Friday Question of the Day – Urban Outfitters a Good Fit for U Street?

Photo by PoPville flickr user mediaslave

I’m hearing rumors that Urban Outfitters is considering opening up a store in the U Street neighborhood. They currently have locations in Georgetown and Penn Quarter. So this week’s Friday Question of the Day is a simple one: Do you think Urban Outfitters would be a good fit for the U Street neighborhood? Personally I think they’d do very well on U Street.

75 Comment

  • I think the issue of whether they’d do well is different for whether it’s a good fit. Personally, I think they would do very well, but I really would rather them not be on U St. Maybe on 14th down by P would be a good fit. Just my .02

    • totally agree. no need to turn U Street into a retail zone. that would really kill the vibe.

      • U Street has a lot of great retail, actually. That said, I would worry about its impact on some of the great boutiques in the area. It’s a tricky question.

        That said, yes, it would do well.

  • I think it would be a great fit. I’ve long thought that a chain retail clothing store would do well on U Street, maybe in that old building with the columns near 15th that used to be a nightclub.

    • If you mean the building at 1438 U Street, NW, I have noticed some activity inside in recent weeks, although I’m not sure what they are doing.

      As for whether UO would be a good fit, good question. It would bring in more foot traffic, especially shoppers likely to stop in at our local boutiques like Caramel and Lettie Gooch, which would be a positive development for the neighborhood.

  • Love it…I know U street prides itself on it’s boutiques…but it doesn’t hurt to have a popular clothing chain to bring folks in…particularly one that has an “unusual” style.

  • That would be quite a milestone in U Street’s evolution from funky to shopping mall.

  • It would make more sense on H Street, there’s not even enough suitable retail spaces available in the U street corridor. I think national retailers should start thinking outside of the box.

    • I would love to see it come to H Street– I think that underdeveloped chunk in the middle should have a mix of national and local retail.

      • Yeah, that’s a great idea!

      • meh. I think they’d be silly to go someplace that wasn’t that accessible for those w/o cars.

        • That part of H Street is very accessible for those without cars because several buses run right through the 8th and H Street intersection. The bars and resturants down around 12-15th Street seem to be doing very well despite being even further removed from public transit. Same goes for anything in Adams Morgan.

        • agreed. would be nice to walk to the store… or take the metro.

        • yeah. like how having to walk from foggy bottom just kills the sotres in georgetown.

    • Don’t get me wrong, I love H St. It’s got a great thign going and some wonderful establishments, but I think it is a little behind where U Street is in terms of its ability to draw big name chains. It’s definitely still transitioning, as U Street is still to a degree, however, U Street is definitely further along in the process. With that in mind, it definitely makes more sense to me to put this up on U Street. Plus, compare the daytime foot traffic between U Street and H Street – H Street may be close to U on a Saturday night (although I don’t even think it is quite there yet), but on a Sunday afternoon, U Street is definitely more bustling.

  • U St is a nice micro community of local boutiques. Urban Outfitters could mess with local business. If it did go in, I’d like to see it East of 11th st. Put Urban Outfitters over by American Ice, not by 14th St.

  • I think it would bring people in to the local boutiques. You would get more foot traffic in general for shoppers. I think Urban Outfitters would make this more of a destination for some who might not even be aware of the other boutiques in the area.

    Regardless, I think it would be good. I don’t think and Urban Outfitters would mess with the U Street vibe or would even mean that this would become a chinatown shopping mall (and let’s keep in mine – if it were to become a “shopping mall” it would be an alternate version of M Street or Chinatown, not the Crystal City mall).

    • I agree, there is room for both a large hip chain and the many independent boutiques. It would be a boon for all include competitors.

    • Thank you very much for that link. It will definitely keep me from buying there, just like I won’t order from Dominos

  • I never go shopping at the U st. boutiques. But I could see myself going to Urban, maybe not find what I’m looking for, and then decide to check out another spot nearby. So I think it would probably help out other businesses.

  • What makes U, and any other street for that matter, awesome is the array of unique locally owned businesses. Urban would dull the charm, and could hurt business at other local boutiques. I think that Urban would do well there, but in a similar way that WalMart could do well. DC is full of awesome entrepreneurs that could fill this niche. Plus, do we want money to stay in our community or get funneled away to Wall Street?

  • That would be what? a whole 2 metro stops from their downtown store? Hell you can pretty much walk to their gallery place location from U street. Go a little further and put it in DCUSA in columbia heights. You would still attract the Ustreeters and you would be right in the middle of columbia heights/adams morgan which is a prime demographic for Urban Outfitters. I agree it would be nice to keep big chains out of Ustreet.

    • I’ve always thought the next urban would go to dcusa, be a pretty decent fit given the rest of the chains stores and make friggin boatloads of cash.

    • TOTALLY AGREE. DCUSA would be a much better place. Perfect demographic, metro, buses, parking (unlike any other Urban so people can actually buy furniture) and loads of foot traffic.

  • I don’t see Urban Outfitters hurting the smaller boutiques since the prices are pretty similar. It’s not like it’s Forever 21. Like Rosie said above, a dip into Urban Outfitters could get someone thinking about clothes shopping and inspire them to seek out something more unique or better made at one of the smaller stores.

  • If they would serve cocktails…sure.

  • It’s a better fit than that guy’s pants…

  • i’m torn.

    i love how local u street is. i love the culture that creates and the local concentration of creatives and business owners that means. urban outfitters is not a good corporation, they constantly steal designs from artists, and that they have so many stores feels so inpersonal.

    yet people like that stuff, so the demand is there. and more vitality is more vitality. i like tax revenues too.

    ultimately though, i’d side with the Fuck Urban Outfitters set.

  • I don’t necessarily take at as given that Urban would “hurt” boutiques. Those are different markets. The guy or gal who wants a $40 flannel or $70 dress is not going to find it in a boutique. Similarly, the people who feel the need to clothe themselves more expensively are not going to say “oh, now that Urban is here I’ll shop there instead.”

    • most of us probably shop at both nice places AND cheap places. depending on what we want to buy. UO falls into my spectrum of affordability.

  • I think Urban Outfitters would do well. I would like to think people who still travel to come shopping at boutiques on you would still go to Lettie Gooch, et al.

    Just my $.02, it probably would end in some boutique closures, but I think that is bound to happen in this hood anyway. Similar to what is happening with Ruff & Ready and Miss Pixie’s when Room & Board moved in. Room & Board did not take anything away from the existing furniture stores, but, in the end, more chain stores mean neighboring landlords think they can jack their rent up more, which may result in some existing small businesses having to close up shop. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have development. It just means that local landlords should realize that there are still a crap ton of for rent commercial spaces in the neighborhood and not go completely crazy.

    Now, lots of holes can be poked in this theory (R&B doesn’t sell items out of the store, so as a show room it caters to a different crowd and the prices are less comparable than an Urban and a Lettie Gooch), but I think the overall idea is sort of on point.

  • Just out of curiosity. Do most people here assume the word boutique = expensive?

    • i tend to.

    • In this area “vintage” and “boutique” both make me think it’s expensive, but I have a low threshold for what expensive is.

      • Yes, I am known to be a bit cheap. However, I went into Violet Boutique in Adams Morgan last weekend and it was every inexpensive. I don’t think anything in the store was more than $50. Definitely less expensive than Urban Outfitters but not quite as cheap as Forever 21. I would say somewhere closer to H&M prices but probably even less.

        I wonder if they are hurting themselves by calling it a boutique because people just assume it is expensive.

  • hispanicandproud

    I don’t like my money going to Republicans so I don’t shop there.

  • andy

    The hipsters who don’t like being called hipsters don’t like the wannabes who shop at urban outfitters coming to their favorite places.

    BUT, my feeling is that U St is already so commercialized that those guys have already moved on to grittier places (maybe like the RAS/Moroni strip, Kennedy St. or somesuch).

    So Urban Outfitters fits those who come there now (e.g., the guys who pack Ben’s every weekend after hearing about it when Obama showed up).

  • I’d LOVEEEE it if there was one on U Street. My bank account, however, would probably not be as big of a fan.

  • On a related note, can anyone recommend (not super expensive) boutiques in the U st area? I’ve only ever ventured over there for the bars so far

  • Not enough daytime foot traffic on U Street to support a chain store of this size. Also, the people who live and hang out on U Street tend to be a bit older than the college and 20-something crowd to which Urban Outfitters caters.

    • I agree with your first statement, but not sure about your 2nd. At least on a weekend, I’m starting to feel too old to hang out on U St, and I’m not even 30 yet.

  • This has to be one of the few places in the world where such a thing is even a debate. The economy is as bad as it’s been since the late 1930s. A large retailer on U Street will increase business for everyone, give people jobs, and deliver a product that at least some people want. What’s the problem?

    This city is growing; the amount of money that lives in Washington, DC isn’t finite. You don’t necessarily have one store losing money when another starts making money. So-called boutiques can compete like every other business in the western world. We ought to encourage them to compete, because it will make them better stores. This isn’t some crazy conservative idea. Economic development is good for Democrats, too.

    I almost lost it when I read objection that the owners or management or whomever were Republican. If that’s your thing — boycotting the products made by people with whom you have political disagreements — living in this large city full of ideas, that also happens to be the capital of a nation founded on the righteousness of political disagreements, might not be right for you. There are woodsy places in Vermont and whatnot that will better accomodate.

    • At the end of the day, if people love small boutiques as much as they say, they will keep shopping at them. Even if the prices are a bit higher than the chain store next door. What people want is boutique stores with chain store prices – the small indy bookshop with the same prices as Amazon. That’s pretty much impossible to pull off given the realities of running a small business. Vote with your wallet. If you patronize the store, it will survive.

    • I think it’s perfectly reasonable not to shop there because without a doubt, the republican owners can donate millions to their candidates and get them elected. the less money they have, the less they can donate. not that it makes much of a difference, but it’s what one person can do and so they should.

      • By refusing to purchase things from people with whom you disagree about taxes, or whatever, you’re discouraging public discourse. People with any sort of stake won’t be able to reveal their opinions, and their political speech will be stifled. It works both ways. If Republicans stopped eating Ben and Jerry’s they’d go belly-up.

        If it were a North Korean-owned shop, I might think it were reasonable.

        • No disrespect but what you are saying makes no sense. By your logic, black people in the South of the 1950’s should not have organized sit ins at segregated lunch counters because the political speech of the companies that owned those lunch counters was being stifled. People have a right (some might say responsibility) to spend their money in ways that promote their values and to refuse to spend their money in places where those values won’t be promoted.

          • Your analogy is a poor one, also meaning no disrespect.

            Without knowing specifically what the beef with Urban Outfitters is, I’m relatively certain they’re not pro-segregation. I’m writing about a hypothetical retail establishment on U Street owned by someone who thinks federal revenue should be 22% of GDP instead of 24%, and not a lunch counter in Alabama run by people who believe in the inferiority of a given race. Ben and Jerry’s is a much better analogy than a 1954 Piggly Wiggly.

            At any rate, I don’t feel so strongly about this. I do think it’s absurd not to buy a novelty t-shirt from someone because they disagree with your preferred policy prescriptions. But I think it’s even more absurd to discourage or disallow their wholly benign retail business in a retail district.

    • I think it’s important to mix chains (with deep pockets) into communities because they can better withstand rent increases, changes in the economy and demographic… all of which stabilize an area. I’m for it, even though I look ridiculous in their clothing.

    • If republicans stopped eating Ben and Jerry’s… you do know B&J is owend by a huge mega-corp, right? They’ll be fine.

      Do you feel the same way about boycotting ChikFilA because of their christian-only anti-gay corporate philosophies and spending habits?

      “By refusing to purchase things from people with whom you disagree about taxes, or whatever, you’re discouraging public discourse.”

      How? Please elaborate

      And if hippies should move to Vermont, shouldn’t all republicans move to Texas?

      • What? I did elaborate. If Americans make choices about retail based on the owners’ political views, people who sell stuff will stop participating in the political process. At least, they’ll stop openly participating. This isn’t some crazy theory. I also think that you probably take American national politics a little too seriously if you’re boycotting retail establishments based on who voted for John McCain and who didn’t. But welcome to DC, I suppose.

        I didn’t write that all hippies should move to Vermont. I wrote that anyone who’s made the preposterous life decision not to purchase products from sellers with whom they disagree about, say, energy policy, is not cut out to live in an urban area. There are places in the Pacific NW that might be accomodating as well. I didn’t mean to single out Vermont.

        I don’t care who owns Ben and Jerry’s — a “mega-corp” or a little old lady. If half of the country stops eating it, it will fail. If you can’t see how absurd complaining about Urban Outfitters opening up on U Street is, based on some manager’s thoughts on federal policy, then this debate is just too farcical for me to continue, MMMMMMMMMMM.

        • No Mr. Poon, you have not elaborated. Americans (hell humanity) have always made choices about purchases based on the owners views be they political, religious, racial etc.

          Your contention that owners will be less open about their politics is interesting and probably quite true. But, “keeping your personal beliefs to yourself” is a good idea for a corporation or the owner of the Black Squirrel.

          Now, you keep saying “energy policies” or “federal policies” as if they do not affect peoples lives. Not all “politics” is not so bland wonkyfied ideas.

          You’ve been asked about race, and you poo-pooed it – so I guess it is ok to avoid businesses that have involved themselves in racial politics. I asked you about anti-gay Chik-Fil-A and you ignored it.

          If a company (say Coors) is boycotted because of the neo-nazi beliefs of its owner… do you think that is wrong of people? You say “thought of the manager”, which is incorrect – it is the owners, not the manager that is being discussed.

          If every single Republican in the USA stopped eating B&J forever, it would crush a new business. It would take the corporation longer to see if they wanted to keep producing the product at a loss. They might, if they think it will rebound. So it does matter whether it is a deep pocketed owner, or a shallow pocketed owner.

          Wait, I think I get it: if this had not been about a specific political party…. would that have changed your opinion? Is it that the poster said “Republican owners”, and not some specific issue the UA owners support that the poster does not?

          If UA opens on U, it will mean nothing to me. I hate U Street.

          • Yes. Republicans are something like 1/3 of the nation, and close to half of all voters voted against the president last go. If you told me that an owner (or manager(s) of a public company) is racist, supports homophobes, loves Nazis, hates Paraguayans, or whatever, yes. Sure. I’m not saying we ought to dismiss racism or homophobia. If you tell me the owner of Whole Foods dislikes Obama’s healthcare program, then I’m much less inclined to entertain the idea that we ought to stop shopping there. People have policy disagreements each and every day. And when we’re talking about the minutiae of federal policy, I think I’m right to be generally dismissive. Despite all the fanfare, an Obama presidency and a George Bush presidency are awfully similar, and as far as my day-to-day goings are concerned, they’re identical.

            My point is simply this: this retail store will objectively be good for the economy of the neighborhood. That their owner or CEO or whoever supports Republicans shouldn’t really be all that offensive to reasonable people.

          • OK, that makes perfect sense to me.

            Thanks for the answer.

        • I don’t shop at Urban Outfitters not from a complaint about who they support politically in general. I really don’t care if someone is a Republican or Democrat. I do not shop there because as someone who is gay they have not had the best record with gay rights.

          Just to make my reasoning clear I have come to this decision because the founder and chairman of Urban Outfitters has donated money to Rick Santorum (who is rather vocally against people getting married, adopting children, and joining the military if they are not heterosexual). I think political policies are a very good reason not to support a business, especially if they are funding anti-LGBT politicians. Therefore I do not want to give them my money and I hope that if enough people take this stance it will stop them from donating to homophobic causes.

          • Interesting since the current CEO of Urban Outfitters is an out gay man, Glen Senk who says “I’m the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 1,000 company.”.

          • Both are true, it seems. Per Pink Panthers (

            “Richard Hayne, the Chairman of the hipsterish Urban Outfitters, is a notably right-wing Republican who generously supports GOP candidates and causes that vote for legislation against gay marriage. His company also operates stores under Free People and Anthropologie name.
            NOTE: Glen Senk, the CEO of the parent company, Urban Outfitters, Inc., is an openly gay man who has been in a committed relationship for over 30 years. However, Richard Hayne is still the founder and current chairman and does indeed have a record for supporting right-wing Republicans who are against abortion and gay rights.”

  • I would put it near the Target in Columbia Heights.

  • I don’t shop at the U Street/14th Street boutiques and I don’t shop at Urban Outfitters either. (I’ve been to Urban Outfitters once or twice and it wasn’t really my thing, though a friend did get me a nice blank book there.)

    So I don’t have a personal stake in this… but I’d like there to be independent stores as well as some chains on U Street. I’d hate it if U Street ended up like Georgetown, which seems to be overwhelmingly composed of national chains — just spread out along Wisconsin and M rather than in shopping-mall form.

  • I think they’d be better off on 14th.

  • As an out gay man and CEO of Urban Outfitters, Glen Senk is probably just as proud making Richard Hayne rich to fund Rick Santorum, Prop 8, and lots of other right-wing nut people and causes…as self-loathing gay Terry Dolan was working for NCPAC and raising money to sabotage people and causes in the 1980s. Political discourse is great and so is knowing enough about a company to know whether you want to have it in your neighborhood or patronize it. Gives new meaning to caveat emptor.

  • They should go to the U and 9th area. There is such great empty space there and such a cool vibe.

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