Well it’s been about 2 years since my last post about this project. It is looking closer to getting done. The owner is hoping to open in March 2020. It is on the 1500 block of New Jersey Avenue NW.
Another item from the “pile”, this is another post 1968 riot for a Shaw business. Carl R. Webb owned Personality Studio and Gift Shop at 1618 7th Street NW, Washington, DC, in Shaw. Currently that same location is for some medical supply store.
The store experienced extensive glass damage and theft. It appears the owner Mr. Webb, an African American man, decided to remain after the riot but was planning on changing his shop into a Ben Franklin store, a kind of five and dime.
Pulling another document from the “pile”.
This is a post 1968 riot survey filed by Shaw Foo Chin, owner of Bill’s Laundry and Dry Cleaning at 1718 14th Street NW. I have no clue who Bill is. Currently there is a Peregrine Espresso coffee shop there.
Mr. Chin seemed to be okay. Rioters smashed his sign and stole his customers’ dry cleaning. Mr. Chin reported that he conducted his own repairs.
Okay the only reason why I know this was a black owned business is because of the survey the government conducted right after the April 1968 riots. They asked business and property owners in the riot corridors about their race and those who bothered responding, self reported their race. Or not.
Anyway, John Delaney owned a pool room at 1720 7th Street NW, where a post riot building currently sits. He did not suffer any fire damage. Instead he got a lot of broken glass and some things were stolen. It is unknown if he put “Soul Brother” on his shop to keep it from getting torched.
I don’t know if I’ll make this a series, like the 1957 Church Surveys, but who knows. My reason for posting this is to show that history is messy. The present is messy. There is no clean narrative where you can say, there were no black businesses in the Shaw ghetto. There were. There were plenty of black owned businesses, and some of them got hit by rioters. Some closed shop, and some, like Delaney thought Shaw was a perfectly fine neighborhood to do business.
Today, because it’s Friday and because we came up with lame excuses not to go to work, the Help and I are having a day date. We decided to start it off by having breakfast at Big Bear. It was great. I had french toast and a pot of English Breakfast tea as we sat inside with the Washington Post and the ambiance of the place.
I observed a family, where the father saw two separate friends/ acquaintances. He chatted with one, who came over and joked with the man’s elementary aged kids who were out of school for a thing.
Outside there were people. Some sat alone, tapping away at their laptops. Others gathered with a friend or two. And there were two workers fixing the paving thingamabobs.
About twelve years ago I stood in almost the exact space I was sitting at with my spouse. Big Bear in April 2007 was a possibility. I have a couple of pictures from an open house they held back then. The owners invited neighbors in to take a look at the place and nosh. Then, it was just going to be a coffee shop.
While I sat, I was comparing the feel of the place, then and now. Now it has a rhythm and a rep. It has a certain neighborhood vibe. I noticed parents, besides the one I mentioned earlier, with their kids on the way to school, pop in for a coffee. It just felt comfortable. It wasn’t full of promise or possible failure. It was, what it was.
The physical building and space has also changed. The patio is like part of the building, where people can sit (and battle bugs) under a canopy of grape vines behind walls of plants. The walls have art and shelves of booze (they make a good Old Fashioned) that weren’t there before. Oh, and there is a very tiny functional kitchen. The kitchen was very tiny in 2007, but not as functional.
Michelin has their guide out on-line and there are a few Shaw and Shaw adjacent places on the list.
Chercher– 1334 9th St NW. There are two locations. I’m assuming they are talking about the one in Shaw.
Hanumanh– Normally at 1604 7th St NW but they are undergoing some “unexpected” repairs. So they are on 14th St for now.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace– 1612 14th St NW.
Red Hen– 1822 1st St NW. Not in Shaw but in walking distance from our house, so Shaw adjacent as far as I’m concerned.
Royal– 501 Florida Ave NW. Another Shaw adjacent place but is actually Shaw adjacent. You can sit out side and look longingly across Florida Ave and see Shaw.
Supra– . Georgian food y’all. You can argue that it’s in Mt. Vernon.
Tiger Fork– 922 Blagden Alley, NW. We keep meaning to go here.
So there was that story about the Go-Go music being blasted at 7th and Florida. And more stories about Go-Go and the changing neighborhood, as if neighborhoods don’t change. Neighborhoods, cities, cultures change. There used to be jazz in Shaw. Good jazz, as in the kind you can dance to. But that kind of jazz is not something you’ll find listed at the Howard Theater, the only reason to go to the Dunbar Theater is to bank with Wells Fargo, and Bohemian Caverns is dark.
The jazz I like is gone and it probably won’t come back to Shaw.
I can’t blame gentrification. I can’t even blame the riots. What is to blame is what comes to all forms of popular and even niche genres, tastes and audiences change. What has befallen the jazz I like (I’m ignoring that other stuff that calls itself jazz) could easily fall upon Go-Go. The audience that grew up with it gets older, younger audiences are more into something else. The artists change, they may want to pursue or try new things. The market changes, as people stop buying CDs and CD players and Spotify/Pandora-rify their music. Also, I’ve been told Go-Go is best experienced live. For me, the artists changed and started creating undancable, unsingable jazz that decoupled itself from popular music, and younger audiences were getting into Rock-n-Roll.
So, for now, there is a phone store that sells Go-Go CDs on the side and blasts Go-Go music outside. Considering record stores do more closing than opening, I’m going to guess the money is in being a phone store. It’s unreasonable to expect the neighborhood to support one genre of music. If the neighborhood’s history of musical support is anything to go by, the best one can hope for is having a few buildings, maybe a street named after artists, and half-aszed attempts by city bureaucrats at music appreciation. Businesses are going to do what they need to do to stay in business. Customers are going to buy what they want to buy, in the format they want to purchase. And all of that will bring the end of Go-Go, not a neighbor who wants the music turned down.
I have had a change of heart about Sunset Liquors. The Help still holds feelings of hostility. These feelings are based on my view of this liquor store from the early days of the neighborhood when the last thing we needed were liquor stores.
So jump into my little time machine, and head back to oh, 2005-ish. The perceived to be patrons of the local liquor stores were alcoholics who would then drink around the neighborhood, hang out in parks, relieving themselves in people’s basement wells and alleys. We’d find empty cheap vodka bottles and 40oz cans littering tree boxes. It was such a problem there used to be a blog called TreeboxVodka around here. People still litter Shaw treeboxes, but not as often with Velicoff as they did in the bad old days. BACA would try to close the handful of liquor stores in Truxton Circle, on 4th St, on 1st Street and the two on North Capitol. Those efforts failed.
DC has more liquor stores than all of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the ‘aughts, that was too many, considering the state of the neighborhood.
So what changed? Several things, not just one thing. The major thing was the demographic change. The population of Truxton Circle was trending down before the gentrification got going. What gentrification brought was an influx of young professionals who did not publicly self-destruct with alcohol. These young professionals would buy 6 packs or cases of beer to take home, or to someone else’s home to enjoy. They were not known to buy 40oz cans of Steel Reserve. Related to this change was a change in what some local liquor stores stocked, less MD 20/20 more merlot. My favorite change was the disappearance of Plexiglas. For my own self-esteem, I avoided shopping in stores where there was bulletproof glass between me and the cashier. I found it insulting, but I understood the reason why. Some stores, not necessarily liquor stores, removed the glass, and then later the store became a victim of armed robbery. The neighborhood wasn’t ‘there’ yet and people were hurt. There are some Shaw and Truxton stores with the glass, but plenty of places where isn’t used. For myself, it is now a tolerable level. In the case of Sunset Liquors, across the street, the Florida Avenue Park was renovated. Prior to the major renovation, the junkies and the alcoholics would hang out in the park, wander over to Sunset, then wander back to the park. Sometimes they would pass out on the play equipment. It was not a park kids could use because of the needles, the glass, and the human waste. Sunset was part of the problem. Then the gates came up and you can only exit on the 1st Street side. Add this with the demographic changes, parents, grandparents, and kids own most of the park, not junkies and bums. Another change, also Sunset specific, was a change in relationship with the neighborhood. Before you walk into Sunset, you are greeted by a blackboard with an affirmation. You can also see inside the store from the outside. In the old days we complained that the windows were covered with beer and cigarette ads. There is still some clutter, but you can see inside. The store is a UPS drop off, and that was the reason I walked in. I found a super helpful employee, my package, and a red zinfandel.
The neighborhood has changed. It is now strong enough to have a few decent liquor stores and maintain its upward trajectory. Of course if you want to go old school, there is always Big Ben.
Well if all goes as planned my hairdresser will retire and sell her building at the end of this month. She’d been in Shaw since the 1970s, which is around about the time my aunt started working in DC. My aunt recommended the S&M Salon to me back in the 1990s when I moved here for work. I do not look forward to finding another hairdresser.
The Eckington business Workafrolic, which was an awesome idea of workspace, workout space for parents, is closed. I saw on the Bloomingdale parent’s list that this Saturday, (12/15/18) between 11am – 2pm they are selling off their inventory of yoga mats, toddler stuff, bouncers, etc. Cash or Venmo only. Maybe it was the location. North Capitol Street is a tough road.
Richard Layman had a post about the revitalization of 9th Street, that reminded me of businesses gone or moved that helped make that foodie part of Shaw (I’m ignoring 14th St) what it is. Anyone remember Vegetate? They had to battle the churches (Shiloh) for their place on 9th over liquor licenses. That battle needed to happen. Queen of Sheba was part of it, and it remains. In 2010/2011 there was Rogue 24 hidden in Blagden Alley. Now that was some fancy expensive eatin’, and it still is with the Dabney. But I guess I should credit one of the earlier 9th Street restaurants, Corduroy, who is still there and managed to open Baby Wale nearby. Now there are wonderful restaurant options in walking distance should I chose to spend $30-$80 on babysitters.
I’m just thankful entrepreneurs are taking a chance over and over in the eastern parts of Shaw (east of 9th & Truxton Circle), Bloomingdale, LeDroit and Eckington. Some will do okay, some will fail, and others will become so much a part of the neighborhood it will seem that they’ve always been there.
Upon the announcement that Amazon decided to split its HQ2 between NoVA and somewhere in NYC, and all the local news, I couldn’t get Amy Winehouse’s song outta my head because of all the whoring local governments engaged in.
Lookin’ for a man
But you end up with one-nights-stands
If you got past one night
But that part never goes right