November 2012

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November 1, 2011

By Sharon Bosworth

Second Floor Super Stars

On Barracks Row our flourishing first floor businesses get the lion's share of attention. Neighbors from miles around are fascinated by the ten-year metamorphosis of 8th Street, SE, lead by Barracks Row Main Street. Where once the street was empty at 8 p.m., today our sidewalks are full each evening as families and couples stroll along under our elm canopy, shopping, people-watching, listening to band music drifting from Marine Barracks Washington either before or after enjoying dinner or dessert. Our corridor has quietly emerged as Capitol Hill’s premiere “restaurant row.” It’s only here, where without reservations, you can be assured that even on the busiest nights, one of our excellent eateries will have a table for you.

But only 12 feet up, above the first floor fray, another world exists. Often the unifying principle driving these second floor operations may be a non-profit cause. Surprisingly, peace, love and serenity are also part of many of their fundamental business models.

Granted, the thought of spirituality on Barracks Row may seem a little unlikely. Other than the old Meader Theater building, 535 8th Street, SE, which became a church years ago and is now about to become a “theater- church” thanks to new owners, National Community Church, our corridor is known for commerce. True, the Cava Mezze T shirts say, "The crazy feta made me do it," but other than drifting blissfully through an afternoon of bottomless mimosas now and then, most visitors to the row are all about the here and now, except for a group of 2nd floor business owners like Sifu Larry Hawkins and his followers.

Yin and Yang Above 8th St. SE

Sifu Hawkins discovered the yin and yang of existence back in the mid 1970's and he brings his school of inner peace, Wu Style Tai Chi Chunan Academy, to us in a second floor suite at 534 8th Street, SE.  His path is not meditative, but rather a way of life based on Tai Chi, the mind-body connection. Generations of Chinese have dedicated themselves to developing these practices which lead to being centered, joyful and naturally relaxed.

According to Sifu Hawkins it takes about six months to learn the basics and another six months to smooth out your style. The development of schools like this one goes back over 500 years and all originated in China. Yet, when Hawkins came upon Tai Chi he was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, working for the local power company and looking for a deeper meaning to life. After years of dedication to these principles plus study under two masters in the United States and Canada, he is now an advanced instructor himself, converting negative energy into positive force. “The more tension you lose the more calmness you gain,” observed the Sifu.

I watched as he took six adults through the Thursday beginners-intermediate class that starts at 6:30 p.m. I felt calmed just observing pairs practicing their moves. There was mix of age, sex, race and level of accomplishment in the class. With soft, tonal Asian music in the background, it seemed downright otherworldly with a dash of adventure when big wooden swords were added to the exercises. Tai Chi has a reputation of being anchored in self-defense, but in this class only the wooden swords suggested the martial arts. There was a clear spirit of acceptance. Nobody was trying to beat the other guy--it was all about personal centering and perfecting the exercises.

Promotions for Peace and Wellness

Sifu Hawkins likes to keeps things serene and pure but some of his students think he should overcome his mellowness and let the world in on his secret to inner peace. After seven years on the row, he is following their advice and running a special. If you mention this article and sign up for the basic, six month beginner’s package, you will get a substantial discount on his classes. Call 202-546-0665 to learn more.

Unike Sifu Hawkins who is new to promotions, Meka Mathis, owner of Skin Beauty Lounge at 404 ½ 8th Street, SE, Suite 200, has been offering monthly promotions on her signature Swedish massage since the business began in 2004. Mathis’ products, both facials and massage, are all about soothing relaxation, but with her high-energy flair none other than In Style magazine has discovered her.

In October 2011, Skin Beauty was listed in the coveted In Style Black Book, meaning her operation is one of the best spas in the country. Here’s how Meka sums it up: “I am so excited to be on Barracks Row, especially in the first block at the Metro Plaza; business is booming!” When we spoke in October during the mad rush of business brought on by the In Style listing, Meka’s plans on November promotions were not yet final. But, not missing a beat, she immediately offered all Hill Rag readers 25% off any full price service in November!

Volunteer With Your Dog

In the land where water bowls for dogs at the front door are standard for a successful restaurant, it should come as no surprise that another second floor super star operation just-moved to the row is People Animals Love or PAL, located at 731 8th Street, SE, Suite 301.  A local non-profit that recruits and certifies friendly dogs and their owners to visit mentally and physically sick patients, PAL is dedicated to the proposition that as much as animals need people, people need animals.

PAL's posters on 8th Street say it all "You Know Your Dog Rocks, Now You Can Prove it! Volunteer With Your Dog.”  But, as charming as our area is, why locate this non-profit here? Program and Communications Officer, Laurel Edwards, explains: "Barracks Row is a high traffic area, with many dogs that would be perfect for our pet visit program. Having PAL headquarters here is really going to help us visit a greater number of people and involve more dogs"

To volunteer for one of the many opportunities to visit either adults or kids at area hospitals or nursing homes contact Edwards at 202-966 2171. Volunteers and their dogs are always needed to provide that inter species bond, one of the magical connections that make all of us happier human beings.

We find on our second floors architects, designers of both websites and kitchens, a psychic and an artistic tattoo parlor. With a growing number of residential tenants, a quieter, more contemplative side of life is emerging. Next time you’re on Barracks Row, relax, breathe deeply, look up and discover the treasures hidden above you.

District of Columbia Main Streets DC Department of Small and Local Business Development

Barracks Row Main Street is a designated DC Main Streets commercial district.  Barracks Row Main Street is funded in part by the Department of Small and Local Business Development.