In praise of business

Richard Layman’s Blog Rebuilding Place as well as DCist both posted the email sent out by Politics and Prose regarding a bench outside the independent bookstore targeted by ANC Frank Winstead. The first part of the email struck me as oh so true:

Every once in a while we get an abrupt reminder that we live in a jurisdiction where small business is not respected or encouraged. When we first opened across the street, there was no government agency that could advise us on what we needed to do. Then, after we made the applications we needed to, we could not get an occupancy permit, no matter how many times we called or went down to the office responsible for that. The process simply stopped somewhere in the Office of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs. We were fined and we started over again, but the certificate was never issued at our first location.

I’ve heard the grumbling of another small business owner, who is in the TC, about how they’d love to add more servies and amenities, but taking time off to get the run around from DCRA isn’t worth the trouble. Apparently change for the better (and in some cases, the worse) requires a permit. It would be helpful if things given by local businesses and enjoyed by the community were supported by the city and our political leaders.
Also another strain of thought that has occurred in this blog’s comments and some local listservs regarding small business. Some of you out there have a disdain and just plain hatred of business, regardless of the size. Businesses are no more evil than your regular Jo on the street. Many of them provide a service that is wanted and needed in the community. Small local business can be great neighbors, providing benches, free used coffee grounds, a place to meet and gather, and sponsorship for community, artist and non-profit ventures and events.
When someone asks what’s around here, in that what’s so great about this place kind of way, I point to the businesses. I mention the quickie mart, the dry cleaners, the coffee shop, the organic bodega, the liquor stores (the good and the mediocre ones, not the scary ones) and the bakery. The only non-business things I point out are the metro stations and the bus stops. I’m not sure what category to put the farmer’s market in, as I gather the farmers do drive in to make some profit, but the organization of putting on the farmer’s market is something else. I should mention there was one non-profit I use to point to, Chain Reaction, a wonderful bike sales and repair shop. It went “out of business”.
I am grateful for those business that have opened up in the past few years, and appreciative to those older businesses that have become more customer friendly (taking down the Plexiglas, unblocking/cleaning the windows). Also I welcome any new business that may want to take up residence on North Capitol or at the corner of R and New Jersey.

5 thoughts on “In praise of business”

  1. amen, amen, amen! we need to be more receptive to the small businesses in the city. they’re what makes us unique, and more attractive than a cookie-cutter suburb.

    on my block of 1st street, for example, we have at least 4 vacant spots (and 2 liquor stores and a braid shop). picture how much of a benefit it could be to all of us if we had more life on the block…

  2. DC’s recent history is one of overconcentration of business activity in a few desirable neighborhoods (Georgetown, Dupont, Adams Morgan, etc), and underconcentration in the vast swaths that are the rest of the city. That seems to be changing, and hopefully it will change further. Not to be corny but, like most things, balance and equitable distribution are key.

  3. I recently had a conversation with a bar owner who opened his first place, and is working on a second. With the first place he ran into a former ANC Commissioner and her daughter, the current ANC, and the whole thing turned into a massive personal crusdade on behalf of the two women against the first bar, and the owner. The bar in question has a capacity of under 50 people and has never had an incidence of violence. There have been no loitering or noise complaints, and many of the close neighbors were no even aware that the business was operating. Still, the current and former commissioners have lead protest after protest against the place claiming that it is disruptive and a danger to the neighborhood.
    While these protest were going on, as well as during the initial application process, the bar owner is tasked with either figuring out the process by himself, or hiring an attorney to assist him. On the other hand, protesters are guided through the process by a representative from ABRA. Personally, I’m a huge fan of community input on ABC licenses, but I just found this was something to think about.

  4. i’m just going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re talking about jimmy valentine’s here, inked. is that the case? if so, it’s a damn shame that they have to fight for survival. doesn’t make any sense.

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