Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Q

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This week on Not So Long Ago: GM stays on Book Hill, an area which has seen a large change since 1993. Today GM shifts over to 1635 Wisconsin Ave. Today it houses the wonderful Bacchus Wine Cellar. 18 years ago, however, this space house Georgetown Mini Market & Deli. It appears to be a mini-mart-type establishment that as of 1993 was apparently under new management. While not mentioning this iteration specifically, a history of Bacchus Wine Cellar gives a flavor for what this space was like:

Before Bacchus Wine Cellar was as we now know it, over the course of 15-20 years previous it was a video store, convenient mart and seedy liquor barn. We’ll start our story at ‘seedy’.

Locals aren’t sure of the name of the liquor den before but its reputation is very well known. From what we understand, everything but the sale of wine and beer was taking place. There was also a number of stories surrounding… the store that became quite the ‘town talk’. Needless to say, the store eventually closed.

Enter unsuspecting Syrian with a penchant for business and a palate for wine. Bassam Al-Kahouaji, founder and present captain of the Bacchus ship, stumbled upon 1635 Wisconsin Ave. after the departure of the previous tenants. A realtor had told him about the property when he mentioned he was looking for a place to open an antiques shop. As a child, he was raised in the craft of antiquities collection/trade and to this day it remains a major part of his pursuits, particularly in regard to middle-eastern wedding garb and jewelry. The realtor unlocked the door on the day of the viewing and when Bassam stepped over the threshold, he thought they had the wrong address. To him, the ‘store’ looked like an abandonded kennel which hadn’t been cleaned in months. There were decomposing food products, rat corpses and any number of fuzzy growths on the walls with colors hearkening to the days of Chernobyl. The fridge in the rear of the store had been shut off with juices, food and supplies for parties still inside. The glass was fogged with mildew. 1635 Wisconsin was not a wine shop, it was a cemetery.

After a few burps and some politely passed gas, Bassam had an idea. “Make the space into a destination for wine lovers, culture seekers, their center being the greatest artistic expressions found in the world of wine.” After an extensive nine months renovation involving pieces from his personal art collection and designing a genteel style boutique in the old-world vein, Bassam reopened the store November 14th, 2001.

There are a couple of other shops in this photo. Just to the right of Bacchus nowadays is the recently opened Nectar Skin Bar. Before that it was the chic Sugar clothes shop. In 1993 it appears to be a shoe repair store called The Cobbler Shoppe of Georgetown.

And down another door is now Jaryam, a lingerie shop. In 1993 it was a store called “Rooms & [something]”. GM’s not sure what the “something” is because a tree blocked the camera. It appears to have been an antiques or homewares-type store.

Here are the photos:



Filed under Not So Long Ago

3 responses to “Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Q

  1. Some other tenants of 1635 Wisconsin Avenue courtesy the Peabody Room’s “1635 Wisconsin” vertical file:

    Mrs. Mary Shoemaker (residence), 1865
    Real estate office, 1943
    Frances Elizabeth (women’s clothing), 1964
    Rosie Tomato (women’s clothing), 1972
    Space (antique store), 2004

  2. Tom

    The Cobbler Shoppe was a big loss because the guy really knew what he was doing and was up to the challenge posed by any of the locals who couldn’t bear to part with a beloved pair of old shoes.

  3. GeorgeM

    Was the “Rooms & [something]” store “Rooms & Gardens” which is or was on 29th Street more recently?

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