Target is a “soul stealer” which lacks “flavor”

M.V. Jantzen

Target, Columbia Heights.

Now reading: NPR’s “Big-Box Retailers Move To Smaller Stores In Cities“, which touches on both Walmart’s controversial decision to come to D.C. and the impact such retailers have had on neighborhoods like mine:

Outside the Columbia Heights Target, in a neighborhood of century-old rowhouses, there are mixed opinions about this contemporary attempt at an urban big-box.

Some people love the energy that the new businesses have created.

“It makes you want to come out and spend a little money if you don’t have any anyway,” says Washington native Niecy Stevens, whose car was parked at the curb in front of the store. “So, it brings people together, I guess.”

But neighborhood resident Anne Bouie, who lives nearby, says she is “conflicted.”

“I love Target; I’m not going to lie,” she says.” I’m in there every week. But they’re soul stealers from communities like these. … I mean, look at this. Does this have any spin, any flavor, any style by any criteria?”

Lined up Behind IHOP’s Velvet Rope

This picture was taken at 9am this morning, when people were already in line for free pancakes from the new IHOP in DCUSA. There were jugglers, clowns, balloon artists and what looked like a giant, stuffed pancake strolling down Irving street, entertaining the crowd, who started chanting “Pancake, pancake!” during the opening ceremony, which featured members of the City Council and Mayor Adrian Fenty. Council Chair-elect Kwame Brown tweeted this amazing photograph of the Mayor, Council member Jim Graham and himself wearing blue IHOP cardigans. What a festive way to start the day, in Columbia Heights.

Graham on Ellwood Thompson’s: “Maybe there will be a miracle”

The sign in the window at DCUSA, with the "opening" date covered in tape.

Update: Councilmember Graham called me again, after making a phone call of his own: “The Owner of DCUSA confirms they are in default four times, to the tune of a million dollars.”

Earlier today, I posted about Councilmember Jim Graham and Ellwood Thompson’s not being on the same page with regards to DCUSA; Graham just called me and he’s not backing down from what he told Lydia DePillis over at the City Paper.

Speaking of “not backing down”, I asked him to clarify this much blogged-about quote: “they’re going to pay for this very bad decision.”

He replied, “That is not the best language to describe it…the fact of the matter is, there are financial obligations that result from this kind of default. That’s the information I have from people at DCUSA. As recently as just the other day, they indicated they were going to pursue their legal options. We were lead on. All manner of agreements were signed. Now they have to abide by them. There are consequences to not doing that.”

But the owner of Ellwood Thompson’s, Richard Hood, told TBD that “I don’t know why Jim Graham is saying this. We are not in default. We continue to work with the landlord to make this happen”.

Graham responded: “That does not comport with the information that I have from DCUSA ownership. If they’re continuing to try and work it out then that’s fine, but I’m going on the information that I have. I have been very involved in this. I have asked continuously what’s going on.

“If Ellwood Thompson’s overcomes this, that’s fine, but if they don’t, I know others are being actively approached at this point, which would suggest to me that the deal is in default.”

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Jim Graham and Ellwood Thompson: Not on the same page.

William Beutler

Artist's rendition of what the legendary DCUSA Ellwood's might have looked like...

Is Ellwood Thompson’s coming to DCUSA or isn’t it? The City Paper reported:

According to Councilmember Jim Graham, the Richmond-based organic food store recently ended its two-year flirtation with the DCUSA location–and will lose about a million dollars in breaking its agreements.

But then TBD had this statement from the owner of the Richmond-chain:

Richmond-based organic grocer Ellwood Thompson’s has not abandoned its plans to open a store at the DCUSA retail complex in Columbia Heights, according to company owner Richard Hood…”I don’t know why Jim Graham is saying this. We are not in default. We continue to work with the landlord to make this happen,” Hood said.

I called my Councilmember, Jim Graham and emailed two of his staffers to find out more but his office has not responded to my inquiries. Like many of my neighbors, I felt relief earlier today, when it seemed like this never-ending saga finally had a (any!) resolution. I should’ve realized that when it comes to Ellwood Thompson’s and DCUSA, any pronouncement should be taken with a lot of salt– if only I had a grocery store on my block, from which to buy it.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?


Z Burger in Glover Park.

I live in Columbia Heights. I end up at DCUSA, or what I call the “vertical strip mall“, almost daily. I was overjoyed that the Target within it expanded their grocery section because I avoid the Giant supermarket near 14th and Park unless it’s an emergency; the last time I was there, it was during a blizzard and the infamously-long lines stretched to the back of the store– and then wrapped around it.

I’ve dined at almost every establishment within a block of the Metro except for the ones that weren’t vegetarian-friendly. I write all of this to say that I know the commercial, congested two-block strip of Columbia Heights between where I live and the historic, Tivoli Theatre, and I know it well. And that is why I am concomitantly happy and annoyed that Prince of Petworth announced the impending arrival of Z Burger, a local chain currently serving Tenleytown and Glover Park. Continue reading

Target’s New Produce Section


…in Columbia Heights. They had everything from individually-wrapped baking potatoes to Target-brand Naan-bread. I wasn’t sure what to expect (I shop at this Target weekly, if not more frequently) but I was surprised by the items they now carried. Other shoppers were discussing how the prices measured up to Giant and Trader Joe’s. I saw juices and two-bite brownies like the ones sold at Whole Foods. It feels like an ambitious effort.

SportsZone is Coming to Columbia Heights


Sheeds/Air Force 1s. SportsZone is known for sneakers.

DC USA, the crowning retail establishment of gentrification-central (Columbia Heights), is about to get another new business (finally). Prince of Petworth has the scoop:

I’ve just learned that the newest tenant coming to DC USA will be a SportsZone. They are a sports and apparel company with locations in MD, VA and DC. They’ll be located between the Lane Bryant and Staples on the 14th St, NW side. They are looking to open by the end of Nov.

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