Big Changes in Store for Skynear in Adams Morgan

DSCN1174, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Back in October ’08 I asked about all the stores on 18th Street, NW for lease in Adams Morgan. This past weekend I was able to speak with a longtime Adams Morgan business owner, Lynn Skynear, who’s been in Adams Morgan for 20 years. Skynear is located at 2122 18th Street, NW.

First let’s talk about the plans for this space, which are pretty cool. As you can see the third floor is for lease and now there is a sign saying the first floor is for lease.


Ms. Skynear explained that in this economy small furniture stores are having a tough time and therefore one needs to be creative. And here’s the creativity:

Skynear will remain a part of this space on the second or third floors. But on the first floor Ms. Skynear is looking for a tenant to open a European style bakery and cafe with an outdoor seating area. Skynear explains, “you have to give folks more than one reason to come here”. And to fill out the second and third floors, Skynear would like to see a consortium of Skynear furniture along with potential partners including the following possible vendors – clothing, jewelery, and/or pottery. She envisions folks having a coffee and cake downstairs and then shopping upstairs.

Ms. Skynear also addressed the issue of the many storefronts for lease on 18th Street. The only way Adams Morgan will become a destination spot beyond nightlife, she believes, is with better public transportation. Specifically she would like to see one of the new Circulator buses coming down 18th Street. She believes this is the only way to prevent other small businesses from leaving the area. And the only way this will be possible is if the Mayor embraces the neighborhood. She left me with these words: “I’m hoping the Mayor will embrace the place in which he grew up in.”

So what do you guys think, do you like the idea of a bakery cafe on the first floor? And what are your thoughts on a Circulator bus coming to 18th Street?

37 Comment

  • saf

    The 90 bus goes up 18th. The Circulator goes right to the top corner, as does the 42. At least one of the L buses goes there too.

    I like the bakery cafe idea, but I disagree with her on the transportation issue. Adams Morgan is already quite accessible.

  • i never knew “Skynear” was her last name – kinda cool.

  • since when is Adams Morgan inaccessible? there are at least 6 bus lines that pass by the neighborhood or cut right through it, it’s easily walkable from adjoining neighborhoods like dupont, u st, mt pleasant, etc, and there are cabs everywhere, all times of the day. i really doubt the problems with retail in adams morgan can be blamed on public transit.

  • The Circulator stops wells before the top corner, but there are many other bus options. Several 90s, an L and I think there’s an X that goes through there also.

  • This building was on sale (probably still is). I think I even saw them in the commercial section of Craigslist. Anyways, b/c no one ponied up the cash for a place without any hope of getting a liquor license, I’m not surprised they are trying the current trend du jour of a bakery (two years ago it would have been cupcakes, three froyo). In any event, the long and short of this idea is simple: NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.

  • There are plenty of places to eat in Adams Morgan, but not much by way of bakeries (correct me if i’m wrong). i agree there’s plenty of bus transport there, but nobody likes to ride ordinary DC buses except residents. have you HEARD some of the remarks passengers call out to young girls as they board the bus? i accidentally stepped on a gentleman’s foot on a very crowded 90 bus, and apologized profusely, but he tried to kick my feet out from under me. I got of the bus and walked after that. i agree that running a circulator right down 18th street would be great–if the darn thing stops once in a while. circulators whiz around where i live, but heaven knows where they stop. it only works when they stop to pick up passengers and let them off. What’s missing for me in Adams Morgan is a good bookstore. some of us drinkers also READ. also, AM has a pretty unsavory history after dark. who wants to go to dinner there and get caught staying past the witching hour?

  • The circulator may stop well north of this location, but it is served by the 90, 92, 93, 96, 98, L2, and X3. This is more routes than Connecticut Avenue! But I don’t think the public transportation options are really the problem 9how many people go furniture shopping on the bus?)

    I think the bigger problem is Skynear sells nicer furniture than most Adams Morgan residents are willing to pay for, and her collection is nearly identical to other stores that are more ideally located for someone shopping for furniture. RCKNDY sells the same brands, but they have better parking, and there are other furniture stores nearby for comparison shopping. Its great that the owner has been such a long-contributing member of the AM community, but sometimes neighborhoods change and your market base moves on, and you have to move with it.

    And to m.e.–go to the circulator website to find the stops. Generally they about every 4 blocks, but their maps are very good. There is a colored dot on the precise corner where a stop is located. The stop itself will be marked with a red sign with their logo, matching the bus paint design.

  • Many years ago, I bought a chair and a chaise from Skynear. When they arrived the chair had a cigarette-burn-sized patch on its arm. Skynear was unsympathetic. After a good bit of harassment, they sent someone to our house to look at it. He said they would not exchange it, and that “You can’t expect Cadillac quality for Toyota prices.” He must have been uncomfortable because as he left he said, all in a rush, “I love you.”

    After a few weeks of this, we threatened to sue and they took the chairs back. We shop elsewhere now. Perhaps this was an anomaly, but I’m not willing to take a second chance.

    To end on a positive note, I’ve bought many things from Urban Essentials on U Street. The quality has been great and the staff has been helpful and friendly. Alas, they’ve never told me they love me. But they do remember my face.

  • Am I in the minority in thinking that in coming years (5-15) CH (14th St) & Petworth (Georgia Ave) will be better walking/shopping/eating corridors than Adams Morgan? The latter two have longer existing commercial streetscapes, metro stops, and likely cheaper rents. AM for years became the place for college aged kids to go to party hard at night and lost its funkiness to the U street corridor/14th street. I see even greater exodus to 14th and Petworth in the coming years. AM would do well, without a metro, to define itself. Didn’t we read another article like this months ago here about Simply Soles who chose CH over Mt Pleasant. Foot traffic from metro is hard to beat.

  • close 18th street for those two blocks. make it a pedestrian mall a la charlotsville. problem solved. ive been saying this for ages.

  • m.e.: I understand the stigma of “the bus,” but let’s face it, the kind of people who feel they are above riding a metrobus are pretty much the same people who will just drive to adams morgan anyway. also, does the circulator really even make that much of an impact? seems like most people on the circulator line I ride are just regular metrobus riders who use the circulator as a bit of a shortcut or express-type bus. I can’t say I’ve ever really seen many tourists or suburban daytrippers riding that thing, as was the original intent.

    as far as skynear, I can’t determine if her comments are delusional or just wistful. public transit isn’t adams morgan’s problem. I agree that the neighborhood could use a lot more retail that isn’t food or drink related, but quite a few stores have thrived there for years, including fleet feet, dwr, the bike shop, etc.

  • FWIW, I’ve walked by that place a billion times, and I never knew that was a furniture store. So, that could be a problem for business. (Honestly, thought Skynear was the realtor.)

  • A bakery would be a great idea. A real bakery. Where I can get good, fresh bread. This city, unlike most big cities, sorely lacks this basic fundamental.

  • @m.e. What about Idle Time, that’s a pretty decent used bookstore in my opinion.

  • it sounds as though they are having a diificult time. as a lot of small businesses are. maybe this plan will work for the, if not this something else…never hurts to try and look at different options. best of luck.

  • Last time I was there, the people at the desk told me that they were a design store and I would have to pay their “designers” to pick out furniture for my house. The owner on this post is making it sound like this is a small furniture store, which had been my impression, but the workers there sort of looked at me funny when I said I wanted to see what they had without hiring their design sense. Maybe this is the problem skynear is having.

  • The decline of Adams Morgan is greatly exaggerated. It is still an extremely vital neighborhood. Some people commenting may only use it as a pass-through or on weekend nights, but there’s a lot of great, independent retail on this strip and actually some good food too. The high rents will be coming down soon as landlords adjust to lack of demand- it’s already happening all over the city. Just part of the natural evolution of any neighborhood/city. One potential gamechanger is if the city decides to enforce the revocation of liquor licenses for places that don’t meet their food quota- that would be a very bad thing in the short run. For whatever reason, people have decided Adams Morgan is very “out” but it’ll come back “in” someday when some new, interesting bars and restaurants open up.

  • I have no experience with Skynear’s shop, though I’m not all that surprised she’s having difficulties not unlike many small businesses right now. But I have to say, the time in between my visits to furniture shops for purchases is usually measured in years, so I imagine it’s a tough business to be in, regardless. (I also don’t see any sign on the building in the pic that would let passersby know its a furniture store, just sayin’) A bakery would be nice though, I’d give it a shot if one opened up in Skynear’s building.

    I agree with most commentors that AM and the 18th St strip is already plenty well served by buses, and a red line stop that’s less than a 10 min. walk away. Every time I go, day or night, there are always plenty of people going to eat or shop, so I don’t think getting people to AM is currently a problem.

    I also like [email protected]:20’s idea of closing off those couple of blocks on 18th and making them into a pedestrian street, at least on weekend nights. Might help alleviate some of the sidewalk overcrowding and drunken fighting.

  • rerouting the circulator down 18th is dumb for a plethora of reasons- already buses that go down there, it completely F’s up the very purpose, and who would really want to ride the bus down 18th st? most of the time you can walk quicker than drive down 18th.

  • I’m not familiar with this particular store, but as someone who has spent a fair amount of time buying and selling furniture for the past two years after moving from 425 sq ft to nearly 2000 sq ft, my impression is that the small furniture places in DC might want to consider that there are other reasons their business is off besides accessibility and the bad economy. Namely, price and selection.

    The times have changed and they are facing the same competition issues all small retailers are nowadays via the internet. Whether your looking for new furniture or old, the internet and “big box” stores are where a growing number of people turn because of price and selection. If you are going to buy new and “cheap” you go to Ikea for your requisite disposable yuppie quota of particle board. When you are looking for something else, like antiques, the game has changed too. When you can find a antique buffet or table on Craigslist out in the wilds of Virginia for $150 it hardly makes sense to buy a table that is (a) not really what you really wanted; and (b) 5 times the price. When you can rent a pickup truck by the hour from Zipcar delivery isn’t such an issue anymore either.

    Regardless of how long the recession holds furniture “boutiques'” days are probably numbered. Places like Goodwood and Miss Pixies either need to cut their prices on their limited selection or take on a better selection of stuff and become more traditional antique retailers. There is a decent living to be had raiding the backwoods of the Mid-Atlantic and re-selling those goods at a tidy profit. The market for high-quality antiques in a town with so much easy money should be sustainable recession or not. But selling and re-selling the same miss-matched “mid century” kitchen chairs to hipsters is not a business plan with a future. Not when those same hipsters have Craigslist loaded up on their iPhone or are tracking 5 different website sales.

    And I’m sorry, but dark veneered particle board and chrome coffee table from 1982 is not an antique, it’s a piece of crap. Some of the items in some of these shops (not speaking of Skynear’s specifically) need to be donated to Goodwill or recycled, not billed as antiques.

  • The 90 buses don’t serve any of the neighborhoods where potential customers live – have you ever seen more than 4 people riding those buses?? The only other bus serving 18th street – the L2 – runs once, maybe twice an hour – and not on any kind of reliable schedule!

  • To Odentex: if you’ve never even been to this store – how on earth are your comments relevant – much less worthy of a dissertation??? Sky Near is about the most stylish and hip furniture store in the area – at least for a reasonable/affordable price.

  • yeah – geez odentex, that rant was really uncalled for considering what you describe is absolutely nothing like skynear’s business.

  • Julie & Eric: I state pretty clearly I’m not familiar with it in the first sentence and at the end. I’m not making any comment about her store other than the obvious: it’s failing. The point of the original post by PoP was her lament about the transportation situation on 18th being the root of her business issues and that’s what I was addressing. I have another opinion about why small businesses of all kinds, and specifically many small furniture places in DC, have serious problems going forward. You’re welcome to your own opinion – but apparently I’m not.

  • I’m okay with what Odentex said, and saying it here, because “independent” retailers always cry foul about external factors (usually that a “big box” retailer is moving in), and Odentex provides good examples about why sometimes it is not external factors (here, transportation, though it equally as relevant to those against “big box” retailers like Room and Board) that cause independent retailers to not be as profitable as they would like.

  • Prince,

    Your piece really misses out on the two real changes coming to Adams Morgan:

    1) The extensive publicly funded 18th Street Streetscape reconstruction from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road and 

    2) The 9 story, 180,000 square foot, 150 room privately funded Marriott Edition boutique hotel coming at Euclid and Champlain Streets.

    The 18th Street Streetscape has been in the works for many years and construction begins this October. This is the biggest infrastructure change since the urban renewal attempts after the ’68 riots. 

    This massive 15 month project will include these new wide tinted exposed aggregate sidewalks with rounded curb extensions (bulb-outs) at all street and alley intersections, a return to parallel parking, new trees and tree boxes, new street lamp posts, new benches, bike racks, and a host of other improvements and traffic calming measures:

    On the hotel, the Friedman family’s assembly of the Euclid Street Church’s parcels and 2390 Champlain is partnering with Ian Schrager and J.W. Marriott, Jr. as part of their new Washington Edition chain of up scale boutique hotels:

    Fix-er-up row houses on Kalorama and Ontario Roads have sold in the past two months in a matter of days at prices above their list prices. Three posh loft condos have sold for over a million dollars on Champlain Street.

    In a few short years you won’t recognize Adams Morgan as these two big changes will dramatically alter the neighborhood and be the catalysts to garner incrementally more private investment in the years to come bringing positive, up scale change one address at a time to this area.

  • The lonly local furniture shops that I frequent are Reincarnations and Urban Essentials. They both carry some small scale stuff that fits in smaller spaces. You never know what you’ll see. I used to love going to the original Reincarnations on 17th St. but like the new location as well.

  • “What’s missing for me in Adams Morgan is a good bookstore.”



    Open 7 days a week for more than 25 years, this place has the ground floor and the second level full of thousands books organized like a library:

    Idle Time Book Store
    2467 18th Street, NW

    Patronize your neighborhood merchants before you order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    Before you spend, think local !

    and support and help save the neighborhood around you.

    The internet will survive. Many of our neighborhood merchants are not, and having a hard time competing with an increasing everything on-line culture.

    “Tantum Eruditi Sunt Liberi”

  • OK…I’m gonna visit Idle Time in the next couple of days. there used to be a great bookstore on 18th in AM, and maybe I.T. is it, but i don’t think that was its name in the mid-90s. last time i looked for a bookstore there, i either couldn’t find it or it was closed. now that olssen’s is gone, i tend to go to kramerbooks–or, in a pinch, Borders, since that used to be a local bookstore in ann arbor.

    also, i rode the 90 buses for years when i was gainfully employed in an office, and they were ALWAYS crowded as heck east of 16th street going in either direction.

    and so on…i agree with the commenters on their experiences with skynear’s retail employees. i never enjoyed going in there. the outside looked a lot warmer and friendlier than the inside.

    also, as i was strolling home yesterday, i was thinking that this area–AM/Petworth/Columbia Heights–reminds me of the East Village or Chelsea in NYC. It’s so much more interesting than points west…

  • My information was that the hotel project was cancelled due to upheaval in the financial lending markets. They have re-prioritized their funds, and this is no longer on the drawing board. Thanks for the news from 2008 though. Clam Chowder!

  • THIS is what DC is wasting our tax dollars on?

    Grey to brown concrete? Lame Nickname Guy: You’re right, it looks totally different! Couldn’t even recognize it!

    I do think its lame that they are moving from diagonal parking to parallel parking. Way to go, DC fools. Geez. Less parking and less character? Sign me up for the NEW Adams Morgan!

  • and here I thought only drag queens shopped at Reincarnations!!?!?!? git it grrrll.

  • I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with the Skynear staff. They always stop just to talk, don’t follow me around and I never fail to leave the store without something. I do remember back in January I saw a beautiful sofa and the salesperson told me that it was the last one they had because their favorite supplier suddenly went out of business. They said the employees came to work only to find themselves locked out of the factory. This may have something to do with Skynear’s troubles. Who knows what was on back order. I must say that every time I go there all I can think of is, given the layout of the store, what a wonderful home to live in this would make if it were on a quiet residential street.

  • Pirate: The Schrager-Marriott partnership is now focusing on hotel properties in Asia and has dropped all of it’s plans in the USA for the foreseeable future. They’ve yet to start actual work on any properties.

  • Ahoy !


    Yes, the book store you visited in the 90’s probably was Idle Time Books, same name.

    Back then they leased the space across the street at 2410 18th Street where Toro Mata Art of Peru Store is situated now.

    Idle Time Books is live-above-the-store owner occupied at 2467 today and open 7 days a week.

    We all really need to support our few remaining non food and beverage commercial establishments like Skynear, Little Shop of Flowers, Old Brass Knob, Toro Mata, Idle Time Books.

    We can’t complain about the lack of variety in our neighborhood retail if we don’t each make an effort when spending to reach out as neighbors and consider patronizing our local merchants.

    Think local !

  • Ahoy !

    The Edition Hotels in Bankok, Instanbul, and Honolulu may well be under way according to these 2009 stories:

    Closer to home, Edition Hotel Washington in Adams Morgan may still well be coming along.

    According to Adams Morgan Main Street Group’s June 2009 Newsletter, the project has received Historic Preservation Review Board approaval and

    “The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) package is being prepared by Friedman Capital and Groundbreaking is not yet set, but Friedman hopes to begin in 2010 with the hotel to open in

  • I have been a customer of Skynear & Co. on 18th street for over 17 years , well before the copycats like Reincarnation and Urban Essentials and the other two (I don’t even remember their names) on 14th st. came along. I always found Skynear to be ahead of the curve and an inviting place you can chat with the staff and get ideas from them. Now I understand a goumet food shop is coming on the street level by the Cashions restaurant on Columbia Rd. This is very cool I can go browse at Skynear and pick up some delicious antipasta, freash bread or desserts prepared by Cashions chefs before I go home. I don’t think there’s a place like that in DC. That’s what I call CHANGE./

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