Category Archives: Not So Long Ago

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. Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Reservoir

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM checks out the store next to last week’s entry. Nowadays it’s another great Book Hill antique shop, with Fluergriege, a floral arrangement boutique, upstairs. But 18 years ago, the building was occupied by Babbling Books, a books on tape store.

It’s interesting that like last week’s video store, next door was a purveyor of another now outdated technology. Nowadays, people still listen to audio books, but GM doubts many still use tapes. They probably just buy them on iTunes or something.

And GM thinks there is something lost when we stop buying things in communal spaces and start buying them online. Soon we’ll lose Barnes and Noble too due to the same dynamic. But, it is what it is, and you can’t force stores to sell buggy whips just because they used to.
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Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Reservoir

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM stops by Book Hill again. GM has to apologize about the current shot. There was a van and a new tree that sort of blocks the shot. But angles are angles, so that’s what we get when we try to replicate casual snapshots from a car 18 years ago.

What’s lurking behind the tree is Marston Luce. It’s been at 1651 Wisconsin Ave. for quite some time. However, in 1993 the space was occupied by Washington Video.

For GM’s younger readers: a video was a DVD that came in a large cartridge. You couldn’t skip “chapters”. You had to just press fast forward till it got to what you wanted. And when you finished, you had to rewind the thing for minutes before you could start watching it again.

For GM’s even younger readers: there once were stores that let you borrow movies. You had to physically go to the store, pick out the movies, go home with them, and then bring it back when you were done. And if you didn’t “rewind it” you could pay a fine. You weren’t even guaranteed that the store had what your wanted! You may have to go all the way there, find out they didn’t have it and then go home with a movie by someone called Pauly Shore, whose popularity scientists have yet to explain.*

Anyway, it’s interesting to see that the dominance of antique shops on Book Hill wasn’t in place yet by 1993.

Here are the photos: Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: M and Potomac

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This week in Not So Long Ago, GM stops by M St. and Potomac. Nowadays its home to Jonathan Umbel’s two successful restaurants, Hook and Tacklebox (or what a friend of GM calls, respectively, “Fish” and “Lobster”).

Eighteen years ago, the Tacklebox space was occupied by the dearly beloved Georgetown Bagelry. This bagel shop opened up shop on M St. in the 1980s. It stayed open here until 2007 (or maybe 2008, GM can’t quite remember). True devotees can still get their Georgetown Bagel fix at the remaining Bethesda location. (GM also thinks he heard once that Booeymonger carried them too, but he’s not certain about that).

Next door, it appears that in 1993 the space was occupied by an electronics store and a jewelers. These stores were eventually replaced by Cilantro, a Spanish tapas restaurant. Cilantro itself closed up shop in 2007 to make room for Hook.

A while back, Jonathan Umbel floated the idea to purchase the cigar store next to Tacklebox and turn it into a high end butcher. The plans for the property sale fell through and Umbel gave up on the idea. Of course, after the recent fire, Hook and Tacklebox are out of commission indefinitely. So Umbel obviously has other things to worry about than further expansion. Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Q

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This week on not so long ago, GM visits just one small storefront in the upper Wisconsin Ave. stretch. Nowadays it houses Rooms With a View, a homewares shop. Eighteen years ago it housed Hatum Valet.

Hatum Valet was a dry cleaner/cobbler. It appears that at some point Hatum Valet moved up to 1800 Wisconsin and changed its name to Sky Valet (or Sky Shoes). The new shop seems to have become really more of a straight shoe store, whereas Hatum Valet was really more of a shoe repairer.

What’s also interesting about comparing the two shots is just how much ivy has grown on the adjacent buildings since 1993. Actually, the ivy (and Rooms with a View) was already there in 2004, according to this DDOT photo:

That stuff can be murder on siding. GM hopes the owners are checking for leaks! Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: 31st and M

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM swings by 31st and M. Nowadays, the stretch in question houses L’Occitane, Qi Spa, and P & C Fine Arts.

In 1993, none of those stores were open. GM couldn’t figure out what the store on the left is. There’s no sign large enough to be able to read on the old photograph. Anyone remember?

To the right is the Marquis de Rochambeau. Described by the Washington Post as the “hottest spot in town” and the “last refuge of the clever”, the Marquis de Rochambeau was a French cabaret run by Max De Lafayette. According to one account:

This French-style cabaret looks like a cross between a French bordello and a yard sale. The walls are swagged and draped, the French paintings hang in gilded frames. The Marquis has live entertainment until 2:30 am on Friday and Saturday (with a $5 cover), until 1:30 am weekdays. The live entertainment on the first floor features European music, an imported chanteuse de maison, and international dancing. The second floor is a haven for American oldies and showtunes. Champagne flows freely here–on Tuesday and Wednesday, ladies’ nights, it is free. Some people find this place zany and decadent; others want to go home and shower.

Sounds like a fun place.

It seems like the restaurant closed sometime around 1999.

Here are the static photos: Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: M and TJ

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM stops by M and Thomas Jefferson Streets. Today on the north side of the street there is Sephora, a cosmetics store, Kate Spade, a handbag and apparel store, and Blue Mercury, another cosmetics store. These are square in the middle of the young-women-shopping market that has steadily grown in Georgetown over the years.

But 18 years ago the scene was different. Where Sephora now stands once stood Georgetown Seafood Grill. It was a laid back seafood restaurant owned by Capital Restaurant Concepts, the name behind other similarly laid back restaurants J.Pauls and Old Glory, among others. In 1997, four years after this photo was taken, Anthony Lanier and EastBanc bought out the building. After renovations, Sephora moved in.

There was another restaurant down on 19th and M called Georgetown Seafood and Grill, which renamed itself “Fin”. GM doesn’t know if there was a connection, but either way, it’s closed.

Next to Georgetown Seafood Grill was Rosey Cross. From what GM can determine, it was a new age type store. From one account, it was originally called “Crystals”. GM tried to research more into the store, but when you Google “Rosey Cross” and “Georgetown”, you get tons of conspiracy websites trying to try Rosicrucianism  with the Jesuits, and the Illuminati, or something. But GM has said to much already…

It looks like Rosey Cross didn’t last too much longer after this photo was taken. By 2004, at the latest, Kate Spade was in this spot.

Next over was Eyetech, an eyeglass store. GM couldn’t find anything particularly interesting about this store. By 2004, Blue Mercury was already there.

There is also a slight part of the building that is currently housing Miss Saigon. GM can’t make out what the awning says, but it clearly wasn’t Miss Saigon. Anyone remember?

Here are the static shots: Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: M and Wisconsin

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM swings back down to M St. A new feature this week, GM realized that the two of his 1993 photos were of side-by-side. So he lined them up in a cheap panoramic and took two new matching shots. That way you can see a much bigger chunk of this block. The drawback is that the photo isn’t as clear, but click the photos below to see a higher resolution shot of each.

Left to right nowadays, there is Tommy Hilfiger, True Religion Jeans, Georgetown Gallery Souvenirs, and Barbour. Eighteen years ago the scene was a lot different, although not entirely.

First of the left was the Market Home Furnishings, which apparently carried sofas, mattresses, futons, and the like. The Tommy store only opened a few years ago, and for the life of him, GM can’t remember what was in the space before Tommy Hilfiger was there. Does anyone remember? (By the way, it looks like that Tommy Hilfiger store is closing and will be replaced by an Athleta store). There’s still a sofa, mattress, futon, etc. store in Georgetown; it’s up on Wisconsin by Reservoir.

Next to the right was a store called “Racquet and Jog”. The store, apparently, sold tennis and running equipment. There is another store of the same name in Rockville right now. There’s also one in Tyler, Texas. It seems unlikely that they were related, but you never know. GM knows that by at least 2004, this space was occupied by a clothing store called LVLX.

Next over was the exact same store that is there now (although under a slightly different name): the Gallery of Georgetown (now it’s the Georgetown Gallery). Eighteen years ago it advertised jewelry, African art and gifts. Nowadays it advertises African art, luggage, t-shirts, and beads. It’s probably among the top five longest surviving M St. business in Georgetown.

Finally, the last to the right was a Foot Locker. The Footlocker was open as late as 2004. Barbour only moved in last year, replacing Richey & Co.

Oddly enough, in the 18 years since this photo was taken, Georgetown went through a dip in athletic goods stores. Just five years ago there was only the Georgetown Running Co. to buy genuine athletic gear. Now we have Lululemon, City Sports, and soon will have an Athleta. None of those have the charm of Racquette and Jog, perhaps, but it’s sure nice to be able to pick up a set of tennis balls in Georgetown.

Click the photos below to get a higher resolution shot: Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: 31st and M

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM picks up the music store thread from a couple weeks ago and takes a look at M and 31st. Now the north side of this block of dominated by Urban Outfitters. In 1993, where Urban Outfitters is now, a Sam Goody stood.

Sam Goody was a national music retailer. GM remembers going to one up in Connecticut where he grew up. It was your typical over-priced bloated mall-based music store that was absolutely torpedoed by the .mp3. GM’s not sure when the Georgetown location closed, but he believes that Urban Outfitters was open as early as 1997.

Where Steve Madden now is, there appears to be a sign that begins with “EARI”. GM has no idea what that was. Anyone remember?

Another interesting piece of street furniture in the old pictures is the old trash bin. It wasn’t terribly attractive, and the new black cast iron ones are much better. Continue reading

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Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and P

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This week on Not So Long Ago, GM heads up Wisconsin Ave. a smidge to the late great Commander Salamander. The space is sadly empty, but from 1979 until the end of 2010, Commander Salamander was a favorite of DC-area teens looking to break the mold (or at least, jump into another less common mold).

The 1993 picture shows Commander Salamander about halfway through its life. What GM didn’t realize is that Commander Salamander used to occupy only half the space. The other half was occupied by a store called Bootlegger. It was apparently a shoe store and was open as late as 1998. GM’s not sure when it closed. Continue reading

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