more people to get fit. And you don’t necessarily have to be fit to run, but it sure is a lot more fun.
ARLnow: So just how different is it when you’re out on the trails these days?
JW: I’d say, nowadays we see 10 times as many runners as we did 30 years ago. There have been so many breakthroughs in running fabrics so we’re not running in cotton t-shirts and boxer shorts. We’re running in high-tech shirts, non-chafing shorts, polytech socks, running shoes. All these technological improvements, and that’s enabled more people to participate, it’s enabled, at the front end of the pack, for records to be set. The technology improves and it enables us to do our best.
ARLnow: What about Arlington do you think makes it so appealing for runners?
JW: Arlington’s got a ton of great trails. All you need is a good pair of shoes. We’ve got this beautiful perimeter around Arlington with the W&OD and Custis and Four Mile Run trails. You can run that whole distance about 26 miles with only two small street crossings in Rosslyn, two in Shirlington and Gravelly Point. Only five points. That’s so significant. The visionaries like (former County Board Chairman) John Milliken, who put together the Arlington perimeter… it was a brilliant idea, and it’s great for bicycles, too. It’s great for nature lovers or bird lovers. We are so lucky.
An Arlington resident is in the running to become the next Miss USA.
Shannon McAnally, who lives in Courthouse, is the reigning Miss Virginia USA and will compete for the national title live on NBC on Sunday, June 16.
Though she will be representing Virginia, McAnnally is actually a native Texan. She moved to Arlington just over a year ago to help her family expand its construction business to Virginia.
The company, MCC and Associates, specializes in restaurant construction and renovation. McAnally is the company’s marketing director and a licensed contractor — the latter being an exceedingly rare accreditation for a young beauty pageant contestant.
“It is very unique… I don’t know many women my age who are involved in the commercial construction industry,” she said. McAnally noted, however, that the Miss USA pageant has featured women who are attorneys and doctors.
“That’s one of the misconceptions you find in beauty pageants, is that you think it’s just about being a pretty face, when it has more to due with the substance of a person,” she said. She said her involvement in pageants started as a fun hobby, but grew into a serious goal and drive to become Miss USA.
McAnally said she picked Arlington and the Courthouse neighborhood as her home above every other locality in Virginia because of the county’s urban amenities, which for made an easier transition from her hometown of Dallas.
“Everything is so convenient,” she said. “You can walk to restaurants and stores, it’s just a perfect area to live in.”
McAnally says she’s an appreciator of museums, dining out, shopping, and music. Her favorite shopping destinations are Georgetown and Tysons Corner, but she can often be spotted at the Courthouse farmers market on Saturday mornings, or two favorite Clarendon food destinations: Whole Foods and Circa restaurant.
Just don’t expect to see her out much between now and June 16. McAnally says she’s been busy training for the pageant, working with walking coaches, interview coaches and other advisers. A vegetarian, McAnally has also been eating extra healthy and “exercising like crazy,” so she can be in top shape for the swimsuit competition.
If you do see McAnally out and about, it may be as she tours the Commonwealth in her role as Miss Virginia USA. She has been able to crisscross the state in style, thanks to the silver 2013 Mercedes Benz C250 that she received as part of her statewide pageant win this past November.