Posts tagged with "D.C."

January 6 Panel lays out Trump’s dangerous ‘call to arms’

July 14, 2022

As the January 6 committee’s explosive string of televised hearings resumed on Tuesday, July 12, the panel focused on “three rings” of the insurrection: Former President Donald Trump’s inside pressure campaign to persuade his vice president to overturn the electoral votes; the coordination between right-wing extremist groups to violently sack the Capitol; and the force of a MAGA crowd willing to march alongside them, reports The Daily Beast.

“All of these efforts would converge and explode on January 6th,” Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), a member of the congressional panel, said Tuesday.

Raskin added that “the problem of politicians whipping up crowds” was “the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy in America.”

But Trump’s decision to order his angry followers to march on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 wasn’t spontaneous. The committee on Tuesday afternoon revealed a draft tweet that Trump wrote, but never sent, telling people, “Please arrive early, massive crowds expected, March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!”

The committee also disclosed White House call logs that showed Trump twice spoke to right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon on the morning of January 5 shortly before Bannon took to his podcast to announce, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging, and we’re on the point of attack.”

But the biggest bombshell of the hearing came in its final seconds, when Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), the committee’s co-chair, revealed that Trump recently tried to reach an undisclosed witness who has yet to testify. The matter, Cheney said, was referred by the committee to the Department of Justice, after the witness—who did not pick up the phone and has not been identified—reported it to his or her attorney.

The revelation is an obvious warning to stop Trump and his associates from further intimidating insiders who are willing to speak to investigators—and is a shot across the bow with the threat of criminal charges for witness tampering. A Trump spokesperson and his attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

So far, the Republican Party has lambasted these congressional hearings as a proxy attack on the former president. But the committee’s seventh hearing is already showing something that goes well beyond politics: the direct connection between a president who refused to leave office and armed insurrectionists who played a pivotal role in his attempt to interrupt the transfer of power.

At least three groups with ties to fascists and white supremacists—the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys—served as bodyguards to Trump associates in the run-up to the insurrection. They also played pivotal roles in pushing past police lines on January 6, 2021.

The chairman of the congressional panel, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), started the hearing by criticizing Trump’s refusal to concede in the weeks after the 2020 election and his role in the nation’s capital that day. “He seized on the anger he had already stoked among his … supporters. He didn’t wave them off. He urged them on.”

“Donald Trump summoned a mob to Washington, D.C., and ultimately spurred that mob to wage a violent attack on our democracy.”

On Tuesday, the committee also revealed that Trump went out of his way to insert menacing references to Mike Pence, the vice president whom he felt betrayed him.

An initial draft of his speech at the Ellipse park south of the White House on January 6 made no reference to Pence. White House records show that an angry reference to Pence was added after a chat that morning between Trump and his hardline rightwing political adviser, Stephen Miller.

That reference was quickly cut by speechwriters who knew better. But then Pence told Trump one final time that he was not willing to break with tradition—and violate the law—by abusing his role as president of the Senate and refusing to officially count electoral ballots. Shortly thereafter, special assistant to the president Robert Gabriel Jr. wrote an email to staff: “REINSERT THE MIKE PENCE LINES.”

By sorting through White House records, the committee also spotted how Trump ad-libbed and turned that single Pence reference into a total of eight. He took one reference to marching on the Capitol and repeated it three more times. His additions included, “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” and, “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not gonna have a country anymore.”

Cheney, the top Republican on the committee, noted that Trump should have known better than to continue to espouse conspiracy theories about the election results: “Donald Trump is a 76-year-old man,” she said. “He is not an impressionable child.”

Providing further proof that the ex-commander in chief should have called it quits before the day of the insurrection, the panel played clips of interviews with Trump’s labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, and his former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, in which they both stated that Trump should have conceded when presented with the overwhelming evidence that he lost to Joe Biden in 2020.

Even Trump’s own digital guru, Brad Parscale, laid the blame for the violence at his boss’s feet. He and spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, who both worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign together, texted each other while the pepper spray was still being aired out of the Capitol building the evening of the assault.

“This is about Trump pushing for uncertainty in our country. A sitting president asking for civil war. This week I feel guilty for helping him win,” Parscale wrote to Pierson, according to texts acquired by the committee.

“You did what you felt right at the time and therefore it was right,” Pierson responded.

“Yeah. But a woman is dead,” Parscale said, referring to Ashli Babbitt, who was shot to death by a police officer as she and other protestors tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby on their way to the House of Representatives Chamber.

Parscale further clarified that he thought that the rioters entered the Capitol building—and that Babbit was dead—because of the former president’s “rhetoric.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Prosecutors: White House Secret Service staff ‘compromised’ by men impersonating DHS agents

April 11, 2022

Two men charged with impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents “compromised” the Secret Service staff assigned to protect First Lady Jill Biden and the White House by “lavishing” them with gifts that included rent-free apartments, federal prosecutors said on Friday, April 8, as they asked a judge to hold the duo without bail.

One of the men, Arian Taherzadeh, admitted after his arrest that he had impersonated a DHS agent and had falsely identified himself to others as a former U.S. Army Ranger, prosecutors wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C, in advance of their detention hearing there Friday afternoon, reports CNBC.

Taherzadeh, 40, also told authorities that his co-defendant in the case, 35-year-old Hader Ali, “funded most of their day-to-day operations but Taherzadeh did not know the source of the funds,” the filing says.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said that the mens’ impersonation of Department of Homeland Security agents went on “for years.” Both men, who are U.S. citizens, “pose a danger to the community based on their use and possession of firearms and other weaponry in furtherance of their impersonation of federal law enforcement officers,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

The filing also says that Ali’s travel in past years to Iran; Pakistan; and Doha, Qatar—as well as his claims to have connections to Pakistan’s intelligence agency —make him a flight risk. “Ali obtained two 90-day visas from Iran and traveled there twice, not long before the charged activity began as early as February 2020,” prosecutors wrote.

And the filing notes that Taherzadeh in February 2020 applied for a concealed weapons permit, but “was denied due to his prior history of violence and instability”—which included two cases in which he was charged in 2013 with assaulting two different women, his wife and his girlfriend.

That filing contains photos of handguns, ammunition, body armor brass knuckles, a fingerprint kit, lock picking tools, and a box of documents with profiles of various people that were seized Wednesday at the men’s apartments in a building in Southeast Washington.

“In one document, an invoice for the defendants’ Chevrolet Impala, the customer information is listed as ‘Secret Service US’ with fake and fictitious names, such as the ‘authorizer name’ listed as ‘Fay Tate’ and the ‘driver name’ listed as ‘James Haider,’ an obvious variation on Haider Ali,” the filing says.

Prosecutors say that while they were claiming to be law enforcement agents involved in covert operations for DHS, “they compromised United States Secret Service (USSS) personnel involved in protective details and with access to the White House complex by lavishing gifts upon them, including rent-free living.”

The defendants maintained five apartments in the complex, two of which they lived in.

“Neither Defendant is even employed by the United States government,” prosecutors wrote. “But their impersonation scheme was sufficiently realistic to convince other government employees, including law enforcement agents, of their false identities.”

Four Secret Service personnel have been placed on leave as a result of the case.

The Secret Service has not said if any of the agents who were placed on leave was one agent assigned to Jill Biden’s protective detail, who was identified in a criminal complaint as being offered an AR-15-style assault rifle valued at $2,000 by Taherzadeh, and who lived below him in the same building.

Research contact: @CNBC

House committee seeks to revoke Trump D.C. hotel lease before former president can sell it for $370M

February 18, 2022

The House Oversight Committee is asking he General Services Administration to consider terminating the lease for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., before the former president’s business can sell it, in light of allegations that the Trump Organization submitted false financial statements to the federal government, reports CNN.

The Democratic-led committee said false statements or certifications may constitute a breach of the lease of the Old Post Office, the historic, government-owned building that the Trump Hotel occupies.

The committee request comes as the Trump Organization stands to make a profit of $100 million from the sale of the hotel lease to a Miami-based investment group for $370 million, according to a letter from the panel to the GSA. The agency is reviewing that pending deal.

“No one should be rewarded for providing false or misleading information to the federal government or for seeking to profit off the presidency,” the committee wrote.

Former President Donald Trump obtained the lease for the hotel years before he came into office.

The committee’s letter comes days after Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars advised that nearly a decade’s worth of the Trump Organization’s financial statements should no longer be relied on and after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed allegations that the business inflated values of certain assets on various financial statements.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says the investigation is politically motivated.

The committee’s letter makes clear that Trump’s submission of information to the GSA was in 2010, a year earlier than the ten-year set of financial statements Mazars has lost confidence in. But the committee says it has similar concerns to state investigators in New York, who revealed the split between Mazars and the Trump Organization this week. Mazars served as the auditor for the Trump hotel, according to the letter.

“In light of these new revelations, including further evidence that the former President submitted at least one financial statement with possible material misrepresentations to GSA, we request that you consider terminating the Old Post Office Building lease to former President Trump … and end, once-and-for-all, the grave damage this inappropriate lease has done to presidential ethics and integrity in government contracting,” the committee’s letter said.

The GSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: @CNN

A luxe new NYC-to-D.C. bus has ‘HoverSeats’ that cancel 90% of bumps

Noember 9, 2021

A bus trip from New York City to Washington, D.C., doesn’t exactly scream luxury, but one travel startup is hoping to change that, according to the Robb Report.

 The Jet, based in Arlington Virginia—with stops at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards (at 565 West 33 Street) and in Washington D.C.’s Metro Center (at 555 13th Street NW at F Street)—just launched a new upscale bus service between the two cities that it claims will bring travelers all the comforts of a private jet without the sky-high price tag.

Founder and CEO Chad Scarborough said the idea arose while he was doing the intercity jaunt years ago. “I’ve done this trip hundreds of times and often thought there had to be a better way from both a comfort and cost perspective,” the native New Yorker explains. “At $99, it’s a first-class experience most of us couldn’t otherwise afford.”

The Jet’s fleet will comprise four custom 45-foot motorcoaches featuring a full suite of amenities and personalized service. Each coach comes complete with just 14 seats (a typical bus would have closer to 50), a spacious restroom and a galley with an attendant to cater to your every whim.

Beer and wine are complimentary, of course, and the Jet has partnered with an array of local eateries, breweries and distilleries to bring you a rotating menu of nourishing health-conscious items.

The company claims that, while onboard, you’ll have access to lightning-quick WiFi that keeps the world at your fingertips. There also will be all the appropriate COVID-19 safety measures in place, including high-tech UV filtration and a vaccination requirement for all crew.

The real pièce de résistance, though, will actually be the thing you’re sitting on. Billed as “the world’s first motion-canceling passenger seats,” the new HoverSeats make for the “smoothest ride on the planet,” according to Scarborough. Two years in the making, the innovative design actually takes cues from Bose’s noise-canceling technology. Much like the tech titan’s headphones block out background sound, the active-suspension seats supposedly  read and then cancel out 90% of all bumps and vibration from the road.

“It’s unlike any experience you’ve had in travel,” Scarborough tells Robb Report. “A comfort so unique you have to experience it to fully appreciate it.”

The seat itself features a gel-foam base and a memory foam back with lumbar support to keep you nicely cocooned. You can recline a full 70 degrees and make use of a built-in tray table. You’ll also enjoy ample legroom and a pneumatic leg rest.

The Jet says it will run multiple daily trips and round trips—but book quickly because the 14 seats will fill up fast.

Research contact: @RobbReport

Trump closes in on a deal to sell marquee Washington, D.C., hotel

October 13, 2021

The Miami-based CGI Merchant Group currently is in talks to pay ex-President Donald Trump’s family company around $370 million for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.—which, during the last administration, attracted GOP lawmakers, lobbyists and other political attention-grabbers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., is located in the former Old Post Office, a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in a building featuring some of the largest guest rooms in the capital.

The property is owned by the federal government, but with extensions the lease runs close to 100 years. CGI also has entered into discussions with hotel operators, including Hilton Worldwide HoldingsWaldorf Astoria luxury brand, about removing the Trump name in favor of that of another hotel manager, NBC News sources said.

The lease deal could ultimately fetch closer to $400 million, which would represent roughly a doubling of the money the Trump Organization spent to convert the government building into a luxury hotel, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

The Trump Organization initially hoped to sell the lease for close to $500 million, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal in 2019.

The hotel sales talks have been heating up as Democratic-controlled House committees have been investigating and holding hearings on potential conflicts of interest and emoluments issues surrounding Trump.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has been examining the lease terms between the Trump Organization and the federal government’s General Services Administration for use of the Old Post Office. The deal predates Mr. Trump’s entry into national politics, but the committee is probing how well Trump managed conflicts of interest while president.

A Friday report from the House committee said the hotel lost more than $70 million between its opening in 2016 and last year—leading the company to inject at least $24 million in aid.

Research contact: @WSJ

Texas Democrats flee state to block GOP from passing voting restrictions

July 14, 2021

Texas Democrats fled the state on Monday, July 12, in a last-ditch effort to prevent the passage of a restrictive new voting law by the Republican-controlled Legislature, The New York Times reports.

They said they were heading to Washington, D.C., to draw national attention to their cause.

The group left Austin in midafternoon on a pair of chartered flights that arrived at Dulles International Airport just before sunset. Fifty-one of the 67 State House Democrats flew on the planes, leaders of the delegation said, and several others arrived separately in the nation’s capital—enough lawmakers to prevent Texas Republicans from attaining a quorum, which is required to conduct state business.

The hastily arranged departure added a cinematic element to the partisan wrangling in a state with a colorful political history, the Times said. Democrats have fled to neighboring states in the past to try to block legislation—including in 2003, when they traveled to New Mexico and Oklahoma in an effort to avoid Republican attempts to redraw congressional districts.

The move could paralyze the Legislature for weeks, if Democrats remain out-of-state until this special session ends in August. Still, it lays bare their limited options long-term in a Legislature in which the Republicans hold the majority in both chambers. Parliamentary procedures and efforts to add amendments can delay the process but not derail it. Republicans said Monday that the Democrats’ gambit would ultimately fail.

It’s just delaying the inevitable,” said State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Houston-area Republican who chairs the House Elections Committee. He described the move as “political theater.”

“We will eventually get it done, this special or another,” he added.

Nevertheless, by traveling en masse to Washington, the Texas Democrats were hoping to apply pressure to Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who so far have been unable to pass federal legislation to address the issue.

“We have to decide if we are going to stand for democracy,” said State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, who organized the effort to leave the state. “We want the nation to join us and we want the U.S. Senate to hear us and act.”

The move came just one day before President Biden is scheduled to deliver a major speech on voting rights in Philadelphia. Activists have been imploring the administration to address the issue with more urgency.

Research contact: @nytimes

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry partner with World Central Kitchen to open up relief centers

December 23, 2020

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced this past weekend that they are teaming up with World Central Kitchen to launch community centers that will provide food and other services to those in areas impacted by disasters, Delish reports.

The couple’s Archewell Foundation is joining with the José Andrés-founded non-profit, based in Washington, D.C., to open centers around the world. These spaces will be permanent structures in the community, according to Bloomberg; which can be used as food distribution centers, schools, and clinics during times of crisis, but then can also be used as community spaces in other times.

The first center is slated to open early next year on the Caribbean island of Dominica, which was hugely impacted by both Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. A second is expected to open in Puerto Rico, which also saw massive devastation by Hurricane Maria.

According to Delish, two more centers are planned, although their locations have not been immediately announced.

 “The health of our communities depends on our ability to connect to our shared humanity,” said Meghan and Prince Harry in a statement:

When we think about Chef Andrés and his incredible team at World Central Kitchen, we’re reminded that even during a year of unimaginable hardship, there are so many amazing people willing—and working tirelessly—to support each other. World Central Kitchen inspires us through compassion in action.

“We are more energized than ever to continue this vital work,” José told Bloomberg in a statement, “and we’re proud that it will be hand in hand with Archewell Foundation and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I have come to know both of them well, and believe that their values are directly aligned with what we stand for at World Central Kitchen.”

Research contact: @DelishDotCom

The new toilet paper: Bikes are flying off shelves, overwhelming shops

June 5, 2020

Eric Attayi, owner of the Urban Bicycle Gallery in Houston, Texas, has watched the pandemic transform his shop in a way most businesses can only envy.

In fact, he recently told CNN, bicycles are selling before he has time to assemble them for display—and he already had matched his 2019 sales by the start of May. He’s had to hire new employees to meet demand, and hasn’t taken a day off since February. Attayi said he’d given raises and started buying lunch for his stressed staff.

As unemployment reaches record levels and small businesses scramble to survive, bike shops have been an exception.

They’re thriving whether they’re in car-dominated cities like Houston and Los Angeles or in more traditional biking areas like Portland, Oregon, New York City, and Washington D.C. Keeping enough bikes in stock, and finishing repairs in a timely manner, has become a challenge. Customers are being turned way, in some cases.

A recent survey by the National Bicycle Dealers Association found that 83% of shops are concerned about their inventory levels. Bike manufacturers are struggling to keep up.

“We’re usually a pretty slow, chill shop,” Attayi said. “Now the phone doesn’t stop ringing. My guys get overwhelmed and I totally get it.”

New customers are looking for ways to be active and outdoors. Bike shop owners say that the closing of gyms and yoga studios during the pandemic has contributed. Others say customers are looking for a commuting alternative to public transportation. Social spacing is easiest on individual modes of transportation, like cars and bikes. In March 2020, US cycling sales increased 39% when compared with March 2019, according to the NPD Group, which tracks retail sales.

“Bikes are like the new toilet paper,” Attayi told CNN.  “If it’s available, buy it.”

Garfield Cooper, owner of ZenCog Bicycle Company in Jacksonville, Florida, has extra mechanics working to try to keep up with a repair backlog. Repairs that usually are done in 24 hours now require up to a month. Cooper, like Attayi, said he hadn’t had a day off since February.

While his sales usually decline in the summer months with increased heat and humidity, Cooper said he hasn’t seen a lag in business yet.

“It’s been a long time since the bicycle has been this important to the American people,” Cooper said. “It’s so cool they’re this interested in bike riding.”

He’s struggling to keep things like bike seats and helmets in stock. Cooper said he’s regularly calling other shops to find parts he needs for repairs.

Bike shop owners are also wondering how long the current boom will last. Some said customers were more interested in biking because with less car traffic, roads felt safer. Their interest may wane as traffic returns. But some cities have begun to reallocate street space to bike lanes, which could lead to more biking in the long term. Roughly 400 miles of protected bike lanes have been built in the US in the last decade, according to the advocacy group People for Bikes.

Phil Koopman, owner of BicycleSpace in Washington, D.C., compared the current bicycle boom to 1999, when many people bought computers to prepare for Y2K.

“Then those companies didn’t sell a lot of computers for a few years because everyone already had one,” Koopman said. “That’s the big question. Is this a one-time thing or is it something sustainable?”

Research contact: @CNN

Tacos, lattés, kombucha, and makeup: 7-Eleven expands ‘Evolution Store’ concept to new locales

February 27, 2020

Most people don’t associate 7-Eleven with much more than Slurpees, snacks, lottery tickets, and travel accessories—as well as the added convenience of around-the-clock shopping service. But now the Dallas-based chain, founded in 1927, is offering some of today’s trendiest menu items and cosmetics in a new store concept that is being tested at several locations nationwide.

Indeed, 7-Eleven, Inc. is scaling up its Evolution Store concept following the successful opening of its beta store in Dallas last March. These Evolution Stores serve as real-time experiential testing grounds where customers can try the retailer’s latest innovations.

Both stores include a Laredo Taco Company restaurant, a brand that 7-Eleven acquired from Sunoco in 2018. The eatery is famous for its authentic tacos—served on handmade flour tortillas that are made from scratch in stores every day—and fresh salsa bar, with a wide selection of salsas and pico de gallo.  Tacos and meals include specialties not always seen in quick-serve Mexican restaurants, such as authentic barbacoa, chorizo, carne asada, carnitas, and breakfast tacos made with fresh-cracked eggs.

“7-Eleven’s mission is to give convenience customers what they want, when and where they want it,” said 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto in an official company statement. “Our evolution stores bring outstanding innovation to life through new food and beverage platforms as well as through digital experiences.”

The first Evolution Store exceeded the retailer’s expectations with enthusiastic reviews, crowds of customers, and sales that continue to climb. Concepts that resonate with consumers are refined before being incorporated into the next generation of current and new store standards.

“These new stores are invaluable learning labs, where new concepts are tailored to meet the needs of the communities they will serve from sunny southern California to the fast-paced world of the East Coast,” said 7-Eleven EVP and COO Chris Tanco. “We will continue to evolve based on customer feedback and we look forward to creating the next generation of convenience together.”

In addition to Laredo Taco Company, the 7-Eleven Evolution Stores will offer an assortment of exclusive products, services, and featurescustomized to the neighborhoods and customers they serve—among them:

  • Made-to-order specialty drinks that give customers the option to customize their drinks in a full-service beverage format including custom hot coffee drinks like flavored lattés, mochas and more; as well as custom cold drinks like smoothies, agua frescas, and cold brew coffee.
  • Self-serve specialty coffee drinks with the addition of touch-screen machines that brew custom hot coffee drinks like lattés, cappuccinos, espresso shots, and more in just seconds.
  • Novelty beverages on tap that dispense cold beverages, such as tea, cold brew, kombucha, nitro cold brew, flavored drinks, and more.
  • A cold treats bar with multiple frozen yogurt and ice cream flavors that can be swirled together with multiple toppings.
  • Cookies, croissants, and pastries baked fresh in-store daily.
  • A mobile checkout at which customers can pay for their purchases via the 7-Eleven app and accompanying 7Rewards loyalty program.
  • 7NOW Delivery App, which is 7-Eleven’s on-demand delivery app , enabling items like fresh food, beverages, snacks, groceries, and household products delivered straight to the customer’s door.
  • National-brand electronics, such as tablets and Bluetooth headphones—available for sale from a secure, self-serve kiosk.
  • On-the-go beauty with expanded skin care, makeup; and other health and beauty items.
  • “The Cellar,” an alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers, with a nearby growler station that features a rotating selection of local craft beer, cider and ales on tap (except in Washington, D.C.).

The Washington D.C. store is now open at 504 K St., and the San Diego store at 3504 El Cajon Blvd. will open in the coming months. 7-Eleven plans to continue to expand Evolution Stores nationwide during 2020.

Research contact: @7eleven

Allbirds perches in New York City and plans more stores nationwide

September 5, 2018

The newest product to come out of Silicon Valley needs no tech support—but it’s supporting the feet of such well-known techies as Google Co-founder Larry Page, former Twitter chief Dick Costolo, and venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Mary Meeker, according to a September 4 report by CNBC.

Called Allbirds, the new brand of footwear—produced with such sustainable resources as merino wool, tree fibers, and sugar— already has won over customers on the West Coast and is expanding fast. The company opened its first store on the East Coast, in New York City, just after Labor Day.

At more than 4,800 square feet, the new flagship location in New York’s SoHo neighborhood on Spring Street will include a “service bar” to help buyers find the right size, along with room for customers to lounge. It will replace its temporary home on Prince Street, which was about 900 square feet and is closing later this week.

Like the wildly popular Warby Parker (eyeglasses), Casper (mattresses), and  Everlane (clothing), Allbirds began business as an etailer.

The company only recently began opening stores, serving as a place for shoppers to try on the sneakers before buying and helping create more buzz around the brand. The company has since launched a new sneaker made out of tree fibers and flip-flops made out of sugar, along with a kids’ line called Smallbirds.

Indeed, the brand has become so buzzworthy that, last month, actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio became an investor, People magazine reported.

Creating sustainable consumer products requires a deep commitment from brands that understand the role they have in helping solve our environmental crisis,” DiCaprio said in an exclusive statement. “Allbirds is on the forefront of developing new materials that will serve as a model for the footwear industry. This kind of innovation is crucial for creating a more sustainable future. I am proud to join the company as an investor.”

“Given how tactile our product and brand story is, it’s important that we continue to create these opportunities to interact with customers,” Allbirds Co-founder Joey Zwillinger said. “Our goal is to continue to create retail spaces that allow customers to truly engage with the brand in an authentic off-line experience that embodies Allbirds’ unique comfort and thoughtful design.”

Allbirds plans to open eight more stores in the United States in locations including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles,  and Washington, D.C. The company also said it’s thinking about adding two locations overseas.

“There is and has been incredible pent-up demand for Allbirds around the world,” Zwillinger told CNBC. “When we launched the brand, we were thoughtful to keep our distribution limited to the regions we felt we could service impeccably — the United States  and New Zealand, our home countries.”

Since then, Allbirds has grown into Australia and Canada.

Research contact: lauren.thomas@nbcuni.com