Heard on the Hill – July 2017

Southeast Shoe Services founder Levi Kay in front of his personal shoe collection.

So, this is the Pets Issue of this fine periodical, and I have been tasked with writing about our animal companions One thing we can say about Capitol Hill residents and that is, we love our pets. Dogs seem to be everywhere you go in real life, and cats are all over social media. Birds, reptiles, rodents, and even snakes find their way into our hearts, and we are wrapped around their paws, claws, beaks, and tails.

But all of this public puppy love leaves me feeling a bit guilty. I need to publicly come out as a low-key pet owner. I have a tiny, seven-year-old dog named Lulu. And she’s … fine. Don’t get me wrong, I care about her health and she is well treated, but I am not over the moon for her by any stretch. To be perfectly honest, she can get a little bossy.

My guilt over not wanting to elevate Lulu to BFF status is real. I see people post loving odes to their dogs and cats on social media, and I feel terrible. It would never occur to me to do such a thing. To be fair, I would probably not post a loving ode to anyone, aside from the annual birthday shoutouts to my offspring, who don’t see them because, being teens, they avoid all old-person social media platforms.

I mean, she brings her food to my couch and eats it there and does not always finish it. Yuck. Sometimes I find a chewy bone on my pillow. Gross. She insists on getting under the covers with me, and paws at me until I lift the blanket for her to burrow underneath. Like generations of very small dogs before her, she will stand on our porch and yap at the passing pooches and then cower should the provocations garner reaction.

Each Halloween, I see all these lovely people dress their pets up and take photos of them, bring them to parties and costume contests, and I have never joined them. While it is true that for many years I was involved with assisting the creation of human costumes and could not be bothered to worry about Lulu’s wardrobe, I was somewhat concerned that dressing dogs up in costumes without their consent somehow robs them of their dignity, though to be honest, Lulu’s brain can’t be bigger than a walnut so she may not have much dignity to begin with. Being dogs, perhaps they just enjoy the opportunity to be with their beloved owners and friends and don’t care that they and the poodle next door are dressed like Sulu and Spock.

In three years, it will be just my husband, Lulu, and I left in our house. Perhaps we will begin to dote more on her and start taking her on vacations and to patio yappy hours. In case that change of heart happens, I picked up a tiny pumpkin costume from Metro Mutts’ going-out-of-business sale, and if you see us, no need to comment, just welcome us to your ranks.

Southeast Shoe Services
15-year-old Hill resident Levi Kay is quickly becoming a self-made teen. The Fusion Academy student has developed a business cleaning, restoring, and customizing sneakers and dress shoes. His business, Southeast Shoe Services, offers an array of services for any and all shoe lovers.

What initially began as a way to preserve his own beloved kicks (that’s sneakers or maybe even tennis shoes for the olds out there) quickly became a business helping others do the same. Kay is self-taught, having watched hours and hours of YouTube videos on the best techniques for cleaning and repair.

My own teens have a passing interest in shoes and have been known to avoid walking on grass while wearing new sneakers, and will remove scuff marks with a baking soda paste, but Kay is on an entirely different level.

“It started with cleaning. It was fun to watch his interest grow,” said Kay’s mom Monika Ringuette, who began noticing things like nail polish remover and plastic wrap missing from their usual places and being repurposed for Kay’s new interest. He would experiment with techniques and solvents, and learned valuable life lessons along the way. “He always opens a window when using solvents now” his mom said. She has learned to trust in his skill and expertise. She was profoundly concerned at his first attempt to clean suede, but he calmly assured her he knew what he was doing. And he did.

In addition to cleaning and repairing, Kay will artfully customize a shoe. When I visited, he was painting a pair of all-white Jordans gold with a red swoosh. He showed me a pair in his unbelievable, impressive personal collection, customized with a variety of colors. He frequently takes inspiration from album covers and showed me Kanye West and Parliament covers which have inspired some of his work.

Kay began working on his friends’ shoes and then friends of friends’. Word of mouth has allowed his business to grow, and he can earn as much as a few hundred dollars a week working on shoes. Like many small business owners, he has learned difficult lessons, such as it can be hard to get people to pay you what they owe. Now he requires shoes be paid for and picked up within a 30-day period. He is also happy to provide home or office delivery. For an additional fee.

While word of mouth brings him new customers, he conducts much of his business through Snapchat (find him at levi_kay) these days, though he can also be found on Instagram (@southeastshoes). He is paying another Hill friend to build him a website which will include listings of services and pricing and possibly a method of collecting payment. He also sells shoes he purchases, and customizes and frequents the various sneaker-buying and -selling events such as Sneaker Con.

Kay wants to give back to his community and is collecting shoe donations from friends which he will customize and donate to local homeless kids. Because everyone deserves beautiful shoes.

CHAW Anniversary
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) recently celebrated its 45th anniversary of being the artistic heart of the neighborhood with a day of performances and events. Families and art lovers turned out to show their support, gratitude, and love for a place that has nurtured so many in their love of art, music, theater, and dance. Co-Executive Director Hannah Jacobsen Blum said, “CHAW is thrilled to be celebrating 45 years here on the Hill. At a time when our country feels divided along such clear lines, it is particularly important to provide these spaces for dialogue. How can we engage in community without these shared spaces? The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop has seen 45 years of change. It helped shape the community that is here today and remains committed, through its robust tuition-assistance program, to its founding principle of never turning away a student for inability to pay – because we have to invest locally in order to make change. CHAW serves as a reminder and an important marker, that if we invest in, value, and support local arts, we give our communities new opportunities to be more inclusive and more open.” Here’s to 45 more years! For more about CHAW, visit www.chaw.org.

Slipstream Coffee Opens in Southeast
Logan Circle coffee/cocktail hybrid Slipstream Coffee recently opened in Southeast at the corner of New Jersey Avenue and I Street. The large and inviting space is many things at once. It can be a place to grab a coffee and a breakfast-to-go, a place to enjoy a leisurely meal, and a place to grab a cocktail and small plates with friends after work. And brunch. This is the second Slipstream location for owner Ryan Fleming, the first being in Logan Circle. He says one reason he chose the area was its newness as a neighborhood. He wanted to offer the developing area a welcome place to enjoy food, drinks, and community. Stop in and welcome them to the neighborhood! For more about Slipstream visit slipstreamdc.com.

Jen DeMayo 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]