What Would You Like to See Open?

Tuesday night, GM moderated a discussion for the Citizens Association of Georgetown on the topic of the retail district of Georgetown, and in particular Wisconsin Ave. A lot of time was spent talking about what people would like to disappear in Georgetown, but only a little time was spent on what people would like to see come in.

There is a school of thought that says you should just accept what is as what is, and not try to change things (frequent commentor RNM is a big fan of this approach). And to a large extent, this is true. But it is not entirely and always true. As described Monday night, residents of the Logan Circle area lobbied Fresh Fields heavily to move into the location at 14th and P (Fresh Fields was eventually bought out by Whole Foods). Fresh Fields didn’t think that location would work, but was convinced after the residents’ campaign. Now it’s one of the most profitable locations in the chain.

It ultimately made market sense to open there, but if residents left it simply to the invisible hand, it wouldn’t have opened.

So back to Georgetown. What would you like to come to Georgetown? A hardware store like Glover Park’s? An permanent farmers market? A performance theater? You name it. It doesn’t have to be practical for now, just name something you wish you didn’t have to leave the neighborhood for.

GM will start: He’d like to see a kitchen supply store in the neighborhood (i.e. Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, whatever).

Once there is an idea of what neighbors want, steps can be taken by groups to facilitate that coming to fruition. It still would have to make sound business sense, but there’s a lot of gray between a complete laissez faire approach on one side, and a command economy on the other.


Filed under Retail

25 responses to “What Would You Like to See Open?

  1. A city-neighborhood-sized grocery store, like Waitrose in London, that you can actually walk to. Not to compete with huge stores like the Georgetown Safeway, but a place where you can get basics, have a deli counter, prepared foods that do not cost what Dean & Deluca charges, etc., without having to go to CVS. In other words, I want Neam’s back.

  2. I would love to see more neighborhood-serving retail (grocery/convenience stores, hardware, etc), but in order for it to compete with the larger store–and the higher rents–on Wisconsin Ave, my sense is that the best chance for successful neighborhood retail is by opening up some of the corner properties in the neighborhood.

    You can see the success (and the esteemed place in the community) of many of those spots, such as the little corner store at 34th and Dent, Scheele’s, Sara’s, and the former Griffin Market, in addition to some small stretches where you see retail work, like the block of 35th Street with Greenworks, Georgetown Hairstyling, and the hardware store, or the corner of P and 28th.

    As for Wisconsin Ave itself, I’d be happy to see a kitchen store like one of the ones GM mentioned (CB2 is nice, but much more furniture oriented), or something more local like Hill’s Kitchen, or In The Kitchen, in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

    I’d also like to see a few more options for breakfast and late-night food, filling the role once played by the Georgetown Diner and Au Pied Au Cochon.

    I do love some of the (relatively speaking) recent additions like the Georgetown Candy Bar, or Tugooh Toys, and would love to see other shops in that vein.

    Finally, it’s probably a pipe dream, but the neighborhood would be very well served by having something like Ayers Variety and Hardware Store in Arlington’s Westover Neighborhood. However, those shops are few and far between these days in any neighborhood, and expecting one in Georgetown is likely a bridge too far.

  3. Q St Neighbor

    I echo the want of a smallish but finctional grocery store, like the Safeway on Corcoran. I think it might do better in east Georgetown than on Wisconsin, where it wouldn’t be so close to the large Safeway and could draw people from west Dupont as well. The expanded 7-11 may fill some of this niche, though I think they’re likely to have more convenience foods rather than staples.

    I’m glad Georgetown is not littered with a Starbucks on every other corner, but we need some places where you can linger in comfortable surroundings (like the couches at Marvelous Market) at off-meal times of day and eve. I think this might be another business that is better suited for the corners within the neighborhood rather than on Wisconsin, in northeast Georgetown this could be a spot not only for neighbors, but would pull in foot traffic headed to Dumbarton House/Oaks/Wisconsin, etc.

    I would also like to see more “funky” places that sell greeting cards, small gift items. I find myself going all the way over to 14th St, to places like Pulp, because there is nothing in Georgetown or even Dupont that fills this niche. Paper Source comes closest, but even it is a bit stuffy. It’s not quite in the same vein, but a place like 10,000 Villages that sells affordable but interesting items would be welcome, especially at this time of year. I could see a business like that thriving on Wisconsin or M.

    But my most fervent (and realistic!) desire is for some bikeshare stands in east Georgetown, like at Rose Park. It’s hard to live in a CaBi desert!!

  4. Topher

    @Q St. Neighbor: I tried to get a CaBi station in Rose Park, but the Friends of Rose Park are staunchly against it. But we did successfully get a station planned for the intersection of M St. and Penn. Ave. Not quite in Rose Park, or the heart of east Georgetown, but pretty close. It should be installed sometime in the next 3-6 months.

  5. I would like to see the Georgetown movie theater restored, rebuilt, to house an independent movie theater, and the marquee outside rebuilt to light up once again. I would like to see the old Georgetown Pharmacy (Doc Dalinsky’s old place) return to its former glory (perhaps the pharmaceutical companies can refurbish it into a living museum/pharmacy replete with a lunch counter, real life pharmacists, etc.). I would like to see a quality wine and cheese shop on Wisconsin Avenue in the 1400 block. I would like to see a quality parfumerie come to the Avenue. I would like to see less bling bling on Wisconsin Avenue, but please no high end furniture stores. How about an L.L. Bean store, or even a Harry & David store. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Chico’s replace one of those perpetual “Going Out Business” shops in the 1400 block. Perhaps a cutlery store selling quality knives and kitchenware. I would like to see a Georgetown Visitors’ Center on Wisconsin Avenue. I would like to see no parking on Wisconsin Avenue.

  6. Q St Neighbor

    I’ve been following the CaBi debate. It’s a shame that the Friends of Rose Park have such a narrow view of how people should (and do) use public spaces. An alternative spot would be outside the gates to Dumbarton House. Ideally we’d have stations in both places, but this might fill a void in the meantime.

  7. Dizzy

    I would love to have a big, comprehensive bookstore “where you can linger in comfortable surroundings at off-meal times of day and eve,” like Q St. Neighbor said.

    Oh wait :/

  8. I wonder if it might be possible to put a CaBi station near the corner of 28th and P (in front of 7/11, perhaps?). This gets a station close to Rose Park, but would situate it essentially perpendicular to the multi-use path, making it more likely that riders would just stay on one of the two streets rather than using the path.

    Personally, I think that safety improvements to the path should include expanding the path, rather than attempting to restrict it to pedestrians, but I know that the “friends” have dug their heels in on that point, so perhaps a slightly removed station could strike the necessary balance.

  9. Good idea on the Dumbarton House Ca-Bi since the “Friends” of Rose Park aren’t so friendly to the neighbors that actually live there and actually rely on transportation to get around (other than a car). They sometimes represent too much of the NIMBYisms that hold us back. Perhaps as newer, younger, up and coming residents move in this will pro-car, no change mood will decline.

    I’d like to see a corner store high end coffee shop (across the 7-11 maybe?), some streets closed off on some weekends to open up the neighborhood to pedestrians and residents, I like this new Cady’s Alley idea (how about the alley that the jazz club is on, or congress ct, cocoran alley, etc as well?).

    This will also run counter to probably a lot of other fellow residents but I want ultra high-end retail here – less tysons corner mall and more newbury / 5th avenue. Wisconsin is a good fit for that. It will help the branding of the area away from the college scene and tacky-mall tourists, and more of a high-end destination.

  10. Topher

    @Dave: I heard a rumor a little while back that a coffee shop would go into the old consignment shop at 27th and P. Haven’t seen any evidence of that yet, though.

  11. Q St Neighbor

    Not to derail the discussion into one about CaBi and Rose Park (I recognized that was off-topic when I originally wrote it!), those who are interested in the locations of stations can weigh in here: http://www.bikearlington.com/pages/bikesharing/capital-bikeshare-crowdsourcing-map/

    More voices clamoring for CaBi stations certainly can’t hurt, especially when working against a vocal anti-CaBi lobby. I like the P & 28 idea.

    More to the original topic: I’d also love to see a good take-out restaurant in that block of businesses at P & 27, like Thai or Indian. I know it’s a non-starter, and that in the grand scheme of things M St and Wisconsin and Dupont aren’t that far and have such options. But one advantage of urban living is having things around the corner, and that is one aspect of urban living that is not around the corner for anyone in that part of Gtown. Given the large apartment buildings within a couple of blocks of there I think they would have a strong customer base.

  12. A Beberman

    I would like to see the sidewalks on M Street expanded to allow outdoor seating. I would like to see the WhiteHurst Freeway torn down to really open up our beautiful waterfront.

  13. Joan Kennan

    I would love to see: another good restaurant, not just a bar, similar in quality to Martin’s in terms of ambiance and neighborly atmosphere; a book store, preferably along the lines of Politics & Prose; a hardware store; a kitchen store like Sur La Table; a card store; and lastly, a clothing store such as the departed Talbot’s with good quality clothes in styles that can be worn by those of us of a “certain age”. My idea of retail heaven in Georgetown would be the return of a store like the Little Caledonia where you could find just about everything!

  14. jones@guneighbor.edu

    I can’t wait until we get an official marijuana dispensary in Georgetown. I mean, really, why should we have to go to GU to get our dope? I know they pay outrageous tuition,and equally obscene rent to landlords, just so they can have two-keg parties without a permit. But come on, lets make this legal. Mayor Barry can relate

  15. Michael Radosevich

    I think there used to be a Williams Sonoma store in the mall in the 1990s – in fact I’m sure there was. My mom bought some things for me there.

    It’s odd that most of what we want was once here, but is now gone (high rents and mega-developers). I’ll echo the comments seeking an independent theatre (like the old Key Theatre), a store like Neams, a hardware store (like the one that used to be just north of what’s now Benneton), a place for adults to be at night (like the old Nathan’s before Carol ran it, when they still had dancing late at night in the second room), and an au Pied-like restaurant.

    The mall is mostly wasted space now. I’d like to see a mini Target go in there, or some place where we could buy underwear, socks, kitchen things, household goods, etc. without paying an arm and a leg for them.

  16. SSC

    An all-night coffee shop/bookstore that hosts events and entertainment

    An IFC Center, preferably housed in the vacant Georgetown Theater on Wisconsin Avenue

    A Gagosian Gallery

    I never understood why many of the large high-end retail chains locate their alternative/edgy brand stores (Barney’s New York Co-op and Neiman Marcus’ CUSP) instead of their flagship brands. The flagship brands would seem to be a better match for Georgetown residents. That said, the Friendship Heights/Maza Gallerie/Chevy Chase cluster seems to have filled the ultra high-end retail niche in DC. What competitive advantage does Georgetown have to merit relocating or duplicating the high-end national retail stores found at Friendship Heights/Maza Gallerie/Chevy Chase?

  17. SSC

    An all-night coffee shop/bookstore that hosts events and entertainment

    An IFC Center, preferably housed in the vacant Georgetown Theater on Wisconsin Avenue

    A Gagosian Gallery

    I never understood why many of the large high-end retail chains locate their alternative/edgy brand stores (Barney’s New York Co-op and Neiman Marcus’ CUSP) in Georgetown instead of their flagship brands. The flagship brands would seem to be a better match for Georgetown residents. That said, the Friendship Heights/Maza Gallerie/Chevy Chase cluster seems to have filled the ultra high-end retail niche in DC. What competitive advantage does Georgetown have to merit relocating or duplicating the high-end national retail stores found at Friendship Heights/Maza Gallerie/Chevy Chase?

  18. E Georgtowner

    Between prepared foods at Marvelous Market, and groceries at Scheele’s, we have a neighborhood store of the sort you describe. We need to support the Lees at Scheele’s, not import more unnecessary grocery stores.

  19. RNM

    Thanks for citing me, even if you didn’t quite get the position I have right. My comment about the relative futility in trying to pick and choose what business is in Georgetown is not based on just accepting things for what they are, but because there are divergent opinions on what should be that eventually the only valid barometer is what succeeds. In other words, make money, pay rent don’t stiff the IRS…that is what any retail area needs as there is nothing worse than too many empty storefronts. By trying to pick and choose who we deem as “worthy” of Georgetown, we all do a disservice to the idea of living in a vibrant, successful community with parts we all love and parts we all hate (those parts will vary based on the person).

    Reading this thread shows the short term memory or limited history that some have. For example as someone mentioned there was a Williams and Sonoma here, it failed and closed. There also was a kitchen gadget type shop (can’t remember the name) near where the Coach store is now back in the 1990s, also gone. There was a Chico’s here…it failed and closed. Little Caledonia, really…that felt like an ancient relic of history 20 years ago. Part of this feels like a conversation I had with my mother over Thanksgiving, where she complained that NYC wasn’t fun anymore as all the good places were gone (based on her stint living there in the late 1960s). People tend to wax nostalgic for things and ways of life that were often not that great to begin with.

    As for what I would like…I think a Target in the old Georgetown Park Mall space would be great (hey, it would handle that kitchen shopping need several have expressed), if it is good enough for Mrs. Obama then maybe it is good enough for Georgetown. I have also always thought a good nightclub (not that I/we go) would be a great fit in the part of Georgetown Park Mall near the food court (has 24hr parking, encourage foot traffic, and create demand for some more late night dinning options, below ground keeping noise down). I would like to see restrictions on liquor permits removed or at least greatly loosened to allow a wider array of businesses to open with liquor sales (making sustainability easier). I would like to see the permit process for altering a building to make it work for business needs/wants streamlined. I would like to see parking restrictions eased in the neighborhood, both to make it easier for people to come into the stores/shops as well as for those of us who like to invite people over to be able to do so without the risk of them getting a ticket. We live in a car world…and that isn’t going to change anytime soon…bikes are great, buses are great but to be practical we have to accept that most people are going to come to Georgetown by car. I think reverting to earlier parking limit times (7pm not 9pm) on weeknights and no parking restrictions on Saturdays would be nice even if it lost the city revenue. Additionally, maybe expanding the parking limitation from two up to three or four hours would make the area more enticing to go to. I say this knowing that it would negatively impact my own parking experience and that it will meet the fierce opposition of our.

    In essence, much of what I perceive as damage to Georgetown over the decades I have been here has been done in an effort to make it “nicer” for the busy bodies or “Let them eat cake” set. The good has all been done in spite of the busy bodies who spend a lot of time bemoaning the changes. Eventually you put enough hurdles to people coming here be it to shop/eat or open a store/restaurant…then they will just go somewhere else…which limits what options do exist. Attempting to control the beast can often suffocate or even kill the beast. Sure, we don’t want another meat rendering facility to open (since the one closed in the early 1970s) but to try and pick and choose what type of retail or restaurant seems somewhat anti-American (well at least the image of America we like to give lip service too). How many of the quaint stores people want have been driven off or never considered this area based on the hurdles of doing business here? How many larger retailers have looked but ultimately balked because of those same limitations. There are very real structural and location based negatives with this community, but for most businesses those can be worked around if the community’s self imposed limits weren’t so strong. Ultimately, we have met the enemy of success and growth in Georgetown and it is us.

  20. Topher


    “For example as someone mentioned there was a Williams and Sonoma here, it failed and closed…There also was a kitchen gadget type shop (can’t remember the name) near where the Coach store is now back in the 1990s, also gone.”

    That was a long time ago. Tastes and populations change. I suspect a new kitchen goods store would succeed.

    “There was a Chico’s here…it failed and closed”

    No, its parent company decided to replace it with its sister store, the higher end White House Black Market and it shortly thereafter lost its lease when Michael Korrs came knocking.

    “I would like to see parking restrictions eased in the neighborhood, both to make it easier for people to come into the stores/shops as well as for those of us who like to invite people over to be able to do so without the risk of them getting a ticket.”

    Where are all these people going to park? Loosening parking regulations and making it “easier to park” are opposing tactics when you don’t live in a suburban wasteland like your cherished Potomac Yards.

    And speaking of Potomac Yards, a shopping center you have repeatedly praised, how do you think it got built? It wasn’t the invisible hand. It was through concerted planning of Alexandria to attract and zone for big box stores. It’s not like there was a whole bunch of empty retail space and the big boxes just happened to succeed and small shops didn’t. Alexandria decided it wanted a big box wasteland and that’s exactly what they got. Some like it, some don’t. But it’s not the product of a “valid barometer” dispassionately rewarding only stores that succeed. It was the product of Alexandrians sitting around and saying “what do we want to do with this brownfield?” Personally I think they chose unwisely, but I don’t blame that mistake on the process.

    I should say, though, that I agree with you on the Target (but they’re not interested anymore) and I agree that we need to streamline the approval processes. I think we ought to tax the hell out of inactive liquor licenses the way we do vacant buildings. Too many licenses are held by people who are just sitting on it waiting for the right price.

  21. asuka

    RNM – you’re making too much sense for this blog. I suggest taking your rational, balanced opinions elsewhere before you start exploding heads.

  22. john asadoorian

    The esteemed Retail College of Hard Knocks is where I received my higher learning. 25 years has been my undergraduate, now I am working on my graduate….as you, the community/ market speak, I see the underpinnings of the my course work: markets speak-retailers respond-vision guides-incentives close gaps.

    As I see it, retailers/ restaurateurs, etc. that succeed are satisfying a demand. Vision that is not grounded is hard to achieve. Regulations that don’t speak to market realities and well thought out vision hinder the overall process.

  23. RNM

    If Chico’s was doing so well, one it wouldn’t have been replaced by its parent company (so that is failure)…and two if it was doing so well it would have found a home in one of the other vacant properties (so that is a double failure).

    By the way your outright bitterness is a bit unbecoming…I don’t cherish Potomac Yards, but I do shop there. Because it has stores that I want to go to and prices that are reasonable. It also is fairly easy to get to, taking less time to drive there than say walk to Safeway for me. Additionally, it is not really a suburban wasteland more a pocket of commerce on land that was apparently too dirty for a Redskins Stadium between densely built up areas of Crystal City and Old Town. I guess by that reasoning Georgetown would be a suburban wasteland outside of the downtown of DC. Which is sot of how people like you have been trying to craft and create it. Some folks want to control it like an iron fisted tyrant HOA to effectively create a suburban residential area where unwanted people, er riff-raff, are not encouraged to come and businesses that might attract them are discouraged.

    I know you have a dream of a car free world, where everyone gets around on bikes and public transit…but that just isn’t practical. I want to live at Evermay, but lacking 22 million to pick it up…well I settle for the house I do own. It would be wonderful if Metro had a subway stop in Georgetown, but it doesn’t and it won’t. Buses have a stigma, right or wrong (and I use and enjoy the even number 30s and have for 20+ years), as a result people just won’t use them…and they are less than convenient for a shopping trip. Bikes are fun, cute, quaint but the harsh reality is that no matter how many traffic disrupting bike lanes (really that lane on 33rd between M and Prospect is a disaster when you factor in the humans in the street from the line for Georgetown Cupcake and or forced off the sidewalk by the defacto taking of the sidewalk) or bike stations are added the volume of people they will bring in and out of this community can’t sustain businesses. More people drive into Georgetown across the Key Bridge in one light cycle than arrive in a day on a bicycle. So parking needs to be improved. I would love to see underground lots being offered up like those in Bethesda where night and weekends are free…encouraging people to go there. I would like to see draconian and relatively recent parking restrictions that eased not only to let shoppers in…but to let residents be able to invite people to their homes. I get that there needs to be a balance between the commercial and residential nature of our community, but the pendulum has swung too far to the residential…and yet the likes of you and your “Let them eat cake” fans want to push it even further. Ultimately, this discourse gets to my point, that there is no one unified vision for what Georgetown should be.

    Oh, and for the record, I do most of my shopping at Pentagon Row, mixed residential and commercial area. They have a great Bed, Bath & Beyond which will meet a lot of your kitchen gear needs and a wonderful Harris Teeter too, you should check them out…and you don’t even need to bring your own bags to shop there.

  24. Does Georgetown really need another grocery store? The Dean & Deluca is small and expensive, but it sure is pretty awesome. And can’t East Villagers easily go to the West End Trader Joe’s or the new WFM? Or the revamped Wisc Ave Safeway? I don’t think of Georgetown as having the density to support another grocery store, but maybe I’m wrong. If only there were a commercial area closer the the GU campus…? Well, a Trader Joe’s would make a great addition to the streetscape, but as a developer I’d want to couple it with residential density, which most Gtowners would fight, I’m sure.

  25. -oh, and I echo the wish to see Georgetown movie theater restored!

    Also, ANYTHING would be welcome in that parking space behind PNC at Wisc & M. Please, someone, build something!

    And for coffee shops, you have to lobby the Trsyt/OpenCity guy, or find someone who can do as good a job.

    You should also try to copy Home Rule and Pulp from 14th & S! But might I add, Gtown’s super-narrow sidewalks are not conducive to shopping.

    Georgetown used to have an awesome casual restaurant, the Music City Roadhouse Restaurant, in the Duvall Foundry by the canal. Oh, and I really miss Conran’s (housewares), also by the canal (now offices).

    Rather than fight for a grocery store to come in, it might be easier (and more fun) to get a string of food specialists. You already have the butcher shop coming… And the Paul bakery… and you have the city’s only fish market (Cannon’s on 31st).. if only they were on the same strip, like Lanier’s Furniture Row, with a cheese store, and a candy store!

    In general, I’d say the retail landscape of the city has vastly improved over the past 20 years, other than losing like 80% of our bookshops. The only chains we’re missing is IKEA (obviously not a fit for Gtown) and REI.

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