The Fairgrounds becomes a shopping center


The Fairgrounds across from Nationals Park is to have a tobacco shop, garden center, shaved-ice parlor and a convenience store before the end of the month. (Michael Temchine/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Washington entrepreneur and restaurateur Bo Blair (the man behind Surfside and Jetties) is expanding his Fairgrounds operation across from Nationals Park, just in time for the March 29 pre-season opener against the New York Yankees.

Blair said the Navy Yard neighborhood, which is in the midst of becoming a residential and office area, is creating opportunities for new retail, so he is opening four stores in the cluster of trucking containers he uses as pop-up stores. They will include a tobacco shop, garden center, shaved-ice parlor and a convenience store.

“For now, we are going to focus our business on game days and special events, but as the neighborhood grows, we plan to be open more frequently,” Blair said.

Blair said the garden center is targeted at residents in nearby apartments who want to buy flowers, plants and small trees to put on their patios, but want to avoid driving to the suburban big-box stores.

With nearly a dozen empty trucking containers, Blair is in the market for some visionaries who want to try out an idea with a season-long pop-up presence.

Social media maven moves on

Uber-social media networker Shashi Bellamkonda is leaving his longtime post at Herndon’s Network Solutions and joining Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Group as vice president of digital marketing.

“I was writing a blog post on CEO blogs to follow in the D.C. region and Tom Bozzuto’s blog came up in the search, and while checking out the Bozzuto Group Web site, I saw that they had a position in digital media open,” Bellamkonda said. “I connected with the recruiter on Linkedin. I had met Jamie Gorski [who is the senior vice president for marketing] at a social media conference where she attended my talk, and so I reconnected with her and that led to getting this job. It’s a social media connection success story.”

Rounding down

District-based LivingSocial, which lost $650 million last year, recently announced it had received $110 million in new funding from existing investors such as Amazon.com and Steve Case’s District-based Revolution LLC.

In a note to employees, chief executive Tim O’Shaughnessy (son-in-law of Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham) said the money would help the company “build our reserves, solidify our long-term plans and execute against our vision for the future.”

The funding came in what is known as a “down round,” which is financial-speak for a lower valuation than the company got in its last investment round. The 7.5 percent of shares sold in the round give the company a value somewhere north of $1 billion, a far cry from the $4 billion it was worth when it closed its last investment round roughly a year ago.

Many company employees are also shareholders, and O’Shaughnessy tried to address their concerns: “So how does this round impact employee stock? The answer is some, but not much.”

“We are a company that does over half a billion in revenue,” O’Shaughnessy wrote. “If we stay diligent, we hope to turn the corner to become profitable soon. Thanks to this round, we have significantly more capital to be able to be opportunistic and drive the future growth of the business. “

The funding eases short-term financial pressures for LivingSocial. But the notification came just as LivingSocial notified employees last week that 2012 performance bonuses were cancelled because the company missed its financial goals.

The Buzz hears

Entrepreneurs Marty Cornish and Paul Poto, co-founders of Gaithersburg-based Round Trip Sports, grossed $203,000 in their first five months. The company offers baseball lessons at its 9,000-square-foot indoor facility. Cornish expects first-year revenue to cover his initial capital investment of $110,000.

“Our model was $169,000 for the whole first year, but a lot of pieces fell into place. With the Nationals’ success, with their making the playoffs, it brought a lot of excitement about baseball and people are very excited about trying to live the dream,” said Cornish, who played baseball at Wootton High School in Rockville and at Rollins College in Florida.

Local sports mogul Ted Leonsis — who just assumed a share of the reins at Chicago-based daily deals giant Groupon — kicks off the 16th class of MindShare at the Verizon Center in early April. MindShare is a networking vehicle for Washington area chief executives. The group has more than 665 grads, including Charlie Thomas (Net2000, Razorsight), Phillip Merrick (WebMethods), Amir Hudda (Entevo, Naaya), Rick Rudman (Vocus), Reggie Aggarwal (Cvent), Joe Payne (Eloqua) and Tim O’Shaughnessy (LivingSocial).

Factoid of the week

575 That’s the number of Hilton Worldwide employees at the company’s McLean headquarters. When the company moved to Washington from Beverly Hills four years ago, it opened the new office with approximately 265 employees. The company has 87 hotels in the Washington market, out of nearly 3,961 worldwide.

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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