The Scene: Week of July 28

July 27, 2014
Opening: Ben’s Chili Bowl now at National

Ben's Chili Bowl founder Virginia Ali is surrounded by family as they open a branch of Ben's Chili Bowl at Reagan National Airport. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Ben’s Chili Bowl has made its way to the airport.

Hundreds of locals gathered at Reagan National Airport last week for the grand opening of the homegrown company’s newest restaurant, located on the concourse connecting Terminal B and C, before security. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a performance by the Chuck Brown Band, which showed up with 11 musicians.

“They were truly amazing,” said Vida Ali, one of the family members who runs the company. “I mean, who is more iconic than the Chuck Brown Band? We have been very lucky.”

For the company’s last ribbon-cutting ceremony in Arlington, the family snagged Bill Cosby, who made an appearance on a blustery March morning.

As for the special guest at the next Chili Bowl opening? Ali says she already has someone in mind.

“You know, my mom just asked me, ‘How are you going to top this one?,’” Ali said. “I said, ‘Maybe it’ll be Obama.’”

— Abha Bhattarai

Milestone: Event for contractors turns five

Five years ago, consultant Jennifer Schaus invited a few government contracting colleagues to the Kennedy Center for an evening of informal networking. The beauty of the venue was what led her to ditch traditional meeting spaces, Schaus said. Since then, the gathering has evolved into an annual event that attracts more than 100 federal contractors and employees from the Washington area.

Last week, the center’s terrace cafe played host to attorneys, small-business owners and representatives from government agencies. Attendees included the Army Corps of Engineers and the Alexandria Veterans Business Enterprise Center. The George Washington University’s Law School was a sponsor.

— Amrita Jayakumar

Success: Affordable housing project opens

The inauguration of new affordable housing units at the historical Augusta building in Northwest Washington was both a celebration of a fresh start and a sober reminder of the homelessness problem prevalent in the District. The event, a partnership of nonprofit So Others Might Eat and furniture store Room & Board, drew a crowd of 100 people, including many longtime Washington residents.

Donn Weinberg, executive vice president of the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which donated $800,000 to renovate the building, spoke about the stability that housing provides, encouraging families to become self-supporting. The units at the Augusta and the neighboring Louisa building will house 28 families in total. The housing initiative is part of SOME’s plan to create 1,000 affordable housing units throughout the city. The organization has completed 747 of those so far, said Father John Adams, SOME’s president.

— Amrita Jayakumar

Tech fans: Tesla’s Model S is the star of this reception

Guests mingle around a Tesla Model S at New Signature's party during the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference. (Courtesy of New Signature/Courtesy of New Signature)

After a full day of learning about Microsoft’s newest innovations, attendees at the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference spent part of the event surrounded by a very different kind of cutting-edge technology.

About 250 conference-goers attended a reception at the Tesla dealership in downtown Washington, chatting over beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres while maneuvering around the fire-engine red Model S on display in the center of the showroom.

The party was thrown by New Signature, a District-based consultancy that helps clients plan, deploy and support Microsoft products. New Signature was honored at the conference this year as the U.S. Partner of the Year, an award from Microsoft that recognizes excellence in innovation and implementation of its products.

Debra Schwartz, New Signature’s chief human resources officer, said she believes the award was won in part thanks to the close alignment of New Signature’s strategy with Microsoft’s. “We realize that the changes that we need to make in our company over the next three to seven years are the same as the ones that Microsoft needs to make in theirs,” Schwartz said.

— Sarah Halzack

Summer Law Day: High school students get to make their case

A jilted prom date sued her boyfriend for breach of contract and won $388.53 in damages for the prom dress she never got to wear.

At least that’s what went down at Wiley Rein’s downtown Washington office July 18, when the law firm hosted a mock trial for rising ninth graders from Anacostia charter school Thurgood Marshall Academy.

The event, called Summer Law Day, was organized by Wiley Rein partner Laura Foggan and is meant to help train the students in public speaking and critical thinking. Fifteen Wiley Rein lawyers and summer associates acted as faculty members for the roughly 100 students at the half-day workshop that featured the mock trial, a case study and a panel discussion on careers in the law. More than 1,000 students have participated since the program’s inception 12 years ago.

“We enjoy interacting with the students and helping to introduce them to legal principles and critical thinking skills,” said Foggan, an insurance attorney.

— Catherine Ho

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