Love them or hate them, we can all agree that the 1400 block of Wisconsin Ave. has long been defined by the stretch of shops selling cheap suits, and other somewhat gaudy sundries. It has inspired unproven conspiracy theories about drug dealing and money laundering and angst about why these blocks are being “held back”. But the reality is that we are probably in the twilight days of these shops.
Spurred on by Robert Bell’s redevelopment of the old Georgetown Theater building, a row of the stores on the east side of Wisconsin has already been vacated and partially renovated. Now change is coming to the west side.
Well actually change came to the west side a while ago. Three of the store fronts of the “old style” were renovated years ago. Now an M & T Bank and the new Boulangerie Christophe operate in two of them (the third is still vacant).
Now the shop that was most recently known as “Poli” is vacant with a for lease sign in the window. (This shop was called Napoli in 2014, and Roma before that. Often shops like this that are constantly “going out of business” change names without really closing in an attempt to skirt the laws against such fraudulent fake liquidation sales.)
Now there are only a couple of the shops left. GM has long heard rumors that the owner of the Prince and Princess building plans to convert the first floor to restaurant use. And Robert Bell is working closely with the owners of the buildings across the street to ensure they get redeveloped in a way to let him finally land a high paying tenant for the main retail space of the theater building.
So these may be truly be the last days for this era. Celebrate or mourn its passing, either way you have to acknowledge they were a big part of Georgetown’s retail history.