Business – Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights http://www.washingtonblade.com America's Leading LGBT News Source Tue, 25 Sep 2018 15:19:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Building a college savings plan http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/07/09/building-college-savings-529-plan/ Mon, 09 Jul 2018 15:45:59 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=44489064 529 program offers range of benefits

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529 plan, gay news, Washington Blade

If you’re saving for a loved one’s college expenses, look into a 529 plan.

Ensuring your children’s success in the future is a goal of every parent. In many cases, education becomes the focus of this goal. Over the years, as tuition costs have risen, parents have become increasingly concerned about their ability to fund these high costs. Proactive parents have used many approaches to fund future education costs, but all have had drawbacks:

Setting up a savings account or investing in a mutual fund to meet this anticipated expense, but all these earnings are taxable at the parent’s income tax level

Setting up a Uniform Gift (Transfers) to Minors Act custodian account, but this account offers no control to the parents after the child reaches the age of maturity

Buying certain Federal Savings Bonds, but these investments only provide tax benefits to people below relative low income thresholds.

There had to be a better way

In 2001, the modern form of the Section 529 Plan, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” was born and in 2006 the Pension Protection Act made its benefits permanent. The section 529 plan is a state-sponsored plan that was designed to:

Allow tax-free distributions (both contributions and earnings) for all accredited college expenses including tuition, room, board and books).

Allow individuals to invest in and maintain control of assets on behalf of a beneficiary in an account

In addition, many states offer state income tax deductions on contributions to these accounts as an incentive to investing. It is important to note that while individual states offer state-sponsored 529 plans, the federal benefit of tax-free withdrawals extend throughout the country.

More benefits of 529 plans

In 2018, the benefits of the 529 plan were improved. All section 529 plans now allow tax-free distributions for tuition expenses for public or private schools (elementary, middle and high school), and in many cases 529 plans have now become the most robust way to save for a child’s primary or secondary education.

There are two types of 529 plans:

Prepaid tuition plans: Paying a known amount at designated intervals for a prepaid level of tuition. The value of tuition may be prorated for different institutions depending on cost.

Education savings plans:  These are investment accounts, and the account value is used to fund education expenses.

Government employees who are members of GEBA (Government Employees’ Benefit Association) can take advantage of an employer-based mutual fund, which is more cost efficient then their broker-sold counterparts. As you consider your options available to save for your children’s education, be sure to discuss your plan with a financial professional to understand the impact it may have on the Federal Student Aid application.

The earlier you start, the more time you have to grow your investment.

Here are seven savings advantages of 529 plans:

Withdrawals are tax-free for any accredited school in any state, no matter which state you plan to invest in.

Contributions may be tax deductible on your state tax returns (check with your tax professional for details).

Money can be transferred between immediate family members (such as siblings).

Earnings in 529 plans grow tax-free.

Contributions can be set up to invest monthly/quarterly, etc., for ease of investing.

You can contribute up to $15,000 per person per year ($30,000 for a couple).

If you have your retirement plan comfortably in place, the next important step many families choose to take is saving for your loved one’s education. Contact your financial adviser today to see how you could potentially use an affordable 529 plan to help pay for a loved one’s education.

 

Greg Klingler is director of wealth management at the Government Employees’ Benefit Association (GEBA), a nonprofit offering insurance and investment options and financial planning services to federal employees and retirees.

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Debunking common myths about disability insurance http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/03/25/debunking-common-myths-disability-insurance/ Sun, 25 Mar 2018 17:56:04 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=39206292 Most underestimate chances of experiencing a debilitating injury or illness

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disability insurance, gay news, Washington Blade

Ninety percent of disabilities are the result of an illness, not an injury.

Disability insurance is one of the most commonly misunderstood necessities of modern living. If you think that sounds dramatic, consider what else you cover with insurance. You cover your car, your home, your health – shouldn’t you also cover your paycheck?

That’s what disability insurance does. Also known as paycheck protection, this affordable coverage protects you from one of life’s real risks – becoming disabled so that you cannot work and cannot support yourself and family for a significant period of time.

Who needs disability insurance?  Everyone who relies on earning an income to support ourselves and our loved ones. Your ability to earn a living is widely viewed as your most valuable financial asset.

Here are four of the most common myths about disability insurance (and their corresponding truths):

Myth 1: Worker’s Compensation will cover me if I become disabled. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, less than five percent of disabling accidents and illnesses are work related. The 95 percent that are not work related are not covered by Worker’s Compensation.

Myth 2:  I’m too young – I don’t need to worry about disabilities at this age. Most working Americans tend to underestimate their chances of experiencing a long-term disability. Statistics from the Social Security Administration show that just over one in four of today’s 20-year-olds are projected to become disabled before they retire.

Myth 3:  I don’t need it – I work at a computer all day, how likely am I to get into an accident? Many people believe that most disabilities result from an accident. However, according to the Council for Disability Awareness, 90 percent of disabilities are the result of an illness.

Myth 4:  I’ll rely on savings if I can’t work for a while. Consider this, the average disability claim lasts almost three years, according to the Gen Re U.S. Group Disability & Risk Management Survey. How would you and your family survive without your income for three years or longer?

Your income most likely allows you to pay bills (such as your mortgage or rent), take vacations, fund your child’s education, and save for your retirement. If you are like most working individuals, you think the chances of becoming disabled for an extended period of time due to an injury or illness won’t happen to you. No one can predict the future. But we can (and should) plan for it and the surprises it may bring.

 

Greg Klingler is Director of Products and Member Services, Government Employees’ Benefit Association (GEBA) Wealth Management. GEBA was founded in 1957 by NSA employees to offer group insurance plan access to NSA employees. From the beginning, GEBA has been a nonprofit employee benefit association committed to its members’ best interests. Over the past 60 years, the list of Federal agencies that GEBA supports has increased tremendously and now serves the entire federal government. In addition, GEBA’s product line has increased to include a growing set of insurance and investment options for members.

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Lambro leads in low-price business-class computers http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/02/26/lambro-leads-low-price-business-class-computers/ Mon, 26 Feb 2018 18:33:50 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=37879176 Lesbian-owned enterprise is local source for refurbished PCs, equipment

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Lambro, gay news, Washington Blade

Lambro Inc. owner Lisa Ambrusko (center), with operations manager Marcia Riemenschneider (left) and assistant manager Anthony Clark (right). (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

If you or your small business, local company, service enterprise or community organization are seeking top-notch business-class desktop or laptop computers, peripherals or other electronic equipment, Lambro Inc. owner Lisa Ambrusko has got the deal for you.

A diverse multiplicity of local ventures, small and large companies, and individual end-users benefit from Ambrusko’s longstanding “PC Retro Computer Warehouse” store located in Alexandria, Va., providing affordable access to business-grade tools. The lesbian entrepreneur’s firm offers refurbished recent iterations of top-of-the-line computing hardware and other equipment at very economical prices.

“Cheap PCs and laptops off-the-shelf are not really a good bargain by comparison,” says Ambrusko, adding that her team is “able to link local and budget-conscious community and business entities to tech products of a quality often beyond their financial reach and at lower cost than less-powerful new equipment.”

Operations manager and technology coordinator Marcia Riemenschneider amplifies this opportunity by noting, “if you allow us to direct you to a brand and a product, especially if you need multiple matched units, you’re really going to score.”

Ambrusko is no stranger to the retail evolution in computers, peripherals and electronics equipment. A native of the metropolitan area who attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in suburban Maryland and earned a local business school degree, Ambrusko first began working for local computer sales and software re-sellers in 1997.

She has helped trail-blaze the local market for refurbished computers and technology equipment. For small businesses, government contractors, non-profits, and community entities such as schools and health clinics, as well as a wide range of other local enterprises and also including individual retail customers, Lambro connects users with high-end legacy “technology you can trust.”

Lambro acquires desktop and laptop computers, servers, printers, monitors, networking gear, audio apparatus, projection equipment, television displays and other hardware from a wide range of sources. Large corporate firms, government agencies and contractors, local businesses, and others provide the inventory for refurbishment and resale. Equipment offloading results from business closings, equipment uniformity implementation, technology upgrades and hardware standardization requirements associated with government contracting or corporate expansion integration.

As part of a larger in-house affiliated network of equipment acquisition, Ambrusko’s company has access to an astounding volume and extensive range of high-quality computer equipment and related office gadgetry. Procurement occurs as entities close up shop or migrate to new systems and need to comply with data destruction protocols and computer hardware recycling.

Word-of-mouth referral among both business customers and home-based users has been a critical component of the firm’s longtime success. “Operating my own local community small business gives me the opportunity to better get to know my clients and their needs,” explains Ambrusko.

“As a woman, it is important that my retail location also be a place where women of all ages can come and not be intimidated by technology,” emphasizes Ambrusko. “When I first started reselling computers, I rarely saw women but today that is very different. We are seeing great diversity among our customers as well as the businesses we provide services. We now serve women with all levels of interest, from those simply using computers to those with technical skill levels capable of designing them.”

“In today’s market, it’s hard providing a great product and skilled services while remaining a brick and mortar store,” Ambrusko laments. “Online shopping wants to take over the world, but I hope it won’t be at the expense of our amazing local communities and small businesses. We strive every day to be a unique and valuable resource to come visit and shop!”

Lambro Inc. and the firm’s PC Retro Computer Warehouse retail store are located in Alexandria, Va., at 4926-D Eisenhower Ave., four blocks east of the Van Dorn St. Metro. The store is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information is available by calling the store at 703-370-5440, or visiting the company website at LambroInc.com.

 

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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New menswear shop now ashore in Rehoboth Beach http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/11/24/michael-gabriel-thanner-profile/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/11/24/michael-gabriel-thanner-profile/#comments Fri, 24 Nov 2017 20:20:22 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=32683747 Youthful new retail entrepreneur helms his lifelong destiny M.G.T. & Co.

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Michael Gabriel Thanner, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Gabriel Thanner and Gracie inside the newly opened M.G.T. & Co. Mens Toggery Shop in Rehoboth Beach. (Photo courtesy Thanner)

Two summers ago, following a July 4th celebratory evening out at various Rehoboth Beach, Del., eateries and drinkeries, gay entrepreneur Michael Gabriel Thanner found himself a bit sozzled and languishing late-night with a long-time female friend on the stoop in front of 39 Baltimore Avenue, a block from the residential town and resort destination boardwalk.

“I’m going to have this store some day,” the visiting Maryland native declared. The casual comment was emblematic of Thanner’s easygoing manner and light-hearted, engaging disposition, as energetically adventurous as it is engagingly confident.

(Photo courtesy of Thanner)

Early in October, Thanner’s ambitious assertion became an abstemious reality with the opening of M.G.T. & Co. Mens Toggery Shop on the high-profile street.

The prominent commercial spot is anchored by surrounding and nearby retail businesses and restaurant venues. The former residential home and prior commercial storefront is adjacent to local landmarks the Blue Moon restaurant-bar and the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center.

This fall, alongside his one-year-old golden retriever and in-store companion Gracie, Thanner launched his men’s specialty clothing shop on his 27th birthday. The Oct. 10 birthday commencement of the retail enterprise is also symbolized in the easy-to-remember mnemonic time he opens the door each day, at 10:10 a.m. “It also ensures that I’m never late,” Thanner jokes.

(Photo courtesy of Thanner)

The shop is currently open seven days a week until 7 p.m., to both acquaint local residents and off-season visitors with Rehoboth’s newest addition to community enterprise and accommodate holiday shopping.

The free-spirited nature of new-proprietor Thanner is captured in the use of the informal, humorous, and British term “toggery” in the shop’s branding. A more casual expression for “haberdashery,” this off-kilter marquee nomenclature is a fitting reflection of the owner’s personality.

(Photo courtesy of Thanner)

The tagline additionally serves to convey the “British-inspired flavor of the shop’s offerings,” explains Thannery, noting that European labels from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other international locales are also featured alongside American brands. “I carry lines with which people may not be familiar,” he says, “but I strive to always value quality over quantity” in curating the selection of items that will seasonally evolve.

“I specialize in providing an ‘old school’ foundation with a modern and youthful perspective,” says Thanner, “in a range of sizing and with something for everyone. The shop has a casual and personable environment,” he notes, describing the warm interior and attractive displays featuring a full range of merchandise, including everything from resort wear to blazers, scarves, boots, plush cashmere and more.

“I’m selling a lifestyle, not just an item or two,” asserts Thanner, “quality personal items are the foundation of a gentleman.”

Unique and distinctive labels include American purveyors Mizzen+Main dress shirts, Strong Boalt, Castaway, needlepoint belts and wallets from Smather and Branson, F.H. Wadsworth belts, handmade leather loafers by Jay Butler, Southern Proper, as well as Barbour from the United Kingdom, Hommard cashmere from the Netherlands, Armor Lux of France, Seaward and Stearn ties from the U.K., and New Zealand’s Rodd & Gunn.

Frequent solo travels when young and studying at Aix-en-Provence in the south of France influenced Thanner’s appreciation for European style and “knowing how to dress” as a practical part of one’s life. “You never know whom you’re going to run into, or where you’ll end up,” explains Thanner.

“If you look good, you feel good, and can have either $2 or $2 million in your pocket, no one would ever know.” Thanner credits his supportive parents, who encouraged their only child to travel and explore different cultures, for such insights. Growing up around his mother’s multiple retail shops specializing in gifts, accessories and home furnishings, also served as inspiration.

(Photo courtesy of Thanner)

Whether domestic or international, the shop’s clothing is “not tailored,” notes Thanner, “it’s more traditional but with a twist.” While representing the higher-end of the marketplace, pricing is consumer accessible with a range of price points. Thanner characterizes the shop’s focus as “America’s Ralph Lauren meets London’s Savile Row.”

(Photo courtesy of Thanner)

Hand-produced and bench-made products dominate, the result of a distinctly personal process of acquisition. “I was always well-dressed as a kid, originating with my own inspiration,” explains Thanner. Noted for his distinctive sense of style and attention to detail from a young age “led to requests to assist others with their personal shopping,” he recalls.

It was personal familiarity with noteworthy attire that forged the path for stocking his store. “I simply opened my own closet,” Thanner says, “and began cold-calling companies among the labels in my collection, asking to speak with a wholesale representative.”

“I knew early on that I could never have a standard 9-to-5 job,” Thanner admits, “I simply don’t have the attention span for it. Working for myself has always been in my blood, and I always knew I would have a shop of my own.”

“None of my friends were surprised at all,” says Thanner of his decision to open the shop. “I told several people over dinner one night, and signed a lease two days later. Of course, they think I’m ‘nuts’ for entering storefront retail, but you have to be willing to take risks to achieve success.”

“Opening in retail today is a risk,” acknowledges Thanner, “but you can’t focus on that. You have to jump right in and give it all you’ve got. The market is still there, especially in destination locations like Rehoboth where there is opportunity for specialty commerce.” He credits Murray Archibald, Steve Elkins, and everyone at CAMP Rehoboth for being supportive, and the welcoming attitude from other business owners and local residents.

(Photo courtesy of Thanner)

“I love Rehoboth, the sense of community, the energy, the vibe,” says Thanner, “and the small town charm and progressive environment. It’s a place entering a new era of enterprise, with an influx of new businesses and innovative approaches complementing an existing strong mix of retail.”

Thanner is inviting patrons and the public to an in-store holiday party on Dec. 9 to celebrate the shop’s opening and to “thank the community for their encouragement during the best time of the year to bring people together.”

M.G.T. & Co. Mens Toggery Shop is located in Rehoboth Beach, Del., at 39 Baltimore Ave. The shop is currently open each day of the week from 10:10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more info, visit M.G.T. & Co. on Facebook and Instagram (the shop’s website is in development).

 

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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D.C.’s first woman-owned distillery an entrepreneurial dream come true http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/11/15/republic-restoratives-business-profile/ Wed, 15 Nov 2017 18:49:21 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=32302571 Leaving gov’t work behind, local lesbians find passion in Republic Restoratives

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Republic Restoratives Distillery, gay news, Washington Blade

Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner founded Republic Restoratives Distillery in May 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Friends from childhood, launching Republic Restoratives Distillery in May 2016 provided lesbian co-founders Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner the opportunity workaday professionals in D.C. frequently long for but don’t often have the chance to create.

For Carusone, who worked as chief of staff to Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the assassination attempt on her boss in 2011 proved a moment of reflection for the now entrepreneur. “You can’t help but ask yourself, ‘what has my life amounted to, what would I regret’ following an experience like that,” she explains.

“Rachel and I had been talking about starting a business of some kind,” explains Carusone, noting that the shooting incident prompted Gardner, also a government employee, to ponder similar questions while they continued engagements in civic service or on political issues.

Each married and living with their same-sex spouses in the District, “We wanted to contribute to the city we both love,” emphasizes Carusone. Gardner had previously taken a liquor distillation class, which would serve as catalyst for the duo in discerning a business path and plan.

They discovered that recent reforms to D.C. liquor laws designed to encourage the development of local distilleries, breweries, and wineries were offset by the difficulty assembling private financing or bank loans. As smart and savvy as they are now knowledgeable about the industry and operating a business, Carusone and Gardner instead launched an online appeal for financial support.

The result is the largest crowd-funded craft distillery in the world and first woman-owned in D.C. history.

Having proved their innovative mettle soliciting small investor backing, commercial bank and private investment funding would soon follow.

They joined the growing ranks of local independent alcohol producers in the District, creating and capturing an emerging consumer appreciation for, and attraction to, hometown spirits and community enterprise. “Restaurants and bars had begun connecting patrons to their culinary product by emphasizing locally sourced ingredients,” notes Carusone, “and now you see the same with spirits.”

“If you don’t have local products on your bar, you’re likely not at the top of your game” in the current hospitality scene, Carusone asserts.

Republic Restoratives entered the marketplace with Civic Vodka – a dry, crisp, corn-based ferment with a subtly sweet taste that compares well. Borough Bourbon was next, distilled five years with high wheat content and notably smooth flavor. Rodham Rye whiskey was intended as a celebration of women for launch during the presidential inauguration of namesake Hillary Clinton. As it turned out, the defeated Clinton was later presented with Bottle #1 of the distinctive pour.

A fourth product was introduced this fall – Chapman’s Apple Brandy, commemorating Johnny Appleseed’s surname. Picked and pressed in Adams County, Pennsylvania, by seventh-generation Three Springs Fruit Farm for dual-oak resting and distillation at the D.C. warehouse, this refined concoction blending four unique varietals offers a taste of the harvest.

Republic Restoratives self-distributes to 200 local establishments and its spirits are available at a growing number of retail stores. “Direct distribution allows us to get to know our clients and quickly respond to their needs,” says Carusone, “building a sense of community in the process.”

The most surprising challenge for lesbian entrepreneurs Carusone and Gardner, along with transgender sales director Whit Kathner who rounds out the founding team, is that no LGBT venues, accustomed to marketing-subsidized deep-discounting by corporate brands, are customers.

“Supporting our local community is the single most important thing you can do,” Carusone says. “Try our products, come to visit us at our Tasting Room, and suggest that your favorite bar or restaurant give us a try.”

Republic Restoratives Distillery is located at 1369 New York Ave., N.E., adjacent to the iconic former Hecht Co. building in the Ivy City area. The production facility features a Tasting Room craft cocktail bar open Thursday and Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday Noon-11 p.m., and Sunday Noon-5 p.m. Private event bookings are accommodated and special food-and-drink paired tastings are offered. More info: RepublicRestoratives.com.

Republic Restoratives Distillery current products: Rodham Rye, Chapman’s Apple Brandy, Civic Vodka and Borough Bourbon. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

 

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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Roaming residences http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/10/20/roaming-residences/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/10/20/roaming-residences/#comments Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:16:01 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=31310021 Bloomingdale House Tour returns Oct. 28

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Bloomingdale House Tour, gay news, Washington Blade

Visitors gather at last year’s Bloomingdale House Tour. (Photo courtesy Bloomingdale Civic Association)

Bloomingdale House Tour & Reception
 
Saturday, Oct. 28
 
10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
 
Check-in: Tyber Creek Wine Bar & Kitchen (First and T streets, N.W.)
 
$30 in advance; $35 at event
 
Tickets available at Windows Cafe & Market (First and Rhode Island, N.W.)
 
bloomingdalecivicassociation.org
 
(Rain date is Oct. 29)

Next weekend offers an opportunity to explore the Bloomingdale neighborhood in northwest D.C., one of the city’s historic environs. The area, continuing a revitalization renaissance of more than a decade, is home to a growing number of gay and lesbian couples, families and singles, as many modern-era LGBT residents shift eastward from legacy locales of Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Shaw and U Street.

The sixth biennial Bloomingdale House Tour & Reception on Saturday, Oct. 28, features multiple components throughout the day. Sponsored by the Bloomingdale Civic Association, the event is entitled “Victorian Secrets & Modern Truths” and is, according to 30-year resident and event chair Bertha Holliday, inspired by both past and future.

Bloomingdale is a compact geographic sliver bounded by North Capitol Street west to Second Street, and from Florida Ave. north to Michigan Ave. and McMillan Reservoir. Nestled between the Shaw, LeDroit Park, Truxton Circle and Eckington neighborhoods, the area is noted for Victorian, Colonial Revival and Queen Anne row homes.

“The house tour is not just about the interiors and architectural charm of century-old homes,” Holliday says. “It is also about celebrating Bloomingdale’s modern truths — the willingness of residents to collectively invest hundreds of millions of dollars to thoughtfully renovate the interiors for today’s needs and lifestyles, and reinvent Bloomingdale as a stable, welcoming, socially inclusive and economically diverse neighborhood.”

House tour activities include interactive architecture and design workshops conducted by Bloomingdale architects and designers, initiating with a multi-media presentation on the area’s design history by neighborhood resident and architect Ahmet Kilic beginning at 11 a.m.

A self-guided tour of eight homes representing the neighborhood’s most distinguished architectural contributions traditional in style or modern by renovation runs from 1-5 p.m. The tour is followed by a social and networking reception from 4-7 p.m. at a recently converted firehouse restaurant and bar. Admission to the reception for those unable to attend the tour is $10 at the door.

Participants receive a souvenir program booklet that includes a special section on the “History of Arts and Letters in Bloomingdale” with descriptions of past and present neighborhood cultural luminaries and artists.

Diversely populated by longtime residents and newer arrivals, the rich tapestry of locals can be seen traversing the neighborhood and congregating at popular spots such as Big Bear Café at First and R streets. Other prominent restaurant-bar standouts include the Pub and the People, at North Capitol and R streets, and the nearby Old Engine 12, the former firehouse dating from 1897 hosting the post-tour reception.

At the center of the approximately 20-square-block neighborhood is a notably public-familiar hospitality hub at First Street and Rhode Island Ave. Popular dining and drinking venues include Boundary Stone, El Camino, Crisp Kitchen+Bar, Red Hen, Tyber Creek Wine Bar & Kitchen, Aroi, Showtime Lounge, Windows Café and Market, Bacio Pizzeria and Sylvan Café and Bakery.

The tour is a community fundraising event. Proceeds go to college scholarships for Bloomingdale youth and neighborhood improvement projects. Hundreds attend each year.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkLeeDC. He can be reached at ourbusinessmatters@gmail.com

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DC Allen and Ken Flick: Partners in life, business and LGBT community growth http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/06/08/dc-allen-ken-flick/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/06/08/dc-allen-ken-flick/#comments Thu, 08 Jun 2017 20:12:48 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=27152374 D.C. duo pioneered a local gay business while empowering advocacy groups

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DC Allen, gay news, Washington Blade

DC Allen, on right, and Ken Flick have contributed to the development and growth of a broad and diverse range of local and national LGBT groups.

As the Washington region celebrates the annual Capital Pride parade and festival this weekend, the contribution that D.C. businessmen and Crew Club founders DC Allen and Ken Flick have made to the growth and development of the LGBT community in the nation’s capital is particularly noteworthy.

Flick and Allen, partners in life and business, highlight through their exemplary leading role a legacy of gay business owners who have fueled local advocacy groups, community-building initiatives, and direct service projects.

The entrepreneurial duo, a longtime couple that married at the District courthouse in 2012, has quietly and consistently contributed to the development and growth of a broad and diverse range of local and national LGBT groups of all types and sizes.

During the past two decades, the continuing financial benefactions of Allen and Flick – on behalf of multiple business ventures – have totaled nearly $650,000 in direct funding.

Co-owners of the Crew Club, a gay-oriented gym and spa located in the bustling Logan Circle neighborhood at 1321 14th St., N.W., south of P Street, Allen and Flick launched the business in 1995. At the time, the now-bustling commercial area was a desolate strip of largely vacant and underutilized buildings with scant enterprise destinations. Allen recalls a local resident stating at a community meeting during the early days of operation, “I’ve never seen so many men in suits in the neighborhood.”

Also distinguishing the venue from its inception and reflected in a major recent refurbishment is the attractive interior design, high-end appointments, comfortable ambience, signature attention to detail, and patron service standards at the well-run and award-winning facility. The Crew Club has earned a national distinction for offering a full-range of amenities and representing the highest hallmarks of quality within the industry.

Flick, who primarily manages the administrative aspects of the business and other enterprise engagements from the couple’s Fort Lauderdale home when not at their D.C. residence, shares the warm gregariousness and easygoing manner for which the couple is known.

A Washington-born native who grew up in suburban Maryland, Flick earned an undergraduate degree at Georgetown University and master’s of Urban Planning from the University of Virginia. He worked at the Maryland Department of Transportation for more than 20 years and served as state liaison to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority beginning with the creation of Metrorail in the 1970s, also working with the region’s Council of Governments.

Allen, who cuts an outsized stature with an even bigger personality, grew up in the Boston suburbs, where he studied hotel management. He worked in the restaurant and bar industry in both Boston and Manhattan, the latter while achieving success – and prominent theater, musical and movie roles – as a New York actor, singer and dancer.

After subsequently opening a coffee shop with friends in Boston, a series of brutal gay bashings in the Fenway cruising area angered Allen and led him to open a social club with a gym and spa. Inspired by attending a Quentin Crisp lecture regarding his being gay at a time in history when it was dangerous to be so, Allen discerned a community need for a social place and a center for community HIV education, as he had seen throughout Europe. “I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me,” Allen recalls, “We needed a place to go.”

It was this motivation, and a move to D.C., that prompted the Crew Club development as “an activist and community supported space with a mission to build a positive view of gay men and their sexuality,” Allen says.

The Crew Club has long been committed to working for a safer and healthier local gay community, providing on-site testing for HIV, syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections since opening. The business funded, and was instrumental in initiating, a $40,000 advertising campaign in local LGBT media promoting awareness of a resurgence of syphilis. That effort was widely credited with reducing the rate of infections among gay men in the metropolitan area, alongside financing safer-sex Tool Kit distribution expenses.

The Crew Club also supported the formation and development of the award-winning Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and has forged strong ties with GLLU personnel.

Other beneficiaries represent a comprehensive list of entities engaging broad swaths of community life.

Four years ago, the Crew Club donated $25,000 to the then-expanding and relocating D.C. Center – the Washington area’s LGBT community center – to help build out new offices and meeting space at the Reeves Center a few blocks north of the Crew Club at 14th and U streets. The Center is a project for which Allen, in particular, remains passionate. He is quick to encourage older LGBT residents to include the organization when planning for estate distributions.

In each of the past two years, Casa Ruby has been the recipient of $10,000 donations for its work offering life-saving services and programs to the most vulnerable members of the LGBT community and providing support for transgender individuals. Two months ago, 14 Crew Club staff members toured Casa Ruby when delivering a check to support the facility.

Allen is adamant and articulate regarding what motivates the couple’s charitable giving-back. “It’s an illusion that we have all of our rights and don’t have to fight for them anymore,” he points out, adding that this is the reason that he and Flick have “split our philanthropic activities between service and activism.”

Other recipients have included Food and Friends, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), Us Helping Us, the D.C. government’s Office of GLBT Affairs, and Whitman-Walker Health. They have also lent their support to Team D.C., D.C. Sentinels Basketball Team, Federal Triangles Soccer Club, We Are Everywhere Bowling League, D.C. Gay Flag Football League, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Reel Affirmations, Miss Adams Morgan Pageant, Centaur Motorcycle Club, Federation for All D.C. Families, and the Imperial Court of Washington, D.C.

Their munificence also extends to national LGBT organizations such as the NAMES Project and AIDS Memorial Quilt, Lambda Legal, CenterLink, Stonewall Museum and Library, National LGBTQ Task Force, and SAGE Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders. Allen and Flick also support organizations in the Fort Lauderdale area, where they maintain a home, including SunServe, Equality Florida, the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, Our Fund, and the Pride Center of South Florida.

Allen has been presented the Distinguished Service Award by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the Distinguished Service Award by the D.C. Center, and an Outstanding Volunteer Service Award by Brother, Help Thyself

Allen was the recipient of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Business Leadership Award in 2012. He received the Washington Blade “Best Business Person” designation in 2014.

Crew Club was also named “Best Place to Meet Men Other Than Grindr” two years ago. “We’re retro in that regard,” notes Allen, “seeking human interaction, battling to be sex positive and promoting healthy behaviors.”

Additional information on the Crew Club is available online at CrewClub.net.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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Grooming Lounge style http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/05/19/grooming-lounge-mike-gilman/ Fri, 19 May 2017 16:25:59 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=26581471 Local entrepreneur teaches men that looking good is its own reward

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Mike Gilman, gay news, Washington Blade

Grooming Lounge proprietor Mike Gilman says ‘we treat guys like kings.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Similar to other successful enterprise category innovators, Grooming Lounge proprietor Mike Gilman discerned a marketplace opportunity through observation.

Those insights would lead to the launch of the first men’s personal grooming business in D.C. 15 years ago and the nation’s groundbreaking premiere upscale barbershop and spa for men.

Grooming Lounge founder and owner Gilman worked at his grandfather-and-father’s beauty product salon distribution company in suburban Washington during summers while in high school. He learned about the trade by listening to his dad’s dinner table tales.

Following his studies at Ohio State, Gilman pursued a career in public relations – first as a member of the in-house team for the California-based Paul Mitchell hair care company and later for a PR firm in Chicago. The Rockville, Md., native soon returned to the D.C. area, undertaking corporate consultation projects.

Gilman would share samples snatched up at the beauty product trade shows of the family business with his buddies when they gathered on weekends to watch football games.

To his surprise, the guys in his life loved the stuff.

Gilman recalls one friend, the type he jokes was “only a step away from not showering,” later asking about getting more samples. “You know that special moisturizer you gave me? It was great, any chance I can get some more?”

Shortly before his wedding, Gilman’s spouse prodded him to a manicurist to repair his long-bitten fingernails. He heeded her directive but ended up in a salon as the solitary male alongside 30 women.

Gilman realized that “destinations for guys to find products and services didn’t exist.”

He couldn’t convince any landlords to lease him space for his untested concept. So Gilman headed online and launched a men’s personal care product website in early 2000. Aided by a plethora of profiles in national magazines and television features as well as local media, a quickly growing customer base provided proof of the potential for success. This enabled Gilman to rent a prime retail spot at 1745 L St., N.W., in the downtown business district in 2002.

Drawing patrons from throughout the metropolitan region, Gilman opened a second location at Fairfax County’s Tysons Galleria in McLean, Va., five years later.

Gilman personifies the relaxed, down-to-earth manner and gentlemanly appearance his unique business strives to promote – unselfconscious about his own confident good looks and straightforward personality. He epitomizes the casually style-sensitive man who walks into his warmly appointed leather-and-dark-wood classic barbershops and men’s spas.

Odd as it seems today, the notion of a spa for men was an unusual and attention-getting one at the time. GQ magazine raved shortly after opening, “If Grooming Lounge were any manlier, it would be a hardware store.”

Notably, “metrosexuals” were the emerging iconic masculine trend of the time. D.C.’s dominant demographic of self-attuned, hardworking, confident and appearance-conscious professionals of all ages with discretionary budgets began flocking to the door.

A traditional oasis with a modern flair, offerings include precision haircuts, hair coloring, hot lather shaves, head shaving, beard trimming, manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, and massage treatments – at competitive and affordable prices.

A signature line of lab-developed custom-formula shave, hair, and face-and-body products developed through collaboration with a pedigreed long-term professional staff are also available both in-store and online, along with select specialty product lines.

As standard hair salons have sought to integrate some similar services and competition has increased, Gilman attributes his success to a philosophy of “always striving to exceed expectations.”

“From technical performance to the personal experience, we treat guys like kings.”

Both Grooming Lounge locations are offering first-time-client Blade readers a $20 discount on any service. Visit GroomingLounge.com for info on services and products.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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Who should be in charge if you can’t be? http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/03/24/executor-estate-heirs-wills/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:48:09 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=24971949 Plan ahead and choose executors carefully

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executor, gay news, Washington Blade

When faced with life’s challenges, be prepared and plan ahead.

Choosing the people to whom you want to assign responsibility in case the worst happens is a stumbling block that keeps many of us from creating estate planning documents, such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney. Who should my executor be? Who could manage money for kids who will be my heirs? Who would I trust to make medical or financial decisions for me in an emergency? Who would be willing to raise my kids if neither of us was around?

None of these are easy decisions, and there are very few rules to guide you. As an attorney, working with clients to zero in on who belongs on your team is one of my most important estate planning jobs. Often, I help clients expand their thinking and consider people they may not have imagined in these roles.

For tasks that involve financial management and require organizational skills, I recommend that you focus on people whom you know to be financially savvy. This seems obvious, but I’ve learned that many clients don’t approach it that way. They tell me that have already named a particular relative — or plan to do so. Upon closer examination, it’s not unusual to learn that that candidate has been in bankruptcy or is a shopaholic. If that’s the case, I always urge the client to think again. Instead, for financial roles, I like to suggest a relative or friend — this person does not have to be related to you—who is very organized. Maybe he has tracked his finances in Quicken for 20 years or she has worked in a money-related field, such as banking. At the bare minimum, you want someone whom you believe has a solid, sensible relationship with money over the long haul. These types of folks will make ideal choices for executors, financial power of attorney backup agents and trustees of any type of trust, especially where the money is to be managed and distributed over a long period of time.

On the other hand, some roles are more people-focused, such as healthcare agents and guardians who are responsible for raising kids (but not necessarily for managing their money).  In this arena, empathy, support, caring and familiarity with the healthcare system are the traits you should look for more than management skills. A person who is already a caregiver will likely be able to assume this role for you. Perhaps that’s someone who is a healthcare professional such as a nurse or a staff member at NIH, but it could just as well be someone who has helped look after an elderly relative. Do they have their own kids or have they helped to raise younger siblings? If so, they probably will be able to raise yours.

One rule is paramount: every person that you plan to name to serve in any role must be consulted in advance and given the opportunity to accept or reject your request. In my experience most people are flattered to be asked even if they later decide not to serve. However, the worst thing that can happen is a surprise call from a hospital seeking an urgent medical decision from a person who is learning for the first time that your life may be in their hands.

Of course, I have only scratched the surface of these issues here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 240-778-2330 or 703-536-0220 if you need more specific guidance on any of these topics.

(This column is not intended to provide legal advice, but only general guidance that may or may not be applicable to your specific situation.)

Larry Jacobs has helped more than 500 same-sex couples and many LGBT singles in the Washington area protect their assets and loved ones through partnership planning. He is a partner at McMillan Metro, P.C. and has practiced law for 42 years. He is admitted to the bar in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. You can learn more about his practice at www.PartnerPlanning.com

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Don’t DIY your LLC http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/02/24/dont-diy-llc/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:02:47 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=24191356 Simple structure can backfire if you’re engaged in real business

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Limited Liability, gay news, Washington Blade

There are many rules and traps for the unwary in LLC, so if you do something wrong, you may not have that liability protection just when you need it most.

Over the last 20 years, limited liability companies have become the preferred way of doing business for many small and medium-size enterprises. That is primarily due to the fact that LLCs are easier to form than corporations. Unfortunately, that simplicity lulls many people into trying to do it themselves or working with forms provided online. Sure, if your LLC is only going to operate a kid’s lemonade stand for a couple of months over the summer, that might be good enough. But for most people engaged in real businesses with significant risks, it’s not.

A little background may help to explain what I mean. LLCs, like corporations, are mechanisms for sheltering the people that run those businesses from being personally liable for their activities, especially if things go badly. Thoughtful people may ask: why is that? Why shouldn’t you be personally liable for your own actions? The answer is that states have encouraged people to start and run businesses as an engine of growth, but many people are reluctant to expose themselves to personal liability. The catch is that there are many rules and traps for the unwary, so if you do something wrong, you may not have that liability protection just when you need it most. Earlier in my career, I represented many business creditors that were always looking for ways to “pierce that shield” and get through to the owners of businesses for their debts. Here are a few of the basics that you should know to avoid that fate.

LLCs need to have Operating Agreements. Operating Agreements take the place of bylaws and shareholders agreements for corporations. If you’re starting a business by yourself (commonly referred to as a “single-member LLC”), then a streamlined Operating Agreement may be sufficient. If more than one person is involved, it’s not just twice as complicated, it’s a least five times as complicated and the Operating Agreement will be much more complex. It will need to cover things such as how much of the business each person owns, how are profits or losses divided and who gets to vote on what. I’m always surprised by the number of business owners who are involved in significant enterprises that do not have Operating Agreements.

Capital contribution. Is the amount of money that you are investing in your new business adequate for the risks that are going to be assumed? Many people form their LLCs and show little or no investment of personal funds. However, if you’re going to be signing a lease, buying inventory, hiring employees or signing contracts, there needs to be a financial cushion that is proportionate to those liabilities. If there isn’t, your creditors will have little trouble getting to you personally.

Evidence of ownership. Corporations issue stock. LLCs issue membership interests. They are quite similar – written certificates identifying your ownership of all or a portion of the LLC. Come the day that you might want to sell an interest in your business or even the entire business, having membership certificates will be crucial. A business that I represented a few years ago never issued certificates. When we went to sell the business, there was nothing to transfer to the new owners. We had to go back and document all the changes in ownership over a period of 10 years and issue certificates to cover them—just for the purpose of being able to sell the business.

Timely filings with the state in which the LLC was formed. Maryland and Virginia require annual filings. In the District, it’s every two years. If you fail to make this filing and to pay the required fee, then your LLC’s charter will be revoked and your LLC will be gone. You would be wrong if you think this is uncommon. Each state in which I practice revokes thousands of charters every year. It’s why we monitor our clients’ filings closely to avoid revocation.

As complicated as some of this sounds, I have only scratched the surface of these issues in the confines of this article. Please feel free to contact me if you need more specific guidance on any of these topics.

(This column is not intended to provide legal advice, but only general guidance that may or may not be applicable to your specific situation.)

Larry Jacobs has represented many businesses, both large and small. He has also helped hundreds of same-sex couples and LGBT singles in the Washington area protect their assets and loved ones through partnership planning. He is a partner at McMillan Metro, P.C. and has practiced law for 42 years. He is admitted to the bar in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Learn more at PartnerPlanning.com.

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