Three Capitol Hill Businesses Turn 30

Fairy Godmother, Newman's Frame and Two Lions

Jack and Roberta Blanchard at the Fairy Godmother, the Capitol Hill neighborhood store for children’s books and toys for 30 years. They are now serving children of the toddlers once served in the first years of operation on Capitol Hill.

Fairy Godmother

Whether baby or teen, everyone needs a fairy godmother, and it’s especially important that you have one that’s easily accessible.  For thirty years, Capitol Hill has lucked out with its very own, Roberta Blanchard.  

Blanchard opened up her shop in November of 1984, right before Thanksgiving. Having moved to the Hill from New York in the mid-70s, Blanchard says she was originally inspired by the Cheshire Cat, a children’s bookstore that used to be based in Chevy Chase, DC. She started working out of a residence, but then a realtor told Blanchard about a property for sale on the in the 300 block of 7th Street, SE.

Since then, Fairy Godmother has been the Capitol Hill neighborhood go-to store for children’s books and toys, carrying great games, puzzles, and trucks in addition to arts and crafts offerings. Blanchard has a real passion for books, and her extensive selection includes a range of fiction and non-fiction for infant to teen, spanning art, history, and even a number of books written in French and Spanish.

“Publishers send us boxes of proofs about six months before the publication date, then we order those that we think will be suitable for our customers,” says Blanchard, who enjoys offering individualized service.

“We like to work with each customer and help select a book or toy that relates to the background of the family or the child’s interest.” She says she also has many customers without children who might stop by to get recommendations for a nephew or new addition to the family. Blanchard has a particularly large selection of infant books so that parents can begin right away to foster the love of reading.

Blanchard notes, “Over the years there have been more biographies being written for a younger audience, and there’s definitely more diversity in authors as well as subject matter.”

Since she opened her doors on the Hill, she’s watched businesses like a Safeway (now Med Star Health), a laundry (now Radici), and other businesses transform.

“We’ve been here a long time – the children that came here as toddlers when we first opened are now moving back to Capitol Hill – they’re adults coming into the store with their own kids.”

Fairy Godmother, 319 7th St SE, 202.547.5474

Newman Gallery & Custom Frames

Opening her doors on November 17, 1984, Michele Newman had a bit of work to do to get the vacant building in shape for her opening day. However, she was excited to start her own business, located across the street from Frager’s Hardware. While she didn’t purchase her building until 1994, she had already established a substantial following. 

“This building went up for sale, so I had this opportunity to not only work for myself, but own my own place, says Newman.

A Maryland native who attended the University of Maryland to study fine art with a minor in art history, Newman had worked at the Smithsonian, also at an art gallery and for Ted Gay at Capitol Hill Art and Frame before starting out on her own. She’s careful to use proper conservation materials like archival mats that are acid-free and UV-filtering glass, all to protect the art or artifacts being framed. 

“I’ve framed some really interesting things beyond paintings and photographs,” says Newman, “some that are three dimensional, like uniforms, a Christening dress, medals, favorite tee shirts and needlework – even a piece of cracked molding from a San Francisco earthquake mounted with a related news article.”

Newman spends a lot of time helping her customers identify the appropriate frame for the pieces – whether a very delicate engraved frame that plays off a part of the painting’s detail, or a bold statement frame to offset a piece that can balance its weight or heft.

Over the years, Newman’s Gallery has also held close to 50 shows of local and international artists’ work from solo to group shows representing talent like Pat Barron, Martha Tabor, Norma Strike, Ilia Petkov, Barry Moyer – even a unique show of political art assembled by Bob Bedard of Art Pac.

Through her time on the Hill, Newman has built friendships and deepened her appreciation for the sense of community. 

“I have always loved this neighborhood,” says Newman, “it’s always been good here.

Newman Gallery & Custom Frames, 513 11th St SE, 202.544.7577, newmangallery.com

Two Lions Antiques & Interiors

Janet Crowder started her business on the Hill on August 4, 1984, originally opening at 621 Pennsylvania Avenue, where Pound the Hill is now based.  More recently, in 2001, she purchased and moved to her current location on 11th Street, a couple of doors from Newman’s Gallery & Custom Frames.

Adept at transforming any sort of space, Crowder worked her magic and was able to move over a weekend, set up and be ready for business that Monday.

“This is what I’m hired to do – decorate and design – so logistically I can get things done. The clientele that I’ve been working with are typically pretty busy, so my work has to be timely. It also helps that I have my go-to people for work like painting or electricity that I know I can count on.” 

Crowder grew up all over the world, one of seven children in a military family.

“As a teen, I loved to be in antique shops and book stores, handling old books,” says Crowder.  

When she moved to the District in 1983, she worked in Falls Church performing appraisals and was doing some decorating work on the side. She also has a retail component in her shop with lamps, mirrors, chairs. She loves her work, whether advising customers on upholstered furniture, custom carpets, window treatments or headboards.

She’s built on her design expertise and the ability to “transterpulate– my word I came up with for being able to listen to someone and distill what they’re saying into what they are looking for in a design or their décor. Usually if I ask someone to show me their favorite painting or piece of art, I can glean what their style might be.”

A resident of Capitol Hill, she enjoys Saturdays at her place when she sees many of her friends who stop by, either to chat or look for a fabric or decorative item.

“It’s such a great community, and it’s fantastic to be a part of this,” says Crowder who was an early member of CHAMPS, the Hill’s chamber of commerce.

“People really thrive here in the diversity – anything you’d like to do or see, you can find it here on Capitol Hill.”

Two Lions Antiques & Interiors, 507 11th St SE, 202.546.5466.

Michele Newman of Newman Gallery & Custom Frames on 11th Street has been a mainstay on Capitol Hill for 30 years. In addition to providing conservation-quality framing services, Newman has staged around 50 solo and group art shows.
Two Lions Antiques & Interiors’ Janet Crowder has provided design and decorating services for three decades on Capitol Hill at her 11th Street location, across the street from Frager’s Hardware.