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