Under Armour founder Kevin Plank is on a real estate tear in Georgetown.
Last year he snagged an $8 million historical Georgetown mansion, which was once home to David K.E. Bruce, a former ambassador and Mellon family member by marriage. The 34th Street NW home has eight bedrooms and a ballroom, and was the scene of a big party last fall to honor Plank’s hosting of the annual Fight Night fundraiser.
Now the billionaire founder of Under Armour has spent $12.25 million for a 6,662-square-foot building at the prominent corner of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW, which housed the former Nathans of Georgetown, a popular local watering hole once owned by local talk show impresario Carol Joynt.
Under Armour Vice President for Global Communications and entertainment Diane Pelkey said Plank’s private real estate entity bought the building at 3150 M St. NW. The building had been owned by the Heon family for decades.
Rumors are that the property will become an Under Armour store, but the company says it has no immediate plans for a lease. Associates of the sportswear mogul said it may be just a real estate play. Plank, who grew up in Kensington and attended Georgetown Prep, St. John’s College High School and the University of Maryland, knows Georgetown well. He started his company in his grandmother’s basement there.
“Kevin’s personal real estate entity did buy it, but has not yet made plans for the use of the building,” Pelkey said.
Under Armour may or may not be coming to Georgetown, but Aroche is.
The online shoe and handbag boutique that is the brainchild of fashion entrepreneur Alvaro Roche and marketing maven Elsa Arcila.
Roche, 49, is a Paris-born, Venezuelan-raised businessman who designed men’s and woman’s shoes at Gianfranco Ferre in Italy before starting EPK, a children’s wear company in Latin America. He is now in negotiations with his former partner in EPK to sell his interest in the company.
Arcila, 32, is a Venezuelan-born graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. Her background is in merchandizing and marketing.
Roche, who is in the process of selling EPK, called from his Georgetown townhouse to chat about the online start-up.
How much money are you
putting into this?
We have purchased almost $100,000 in inventory.
Can you really start a retail
company, even an online one, with only $100,000 in capital?
Yes. There are a lot of things that make it inexpensive to get up and run. We are two partners, take no salary, have $100,000 in inventory and bought some machines to get started. We used Shopify to create the Web site. For now, we are starting out of the house. We are looking for small office space.
Why go online instead of a boutique?
I thought about bricks and mortar, but it felt old, expensive and was not the distribution I wanted. You can manage the price online.
We are starting with eight to 10 items. We have three handbags and two styles in four colors of flats. And the buyer can customize, add initials and decorate the bag in a certain way. The customization attracted me.
Who is the target buyer?
It is a mid-level fashion brand. It’s about $145 for our main bag. We are selling to the D.C. community, which is a melting pot of Americans and professionals from other countries. Hopefully, 18- to 60-year-old, female only, for now. It’s for the person who doesn’t want to buy J. Crew. If that person wants something unique, something that isn’t a uniform that everyone has, they look online.
How do you compete with Zappos and other large online retailers?
I don’t have to. We aren’t trying to compete against a big brand. A little bit is enough for us. That’s the great thing about the Internet. You can be a destination brand without a store on Madison Avenue or in Soho. You can be a niche, and that’s what we are trying to do.
Suggestions on how to break from the pack dominated a business-advice session at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage Feb. 24th, hosted by Jamie Ratner, founder of daily deals site CertifiKid.
Ratner said CertifiKid’s business flourished once she stopped acting like a sheep with the other big daily deal sites Groupon and LivingSocial, and instead focused on what made sense for her family niche.
Presenters included Andrea Barthello and Bill Ritchie of ThinkFun Toys in Alexandria; author and blogger Jill Smokler; tote bag manufacturer Ben Johns; Eric Knaus, better known as the Great Zucchini; and WUSA 9 anchor Lesli Foster, who emceed the event.
Raul Fernandez’s Objectvideo, the Reston-based video analytics company, signed a worldwide patent license agreement with Hikvision of China, the world’s largest supplier of video surveillance products.