Tatiana Tchamouroff hears the same question at least a dozen times a day—from clients, friends, and the random people who walk by her company’s windows. They all want to know what’s going to happen to the life-sized Bryce Harper photos that are located outside her sports therapy clinic, Ninotch, in Bethesda and Tysons Corner.
Ever since Harper signed a record-setting 13-year, $330 million contract with the Nationals’ division rival Philadelphia Phillies last week, D.C. fans have experienced conflicted feelings about the 26-year-old who spent seven years of his life in a Nationals jersey.
But not Tchamouroff. Unlike the actual baseball player, the massive photos of a shirtless, dirt-covered Harper aren’t going anywhere.
“Never considered taking it down,” she says, “because it’s not about him being a National. He’s an incredible client, a good friend, and the face of our sports campaign. I never had any thought of taking it down. I’ve been confused why people keep asking that.”
Tchamouroff started Ninotch (pronounced ˈnē-nōtCH) in 1996 as a message therapy clinic and has seen it evolve into what she calls an “urban retreat, boutique wellness center.” Services at the two locations include airbrush tanning, skin care, and waxing and floatation therapy. Ninotch currently has over 10,000 clients, dozens of which are MLB players, according to Tchamouroff.
From 2007 until 2012, she worked with the Nationals as the team’s head massage therapist. Prior to that, Tchamouroff helped out the Baltimore Orioles where her clients included Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken Jr., whom she calls “by far one of my favorites. A class act.”
She met Harper in 2011, a year before he made his major league debut. After Tchamouroff left the Nationals to focus on her growing business, she decided to launch a sports campaign. Tchamouroff wanted a visual image to help promote the various services the center provides.
“Everyone thought we were a tanning center, which I’m grateful for because it pays the bills,” she says, “but at the end of the day, my passion is spinal injury and massage therapy.”
Among all the famous faces she knows, Harper’s stood out. He’s the athlete that would make people stop and pop their heads in.
“When he agreed to do this ad for us, I was thrilled,” Tchamouroff says. “People are like, ‘Oh, I know where you are.’ … People who’ve come in and asked about the picture, it’s definitely been a huge boost for business … It’s helped us tremendously.”
The photo spans the entire window frame outside the two centers. In Bethesda, the clinic is located right off the busy intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane, not far from the National Institutes of Health campus, and can be spotted blocks away. The photo in Tysons can be seen from the Metro station.
Harper chose the photo, Tchamouroff says, which is the same image that graced the cover of ESPN The Magazine‘s 2015 body issue.
Having worked with professional athletes, Tchamouroff knows not to associate athletes with specific teams. She made a conscious decision to identify Harper in the photos as an “outfielder” instead of a Nationals players, realizing that he might one day leave the D.C. area. Tchamouroff, who grew up in Bowie and lives in northern Virginia, considers herself a Nationals fan, but also can’t help root for her clients, no matter what team they’re on.
“I’m happy for him,” she says of Harper. “Both myself and my staff will miss seeing him in D.C. I’m hoping I still get to see him whenever he comes to D.C. or when I go to him. At the end of the day, it’s what’s best for him and his family. I’m happy for him. I’m happy he got something.”