L E V E R A G E & L A C E
With Lace , Linda McAllister ushers in a new age of DC prominence
POST : Sunday , May 6 , 2012 - 6:00 AMreturn to main page
Linda McAllister, owner of Lace On The Avenue
Lace On The Avenue
2200 Rhode Island Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20018
Take a ride through the District and it's obvious to see that change is afoot, and has been for quite some time. Significant resources have been poured into various 'pockets' of the city, transforming the face and makeup of these areas to the unrecognizable. U Street. Columbia Heights. Barracks Row. H Street. Riggs Park. The list goes on. A bevy of colorful shops, restaurants, organic grocery stores, and boutiques now festoon areas previously noted for boarded-up, abandoned buildings and single corner stores serving as one's primary source for food and drink. In what appears to be an effort sprung from the unanimous decision of the powers that be, massive condo/luxury apartment complexes have been built in record time in the immediate vicinity of Metro stations across the city. Plain to see, it's a new town. Riding through the District, the upsides of genetrification are plentiful, but so are its disparities. Once (and still) hailed as "Chocolate City", DC, well...don't look so chocolate anymore, which begs the question does change for the better equate to change for some, or more succcinctly, "GET OUT!" And the other side of the coin: Are the "chocolate" people of this great city taking advantage of this time of change, or even included, or even in the same playing field? All legitimate questions, especially when it comes to the shared benefit of genetrification that transcends racial, social and economic lines: community restoration. To restore is also to preserve, preserve a since of community and a since of the people that make up the community, which is what Linda McAllister is doing in the Rhode Island Avenue Northeast corridor, another wonderful pocket of the District. This woman is leveling the playing field.
Linda, a Washingtonian by way of San Antonio, TX, saw the fruition of her dreams approximately three years ago with the opening of Lace On The Avenue. Located on Rhode Island less than a block from its intersection with South
Dakota, Lace is a chic lounge and bar with a playful, feminine aesthetic that adds to its inviting atmosphere. A long-gestating endeavor that took hard work and perseverance to bring to realization, Linda is the proud mother of Lace and has grown even prouder seeing her baby girl embraced by the local community. "I wanted to have a place for people who want to be in an inviting environment," stated Linda. "Great food. Great people." Since its opening, Lace has not only been a place to go for great company and a delicious meal; it has also been a venue for numerous functions, including parties and fund-raisers. The lounge and bar has quickly become a staple in the black lesbian community of DC, as was Linda's initial vision, but patron diversity has increased as a result of its popularity. Many organizations, such as Friends of Rhode Island, and people of different walks of life have embraced the establishment, adding to its continued success as well as the revitalization of the Rhode Island NE corridor.
Like a new take on a timely recipe, Lace On The Avenue has a special ingredient that adds to its impeccable flavor: Chef Raymond. A native Washingtonian with thirty-three years of culinary expertise, Chef Raymond entered the doors of Lace for a moderate gig that after a month blossomed into a more promising opportunity. Due to the success of his
delectible dishes - the buffalo wings, the crab cakes, the tenderloin kabobs, the chicken marsala, to name a few - and overall professional and congenial nature, he now serves as the head chef and general manager of the facility. "I'm only as good as my last dish," stated Chef Raymond. Considering his current track record, he's very good, indeed. "I'm honored to do this in the black community. Rhode Island Avenue, Route 1, was the first road in America. History tells Rhode Island Avenue was a great place at one time, so for a chance for it to return to what it once was...I feel grateful."
Suffice it to say, change for the better can be an inclusive venture, open to anyone and everyone with a dream and ambition. Well, it takes some money, too, and other considerations, but opportunity is certainly not out of reach. "People value what's in DC," stated Linda, "and there is still a need for more black gay entrepeneurship." For those considering this path, she has some advice. "People need to be aware of the amount of effort and financial resources it takes to keep a business moving. People need to understand the fundamentals of what it takes to sustain a business." It may be taken as lip service, but it is not without reason. Trudging the path to entrepeneurship herself, Linda learned from established club owners and restauranteurs the keys to starting and maintaining a business. She learned of the efforts of the DC City Council to revitalize the Ward 5 Northeast area, leading to the perfect location for a burgeoning business. So it's not just lip service: she's walked the walk. "Linda is a black woman with a vision," stated Chef Raymond, "who decided to invest in her vision though she'd never done this before." It's the thing he says he likes most about Lace On The Avenue. It stands to reason the feeling is shared by many others who have had the opportunity to enjoy its many pleasures.