Friday Question of the Day – What Retail is Union Station Missing?

“Dear PoP,

Any tips on what’s going on in the Northeast end of Union Station? Recently all of the car rental agencies moved upstairs, Ben and Jerry’s moved across the station, and the tie store, Lids, and just about everything in that block besides Verizon has disappeared. It seems they are planning on using the Northeast portion for something big, but I have no idea what. Anyone have a clue?

With all of the new restaurants near the metro (Chipotle, Potbelly, and Chopt) and the addition of the NY buses, it’s clear that improvement is afoot at Union Station even before they start construction on Burnham Place. Now if only they can figure out what to do with the old movie theater space and get Bojangles to open up…”

When we discussed the now open Potbelly’s on Monday a reader, Lou, said:

“I saw a presentation done by the Union Station managers a couple of years ago and this was not what was projected. They had ambitions of bringing in Apple, other high-end retail and a high-end restaurant. That’s why they were driving out some of the little independent shops in the basement food court.”

When I spoke to some folks who worked in nearby stores they thought that this space (where the Verizon store is) was simply being cleared to provide more lobby/loading space for Amtrak. But I’m wondering what you guys think – would an Apple or other high-end retail store work in Union Station? Do/Would people go to Union Station for specifically for shopping? I know folks who work nearby go for lunch but would people go specifically for an REI store? The funny thing is – when I was answering my own question in my head, I was thinking a movie theater would be great. I know not everyone liked the old theater because it could get loud but it (the former space in the basement) really does seem like a great space for a theater…

Anyway, for the Friday Question of the Day – What retail do you think is missing from (would be successful at) Union Station? Or should the addition of more restaurants be the way to go?

62 Comment

  • A roller skating rink 😀

    • +1
      A train store.

      Good shops there already:
      Fantom comics,
      the Body Shop,
      Art of Shaving,
      the East Hall individ. jewelers/vendors,
      the farmer’s market and kiosks.

      Not bad for a mall in the city is it?

  • An ice rink and bowling too.

  • A nice wood bar with beveled mirrors and attentive tenders, oh wait, they just replaced that with crappy chains.

  • I thought they were forcing out the independent merchants to get national chain stores who will pay more rent.

    I’ll admit, i like chipotle, but Its ashame they got rid of some of the independent places like the rice bowl, and the bakery.

    Although the new summer market outside is pretty cool.

  • I shopped at Union Station — White House, Black Market, Ann Taylor, and VS. The stores there were less picked over than other places in town. We also used to go to the movies there. There’s no parking at the other theaters in the district, and it’s a pain to go out to Potomac Yards.

    • I really enjoy the shopping there. I stop to shop for clothing at White House Black Market and Ann Taylor fairly regularly. It’s really convenient if you can’t make it to some of the larger malls outside of the district. I’d love to see a few more womens’ clothing shops, especially Banana Republic and J Crew.

  • A gastropub.

    A $5 cupcakery.

    A Comfort One Shoe store.

    A movie theater where loud teens can loiter.

    A Wegmans.

    A Thai place with a really stupid name like Spike Mendelsohn’s mental hospital themed Thai-Spanish fusion restaurant “Thai Me Up! Thai Me Down!”

    • Is East Street Cafe still there? They could rename that place for Mendelsohn’s new joint. But I think it should be Dungeons and Dragons themed and called Thai Die.

  • they could use another comfort one.

  • Retail: 7-11, CVS, Apple, Gap
    Food: bigger Starbucks, Clyde’s, Cheesecake Factory, sit-down Thai restaurant

    Burnham Place (the air rights project over the rail yards) will add thousands of sf of retail, with probably a hotel, in addition to office/residential. But it may be a decade until any of the buildings are complete on that site (it’s not easy building on top of an active railyard!).

  • I haven’t shopped or spent any time there in years so not sure what’s there now, but an Apple store would be great. It would get me to go there instead of Pentagon City.

  • I love to shop at Union station. I like the Express,FYE (sometimes), the small B Dalton(?) bookstore (I would prefer a local owned bookstore) and just to walk around a little. I used to love going to the downstairs movies,I agree the concessions area was not very appealing, but the seats were the most comfortable, and it was always pretty quiet (which is probably why they closed).

  • “successful” retail….. that’s a trick question. I’m under the impression that no retail is successful at the moment. Unless you are some exurban corporate megabox, and even many of those have been coughing up blood for a while. So if we’re just pipedreaming here, I’d dig a more decent curry place downstairs (Aditi was always mega salty for some reason). A taxidermist would be handy as well.

  • “Compelling”

  • A SEPHORA PLEASE!!!! i have to travel all the way to georgetown!!

  • When that Bojangles opens, I will gain 10 pounds.

  • Instead of bringing back that seasonal market, just have Lyon Bakery open a shop there. I really miss their bread.

  • a train shop would indeed be great. or at least a hobby shop-like kiosk. a smithsonian gift shop like at national airport would be great too. the more places we have to buy astronaut ice cream the better.

  • Another pharmacy, since Tschiffely left. And I’d kill for a Bank of America somewhere in this neighborhood (boring, yes I know).

    It would also be great to have something like Marvelous Market – something that combines a sandwich place with a mini grocery store.

    You know what I HATE? That electronic cigarrette stand that plays a superloud commercial over and over and over again, across from the Au Bon Pain. I can’t believe they allow that there.

  • No matter what they add, it will never be as good as NYC train stations.

  • A CVS would be fantastic. The closest one is 4th and Mass NW. And Union Station can always use passable food. The choices, both lunch and evening, in that area are terrible.

    • Jumpingjack, there is now a CVS at 1st and M NE, so that might be slightly closer. Right across street from Harris Teeter, and theres a CaBi bike station.

      • Thanks. That’s good to know. But it’s actually farther than the 400 Mass one (both are close to a mile). Right now Union Station doesn’t have a place to buy a box of tissues or new stockings if you get a run on the way to work.

  • i’m still mourning the loss of tschiffly and vaccaro’s.

  • Hah PG, but in this case, no one can argue DC is a clear winner — I love Union Station, so beautiful and clean and open, makes train travel a pleasure, whereas Penn Station in NYC is a dirty, cramped, hideous disaster.

    I for one don’t lament any of the retailers in the downstairs food court that may be closing, whether or not they are “local”, as they are all utterly abominable. I’d much rather eat at the quality chains that have come in / are coming in like Chop’d, Chipotle, Au Bon Pain, whatever, at least they are palatable, consistent, and taste reasonably fresh. As for chains I’d love to see, why not a Chick-Fi-A, if we are gonna have fast food, why stuck only with the worst ones like McDonald’s or the horrible pizza place, “Indian” place (whose idea of Naan is pita bread), etc. down in the food court?

  • A dog park

  • i never thought i’d wish for another pharmacy, with a CVS or rite-aid on almost every freaking corner, but that is one major thing missing from the area – especially since that tiny one in the basement of union station closed.

  • I shop at Union Station all the time and have for years. It used to be really convenient for all of us who work on Capitol Hill. I could pick up my prescriptions in the basement. I’d regularly buy last minute gifts at the perfume/ makeup store. On the few occasions where i have broke a heal I’ve been able to buy inexpensive(ish) shoes at the nine-west. Right now I’d just like a bathroom with more then 1 working toilet and sink.

    • The shoe repair place by the old Tschiffley’s is great. I just get my boots reheeled every couple of years rather than spend a fortune on a new pair.

      And I miss Tschiffley’s too. The pharmacist there was an example of the old-fashioned kind who knew you, would call about issues and deal with your doctor if there was a question about the prescription. Rite Aid or CVS would be handy but probably wouldn’t have the hands-on service.

      Also not happy that Douglas left, even if it was pricey. At least I could buy emergency supplies of my moisturizer and lotions if I didn’t have time to go elsewhere.

  • Theres a new CVS open at 1st and M NE across from the Harris Teeter.

    I’d love a fresh/health food store – a place to buy produce and snacks that aren’t so processed

    • That’s quite a walk (and not a convenient one) for those of us south of Union Station. I’m guessing that something new is in the works for the Station, cause it’s smack in the middle of a pharmacy desert right now.

  • A victoria secret employee mentioned the other day they are constructing some kind of walkway from the shopping level directly to the food court. now i cant understand the logistics behind that… stairs?

    but in any event, that is apparently why a lot of stores have been moved, or changed.

  • They need to bring back Wingmasters, immediately. I think some people here know what I’m talking about.

  • CVS would rock. And a redbox or other unstaffed DVD rental kiosk would do well, I think. Is there a place to get a quick haircut/manicure, like a Hair Cuttery?

    It might be too close to Pawticulars/Chateau Animaux/MetroMutts, but a fancy pet-supply place?

    • I’ve often thought Redbox could make a ton of money if they put a box in Union Station. Same with Penn Station–the closest there is a Walgreens at the Empire State Building

      • A Hair Cuttery would be awesome. I go to a salon downtown, but my husband would use it regularly if it was decent.

  • An oyster bar like the one in Grand Central Station. The oyster bars are SO much better in NYC. I don’t even bother getting diarrhea anywhere else. It’s the water.

  • Union Station definitely needs a pharmacy/CVS-like store to replace Tschiffley’s. I’d also love to see a small grocery store/market.

  • How about a TRAIN STATION! This amazing space doesn’t need to be a mall. This isn’t some decaying rustbelt city that’s trying to revitalize it’s long gone downtown. Union Station is way to cramped for train travelers already. Of course there should be many food options, newstands, perhaps a pharmacy, and someone mentioned an Apple store, that would be nice. Right now, rail users (including Metro) are treated like second class citizens in one of the top three train stations in the country. That’s just wrong.

    • You have to wonder who would pay for upkeep. Is Amtrak going to keep the heat working? No. Is the city, with its already strapped budget? Doubtful.

  • Yeah, that E-Cigarette guy has got to go. The ones he sells are overpriced, and you can research E-Cigs forum to get advice and good deals. Personally, the things did not help me quit smoking and they tasted awful.

  • NUTS

  • Ha. Bojangles. Bojangles is funky. They used to have those in Portsmouth, VA. Place was nasty.

  • cirque du soleil

  • Back in the good ole days, there was a Fat Tuesday’s on the ground level food court. Would luv to see a frozen daiquiri bar make a comeback. 🙂

  • Trader Joes where the movie theatre was…the one in Foggy Bottom is always mobbed.

    A B of A would be fantastic,,,and Im hadrly one for more banks

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