Photo by Gina Jones.
The sad closure of Cannon’s got GM thinking: is Georgetown a foodie desert? In other words, does Georgetown lack a strong gourmet food culture?
Part of what makes a gourmet food culture includes restaurants. And there’s obviously a very old debate about the aggregate quality of Georgetown restaurants. Yes, it is weighed down with a lot of tourist-oriented restaurants. And some of the finer dining options are sometimes accused of resting on their decades old laurels. But a lot of it is just perception. For instance, in GM’s opinion a restaurant like Capitol Prague would get much more press if it were open on 14th St.
But what GM wants to discuss more is not the food that people buy at Georgetown restaurants, but rather the food they make in their own homes.
Now, GM obviously has no idea the quality of food that gets made every night in the neighborhood. But what he can see is that there’s not much retail in the neighborhood that caters to homemade gourmet cooking.
With Cannon’s gone, the only shop in Georgetown that sells unprepared food is Stachowski’s. Sure, there’s also Dean and Deluca, but they’ve basically eliminated their produce, meat and fish sections. Now it’s almost entirely prepared foods.
Safeway is also technically within the boundaries of Georgetown, but barely. And while you could certainly make a gourmet meal from ingredients bought at Safeway, it doesn’t exactly cater to the market.
Think what doesn’t exist in Georgetown: no Whole Foods or similarly “aspirational” grocery store (more on that term below). No fish monger (any more). No cheese shop. No produce stand. No cookware shop (even our Crate and Barrel doesn’t carry cookware).
There’s a spice shop, some great wine stores, and a couple relatively small farmers markets, but that’s pretty much it.
It would be one thing if no other neighborhood in or around DC had any of these types of stores either, but that’s simply not the case. Small gourmet markets are popping up all over DC, like Glen’s Garden Market over in Dupont, or the Smucker Farms market on 14th St. And not to mention Union Market.
There’s still no Williams and Sonoma in the rest of DC (other than the one in barely-DC Friendship Heights). But it seems unlikely that if they decide to add another location that they’d choose Georgetown.
There could be a million reasons why foodie retail culture has either left Georgetown or skipped over it entirely. High rents, rich residents who would rather just hire a caterer for their parties, perceptions about parking, who knows. But the end result is that if you aspire to homemade gourmet cooking, you’re probably going to head out of the neighborhood first.
And “aspire” is the key term. A branding expert once told GM that all advertising (and ultimately every product) can be broadly put into two categories: aspirational or affirmational. Either it’s trying to sell you on a life you could have or it’s trying to sell you on a life you already think you have.
What’s interesting is that Georgetown is full of aspirational retailers. Practically every clothing store is. The furniture stores sure are. Hell, even the cupcakes are. Foodie culture is definitely aspirational, so it’s just a little weird that it doesn’t appear to have grabbed a foothold in Georgetown and doesn’t look likely to do so anytime soon.