The long standing Georgetown shop P St. Pictures is closing. As related in this article last summer, the shopkeeper, Judy Schlosser, has been told to vacate the shop-space that she has occupied for 28 years.
Losing a shop like this stings, but it gets a lot worse when you find out that the future occupant of the space is just the 7-11 next door that wants to expand. It’s just another example of big chain moving in and pushing out a small independent shop.
At least, that’s how GM pictured it until he read a letter sent to the ANC commissioners from Bob Enzel. Enzel is the trustee for the property at issue. He argues that the story that has been presented to the community isn’t accurate. He provides his side of the story, stating that Schlosser had a long list of outstanding debts that were unpaid or simply forgiven.
This is clearly a he-said-she-said situation–as stories like this often go–and GM is not in a position to settle it here. But it was the rest of the letter that GM found fascinating.
First of all, Enzel isn’t some distant landlord with no attachment to the area, cashing checks. He’s a Georgetown native and it sounds like he knows these streets like the back of his hand:
I am a native of Georgetown. Our family has lived in this area for 80 years. I went to Corcoran Public School [ed. note: he's talking about the Corcoran elementary school at 1219 28th St., which was the white elemtary school in this part of Georgetown until it closed in the 1950s], Gordon Jr. High and Western Sr. High. I can show you where every little store was located and in many cases identify who owned them. The block that housed P Street Pictures and 7-11 had a barber shop, shoe shine parlor and Reed’s Electric Company before Reed’s moved to Wisconsin Avenue. Around the corner on Twenty- Seventh Street, The Diamond Cab Company operated its taxi cabs. In days past, Georgetown housed the Ledo and Dumbarton movie houses, Murphy’s Five & Dime, Galliher & Huguely Lumber Yard, Ladd Mills Esso and the original Georgetown Boys Club…
He continues by pointing out that 7-11 is more a part of the neighborhoods history than any other store still open:
Not one business situated on either side of P Street between 26th and 27th was there in the sixties, except the 7-11.
The corner of 27th & P Street was a vacant lot that housed a mulberry tree and was used as a parking lot until the lower half of the building was erected in 1949. The upper half of the structure was added by Russell Eldridge in 1965. The first stores that opened were Russ Pharmacy and Kay’s Food Mart. Doc Russ passed away and the business was sold to Doc Schreibstein, who emptied the store one night and walked out on the note and the rent, never to be heard from again. With the advent of the chain groceries Kay’s Food Mart went bankrupt in the early sixties. Both stores sat vacant for months, partially over-lapping.
The Junior League opened The Thrift Shop in the former drug store in May, 1968 and the 7-11 became a tenant in September, 1964.
Now there are plently of reasons to still be sorry about this situation. Many people love P St. Pictures (GM only had a poster framed once from the store; it was very well done. Not cheap, but very well done.) And the 7-11 is pretty dingy. Even nice 7-11s aren’t that nice. But it sure upends the normal big-chain-kicking-out-small-indy narrative when the most historic store in that part of Georgetown is the big chain. It’s been here for almost 50 years.
Enzel ends with a few more references to this corner’s Herring Hill past:
Garden Market was not always Garden Market, the next door shoemaker is long gone, Washington Fine Properties across the street was formally, Mrs. Smith’s Pharmacy—a black owned drug store and Midtown Cleaners in the middle of the block was Mason’s Barber Shop—also black owned. The corner where Jean Pierre Antiques is was formally Brockman’s Grocery and Huge Jacobson’s Architecture was Beek’s Grocery. I’d like to wrap this up by saying; we didn’t have a block captain (whatever that is?). We knew each other and respected each other. I am not a neauveau Georgetowner , I am a Georgetown product with a sense of history and I trust I have put this issue in proper perspective.
You can disagree with how he’s handled this situation, but you’d be hard-pressed to say he doesn’t know or care about the neighborhood.