Capital Buzz: Brewing up an expansion plan

October 3, 2011

There is a lot going on with Capital Teas, the five-store chainlet of specialty tea shops based in Annapolis.

First, the budding business is about to become a six-store chain after founder Peter Martino signed a deal to open a 322-square foot store on Bethesda Row, where he will go head-to-head with the Dunkin’ Donuts next door.

Martino also is interviewing investment bankers to explore financing possibilities from private equity firms, whose money Martino needs to grow the 4-year-old retail chain faster.

“I would like to open three stores a quarter instead of three stores a year as we did in 2011,” said the U.S. Naval Academy graduate, who has a law degree from Georgetown and made his first fortune in software. “We are looking at private equity and other sources of expansion capital.”

Martino is buoyed by Teavana, the Atlanta-based competitor with 150 stores, which went public July 28.


Bob McDonald gets free tickets when he sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Verizon Center. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

And lastly, Martino just signed a deal with the Naval Academy to sell custom blends of his teas at two sites on the Annapolis campus.

But do they serve Grey Poupon?

Tiger 21 , the social club for the rich and maybe-famous, has arrived in Washington.

With its 180 members worldwide (holding $15 billion in assets), the 12-year-old group’s purpose is to give the wealthy an arena in which to share ideas and experiences — not to mention investment strategies.

But is it worth the annual dues of $30,000?

The local chapter is run by Cal Simmons, a local investor and entrepreneur with more than $20 million in early-stage investments spread across three funds.

Simmons is a former chair for The D.C. chapter of Young Presidents Organization, and is currently the chairman of the Virginia Tourism Corp.

Tiger 21 was founded in 1999 in New York by real estate entrepreneur Michael Sonnenfeldt. Longtime District resident J onathan Kempner (brother of documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner, creator of “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”) runs the national for-profit organization day to day.

“Insights from other members into new investments, or even what not to invest in, can be of enormous value,” said Kempner in an e-mail, adding “the personal growth and financial benefits of membership far outweigh the costs.”

Singing for his tickets

Bob McDonald will be on the ice at the Verizon Center this Saturday when he sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Capitals season debut. McDonald receives four tickets (second row, blue line, upper bowl) and free indoor parking (“invaluable”) for the 20 or so home games at which he sings. Four $65 tickets plus the $40 parking pass equals $300 per game for McDonald’s pipes. The seats were in the lower bowl a few years ago, but McDonald, 42, got pushed upstairs after the Capitals started selling out. Business is business.

McDonald’s day job is singing with the U.S. Army Chorus, but the entrepreneur also charges $1,000 and up for private gigs, which include everything from business parties to political events.

T he Buzz hears :

Local internet startup Personal has relocated to new space in the Waterfront Center in Georgetown with an open floor plan for rapid growth. Next week, Personal co-founder and CEO Shane Green will be a featured speaker at the M-Commerce 2.0 conference in New York, which will be held in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Personal is working with WEF on a project focusing on putting individuals in control and ownership of their own data.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment Vice Chairman Raul Fernandez must own shares in Robert Wiedmaier’s restaurants. First he was seen a few days ago at a semi-private table at Marcel’s in Foggy Bottom with D.C. United owner Will Chang. Monumental longs for its own regional sports network, and a Major League Soccer team would fill lots of airtime. But whether the owners of the Capitals and Wizards would buy into the soccer club seems remote at this point.

Fernandez also was seen at Brasserie Beck Sept. 28 with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is running for the Virginia senate seat being vacated by Jim Webb. Fernandez did not return e-mails seeking comment.

LivingSocial is talking with investors about getting another round of funding in the next few weeks, according to sources. We hear the talks are in flux, but a new round would increase the company’s valuation to north of $6 billion.

The company’s last influx of cash this spring came from two Silicon Valley venture capital groups, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Institutional Venture Partners.

Both already own stakes in LivingSocial, as does Amazon.com, Tysons Corner-based G rotech Ventures and Revolution LLC, which is S teve Cas e s investment fund.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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