Local businessman Kris Hart first heard about GW through his high school internship working for alumnus, Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.
Hart, who later became president of both the Student Association and his fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, came to GW in 2001 to follow in Enzi’s footsteps and pursue a career in politics. But he quickly caught the entrepreneurial bug, and after switching his major from political science to business, he decided it was time to start his own.
He dropped out as a senior and opened Relaxed Tanning Salon and Spa, his first of many businesses in the area. Hart now also owns Foggy Bottom Grocery and a Greek merchandise store, and has plans to open a late-night diner in GW’s neighborhood.
“I’m not a tanning salon guy, I’m not a restaurant guy,” he said. “I’m more into anything that is exciting, is innovative, is attractive.”
After nine years trying to make a name for himself as one of Foggy Bottom’s small business owners, Hart is expanding his reach. He plans to start a professional network that brings prominent D.C. business owners together to share resources and references.
“We have a lot of people who can help each other out. Obviously, there’s a lot of that already, but we’re trying to do it in an official way that’s exclusive,” he said.
Hart is already the president of the Washington Circle Business Association, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen businesses in the Foggy Bottom and West End area. Local businesses like Founding Farmers, The 51st State Tavern and Tonic Restaurant are part of the organization.
He said his new professional network would require businesses to take a “litmus test” before joining, making it more selective than the WCBA.
Hart has looked into opening a 24/7 on-campus diner for more than a year and a half, but those plans might come to a dead end. He recently sold the spa attached to his tanning salon after sales began to drop, he added.
Joshua Hone, a sophomore and the executive director of the WCBA, said Hart is using the connections he has across Foggy Bottom and GW to create a “sense of community.”
“He’s quite a personality. He himself is an institution in the GW community. Between the businesses he owns and his presence on campus, everyone recognizes him and everyone knows him,” Hone said.
Jeremy Pollok, the owner of Tonic Restaurant and an alumnus, said his business relationship with Hart began when they started to sponsor campus events together.
“I think we both obviously reach out to the GW population and Foggy Bottom area,” he said. “It’s a good fit.”
Other business owners in D.C., such as Justin Glass, who owns the local bar and grill Stoney’s, said Hart has connected them to other events on campus, like the Alumni Weekend event Taste of GW.
“He’s keeping us in the loop and providing more additional projects for us,” Glass said.