Bill Rouchell

Bill Rouchell, owner of Maison Orleans Bed and Breakfast, was president of the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals (CHAMPS) from 2000-2002 when a Capitol Hill Business Improvement District was first considered.

He and other organizers realized the need to incorporate commercial corridors beyond Eighth Street SE, which already was served by Barracks Row Main Street. Bill played an important role in identifying businesses throughout the larger geographic area that became the BID. In this interview, he and interviewer Ken Jarboe discuss the steps that led to establishing the BID.

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Interview Date
September 12, 2023
Ken Jarboe
Betsy Barnett
Bernadette McMahon

Full Directory


[voice begins about 18 seconds into the recording]
JARBOE: Okay. We are recording. This is Ken Jarboe. I am with Bill Rouchell. It is—What time is it?
ROUCHELL: It’s 10:55 a.m.
JARBOE: 10:55. We’re early.
ROUCHELL: Yes, five minutes.
JARBOE: On the 12th of …
ROUCHELL: September.
JARBOE: Of September.
JARBOE: 2023. Correct. And we are taping this interview at my house at 911 East Capitol Street. Okay. That’s the preliminaries. One other preliminary. This recording will be public. This is on the record. So, don’t say anything you don’t want [laughs] to have on the record.
ROUCHELL: Okay, okay.
JARBOE: That’s just the little warning there.
JARBOE: Okay. Starting off with—you were there at the beginning.
ROUCHELL: Yes. Are we talking about the BID [Capitol Hill Business Improvement District] or CHAMPS [Capitol Hill Area Merchants and Professionals]?
JARBOE: Well, we’re talking about the BID.
JARBOE: Now, you got involved—Well, let’s back up before. We’ll talk about CHAMPS in a minute. But you basically got involved in the BID through CHAMPS, correct?
ROUCHELL: Yes. Yes. The original meeting was at Banana Café on the corner of Eighth and E SE. George [Jorge Zamorano] was the owner back at the time. And a bunch of the business people up here on Capitol Hill gathered. George Didden. Oh, my gosh, um.
JARBOE: I assume Don was there.
ROUCHELL: Don Denton was there, of course. I’m trying to think of Ken Golding and the other gentleman that was with them that is no longer with us.
JARBOE: Oh, Frank Reed?
ROUCHELL: Frank Reed. I’m pretty sure he was there. But some of the big players of the time were there. I was there. Patty Brosmer was there on the capacity of sort of telling us what the BID was going to do for Capitol Hill. She was involved, if I’m not mistaken, with it in Georgetown at the time.
JARBOE: Mm-hmm. Yep.
ROUCHELL: And, so, there was a real need for that here on the Hill back in those days. I think [Barracks Row Main Street] just celebrated their 25th anniversary, if I’m not mistaken.
JARBOE: Yeah. Tell me a little bit more about why … The why and then we’ll get into the how.
ROUCHELL: Why we were forming?
ROUCHELL: Well, back in those days, and that’s 25 years ago, Capitol Hill, it was changing. And we still had a lot of areas, including Eighth Street, that needed to be improved to draw business and, in my case with the Maison Orleans Bed and Breakfast, I wanted to participate because I wanted to have people feel comfortable walking over from my house on Fifth Street over to Eighth Street and use the restaurants and feel comfortable walking. It wasn’t always the case. And, of course, the cleanliness. There was trash in the street. You know, the bus stop in that first block there by the Metro plaza didn’t help and has always been an issue with people standing and congregating. There was a Popeye’s Fried Chicken there and that was always a mess. But there was a need. The city apparently did not have the money to do the extra things that the business people felt we needed to keep business coming to Capitol Hill back in those days. And that’s why we formed the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District, because we needed something for clean and safe. That were the two key objectives back in those days.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: Now, of course, you know, the perimeters were not as big as they are now. It has grown over the years because areas that we would have never even considered going to back then are now included. But, nevertheless, the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, the Eighth Street corridor, those were, of course, my big interest points because of where I had the bed and breakfast in the 400 block of Fifth. Those were key issues. People had to feel—residents along with tourists, because there were both—had to feel comfortable going out in the evenings. Because it wasn’t always the way it is today.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: Where everybody is milling and, you know, I hear people tell me about this and that and I’m going, oh, my god, you know 30 years ago when I first came here it was not so good.
JARBOE: [Laughs] Yeah.
ROUCHELL: I mean, close in was fine but you surely didn’t go, say, south of Marion Park. You didn’t go east of Lincoln Park. You didn’t really go much further north than Stanton Park. The lines were much more in the sand of where you felt comfortable going than today.
JARBOE: And how did you first hear about the BIDs?
ROUCHELL: I assume it was through CHAMPS.
ROUCHELL: I think my involvement—I was the [CHAMPS] president from 2000 to 2002. That was also a time when I started having health issues with my heart, but nevertheless. I’m assuming that’s how I had to find out about it because there would have been no other way.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: That was the catalyst, I guess. Because so many people back in those days were involved in CHAMPS. That was like quote-quote “the chamber of commerce,” as they used to call it, of Capitol Hill. I mean, anybody that was in business on the Hill was involved in CHAMPS. That was just the way it was. Long before Facebook, long before cell phones, there had to be some way to get people together to sort of talk about what they had to offer. And that’s what we had—CHAMPS. So, we used to gather at National Capital Bank. There were always different events. Realtors—It was a huge stepping stone for realtors back in the day to talk about, you know, areas they were trying to get cleaned up to be able to sell properties in. It was a big, big, big deal back then. CHAMPS played a huge role—I mean there was always something going on. We had fundraisers. We had the famous Capitol Hill sweatshirt, the CHAMPS sweatshirt that I still have a few. And, you know, people—that was a big deal. We sold those.
JARBOE: I’ve still got one somewhere.
ROUCHELL: Yeah, I still have one. I wear it from time …
JARBOE: This is the one, “The Ten Reasons” [for living on Capitol Hill].
ROUCHELL: Yes, the ten reasons on the back.
JARBOE: That then ends with the 11th reason, which is Congress goes home. [Laughs]
ROUCHELL: Congress goes home in August. That was a big seller. We did that for several years. But, yes, CHAMPS was very instrumental in helping business and paving the road for a lot of people to get started.
JARBOE: Now, there was another offshoot—I think it was another offshoot—of CHAMPS which was the Barracks Row Main Street.
ROUCHELL: Yes. Yes. Margot Kelly, her gang, down on—and I’ve forgot the gentleman’s name that’s now at the—I think he still—I don’t know if he still does the BID around the Convention Center. Oh, I can see his name because he’s on Facebook [Bill McLeod]. But, anyway, yes, Barracks Row Main Street. That was specifically for Barracks Row. That was much more specific. They were working to improve Barracks Row, whether it be the brick sidewalks, which weren’t always there, the tree boxes, the tree box surrounds that Federal City Iron put down years and years and years and years ago. You know, every business kind of took care of the front of their place. Yes. Barracks Row Main Street, that was a big—yes.
JARBOE: Okay. But as you say, that was specific to the …
ROUCHELL: That was much more specific.
JARBOE: … the three or four blocks on Eighth Street.
ROUCHELL: Right, right, right.
JARBOE: Because I remember when I was on the ANC [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] we had to deal with the program to do all of the surface …
ROUCHELL: Oh, yes.
JARBOE: … changes. I mean, they ripped the street up.
ROUCHELL: They ripped the street up. They took out the old streetcar tracks. A lot of that all went.
JARBOE: They put in new electrical connections …
JARBOE: … the places. I remember Belga [Cafe] …
ROUCHELL: Oh, yes.
JARBOE: … having an issue with heavying up its electrical.
ROUCHELL: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
JARBOE: So, that was very—he BID wouldn’t replace that.
ROUCHELL: No. The BID was never meant to replace that. The BID was really originally designed to put the gentlemen on the street, to aim people when they got off the Metro where they were going so they didn’t look lost, whether it be the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, wherever, Eastern Market. And, then, of course, the clean, the guys with the brooms. The guys that came around and swept the sidewalks. They swept along the gutters. That is really, really what the BID was about. Keeping Seward Square clean, keeping the Eastern Market Metro plaza, north and south, clean. So, anyway, that was the main focus. I think nowadays it has expanded a little bit more to different things but that was always the key focus.
JARBOE: Okay. Yeah, I know other people when I’ve talked to about the BID, the emphasis strongly on clean and safe.
ROUCHELL: Yeah, yeah. And we wanted people to feel safe going to those restaurants at nighttime down Eighth Street and not have to be accosted by young bands of kids that would be roving because, I mean, there was a time when we had a lot of that. But it really helped. It really, really, really helped. I mean, my guests felt very comfortable going over to Belga or to Banana Café or to Rose’s Luxury. I mean, of course, The Broker was gone by then but whatever was even further down, you know, they did.
JARBOE: Well, yeah, to me it’s hard to imagine Rose’s Luxury being there without the BID …
ROUCHELL: Oh, yeah.
JARBOE: … and Barracks Row.
ROUCHELL: Oh, yes. Especially because those people would stand in line and go in. And they didn’t want people to really bother them.
JARBOE: Yeah. That was kind of a signal to me that the …
ROUCHELL: I mean, Eighth Street, back in 1987 and ’88 when I first came, I mean the biggest thing was Duron Paints, which was right next to where Starbucks is today in that old bank building, and District Hardware in the next block. I mean, that was really it. I mean, we had The Broker. We had a few restaurants. Sheridan’s came along, Banana Café. Of course, before that there was the Town House. Of course, Trattoria Alberto’s, I mean, that has been the test of time. But there wasn’t that much on Eighth Street back then.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: But everybody went to District Lock because there was no Home Depot. We went out to Hechinger’s off of Maryland Avenue, which was quite dicey back in those days.
JARBOE: Now, so, you got involved because you were president of CHAMPS.
ROUCHELL: I got involved because I was president of CHAMPS but I also got involved, the main reason is because I owned the Maison Orleans Bed and Breakfast. And I felt that I needed to be involved because, not only me as a bed and breakfast owner, but the Hereford House [600 block of South Carolina Avenue SE, owned by] Ann Edwards; the Painted Lady [512 Seward Square SE], Bill Allen and Wally Bonfield. There were several bed and breakfasts. Rosalie Stroube, who had the—right over here by 11th— the Rebecca Garrett House [1000 block of E Street SE]. A lot of these bed and breakfasts back in those days, their guests came—you know, Capitol Hill, they wanted to make sure they were comfortable. So, that really helped a lot with saying, you know, you can leave in the evenings and feel free to go out to a restaurant and walk around. It was a huge, huge deal.
JARBOE: Well, I’m going to get back to you in writing so that you can give me that list of those places …
ROUCHELL: Oh, sure. Sure, sure, sure, sure.
JARBOE: … so that we get it right when we [transcribe]. So, now, what were you doing specifically as part of the BID? Were you a …
ROUCHELL: My official title was, I was, a business homeowner. Because there are different tiers of what people were. Whether you owned a business along one of the commercial corridors. I did not own a business on the commercial corridor but I owned a business sort of off the commercial corridor. So, that is how I became a member. As a—and Patty Brosmer could tell you more. It was that I fit into a sub-category. As a residential something something business owner.
JARBOE: When the BID was doing the process of getting set up, were you working on any of that?
ROUCHELL: No, I was not working on any of that.
JARBOE: You weren’t doing any of the walking the streets, looking at the addresses?
ROUCHELL: You know, I think I did do that but I really, I don’t—I sort of remember walking down Pennsylvania Avenue toward where Harris Teeter is now or whatever is there now and going that way. And I do remember something about addresses, looking at addresses and businesses, what were there That does ring a bell.
ROUCHELL: And somehow also on Mass [Massachusetts] Avenue. Somehow I remember walking along Mass Avenue for something, but I don’t remember what. It’s a long time.
JARBOE: Probably for the same reason. I mean, that was one of the big deals because we …
ROUCHELL: Oh, yeah.
JARBOE: … had to get …
ROUCHELL: Yes. You had to get so many.
JARBOE: … so many. But we also needed to make sure that we got them in the right category because we weren’t taxing residential.
ROUCHELL: That’s right. And down 11th Street, we had to worry about that. Because 11th Street was just sort of—There were a few, like Janet Crowder, Two Lions. She had left Pennsylvania Avenue in the 600 block and she moved over to Two Lions. And, so, there was the beginning of that. And, then, of course, Mark Holler with Ginkgo Gardens. He brought it down further.
JARBOE: Yeah. Down at the end by the …
ROUCHELL: Down at the other end. So, yeah. There were spokes so to speak. Yeah.
JARBOE: Yeah. And I remember, you know, putting together the lists so that making—to send out to you folks and making sure, talking to you— make sure it’s a business.
ROUCHELL: Yeah, right. Make sure it’s a business. Right. Right, right, right.
JARBOE: Because if we start taxing some residential …
ROUCHELL: Oh, yeah.
JARBOE: You know, a lot of people would be very angry. [Laughs.]
ROUCHELL: Oh, yeah, yeah. And, of course, all the way to, you know, all the way to the Library of Congress. I mean, all those businesses. I remember Lustre Cleaners and so much of that stuff that has come and gone over the years now, you know. But, oh, yeah, I do remember walking. I do remember walking with a clipboard. And I was checking off stuff. But, boy, that’s a long time ago. [Interviewer laughs.] And Eighth Street, too.
ROUCHELL: We walked along Eighth Street.
ROUCHELL: All the way down to the—I don’t really know if we went on the other side of the freeway back then. Because I really don’t think—really there was the glass place …
JARBOE: Yeah, Miles Glass.
ROUCHELL: … that was right at the freeway. Miles Glass was right there but there was really nothing else on that end. It sort of stopped with the freeway. Now, of course, that freeway has, that imaginary border, so to speak, has disappeared for the most part and people just drive under it like it’s just nothing. But, back in the day, that was definitely a boundary. You didn’t really cross over that. You know. So.
JARBOE: Right. No, I remember later on talking about possible expansion.
JARBOE: But it went between us or the Riverfront BID, the new …
ROUCHELL: Right. The new Riverfront BID, which was not then. That came after the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District. Because we helped them get that started, if I’m not mistaken.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: The M Street and all of that area around the new ball stadium, the baseball stadium. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
JARBOE: Right. So, how did it visibly change?
ROUCHELL: Well, immediately, when the gentlemen went out to clean, you saw a tremendous—because the city wasn’t doing that. I mean, the city didn’t have any money back then to send people out or trucks to come out with the brushes to clean the streets, so, you know, so, we had the guys come out with the buckets and the brooms. Oh, it changed it immediately. Immediately! And then they’d come out with the gum buster. Especially on Eighth Street. Oh, my gosh, and get the gum off the sidewalks. It did change immediately. I think the feeling of the safety also changed. I think people felt comfortable, especially coming around the Eastern Market Metro stop and turning on Eighth Street to head south. It was a whole other feeling. Because, before that, it was a little ruckus right there. That was a tough little niche that you had to get through.
JARBOE: Right. The bus stop …
ROUCHELL: The bus stop.
JARBOE: … where people … I mean, people would congregate to get on the bus.
ROUCHELL: People were congregating. It didn’t help that we had fast food places that really were catering to those people to go in, get their fast food, get on the bus, and go on to Anacostia.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: So, that was a problem. I don’t know what that’s like today. I don’t know if that bus has finally ever been rerouted further down the street. There was talk years ago of putting it down on the other end, on E and Eighth, to get it away from the Metro plaza. There was talk on putting in insert or whatever, curb cut, at the Metro plaza so it wouldn’t be right in front of those businesses. I don’t know if that’s ever happened.
JARBOE: Well, just to bring you up to speed on that, DDOT [District Department of Transportation] has a new project, the bus express. Barracks Row Bus Express. So, they’re talking about all that stuff that we’ve been talking about for 30 years.
ROUCHELL: For 30 years, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
JARBOE: Same stuff.
ROUCHELL: Same stuff. Yeah.
JARBOE: Now, were you taxed as part of the BID?
JARBOE: We [the BID boundaries] didn’t quite go that far.
ROUCHELL: I was not. No, no. I was not taxed, the bed and breakfast, no.
JARBOE: And, so, you didn’t get the services.
ROUCHELL: No, Fifth Street did not get the services. South Carolina [Avenue] did not get the services where Hereford House was. Bill and Wally did not get the services at 512 Seward Square even though they did clean up Seward Square. But they didn’t get it on their side of the street, which would have been the north side. They didn’t get the services. But the main corridor got it. The Pennsylvania, the Eighth Street, north, you know, north of Pennsylvania Avenue, south of Pennsylvania, because remember Hine [Junior] High School was there. So, they cleaned along the [junior] high school. And, of course, they always went down “Market Street” which was, of course, Seventh Street, and they cleaned that.
JARBOE: Okay. So, you didn’t have any problem taking care of your own area.
ROUCHELL: No, I did my own. And, yeah, I took care of the 400 block of Fifth Street. I was religious because people, you know, that was a big deal. People would not come if they really saw it looking rather ratty.
JARBOE: Right. So, for you, the BID really …
ROUCHELL: It was all about the …
JARBOE: It was all about the corridors.
ROUCHELL: The corridors. The clean and safe and the corridor. I wanted my guests to be able to feel like when they walked out of my house and went around on D Street or if they went around on E, depending, and either went to the Metro or they went—I wanted them to feel comfortable that no one was going to harass them for money, be it a panhandler, a homeless. That was my main concern. I wasn’t really worried about my cleanliness. I mean, my house was impeccable. But far be it from me, it—today. But I wanted them to feel comfortable. Because there were problems.
JARBOE: So, there was general benefit here that the …
ROUCHELL: Oh, yes, yes. And that’s why I joined and I became very involved because I said it’s going to help me. And it did, it did.
JARBOE: And you say you joined. What basically were you doing as …
ROUCHELL: Well, when I joined—You mean the BID?
JARBOE: Yeah, the BID.
ROUCHELL: I went to the meetings and I was involved. If they needed something done, I was always, could lend a helping hand. I didn’t have to do anything with the collecting the money. I didn’t have to send the guys out. I didn’t sit on the board. I didn’t do any—Well, I sat on the board. But it wasn’t a position. It was more of a residential position. It wasn’t like the members now. It was a little bit different back then. And I got involved with CHAMPS because—well, Buck Waller with Yarmouth Management, when I worked for Yarmouth from ’88 to ’96, he was very instrumental and said, Bill, you have got to get involved with CHAMPS owning the bed and breakfast. So, that’s how I got involved with CHAMPS. And, then, I guess I ran for an office and, then, I think when Bruce Robey, when his term was over, then I stepped up, and I think Dennis Bourgault came after me.
JARBOE: Okay. This is as president of CHAMPS.
ROUCHELL: The president of CHAMPS. And then I think Kathleen Franzen came after Dennis.
JARBOE: Yeah. I know that I’ve traced back on the documents to even before to Linda …
JARBOE: Barnes.
JARBOE: Actually testified on the legislation, setting up the BIDs in general.
ROUCHELL: Yeah. And one of the nicest things we did with the BID long after my time was over was, when Kathleen Franzen was still alive, we did have a party at her house with all the surviving [CHAMPS] presidents. And we ended up with quite a few. I mean, Linda Barnes was there. I think Bruce Robey was still living. Dennis was there, Dennis Bourgault. Oh, I want to say Frank Reed but I don’t know if Frank Reed was still living. Yeah, there were a lot. I remember the room was full. So, we really got a lot.
JARBOE: And there’s been continued support from CHAMPS.
ROUCHELL: Yes, for the Business Improvement …
JARBOE: Moral support more than anything.
ROUCHELL: Moral. Yes, yes.
JARBOE: When did you first meet Patty? Do you remember?
ROUCHELL: I think that’s when I met Patty, through George Didden when she first—somehow when all that—I must have met her when I was president of CHAMPS. But I also helped Patty, because Patty wasn’t living on the Hill at the time. Of course, she isn’t now [in 2023]. But [back then] she ended up renting a house on the corner of Fifth and E across from the police station. And I was, of course, in the middle of the block. So, Patty and I were extremely close and that was really, you know, I mean, that’s really when I got to know Patty. So, it had to be 2000.
JARBOE: Right. Around that …
ROUCHELL: Around that time. 1999 maybe.
JARBOE: Now, were you …
ROUCHELL: Surely before 9/11.
JARBOE: Right, right. Were you involved at all with her setting up Ready, Working and …
JARBOE: Ready, Able …
ROUCHELL: Ready—Well, because it’s changed names. …
JARBOE: It changed names a couple of times, yeah.
ROUCHELL:  Yeah, Ready, Willing and Able, whatever. Ready, Working … Was I involved with that? Well, I mean, I did go over to the office and do some stuff for her but I don’t remember exactly what I did. I remember their first office. I remember the first CHAMPS office. Well, it was on top of Two Lions on Pennsylvania Avenue. And, then, we went over to Capitol Hill Suites and we had an office in the annex building.
JARBOE: Yeah, this is CHAMPS. I remember meeting …
ROUCHELL: CHAMPS. But I don’t remember where the first BID office was. I know they were in a trailer in Union Station before they went up here to 14th and Penn, but I don’t remember where they were before that. It seems to me there was somewhere before that.
JARBOE: They were—Well, a lot of the work in …
ROUCHELL: Maybe they were on Eighth Street in the back.
JARBOE: Well, they were behind Denton, behind …
ROUCHELL: Oh, that’s right.
JARBOE: … the real estate because that’s where the war room was.
ROUCHELL:  That’s right.
JARBOE: That big area that wraps around Mr. Henry’s.
JARBOE: In the back.
ROUCHELL: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It was all very close back then.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: You know, so they wouldn’t have to go very far. And they needed places to put their supplies. And, then, something happened there and I don’t remember exactly. It’s been too long. But, then, I remember somehow someone donated a trailer to put in the parking lot at Union Station.
JARBOE: And, then, Union Station donated the space.
ROUCHELL: Yes. Donated the space. And they were there for quite a while. And, then, they ended up in Karen Edge’s building up here at 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue, wherever.
JARBOE: Right, right, right.
ROUCHELL: But I’m sure I helped. I went on some of those routes, I know that, with those guys, just to see. Because, you know, I was always shocked at the amount of trash bags they picked up. It was amazing. And, I’m going this would have just sat here on the streets.
JARBOE: So, you did ride along basically.
ROUCHELL: I rode along occasionally, if I’m not mistaken, back in the very beginning. I remember the brothers, Andrew and his brother, oh, yeah …
JARBOE: Arnold.
ROUCHELL: Yeah. I remember them very well. And, of course, the young lady who was with them from the beginning. Oh, god.
JARBOE: India.
ROUCHELL: India. Oh, gosh, I remember India.
JARBOE: I forget her last name. [India Person]
ROUCHELL: Yeah, oh, yeah. I’m assuming she’s still with them but I don’t know.
JARBOE: Yeah, she had had some health problems but she’s back.
ROUCHELL: Yeah. I mean, she was there from the beginning. It was a very small group. You know, it didn’t start off with what it is today. I mean, it was only as the funds increased that they could bring on more people.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: I mean, I bet you there weren’t more than ten in the beginning. Probably seven to ten.
JARBOE: Well, Patty talks …
ROUCHELL: And now there are all kind of groups.
JARBOE: Patty talks about going, when they got rid of the support services that they were getting from the Grace Baptist, the mission.
ROUCHELL: The mission, right.
JARBOE: Right. She talks about getting in the truck, going down and picking up eight guys, taking them to other shelter that she had arranged.
ROUCHELL: Oh, yes, yes. Yeah. And a lot of those guys did very well. Willie [Taylor]. Willie ended up marrying and is living up in Pennsylvania now. Willie was great. He was there. And, yeah. I kept up with a lot of those people. I’d see a lot of those people working, you know, because I would be coming and going and they’d be out and always wave. Jeffrey [Sledge] always waved.
JARBOE: And, so, when you left the Hill, when was that?
ROUCHELL: I sold my home in May of 2019 and retired to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
JARBOE: Okay. So, you were basically active in both CHAMPS and the …
ROUCHELL: Up until then.
JARBOE: Up until.
ROUCHELL: And I still get the BID—I’m still on their list so I know what’s going on with the BID. CHAMPS, that just waned away. I did write a letter to the current CHAMPS’s president, introducing myself as a former. I was called several years ago by someone at CHAMPS. They had found some old paperwork with my name on it and I guess they wanted to know who I was. [Interviewer laughs.] Because I am surviving. But, anyway, I have not really kept up with CHAMPS. I didn’t really know that—until I talked with you, I didn’t really know CHAMPS was still really going. I don’t know if it’s on the level where it was because I don’t know if the need is where it was. Times have changed and, you know, we have Linkedin and we have so many other areas that people can promote their businesses, you know. Back then, we didn’t have that.
JARBOE: Right, right. So, there was basically this synergy between …
ROUCHELL:  Oh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.
JARBOE: So, you had the BID doing the hands on cleaning and safe.
JARBOE: CHAMPS doing the promotion and stuff like that.
ROUCHELL:  The promotion, yes.
JARBOE: And, then, Barracks Row and …
ROUCHELL: Doing their own,.
JARBOE: And Seventh Street doing their promotion.
ROUCHELL: Yeah, their promotion on their corridor. And keeping track of who was renting those businesses, if it was something they wanted and not necessarily all nail salons and beauty, you know what I mean? They really tried to get good restaurants in there. And, at a time, they tried to get retail. Alvear. Chris Alvear really tried. He was one of the first to go in and put retail. And he lasted a good time. But, then, I think, you know with retail people, they decided, you know, they could just as soon go across the river and just do their retail. They didn’t really need this. You know, I think the worst thing that ever happened here on the Hill was when Kress [Kresge’s] left. That was leaving right when I first got here. But, I mean, you could go in and get a spool of thread. You could go in and get—There was no place to buy anything when I got here at the end of ’87, ’88. We just didn’t have any of that.
JARBOE: Yeah, this is the Kresge’s at Pennsylvania …
ROUCHELL: Penn and Seventh.
JARBOE: Penn and Seventh, right.
ROUCHELL: Where Le Pain Quotidien or whatever is in there now.
JARBOE: Yeah. Is now.
ROUCHELL: Yeah, that was a really big deal to have that. Where to get balloons for a birthday party. We just did not have those places.
JARBOE: Right.
ROUCHELL: But Chris started with his retail and then I think there were a few places that came along. I haven’t driven down Eighth Street lately. I don’t know how much, if any, retail is there. I think the beauty salon is still next to the firehouse. The beauty supply place. But, otherwise, I don’t know, I just don’t know what is still there.
JARBOE: Right, right. So, you say you’re keeping up, at least monitoring, the BID. You’re getting their newsletter.
ROUCHELL: I get their emails and I see what’s going on. I mean, I know that there’s always activities. They do a lot of stuff at the Hill Center. That’s where they sort of meet these days. But, you know, they’re still rolling along. I mean, they’ve just had—I’m pretty sure it’s their 25th anniversary.
JARBOE: Yeah, it would be. It would be.
ROUCHELL: Gosh, it seems like just yesterday. I could almost remember sitting in Banana Café. I can almost see us sitting there on the first floor,
JARBOE: Yeah, I don’t think I was part of that meeting.
ROUCHELL: That was one of the very, very first.
JARBOE: The first, yeah.
ROUCHELL: And I remember George was so pro-BID. He said we’ve got to do something. I guess, being a real businessman, he could really see that it was necessary if the Hill was going to keep on going east. Which, of course, now it has. Back then it really stopped—it went to 11th, it went to Frager’s, but only—and then it really stopped. But, then, of course, when Harris Teeter came, but that was many years later.
JARBOE: Yeah, many, many years later.
ROUCHELL: Many, many years later. That wasn’t just overnight. Because really Frager’s was it.
JARBOE: Yeah. So, any impressions as to how the BID is doing now? They kind of …
ROUCHELL: You know, they’re busy. I mean, it’s a constant battle with the trash. I know that there are issues on Capitol Hill right now with safety. So, that’s important to keep them going with that. I’ve heard it’s more north of Lincoln Park versus right here at Eastern Market. But I don’t know much they’re involved—I think there is probably something along H Street now. I don’t know if it’s the Capitol Hill [BID] that goes up H.  But something probably goes over there. I think the commercial corridors look nice. I have to be honest, and I know this is on the record, I think the residential neighborhoods do not look as well as they did when I left four years ago. I think the new breed of homeowner, even though they’re paying a huge amount of money, I don’t think they see it as much as we did back then as a necessity. To sweep in front of your house. To clean up. Yeah, I can see where some of the residential streets that I have gone down, wow! It’s like mm-mmm.
JARBOE: But the BID area.
ROUCHELL: But the Business Improvement District, the commercial corridors, Pennsylvania Avenue, Eighth Street, those look very nice. Seventh Street looks very nice. I was just at Eastern Market.
JARBOE: Any other thoughts about the BID before [we finish]?
ROUCHELL: No, no. It was a great experience. I’m glad I did it. It was necessary at the time because the Hill was going through a big change. We were having growing pains. But we had to do something to help those growing pains to feel comfortable that you could expand and get people to go, you know.
JARBOE: We will end it there. Thank you very much.
ROUCHELL: Well, you’re welcome, Ken.
[The recording continued although the interview had been concluded.]
[BM1]Version received from Ken Jarboe 3/14//24. Final edits by BMcM
Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project
Bill Rouchell Interview, September 12, 2023

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