The Scene: Week of March 20

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Cassaday & Co. was based in Reston. The firm is based in McLean. This version has been corrected.


The opening of the new Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan )
In Va.: Bill Cosby helps open new Ben’s Chili Bowl

It may have been a chilly morning, but a few hundred people crowded around a Rosslyn parking lot for the grand opening of Ben’s Chili Bowl’s second stand-alone location Thursday morning.

Bill Cosby, a longtime regular, addressed the crowd: “The reason why this establishment has decided to open here is for me,” he said, adding that as a Navy veteran, he was entitled to a military funeral. Now “my ghost can get up and make the trip here instead of flying all the way over to U Street.”

Since it opened in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl has become a hometown legend, attracting the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Bono. In 2010, President Obama famously took Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, to the U Street haunt for lunch.

“As I’ve always said, chili for breakfast, chili for lunch, chili for dinner and a half-smoke for dessert,” Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said last week.

This is the restaurant’s first Virginia location. Ben’s Chili Bowl currently has outposts inside Nationals Park and Fed Ex Field, with upcoming locations planned for H Street NE and Reagan National Airport.

— Abha Bhattarai

Veep: Joe Biden drops by party for Rasky Baerlein Prism

Vice President Joe Biden stopped by French bistro Central for the Feb. 27 merger party for Rasky Baerlein Prism, the PR outfit created by the recent merger between Washington-based Prism Public Affairs and Boston-based Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications.

He was among more than 200 guests including Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) and James E. Clyburn (D-SC).

—Catherine Ho

Debut: D.C. mayor unveils initiative for tech companies

Mayor Vincent C. Gray formally debuted the District’s Digital DC initiative last week, committing $1 million to a tech venture fund that will distribute grants to upstarts with promising ideas.

The funding is part of a larger plan that includes the creation of a technology corridor and national marketing campaign.

The event offered Gray, who is seeking a second term, an opportunity to tout the stories of local tech upstarts (SocialRadar, Social Tables, Clearly Innovative and TrackMaven were among the companies that recieved shout outs) and STEM education programs, as well as other aspects of his five-year economic development plan.

Wednesday’s festivities were held at the WeWork space inside the former Wonder Bread factory in Shaw. The building offers a labyrinth of glass-enclosed offices with bare desks where entrepreneurs can work while surrounded by peers hustling to make their own ventures a reality.

The co-working space sits within the boundaries of the city’s newly designated tech corridor, which stretches from the intersection of Kansas and Georgia avenues NW to the intersection of 7th Street NW and New York Avenue NW.

City officials initially said that tech companies most locate within the corridor to be eligible for tech venture fund grants, a stipulation that rankled some in the local technology community who thought tech firms in all parts of the city ought to be eligible.

But Gray showed signs of easing that requirement Wednesday, telling the crowd that the city would consider expanding the parameters of the fund over time.

— Steven Overly

No. 1: Cassaday tops magazine’s list of financial advisers

Stephen Cassaday, chief executive of Cassaday & Co., earned top honors this year on Barron’s recently unveiled list of the nation’s best financial advisers. Cassaday, who is based in McLean, was named the number one adviser in Virginia in the publication’s state-by-state ranking.

We caught up with Cassaday to talk about his business. Here are some excerpts, edited for length and clarity.

Barron’s has its formula for defining success in this industry. How do you define it?

The metrics are, obviously, assets under management and growth of assets under management. That’s just a key thing. And our growth of assets under management has consistently been in the 20 percent per year range since we started. That’s not return on investments, it’s just total growth of assets.

We are also very big on surveying our clients, having client advisory boards, and most importantly, focus groups. We have a facilitator run a focus group — no Cassaday employees are present, and it’s anonymous. And when you do that, you get very candid feedback. We generally pick the most cantankerous clients, because they’re the ones who aren’t afraid to say, “Steve’s an idiot.” Which I want to hear!

Also, we have very low employee turnover. If people leave Cassaday & Co., it’s usually because they’re asked to leave. In 20 years, I think I’ve had three people leave that I didn’t want to go. I really do look at people like resources.

What’s been the trajectory for building your business?

I worked for Wall Street firms for 16 years. I switched firms three times because I thought the culture of a firm was not consistent with my perspective on how you should approach a client relationship. After the third switch, I realized it wasn’t the firms, it was the industry. So in 1993, I left and started Cassaday & Co., which was the worst thing I ever did and the best thing I ever did. Most entrepreneurs would probably tell you the same thing. It was very difficult for five years or so, and then we kind of turned a corner. I knew the idea was right, and ultimately people would get it. When I left in 1993 and went independent, people were saying, “Independent? What does that mean?” Now, the major Wall Street firms are hemorrhaging advisers because many are doing what we did 20 years ago.

— Sarah Halzack

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