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"Indie DC"


Andelman
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I am not sure if the question has been discussed before, but I have been thinking a lot about it since I returned from a recent trip to NYC. It seems like the DC Metro has a certain lack of small, family owned food establishments. I am thinking outside the realm of restaurants here. It seems as though in NYC (and Philadelphia) there are a growing number of interesting food businesses popping up left and right. Bakeries, cupacke places, chocolatiers, coffee shops, etc, etc....Why doesnt this happen more in DC? Is it the demographic, the rent prices? Anyway, I just am curious as to why people think this may be. Would DC benefit from a place like Reading Terminal Market (in Philadelphia) or Chelsea Market in NYC? A place where many small food business can share one collective roof. I think there are a large number of talented food professionals in the DC area that would love to own their own small, independent businesses. Anyway, I am interested to hear what other people have to say about this subject. Thanks.

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I'm a little unclear on the concept here. Every time I go to visit my parents in suburban Atlanta my first instinct upon returning home to downtown DC is to drop to my knees, kiss the scummy sidewalks of Mt. Pleasant and thank the Good Lord that I do not have to eat in DeKalb County, Georgia (though they do have one great international market there).

I can't comment vs. NYC or Philly in any great detail, but Murky Coffee? Showbox Bakery? Busboys and Poets? Hellers? Dos Gringos, Grapelegs, Chez Hareg (more on them, later), the ethnic grocery stores, Eastern Market, and the various bakers, patissiers and family farmers who hit the city at least once a week for the markets? And yourself, of course. We ain't no culinary Valhala, perhaps, but I think we do OK.

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Of course I dont think of DC as some sort of culinary wasteland, there are many, many great establishments in this area. Maybe it is the mentality of the food consumer. I think that more people in this area are inclined to do the "one-stop shop", rather than use different places for their culinary needs. Of course I am preaching to the choir here, as most people that participate on DR.com probably think outside of the one-stop shop. Yes, the farmers markets are great, but I was thinking of more permanent joints. I understand how difficult it is to find "small" retail space in this area, and I have had numerous people approach me about renting out kitchen space in my shop. I just think there are a lot of folks out there who manufacture great products that have no way to market/sell them outside of the farmers markets. Maybe there isnt the market here, like there is in NYC and PHL, I dont know...

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Certainly NYC has a population density advantage that makes it easier to for small establishments to survive. Imagine the advantage of having 20,000 people living within 500 yards your shop -- and 10 million people within driving distance. But when I think of Manhattan, I think of one interchangeable deli after another and how bad the place can be if you don't know where you're going.

That being said, I'd be happy to see more independent establishments here so I guess we can agree on that.

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Would DC benefit from a place like Reading Terminal Market (in Philadelphia)
I am also not sure about the question that is being asked, but in response, to this one point, YES!

Go downstairs in Union Station and weep. When renovating such a wonderful building, why did the Shopping Mall become a model for the subterranean level?

Go to Eastern Market and when it comes to the produce stands, ice cream and candy, sniff. I would love to clear out most of the vendors and set up stalls for local farmers/producers in their place. Oh, and have a real, good bakery right next door.

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Would DC benefit from a place like Reading Terminal Market (in Philadelphia) or Chelsea Market in NYC?

Of course, it depends on who in DC you are talking about and what you mean by "benefit." Would you propose that tax dollars be used to produce such a venue? If so, I don't think it would be a benefit to those residents who are forced to pay taxes but don't care about such a marketplace.

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Of course, it depends on who in DC you are talking about and what you mean by "benefit." Would you propose that tax dollars be used to produce such a venue? If so, I don't think it would be a benefit to those residents who are forced to pay taxes but don't care about such a marketplace.

I am not sure where the funding came from for Reading Terminal or Chelsea Market. I agree with you that residents probably would not want to pay taxes for such a venue. I was thinking more in the private sector. I realize it is a total pipe dream to have something of this nature, but I just wish there was an avenue for more people (like myself) to peddle their wares. Almost everyday I drive by a stretch of empty storefronts on Wilson Blvd near the Clarendon metro. I guarantee those spots will be filled by either a chain, bank, Sprint store, etc., etc...Believe me, I know it all comes down to finances, but wouldnt we all love to see some small, independently owned stores (not just food...) in those spaces. I think most residents in Arlington would.

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Go downstairs in Union Station and weep. When renovating such a wonderful building, why did the Shopping Mall become a model for the subterranean level?
While the shopping-mall-ization of Union Station is regrettable to some extent, it was probably that or tear it down, which I think we can agree would have been worse.
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Of course, it depends on who in DC you are talking about and what you mean by "benefit." Would you propose that tax dollars be used to produce such a venue? If so, I don't think it would be a benefit to those residents who are forced to pay taxes but don't care about such a marketplace.

Specious argument. There are many residents who don't particularly care about schools, drug counselling, parking near the new stadium, the existing Eastern Market, the Georgetown Waterfront etc. whose tax dollars go to fund them.

Personally, I think the developers who are making megabucks fucking up my neighborhood with Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (yes, I would rather have the Vietnamese gorcery store than the Target) should have been forced to set aside space for independent businesses (and give it away free if needed). Urban areas need to be vibrant and unique, good city planning takes that into account.

Re: Union Station, I suspect it would never have been torn down -- it was still a working train station of modest grandeur. But again, someone made millions on a de-facto subsidy and was asked to give nothing back in return.

As with Verizon Center.

And the Ballpark.

And infinitum....

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Re: Union Station, I suspect it would never have been torn down -- it was still a working train station of modest grandeur.
Um, no it wasn't. When they finally closed the ill-conceived "National Visitors Center" in 1978, much of the building was closed, and it had fallen into such a state of decay by 1981 that the entire building was sealed off. The train station at that point was basically a huge wooden shed behind the building. It sat in that state for three or four years, as I recall, before they started renovations. If the "public-private partnership" hadn't been developed, the Burnham jewel would almost certainly have been torn down.
But again, someone made millions on a de-facto subsidy and was asked to give nothing back in return.

As with Verizon Center.

And the Ballpark.

And infinitum....

But I agree with the rest of what you say.
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Personally, I think the developers who are making megabucks fucking up my neighborhood with Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (yes, I would rather have the Vietnamese gorcery store than the Target) should have been forced to set aside space for independent businesses (and give it away free if needed). Urban areas need to be vibrant and unique, good city planning takes that into account.
Well, we could try to squeeze all of you anti-corporate, anti-chain, anti-big box folks into Takoma Park. It's derided as too crunchy granola by many, but so far we do not miss the Best Buy and McDonald's ridden city of Rockville one little bit. But, I suspect that the rents, like the property taxes, are fairly high.
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Nope. It's up north somewhere, right? :o
Poolesville is west of DC, out River Road way, about twenty miles. I had never been there before last summer, when I went out to visit Bob's Bikes. I couldn't believe the place. It looks much as it must have looked in 1950, except with modern cars. Twenty miles from DC. No malls, no sprawl, no McMansions, no Burger King. I don't know how they managed it.
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Specious argument. There are many residents who don't particularly care about schools, drug counselling, parking near the new stadium, the existing Eastern Market, the Georgetown Waterfront etc. whose tax dollars go to fund them.

Exactly. Are these public expenditures a "benefit" to DC? It depends on who you ask is all I'm saying.

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Go to Eastern Market and when it comes to the produce stands, ice cream and candy, sniff. I would love to clear out most of the vendors and set up stalls for local farmers/producers in their place. Oh, and have a real, good bakery right next door.
Those are independent vendors, though, so far as I know. Some people own multiple stalls and have more power than others. And, from what I gather, the politics of the way the entire place (plus flea market) are run is a huge can of worms. The bakery is okay and the neighborhood franchise of Marvelous Market is right next door. There is also an independent gourmet store across the street from the market.

I'm okay with greengrocers bringing produce in from Florida Ave or elsewhere who are local independent businesspeople. There are some growers on the weekend. Others are bringing in someone else's produce. I'm really not sure what you want here.

Market Poultry and Union Meat are my go-to places for certain items that I can't get or won't buy elsewhere. Canales has several stalls with products I go there specifically to buy. I can usually buy good fish at the fishmonger. The cheese stand has some good cheese, though the man who is often working is kind of cranky.

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Poolesville is west of DC, out River Road way, about twenty miles. I had never been there before last summer, when I went out to visit Bob's Bikes. I couldn't believe the place. It looks much as it must have looked in 1950, except with modern cars. Twenty miles from DC. No malls, no sprawl, no McMansions, no Burger King. I don't know how they managed it.

Answer: moratorium on expanding public water and sewer. There are plenty of semi-McMansions, but they're not too hideous, and are hidden off the main drag.

Foodwise, look more closely and you'll see that the main dining venues in Poolesville are McDonald's and Subway, with local eateries Bassett's and L'Nora no great prize. Probably just like those other small towns that I don't visit on a weekly basis. There are plenty of semi-McMansions, but they're not too hideous, and are hidden off the main drag. No, the small-town pleasures of Poolesville are in the hardware store, the bike shop, the tack shop, the old frame store, and the local gym...but not the dining.

I think the out-of-the-way scene is more interesting in historic Frederick, or old-town Manassas, where a few indie restaurants actually seem to have some aspirations.

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No, the small-town pleasures of Poolesville are in the hardware store, the bike shop, the tack shop, the old frame store, and the local gym...but not the dining.

Don't forget about Homestead Farm, in Poolesville. Where you can pick strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches and apples. And buy their homegrown tomatoes and squash. And where you can let your kid feed cracked corn to goats, chickens, sheep and a pig or two.

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I have also thought that a Reading Terminal Market type place in downtown DC would be great. However, I would imagine that a lot of Readings business is weekend traffic and downtown DC on the weekends is basically tourists while many DC office workers have fled to the burbs...despite the increase of population downtown, with real estate prices what they are, would there be enough business for it to be viable. Does anyone have a sense of what Philly's city population is versus burbs and how that effects business at Reading Terminal Market?

As for Eastern Market, while the veggie stands inside are average at best, during the spring, summer, and fall, produce vendors outside (esp. on Saturdays) are filled with local produce. Otherwise, I think the meat, fish, and deli vendors are far superior to what you can get at the local supermarkets, esp. in terms of price, quality, knowing the vendor, being in the community etc. etc.

For better or for worse, there are plans to redevelop the Florida Ave Market, and it would be cool if it became more of a retail destination than a wholesale destination as it is now. Merely saying this as an observation, but I've also noticed that the demographic of shoppers at Florida Ave Market tends to be more native DC types than transplanted DC types.

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Philly statistics. It's a much bigger city than DC - 1,517,550 people.

Misleading stat: you'd have to double DC's physical size to encompass the land mass Filthydelphia claims (72 sq. mi vs 132 sq. mi.). FWIW, the populations of the metro areas are about the same.

I would take issue with the idea that most people in downtown DC on weekends are tourists. I'll bet the vast majority of them are, in fact local DC kids out and about on their day off (where are we gonna go for fun, Gaithersburg? :o )or are people in from the 'burbs for a day in Georgetown or the MCI Center and the Wizards or the Convention Center for the boat show.

Whether or not they'd add an hour at a Reading Terminal-type installation is another question.

For better or for worse, there are plans to redevelop the Florida Ave Market, and it would be cool if it became more of a retail destination than a wholesale destination as it is now. Merely saying this as an observation, but I've also noticed that the demographic of shoppers at Florida Ave Market tends to be more native DC types than transplanted DC types.

I think its a safe assumption that the the redevelopment of the Florida Avenue Market will destroy it, and it will be a huge loss. I'm not sure if by "native DC types" you mean African American or if my kids have been hanging out there, (and don't call me no "transplant") but its destruction at the hands of a rapacious developer will be a loss for all who enjoy parts of the pig traditionally identified with soul food, and buying excellent greens at a non-ludicrous (ie Dupont Farmers Market) price per pound. Also, Muslims and Kosher Jews. And fans of Litteri's Italian offerings. And...sigh.

Fodder for another thread.

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I think its a safe assumption that the the redevelopment of the Florida Avenue Market will destroy it, and it will be a huge loss...its destruction at the hands of a rapacious developer will be a loss for all who enjoy parts of the pig traditionally identified with soul food, and buying excellent greens at a non-ludicrous (ie Dupont Farmers Market) price per pound.
I was with you until this. Ouch! Yes, I go to Giant to pay 79 cents a pound for my collards and my beef grazed grasses far, far away, but on the occasions when I've helped close down the market, I saw only one person drive out in a BMW-genre car and she wasn't a farmer.

But, yes, there are other threads for this discussion.

* * *

N.B. Re Eastern Market: I specifically and pointedly referred only to produce, ice cream and candy when complaining about the vendors indoors because it's a good place to buy meat, poultry and fish. You can get capons fresh, not previously frozen if you call in advance. As for produce outdoors on weekends, I've written about it before in a thread devoted to the Eastern Market, mentioning not only range of quality (poor to excellent), but the fact that some drive down from Baltimore because D.C. residents will pay more than Baltimore folk do.

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I was with you until this. Ouch! Yes, I go to Giant to pay 79 cents a pound for my collards and my beef grazed grasses far, far away, but on the occasions when I've helped close down the market, I saw only one person drive out in a BMW-genre car and she wasn't a farmer.

But, yes, there are other threads for this discussion.

* * *

N.B. Re Eastern Market: I specifically and pointedly referred only to produce, ice cream and candy when complaining about the vendors indoors because it's a good place to buy meat, poultry and fish.

Not to be contentious, but you mentioned clearing out of "most of the vendors" to bring in more local produce. IIRC, there are two produce stalls and one bakery inside, with no realistic way of making the space devoted to the market bigger. Getting rid of most of the vendors would have to go beyond removing those 3 businesses and involve replacing businesses that are not produce or ice cream/candy. Perhaps you didn't really mean the comment to be that expansive. I don't know. When I read it, I was not sure how to reconcile the produce/ice cream issue with getting rid of most of the vendors. If the issue is restricted to those three, "most of" wouldn't be very much.
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In my original post, I am by no means suggesting we replace existing sites (i.e. Eastern Market) with new vendors. I think Eastern Market is a good, small market. Those establishments have been there for many years and they are what they are. My comment about have a place like Reading Terminal in DC was more about the fact that it would be a good avenue to support new, small, local businesses.

Maybe DC Metro consumers prefer not to support these small businesses and instead flock to the chains, large supermarkets (i.e. Wegmans) out of convenience. Is there a need/want in this area for more small businesses? What are we missing (food-wise)? I have lived in DC/Virginia my whole life, so I am by no means an "outsider". I just think the growth for these indie businesses is slow compared to other major metropolitan areas. Just my $.02..

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Specious argument. There are many residents who don't particularly care about schools, drug counselling, parking near the new stadium, the existing Eastern Market, the Georgetown Waterfront etc. whose tax dollars go to fund them.

Personally, I think the developers who are making megabucks fucking up my neighborhood with Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (yes, I would rather have the Vietnamese gorcery store than the Target) should have been forced to set aside space for independent businesses (and give it away free if needed). Urban areas need to be vibrant and unique, good city planning takes that into account.

Re: Union Station, I suspect it would never have been torn down -- it was still a working train station of modest grandeur. But again, someone made millions on a de-facto subsidy and was asked to give nothing back in return.

As with Verizon Center.

And the Ballpark.

And infinitum....

i do not disagree with any of the points you make. however, the verizon center should not be included in that same discussion. while there were some subsidies it was paid for almost entirely out of the owner's pocket. the last sports facility for any of the four major sports to be built by the owner rather than a municipality. i think that we would all agree that the incredible revitalization of the penn quarter was worth the tax breaks the city gave to abe pollin and the verizon center.

for not holding the city hostage until a stadium was built, for building the verizon center with his own money, and for sparking a historically significant neighborhood turn-around, i think 7th street ought to be renamed abe pollin avenue.

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Where in the city is there a space large enough for a Reading Market type of place that is accessible (and I mean in more ways than just metro-accessible - I mean a place that people will go) and has other things going on around it where the cost to redvelop the land wouldn't be sky high? Taking a space like a parcel of the old convention center site would be great, but that land is worth way too much money.

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i do not disagree with any of the points you make. however, the verizon center should not be included in that same discussion. while there were some subsidies it was paid for almost entirely out of the owner's pocket. the last sports facility for any of the four major sports to be built by the owner rather than a municipality. i think that we would all agree that the incredible revitalization of the penn quarter was worth the tax breaks the city gave to abe pollin and the verizon center.

for not holding the city hostage until a stadium was built, for building the verizon center with his own money, and for sparking a historically significant neighborhood turn-around, i think 7th street ought to be renamed abe pollin avenue.

Quite right, I should have remembered. I will drink a toast to Abe Pollin tonight.

Where in the city is there a space large enough for a Reading Market type of place that is accessible (and I mean in more ways than just metro-accessible - I mean a place that people will go) and has other things going on around it where the cost to redvelop the land wouldn't be sky high? Taking a space like a parcel of the old convention center site would be great, but that land is worth way too much money.

How about the old Woodward and Lothrop Building?

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Where in the city is there a space large enough for a Reading Market type of place that is accessible (and I mean in more ways than just metro-accessible - I mean a place that people will go) and has other things going on around it where the cost to redvelop the land wouldn't be sky high? Taking a space like a parcel of the old convention center site would be great, but that land is worth way too much money.

Shaw? Probably too expensive, now..Maybe an old warehouse near to new ballpark? I dont think you really need too much space for a great venue. There is a small, indoor market in Ardmore (suburb of Philadelphia) that is open year round. It is probably about the size of the indoor pavillion at Eastern Market. The have a great Amish bakery, cheesemonger, coffee, bread, etc....I believe something like that would work in the suburbs here as well. Anyone want to invest in some space in Arlington? :o

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Where in the city is there a space large enough for a Reading Market type of place that is accessible (and I mean in more ways than just metro-accessible - I mean a place that people will go) and has other things going on around it where the cost to redvelop the land wouldn't be sky high? Taking a space like a parcel of the old convention center site would be great, but that land is worth way too much money.
Could something like that be built near where the new stadium is going in on South Capitol?
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Soon to be Madame Tussauds (CLICK).

Are you kidding me.....Downtown is starting to look more and more like Times Square every year....I am all for revitalization of a once underutilized area of the district, but its a shame that a historic, landmark building of DC's past will be turned into a tourist trap. Ugh.

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There is a small, indoor market in Ardmore (suburb of Philadelphia) that is open year round. It is probably about the size of the indoor pavillion at Eastern Market. The have a great Amish bakery, cheesemonger, coffee, bread, etc....I believe something like that would work in the suburbs here as well.
I haven't been to that in years, but I remember when it was new. That seems to me more like a department store gourmet space (like the downstairs at Marshall Field in Chicago) than an urban market. That might just be me and my memory, though. I remember that area from my childhood--I used to go to the dentist right there and to the corner drugstore soda fountain afterwards. My aunt always took me to shop at Suburban Square. I was fascinated by the changes in the area as I got older. (My grandfather's house--15 E Spring Ave.-- is the oldest house in Ardmore.)
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Personally, I think the developers who are making megabucks fucking up my neighborhood with Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (yes, I would rather have the Vietnamese gorcery store than the Target) should have been forced to set aside space for independent businesses (and give it away free if needed).
Take this to its logical conclusion.
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For those of you who have a few minutes to delve into this subject a bit more, Richard Layman, who is an historic preservation and urban revitalization advocate here in DC, has an excellent blog dealing with this exact subject, and focuses, on occasion, on restaurants.

Here is one about H Street, NE, to get you started. Any blogger who features a Wayne Thiebaud painting in an article about revitilization is ok in my book.

He also maintains a site about the Capital City Market (aka Florida Market).

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