Tuesday, June 18, 2013

? of the Day: "Is there anything on Congress Heights' Main Street worth saving?"

Is this enough?
In yesterday's editorial I pondered the District's hopes that the relocation of the Coast Guard HQ to the Saint Elizabeths West Campus would have a positive economic benefit to small businesses on MLK Avenue in Congress Heights. I had some doubts that a significant number of those 14,000+ Coast Guard employees would come come outside of the gates and engage the local small businesses for their food and shopping needs. Not because they were opposed to doing so, but because the current options on our main street are somewhat "limiting" to put it kindly. I highlighted my own limited engagement of Congress Heights businesses despite living in the neighborhood for six years. Judging from the comments to my post it seems I wasn't alone in taking my money (and my business) outside of Congress Heights.

One resident says of her Congress Heights shopping experience:
"I have lived in the 20032 zip code since 2004 and as of now the only places that I patronize is the dry cleaners on Albama, IHOP , Popeyes if I am STARVING and Giant when I need something last minute. I NEVER EVER go to any of the small stores on MLK. I used the gas station one time when I was on Empty and I was disgusted."
She was not alone, another commenter weighed in on the atmosphere of some of the shops and why they take their spending dollars elsewhere:
"I'm guilty of taking my money elsewhere as well. I purposefully don't patronage carryouts and corner stores because I want them to go away. Most of them tend to be shady establishments with shady business practices."
One resident points to issues with accessibility and options as deciding factors to why they are not patronizing Congress Heights businesses more often:
"I really like Mama's Kitchen and MLK Deli has some good food (I had their chicken salad sandwich and slice of cake), but they close early on weekdays and are closed ALL weekends (what?). Our Popeyes doesn't even sell the complete menu (cole slaw?), so if I ever want that I'll drive down to South Capitol and get it in P.G. County. I've not ventured into any of the other places in the over two years I've lived here for the same reasons other's have mentioned above."
Granted, these few comments can't reflect the opinion of everyone in Congress Heights and in Ward 8. They are but a small selection of opinions and experiences for those who shop in the discount stores, carryouts, and cell phone carries that line the corridor so I am asking,

"Is there anything on Congress Heights' Main Street worth saving?"

What have your experience been with the small businesses on the Congress Heights portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE? What small businesses would you like to see stay and expand? What stores would you like to see close? What is your vision for Congress Heights main street? Is our commercial district just fine the way that it is now or is there room for improvement? If you think Congress Heights could use more retail or dining options what would you like to see? What is your opinion on the current state of the storefronts? Where are you doing the majority of your shopping right now?

I am really interested in hearing what you have to say, regardless of where you live. I think an honest dialogue of where Congress Heights is now can help residents, small businesses, property owners, developers and the DC government shape a more vibrant and economically diverse community for small businesses to thrive.

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Anonymous said...

That answer is easy NO!

the teej. said...

So I've lived in or around Congress Heights for most of my life. I've seen a lot of the changes in retail, for better and worse. I enjoyed the old Safeway, and have fond memories of going every Monday with my grandmother pulling me there in her little red wagon. But of course, now it's been closed down and taken over by a charter school. I do shop at the Giant, but only because it has a surprisingly large offering of gluten free products. Other than that and the hardware store on Lebaum, I'd only keep the Popeye's - and then, simply because the one on Naylor Road is so unacceptable.

For several years now, I've imagined purchasing or leasing the lovely brick building behind our Popeye's and converting it into a sit-down restaurant with a full bar and room upstairs for private events. Or turning that gas station near Poplar Point into a bar with outdoor seating and a stage for local bands to play. But alas, I don't have the money for that - yet.

I'd love a movie theater, some bars of varying atmospheres, ethnic food that doesn't come from a carryout with bulletproof glass, a friendlier and better-run gas station, a coffee shop/bakery/breakfast joint. Maybe a kids' clothing store, mechanic or wine shop would be nice too?

DaReslnt1 said...

I don't mind the Popeyes BUT the traffic pattern is terrible and they don't serve sweet tea (yes that's important to me...lol). People trying to get to the drive thru have NO PROBLEM blocking traffic to get to it.

The place that sells the cake is okay but there are always youth or young adults loitering right there, which makes me hesitant to frequent there.

DaReslnt1 said...

there's a hardware store on Lebaum? Man......I really have tunnel vision.

The Advoc8te said...

There is a place that sells cake? Where is this?!

Yeah the hardware store used to be in the same shopping mall as the Giant but they moved -- which may or may not have had something to do with an employee there attacking a blogger friend of mine on tape. :(

Anonymous said...

The changes will come the question is how fast and how much input will the community of Congress Heights have? The blueprint of bringing in government works to stabilize a community has worked well in many areas of DC. Take a look at "U" street or see how well NOMA (I that name) have done.

East Bank DC said...

I think we need to be careful not to vilify businesses that have remained in the community under very difficult circumstances, when no other businesses would invest in a place. Getting a gallon of milk in a dirty, overpriced store is better (in my opinion) than no corner store at all selling milk. (That is one concern I had about CM Barry's rants last year about Asian business owners. Groups need to develop bridges to thrive not cleavages.) I think these conversations become racialized too easily. Having said that, I agree that as places change it is important that businesses innovate and change with the demographics. I liked the Yes Market on Penn Ave SE and was unhappy when it switched to mainstream brands, but that is what sells still.

DaReslnt1 said...

@The Advoc8te Yup....MLK deli sells cake.

DaReslnt1 said...

No offense but Just because they have remained in the neighborhood does not mean that the neighborhood really benefits from it. The prices at these places are ridiculous.

I vaguely remember Barry's comments but the truth is that the Asians own most of the liquor stores and the take outs and those are the businesses where most people loiter which then leads to crimes of varying levels. These business owners (who do not live in the community) do nothing to prevent the nonsense that goes on outside their business.