Heard on the Hill – April 2017

Amethyst room at Spa World. According to the proprietors time spent in this room strengthens the inner system and helps the body release toxins.

The Hill has a lot to offer us, its fortunate residents. We live in a charming, walkable neighborhood populated by engaged and caring community members. Our small and local retail attracts shoppers from around the city and our restaurants win stars and critical acclaim. We can find world-class entertainment every weekend, and thoughtful, meaningful discussions between neighbors pop up in the coffee shops and along the sidewalks. We even have a Whole Foods now, and a Trader Joe’s on the way. Things are pretty great all around. But …

There IS one thing we don’t have. And I confess I have been known to sneak out to the suburbs for a fix every now and then.

A 24-hour Korean spa.

Spa World is located in a shopping center in Centreville, Va. We are not talking one of the close-in communities where people routinely refer to themselves as being “from DC.” No, Centreville is decidedly Virginia. The shopping mall is filled with Asian businesses including an outpost of the fabulous Korean barbecue chain Honey Pig.

Before we go any further, I should manage expectations. The word “spa” may conjure up images of ladies in robes with cucumber slices on their eyes. While those spas are divine, the Asian-style spa, called a jjimjilbang, is a less exclusive and more family-oriented experience. At 50,00 square feet, Spa World is the largest of this type of spa in the country.

Your $40 entrance fee allows you to partake of the offerings for up to 12 hours. I don’t have that kind of stamina for leisure but you might. You are given a key to a locker in a gender-segregated locker room. You are also given an outfit. I describe the outfits as a baggy yellow gym uniform made of a sturdy yet comfy cotton. Upon donning the serviceable and in-no-way-sexy outfit, all fantasies you may have may harbored of luxe Miravalesque spas are gone.

However, the pleasures of Spa World are still delightful. Lots of DC folks have become devotees, including Washington Capitals star player Alex Ovechkin, whose framed jersey hangs on the wall. Perhaps that’s why I was so easily able to convince my husband to give it a try?

Once freed from the tyranny of fashion, you are able to wander the space. I recommend hanging out initially in the coed spa or poultice area. This is a large room where you will find folks in the center lounging, reading, chatting, and even napping. You will often find families with children relaxing here. Ringing this area are the actual spa rooms. These are made of different materials and heated to varying temperatures. The materials are said to have certain physical benefits. Some are merely warm while others get quite toasty.

The internet’s favorite room (and mine as well because I am just a simple Everywoman) is the red clay ballroom. The floor is covered with thousands of small red clay balls, which are unpleasant to walk on, but once you find a spot on the floor you can burrow your limbs and extremities under them and enjoy their sweet, cozy warmth.

In a small restaurant at the far end of the large common room you can enjoy traditional Korean dishes such as soups and bibimbap. While I would still visit were there not yummy food, the prospect of eating delicious lunch in comfy clothes is an additional draw. Upstairs are treatment rooms for shiatsu massage and reflexology. These services are not included in the entry fee but can certainly enhance your visit.

I like to finish my visit in the Bade pool area. Yes. This is the naked part. The single-gender area features a warm pool with a variety of stations with water jets at different heights and power. You can spend a long time at each station and come out feeling as if you have had a deep massage. The room also offers a sauna, steam room, and hot tub. Visitors can book a scrub session with a staff member at an additional cost.

I have yet to come anywhere close to spending 12 hours at Spa World even though I technically could. Maybe if there were one closer by.

Spa Day … for Your Car!
We car owners know that there are times when the vehicle needs a good cleaning. Sure, a bucket and hose can do the job, but I like to leave this type of task to professionals. For many years our family’s car spa of choice has been Splash, located at 10 I St. in Southeast. When our kids were little we would turn this task into an outing. We would bring the kids inside the office with a giant window where they could watch the magic happen. They loved to watch the gross family car make its way through the wash and emerge transformed. They then would fight about whose turn it was to put the tip in the tip box, because of course they did.

Everyone loves it. And yet …

The dramatic redevelopment in that area of the Hill has had an unfortunate effect on the 21-year-old institution. Owner Tim Temple ran into a neighbor at Garfield Park one day and she wanted to know what he was doing with the money. He was confused, but it seemed that she had assumed that he had sold the property to a developer and closed Splash. He realized this was probably a contributing factor to a decline in business.

Temple assumed that the demolition of the McDonalds in 2016 made people think that he too was closed. But he had a huge sign, couldn’t people see he was still open?

He decided a new sign was in order. Apparently in his research he learned that women tend not to look above 13 feet. He asked a police department trainer about this and it was confirmed that female recruits are given special training to look up. I had never heard of such a thing. I am going to assume we evolved this way because females were gatherers and having to care for small children who tend to be low to the ground. Temple’s new LED sign is 13 feet tall, high enough for everyone to see.

With a new sign and some media buzz, Temple is ready for spring, though his reason for anticipatory joy may differ from yours. “Pollen is good for business.” he said. 

It was recently announced that longtime Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) Executive Director Jill Strahan would be retiring, and that taking her place would be a team of two co-executive directors. The new leaders are both longtime staffers, Hannah Jacobson Blumenfeld and Amy Moore. Moore has been working with CHAW’s programming and Blumenfeld has been working with development and marketing, so the two have their spheres of expertise. They feel like they are still both doing a lot of hands-on work but with broader vision.

The board of the 45-year-old institution had advance warning that Strahan would be leaving and it took that opportunity to assess the structure of the organization. A nonprofit consulting group, Compass, was brought in and one of the recommendations was the idea of co-leadership. While not common, there have been other successful arts organizations in DC with shared leadership.

A change in leadership can often mean dramatic changes for an organization, but the co-directors plan on continuing to broaden and strengthen CHAW’s community ties both inside and outside of the building. They talked about the sense of calm, continuity, and order within the organization. Their replacements are teaching artists who were already on staff, which has made the transition much less stressful than it might have been elsewhere. “They are artists who love spreadsheets!” Blumenfeld remarked. “We don’t have to be a dysfunctional nonprofit.” Moore chimed in, “This is not a culture of chaos on any level.”

I thought I knew all of the many things CHAW did but I was underinformed. For a small building there is a lot going on. In addition to the classes, camps, performances, and exhibits CHAW partners with the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project at DC General. It has done murals and a photography project over there. It has brought kids to CHAW for DCPS day-off camps and conducted arts trainings for staff and volunteers.

A large part of what happens at CHAW is the idea that anyone can be an artist. Someone who takes a drawing class is an artist, though it may take a while for them to believe it. Recently a pottery student, one of a group that takes handmade mugs over to the Ugly Mug after class, realized that she was not simply a student but a potter herself. The realization and shift in how she thought of herself was powerful, and she attributed that to the warm and encouraging environment of CHAW.

Blumenfeld and Moore are committed and passionate about the mission of CHAW and its place in the community. While the current political climate has terrified many in the arts world, the folks at CHAW have been steadily building community and connection through the arts, and they are ready to be a part of that fight with many stories about how art changes lives.

Want to be a part of that change? CHAW is having a party on April 1 to celebrate Jill Strahan’s retirement and will be raising money for new chairs for the black-box theatre. To get involved with the future of CHAW, get in touch: [email protected].


Jen DeMayo has been a waitress, an actor, and a puppeteer. She worked for many years for the Atlas Performing Arts Center, which has resulted in her being a relentless H Street booster/streetcar apologist. Originally from the New York-New Jersey area, she is one of the many who whine endlessly about DC’s lack of good bagels and pizza. She is the mom to two boys who attend DC Public Schools (off the Hill). No matter what she may end up accomplishing in her life, she is sure that her obituary headline will say she was the founder of Moms on the Hill. Contact Jen at [email protected]