When Early Gentrifiers Can’t Afford to Stay

Michael Feagans / Flickr

Love Cafe is closing on Jan. 29 after nine years on U Street.

Businesses move to transitional neighborhoods because space is cheap and there’s potential for future growth. But sometimes the economic success of these neighborhoods leads to the demise of the early gentrifiers.

Love Cafe opened at 15th and U Street, NW in 2003, two years before Busboys and Poets moved into the corridor and signaled rapid change in the community. This week, Love Cafe owner Warren Brown announced he’s closing Jan. 29 because rent has gotten too high. H Street Playhouse on H Street, NE is closing moving after it opened along the corridor in 2002, ahead of the trendy bars, restaurants and high rents.

Of course, some businesses that moved into neighborhoods at the beginning stages of gentrification do remain. They could be at an advantage because they got their feet in the door early. But gentrification happens in stages, and just like the longtime businesses that successfully weather gentrification, newer businesses also have to keep adapting to neighborhood changes in order to survive.

  • aka Molkas

    This is not surprising at all! For years I have been saying the same thing.  There are several businesses that have closed along 14th for the same reason and in fact just across the entire city.  Several years ago a neighbor opened a business in what is now called Barracks Road and told me his monthly rent was $7000!!! truly ridiculous if you think of all the wages (it was a restaurant) and expenses you have to pay in order to keep the business running.  He eventually had to close.  As long as property owners continue to believe that people will be willing to pay exorbitant amounts for a cupcake or a sandwich they will continue to ask those prices.

    I personally never went to LOVE, in fact one time I wanted to buy a cake and almost collapsed when I saw the $36 tag – and that was about 4 years ago.  Thank you but no thank you, I’ll get my cake at Giant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Pomeroy/1030760845 Scott Pomeroy

    I wouldn’t call Love Cafe, part of the first wave of gentrification of U Street, that started in the late 80′s, continued in 90′s with new nightlife and retail, advertised as the “New U”.  By 2003, Cakelove had been open for a while when they opened Lovecafe and while there was a rapid new wave of business activity as the city came out of receivership under Williams first administration, it was hardly the first wave for the area.  By the time Busboy’s and Poets came in 2005, it was at the end of that wave.

    That said, the next big wave is occurring now as we see the swells building pressure with 2500+ new units planned or in construction for 14th & U over the next few years, that with it is bringing a turnover of leases and the businesses that were part of the last wave.