Chevy Chase Main Street includes 18 women-owned businesses, three of which are immigrant-owned businesses, across a variety of industries including retail, health and wellness, professional services, art, music, food and beverage. To commemorate Women’s History Month, let’s get a glimpse into some of the successes and challenges these hard working entrepreneurs have gone through in operating their businesses along the CCMS corridor.
June B Sweet is a stationary and gift shop with unique sweets from Brazil, where owner June Drummond was born and raised. CCMS assisted Drummond in one of the most pivotal moments for their businesses. A community member mentioned a grant program called “Great Streets” that they believed June B Sweets may be eligible for. Drummond looked into it, and took advantage of her and her husband’s background as lawyers to navigate the confusing world of grant applications. Even with their combined expertise, however, the application process proved itself a challenging undertaking so she turned to CCMS for help.
“I already had received some successful grants, but nothing up to the standards of the Great Streets program. It was beyond my capacity and ability to keep up with the due diligence, the paperwork, and the preciseness of the documentation. In the middle of Covid, I found the grant process overwhelming, but I got tremendous support from CCMS, and I applied in January 2021.” June B Sweets was awarded the grant, and has used it to improve the facade of the store, which has gotten much attention from the community and boosted their revenue.
Core72 is a retail store inspired by the “West Coast outdoorsy lifestyle” that owner, Ferrall Dietrich experienced in her summers of traveling across the country with her sons, sleeping in a roof top tent, visiting and camping through national and state parks. “When I first opened I was focused on providing women the technical apparel needed to be active outdoors – hiking pants, compression leggings, down jackets, base layers, etc. This focus has evolved over the years to embrace men’s apparel as well as general lifestyle – not just active but casual and relaxed apparel for everyday. The inspiration for our brand curation remains consistent though and lies with the unique, smaller companies that speak to me – because of their owner’s story, where they are made, their company ethos, and their quality.”
Dietrich became involved with CCMS upon its dedication in 2020, and has played an active role in community events, social media engagement, and has received grant funding from CCMS. “We received an improvement grant for our shop and replaced an aging floor. The store looks much improved and is more in line with our overall aesthetic.”
Core72 is celebrating their 10 year anniversary in March 2023, and Dietrich hopes for many anniversaries along the CCMS to come. “We just signed another 5 year lease with an option for five more. I’d love to keep it going for as long as possible – whether under my ownership and management or the next generations.”
Another independent retail store in the community is Park Story, owned by Meghan Evans. What started as a dream of owning her own clothing line eventually became a life and style boutique featuring responsibly made goods by local and independent brands. Evans received CCMS grant funds to purchase computer equipment to support their point of sale system, as well as funds to work with a local woodworker who created custom tables and cabinets to improve the shop layout and function.
Evans didn’t always know she wanted to be the owner of an independent boutique, and when asked what advice she would give her younger self, she answered, “Consider all career options. I decided at a very young age that I wanted to become a lawyer and never considered any alternatives. I don’t regret my law degree or the time I spent practicing, but I do wish I’d explored alternative career options earlier.”
Even with women-entrepreneurs on the rise, there is still a disparity between the access to capital between men-owned businesses and women-owned. When interviewed, both Dietrich and Evans noted access to capital as a significant challenge for new brick-and-mortar businesses.
CCMS aims to make that access more equitable through our Small Business Grants, as well as connecting small businesses to programs they may be eligible for due to specific identity markers.
The inspiring women in Chevy Chase have created businesses that span a variety of industries, including media and television producing! Lynne Robinson, CEO and Executive Producer of Black Robin Media, is an award-winning producer, director and writer known for her commitment to empowering and inspiring audiences through stories of women and African Americans who have shaped our world. With an expertise in history, pop culture, sports, and public affairs, she has produced a multitude of programming for networks including PBS, the Smithsonian Channel, BET, TV One, Audible Originals, YouTube Originals, Discovery, National Geographic, AspireTV and NBA Entertainment.
Her recent works include directing the 2023 BET documentary BLACK+ICONIC: Style Gods hosted by award-winning actor, singer, producer, playwright and activist Billy Porter and executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson and Firelight Films. She was an executive producer of the 2022 MPT and Firelight Films documentaries Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom and Becoming Frederick Douglass, which both aired on PBS. Robinson executive produced Black Robin Media’s 2021
Smithsonian Channel documentary Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters currently streaming on Paramount Plus and Amazon Prime. She also directed and produced the 2021 Audible Originals Daymond John: Founding FUBU, and is the executive producer and director of the films and media being produced by Black Robin Media for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s upcoming exhibition Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures from the Past, Present and Beyond opening in March 2023.
One of the oldest women-owned businesses in the neighborhood is Bert’s Jewelers, located in the historic Chevy Chase Arcade. Owned by Katarina Marzullo, the “Bert” in the name originates from her grandmother, Alberta, who started the business in 1968. Covid-19 greatly affected the jewelry store and repair shop, causing it to move from its street facing location in the Arcade to a smaller storefront further inside the building. CCMS is currently working with Marzullo to apply for grants such as the Bridge Fund 3.0, in the hopes to insure this historic business can continue its legacy of selling and repairing fine jewelry in the neighborhood.
A newer business in the neighborhood is Wine & Organic. Owner Eveline Ngassa, originally from Cameroon and France, immigrated to the States over 20 years ago. While adjusting to life in the US, she was struggling to find wine that had the taste and quality of the wine she was used to back in France, so she started her own wine shop with imported, organic wine. Her love of high quality imported products doesn’t stop with wine, however. Over the holidays she began selling European gift baskets with cheese, chocolate, and paté, all imported from her favorite suppliers from her life in France. Ngassa has received marketing and event planning help from CCMS in an attempt to combat the lower foot traffic of her location. Being a part of the Main Street has helped spread the word about the new business and promote their amazing products.
The latest addition to the amazing women owned businesses along the commercial corridor is Artsy Beast; a boutique art studio that offers classes in ceramics, wheel-pottery, and painting. “I never pursued art, my life did not allow for such things as following your passion,” says Owner Melina Selimbegovic. “Rather, being a refugee from Bosnia, it was to follow your survival instincts. After working to support myself since age 15 culminating in a successful career in finance, it all suddenly came to an abrupt stop during Covid. It was in this space of not working for a few months and being reminded of how fragile and precious life is that I opened my eyes to new possibilities. While on vacation, my husband planted a seed, a thought, to go towards the arts, and this grew, it quickly snowballed from a small teaching idea to an arts studio for our community. I always had it in me, but I have never been more aligned and have never felt more connected to my true self than I am today.”
While there are many challenges that face new business owners, Selimbegovic notes how important a supportive network is when starting out. She found that support in her husband, who encouraged her while on a vacation to pursue a new venture in the arts. “Perhaps the biggest challenge is not having a mentor, a partner, support networks, someone that looks you in the eye and says “You got this!” and stands by you and offers a helping hand to solve a problem or simply lift you up… It would be a game changer for many rising women entrepreneurs to have a dedicated and involved mentor to see and guide their business from kitchen table to retail.”
From legacy businesses with over 30 years of experience, to brand new start-ups, women in the Chevy Chase commercial corridor are creative, dedicated, and community minded. This Women’s History Month, CCMS aims to promote and support the endeavors of all the amazing women entrepreneurs in Chevy Chase DC. See a list below of notable organizations and businesses run by Chevy Chase women.
3813 Livingston St NW
5502 Connecticut Ave NW
5518 Connecticut Ave NW
June B Sweet
3807 McKinley St NW
Harmonic Music Studio
3815 Livingston St NW
Wine & Organic
5712-14 Connecticut Ave NW
Evers and Co
20 Chevy Chase Circle, Ste A
3810 Northampton St NW
3817 Livingston St NW
5520 Connecticut Ave NW
5536 Connecticut Ave NW