DCist Reports Ellwood Thompson Grocery Store Plans in DCUSA Delayed

ET_DC, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Thanks to a reader for sending this disappointing news. DCist is reporting:

“In a press release and message posted to their company blog today, Richmond-based organic grocer Ellwood Thompson’s announced that their planned expansion to the DCUSA development in Columbia Heights is on hold, seemingly indefinitely.”

52 Comment

  • Why disappointing? The vast majority of people who live in that area are more than happy with the Giant and/or the fried chicken takeouts.

  • Not surprisingly, DCUSA seems to be greedy beyond belief and unwilling to budge a bit to attract or keep tenants.

  • the giant sucks. and the safeway on columbia is even worse. WTF. this really sucks. and if its because of DCUSA being shady I’ll really be pissed. we lost out on whole foods due to the whole parking debacle. and now this. just makes me think that DCUSA tried to pull something. sure it could be the economy and maybe they’re having trouble getting financing. but DCUSA should do everything in their power to keep them. offer them a years free rent. TWO years free rent. effs sake if you dont get Ellwoods in that space itll sit vacant for that long anyway. DCUSA should be fellating potential tennants left and right.

  • I would be interested in what someone with experience in commercial real estate leasing would have to say about this.

  • i already hate DCusa but this just confirms it. the building is hidious. the tennants are a joke. mattress discounters, panda express, marshalls, and some clothing store for fat chicks. LOL. who do they think they are. is it their mission to make the shittiest mall ever? what a joke.

  • Ellwood is locked into the lease, but since the rent is so high, and the economy so bad, they can’t afford to finish construction. So, it will just sit empty and Ellwood will pay the rent to have an empty space for a few years in the hopes that DCUSA either reduces rent, lets them out of the lease, or the economy improves and they have the cash/credit to resume expansion.

  • the nail in the heart will be when mcdonalds signs a lease and wafts their shitty stink all over the intersection.

  • yeah if the clothing store were for skinny chicks, that would be all right. But because its for FAT CHICKS its trash and the whole development is trash.

  • that is the most absurd thing i have ever heard. yr telling me that in the YEAR it took them just to negotiate the lease. they signed without securing financing. and then complain about the rent? That just seems a little ridic. but still. givin what a joke the mall is. let the rent slide for a year to secure a great long lasting tennant who will improve the image of the mall and the area and allow you to attract better retail

  • That is disappointing news! Although I’m fine with shopping at Giant for most of my basic grocery needs, it would have been nice to have an alternative for higher-quality ingredients, organic/free-range products, and they were going to have a cafe with outdoor seating that would have enlivened that bland stretch of sidewalk.

    And, all that hype about it makes it especially deflating – the fancy architectural drawings, the email campaign with the community, the announcements of letters of intent and lease signings, the signage in the windows – all down the drain.

    Maybe we can get a Post Office in there, or a Trader Joe’s. 🙂

  • ok ok. i didnt mean to bash fat chicks. but i mean. if the ellwoods had opened maybe they would have changed thier eating habits and then we could get a forever 21

  • lets not start the trader joes talk again. 1st off Ellwoods is waaaaay better than trader joes. second off trader joes is not in a million years gonna open in DCUSA

  • perfect, this opens the door for one huge arbys.

  • listen people. can we get another letter writing campaign going here. this cant be allowed to happen. the area needs it. not only do we actually need an organic grocery store for us residents that value healthy organic food. but it would go so far to attract new residents and retail to the area.

  • You’re not going to get anything in there for at least a couple of years. Lease is in effect, but construction can’t go on, so you’ll get Ellwood’s owning an empty storefront until someone gives in or the economy changes.

  • Anonymous @ 11:48 am: How did parking keep Whole Foods away? Parking is always plentiful beneath DCUSA at any time of the day or week, and I’m pretty sure they keep 2/3 of the parking garage cordoned off, because they never need it.

  • The existence of fat chicks is preventing the opening of a Forever 21 store opening in CH?How fucking stupid do you have to be?

    Perhaps anonymous could get over fatist attitudes to get a clue. Fat chicks aren’t preventing Forever 21 from coming to DCUSA. The fat chick store is in a vanilla box that is too small for the Forever 21 retail format. They need a bigger box. One of the boxes on the side streets would work. They are already vacant so if Forever 21 really wanted to open a store in CH.

  • You people need to cool your jets. Ellwood’s will eventually occupy the space. I mean, really, you people have survived thus far. And it’s not like you moved to the area when there was more than just Giant; you’re still in the same position you were in a year or a decade ago. I think some of you need to loosen up your tight pants.

  • PoP can you monitor the trolls and haters and make them go back to Craig’s List where they belong? I can’t stand seeing them on this blog.

  • Isn’t the Yes Foods opening soon on Georgia Avenue? I’m not sure what people are complaining about, though maybe some folks are still avoiding Petworth for some reason?

  • whole foods was going to open in the space but backed out because DCUSA wouldnt agree to classify X amount of parking spaces for Whole Foods customers. So whole foods walked and yes. irony being that the lot is never more than a third full. so in short. there would have been a whole foods there over a year ago if it werent for the stubborn management of DCUSA.

  • I love dcusa. I remember when there wa no target, staples, or beat buy and I had to go to Va once a week.

  • U love dcusa. I remember when there was no target, staples, or best buy and I had to go to Va once a week.

  • I think what’s most frustrating is that clearly DCUSA doesn’t have the best interests of the community in mind when they are making these decisions. They have such an opportunity to allow the community to gain value, expand, and provide jobs. I realize that business is business, but it’s discouraging when that comes at the cost of everyone else. That seems to be the theme of the year.

  • This is disappointing — since they’ve already signed a lease (and I think there’s a huge market in the neighborhood for their store) I really hope that they’re able to negotiate something with DCUSA so that they can still open by the end of the year.

  • Why would DCUSA negotiate anything? They’re guaranteed their rent money now. They clearly don’t mind having empty storefronts.

  • I read on dcist that their richmond store isnt doing well and thats a big factor. which is sad. cause this location would no doubt do quadruple the business their richmond store does. maybe we should all drive to richmond and buy a bunch of food

  • I really think ET’s in DCUSA would be a total winner. And the ‘Target for toilet paper and Ellwoods for food’ is a no brainer for any Col. Heights shopper and should be a giant concern to Giant, (although I think there is sufficient market for all three stores). Makes me wonder if there’s a backstory somewhere in this…

  • DCUSA management won’t do anything about this–they clearly don’t care about empty storefronts, and in this economy, what can they really do? Let’s just all hope that McDonalds stays away, ok? Buck up everyone, there is a Yes market on 14th, Columbia Rd, and soon to be Georgia Ave.

  • Is the space big enough for an Arbys? Or just a scaled-down Arbys-on-the-Run? Because that’s what you’ll be doing as soon as that cheese sauce hits your lower intestine.

  • why is YES! successfully opening new stores in the area (14th & V; Georgia Ave) when elwood can’t?

  • The Elwood’s people should pick some random times and tour WSC and Giant. Based on the crowds at these businesses a grocery store in CH that sells healthy food presents a low risk.

    Columbia Heights is not Richmond. Delaying their opening is just throwing potential profit away.

  • From dcist:

    UPDATE: We were able to chat briefly with Watkins about the fate of the Columbia Heights store. Bottom line: Ellwood Thompson’s still has a lease with DCUSA, which the company can’t pull out of, so the space will remain empty for the time being while they continue to pay the rent.

    “We just don’t have the funds to do the construction right now,” she said. No new timeline is in place for when the grocer might be able to resume its plans for the store: all they are able to say now is that it definitely won’t be opening this fall.

    “It’s honestly dependent on our sales picking up,” Watkins said, noting that the Richmond store is barely breaking even right now. “The company is really exited about moving in to [D.C.], but we’ve got to look after the employees that we’ve got here.”

  • Wonder if ET would (or can) consider a membership structure to raise up front funds? For some dollar amount per year (held in escrow and pro-rate refundable at some points throughout the year), customers can derive a percentage savings on their purchases. If the volume is there, the reduced price-point margins would be manageable and the money raised up front could go to the build-out.

    Or, even set up a co-op/ per share-investment structure, but that’s a much more complex and cumbersome contractual arrangement.

  • That’s not crazy Geezer. I bet a bunch of people would plop down at least few hundred dollars (myself included) if it helped get this thing going and eventually would come back in savings.

  • Some of you don’t know how lucky you have it now. I remember when my 14th Street choices involved that laughably horrible Giant at 14th and Meridian, a couple bulletproof-glassed Chinese takeout places, Subway, the perpetually crappy CVS and a 7-11 that got robbed blind just about every day after school let out. That’s pretty much all there was.

  • This is really not that surprising to me. The grocery business is known for having very low margins to begin with. Moreover, any small business is going to have difficulty getting cost-effective financing in this market to engage in capital expansion. The financial prospects of this store probably haven’t actually changed that much at all, but to a financier who isn’t directly familiar with the neighborhood and the circumstances of this store, this still looks like a very risky proposition.

    That said, for all the money that the DC government was willing to give to the developers of the DC/USA complex, and for all the money they’re spending to set up things like the Circulator to service the area, they should really find a way to set up something like a guaranteed loan for construction on this project. Right now, DC/USA has almost zero incentive to do anything that would help Ellwood’s construction, since they’re getting their rent either way, and since Ellwood’s would act as less of a traffic-generating regional anchor (to help fill the remaining storefronts) than Target or Best Buy do.

  • Every time I see the Panda Express it makes me sick.

  • Thanks for ruining my weekend. Argggghhhh. I think the idea of DC Gov’t stepping up to provide financing (not charity, but some sort of financing at rates more reasonable than banks which are very tight fisted right now) would be amazing, if legal. I realize the economy is in shambles and no one is opening stores anywhere, but I also think DCUSA has screwed up its tenant situation from the get-go. They need to make some sort of concessions to get people in; having the mall half-empty hurts current tenants and is disincentive for other new tenants to move in, a domino effect. Cut some of the leases in half for the first 1-2 years of leasing or something, at least they’ll get SOME money. But this is brutal. I am not sure much can be done to get this project moving again, but this store is desperately desired by many in the community and if there is anything whatsoever city or DCUSA can do to facilitiate, that would be fantastic. I guess we can all write Graham but I am not terribly optimistic.

  • what about an arby’s that serves high life. call it barby’s.

  • In the meantime, as far as getting good organic produce goes, I would recommend looking into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). If you aren’t familiar, a CSA is basically a nearby (within 50 miles or so) farm that recruits “members” at the beginning of the growing season (basically now). The members pay for a full or half delivery of groceries for about 5 months. Typically its a couple hundred dollars, and averages somewhere between 10 and 30 per week, depending on whether you get a full or half share, and of course the farm. Some offer just veggies, but others have fruit, berries, eggs and even meat. I have heard a half share described as “a paper grocery bag full”, so you get quite a bit. Most CSAs have dropoffs around town, but some require you to drive a ways for pickup. Here’s a recent article from the Post about the subject, with several CSAs still accepting signups: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/03/AR2009020302559.html

    E.T.’s delay is certainly bad/frustrating news, but I just wanted to let people know they have options for getting fresh stuff.

  • I truly believe that the fat chicks would benefit from an Arby’s.

  • I’d also like to plug the Capitol Hill United Food Co-Op. You don’t have to live on the Hill to join.

    Deliveries are made every four weeks at 631 Elliott St., NE. They occur on
    Tuesdays between noon and 4:00pm. We buy from United Natural Foods, located in
    New Hampshire, with deliveries coming from their New Oxford, PA warehouse. You
    can see more information about United at http://www.unitedbuyingclubs.com/. There is also a Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/capitolhillunitedco-op/) that we use
    to share information related to the buying club and organize the purchasing of cases.
    Sometimes members do not want to purchase an entire case of an item, thus, there is a
    system set up for splitting cases amongst group members.

    CHUC doesn’t have a fresh produce component (most members use CSAs), but it’s great for dry, canned and frozen goods.

  • It’s strange to me that the assumption is that DC USA is to blame for a retail outlet dropping out of the development in the midst of a huge recession. The thought doesn’t cross anyone’s mind that retailers, in general, are cautious in this market? Does anyone watch the news?

    As someone who *does* have retail and development experience, I would like to chime in that pretty much all of the markets in the country are doing badly. DC has and will always have a thicker layer of insulation because of the federal city, but it’s rough out there, economically. Retailers are dropping out of projects EVERYWHERE. It’s not shady, it’s not evil and it’s not because of parking costs (although FYI the District Government owns the parking at DCUSA, so technically YOU own it… you want to complain about parking costs or parking deals, yell at the city).

    And seriously, that store for “fat chicks”? Makes money hand over fist– it’s Lane Bryant’s only city-based outlet. As does the Target, and other lower-priced outlets in the development. Why? Because the median income in the District is HALF that of the MSA (MSA= $99,500; DC= $48,000). So stop set-trippin’ about the stores that are located in an area that has household incomes averaging in the $25k to $40k per annum range.

  • More fat chicks in the USA than anywhere else in the world. If we were smart, we’d all be opening businesses catering to fat people.


  • I was googling for a place to Store my Fat Chicks and this thread came up. what gives? sorry to hear about your grocery backing out but can someone point me in the direction of a Fat Chick Storage Company?

  • I wonder how many of the commenters making nasty comments about our full-sized ladies make $48,000 a year.

    Too bad they aren’t coming. Maybe next ear…

  • Hey Arby’s dude: you rock!!!! Your comments sandwiched between all these deathly serious posts are funny as F@#k!

  • @Jay’O – Let’s make out! seriously…..I do try to be funny, so who knows.

  • Hilarious how so many are eager to blame DCUSA for all of this. It’s the economy, stupid.

  • Despite this announcement, I noticed last week and today that work inside the space continues. They are clearly planning to use the store for something, and soon. Any more info on this?

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