A Chevy Chase Village Love Story

It was in the mid-1990s. Maybe the summer of 1996. Bill and Valerie Grace lived on West Irving Street in the Village with their two daughters: Emily and Julia. They had just signed up Emily, about 5 or 6 at the time, to attend Beauvoir Camp. That’s when they met their neighbors, John and Marea Grant, who lived a few houses away on the next block. It turned out that they had enrolled their two slightly older boys, James and Alex, in Beauvoir Camp as well. And since Bill drove downtown every morning anyway to his office at Merrill Lynch, he volunteered to be the carpool driver for the three campers. Bill and Emily met the Grant boys each day at the intersection of Magnolia Parkway and West Irving, a specific place between the two homes that would later become known as “The Meeting Spot” — and would play an important role in the Chevy Chase Village love story.

After the camp summer, Emily and James didn’t see one another for almost a decade. James moved overseas for several years because of his parents’ work with the World Bank and USAID. When he returned to West Irving Street, he went to Westland and then BCC, where he joined the crew team. He continued to row all four years at Bates College, racing in regattas everywhere from the Charles River in Boston to the Thames in England. Emily, in the meantime, was a fledgling rower at Sidwell Friends School, where she spent 14 years as a “lifer.” When Marea Grant heard from the Graces that Emily was taking up rowing, she insisted that James contact her to extend some of his sage boatmanship advice. James reluctantly conceded to his mother’s request — sending a fateful Facebook message that would eventually change his life. That summer of 2007, Emily and James became fast friends — a relationship that would later lead to the alter.

Jump ahead yet another 10 years. Emily had graduated from Hamilton College, worked in health care consulting for a few years, and then joined her dad as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. They call Bill and Emily "The Grace Team," Emily representing youth on the team and Bill the 40-year veteran. James, meanwhile, completed his master’s degree in economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and was well into a career of political risk consulting, specializing in energy and climate change issues. He was a frequent contributor to academic reports and news media publications, including The National Interest, Forbes and The Hill.

As coincidence would have it, both James and Emily moved back to their childhood homes on West Irving Street for a stint in the fall of 2019. After all these years of staying in touch, they found themselves commuting downtown together yet again — but instead of being chauffeured by Bill to camp, they were taking the Redline from Friendship Heights to Farragut North. With
more than a decade of friendship and their age difference now less important, Emily and James’s relationship soon blossomed into a romance.

The Meeting Spot
Emily turned 30 in the fall of 2021. By this time, she and James were living in Logan Circle, and she was in her third year at Merrill Lynch with her father. But with COVID-19 still raging, both took the opportunity to work out of their childhood homes when they could (lunches from their parents didn’t hurt). On these days, James and Emily would often meet at The Meeting Spot between the houses and walk around the Village on a break from work. It became a sort of tradition.

One beautiful day, shortly before Thanksgiving, they met at The Spot as they always did and walked around their old neighborhood. At the end of their walk this time, James nudged Emily back over to The Meeting Spot and got down on his knee, with a beautiful ring in his hand, and asked Emily to spend the rest of her life with him.

The wedding was set for Labor Day Weekend, 2022. It was to be a Chevy Chase Village-themed event. Each venue would be close to the next, reflecting the West Irving Street love story. Marea hosted a rehearsal dinner for 60 at the Graces' house on Friday night. The next day, the wedding ceremony was held at All Saints Church, a block away at Chevy Chase Circle. That was followed by the reception just up the street at Chevy Chase Club, with transportation for the bride and groom in a 1930s yellow Packard convertible, provided by their next-door neighbor. All of the events took place within a few blocks of each other in Chevy Chase, near West Irving Street and The Meeting Spot. The carpool to camp a quarter century earlier was a prophetic beginning for two kids who would end up sharing their lives together.

James joined The Grace Team at Merrill Lynch in early 2022, putting his international economics experience to work and making The Grace Team a multi-generational family business. Now in a hybrid schedule between Bill’s West Irving Street home office and their downtown office, Emily and James live nearby at the house they bought in Chevy Chase West right next to Norwood Park. They have since added to their family with a golden retriever puppy named Remi, who they take to the office at Bill and Valerie’s house. The business model has worked out great, with the younger couple getting to know many of the children and grandchildren of Bill’s longtime clients.

So this is the Chevy Chase Village love story, about two campers who met on West Irving Street in a carpool, who reconnected years later through their interest in rowing and then fell in love some years after that. It’s a story of fate, but also of romance with a sprinkling of what was always meant to be.

Chloe Lansdale is a lifelong friend of Emily’s from Sidwell Friends School. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and The Wharton School and now works ...