Dear PoPville – Check Out the Ghosts of Avignone Freres Bakery in Adams Morgan

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“Dear PoPville,

Check out the “old bones” that lie under the drywall, linoleum, indoor/outdoor carpet, and drop ceiling at the former Payless Shoes site on Columbia Road. More importantly, it’s the former Avignone Freres historic bakery, which furnished the White House with cakes and pastries.

If you walk by the site today, you can still see the same square pillars. Hopefully, the original marble (or faux marble) columns can still be unearthed beneath the drywall that’s there now…”

Payless Shoes closed at 1777 Columbia Rd, NW in Nov. 2011.

22 Comment

  • Wow. I suggest an immediate architectural seance to call that particular ghost forward.

  • Yeah. Wow. Can we bring it back just as it was. Looks fantastic.

  • on one hand, it’s really depressing that such a beautiful place is no longer with us. on the other hand, i’m incredibly grateful that such an establishment is no longer within walking distance of my relentless sweet tooth.

    unnecessary snark: Heller’s, please take note of what a bustling bakery looks like!

  • Wow so beautiful, reminds me of the sit down bakery/coffee shops in Vienna

  • sad to think it will never look that good again.

  • What year is that photo from?

  • I have fond memories of going there as a kid in the late 70s through the 80s. When I returned to town in the mid-90s I lived nearby, and, though it was a faded version of its old self, was a reminder of being home.

  • Even in the 90s, it was busy all day on weekends and completely unlike anything in DC. My favorite place for coffee and dessert with out of town company.

  • I remember this place from the early 1990’s. Only went a couple of times but liked the food and the atmosphere, and it was always crowded. (Anybody else remember the orange juicer?) I was shocked when they closed–does anybody know why? Seems they were doing good business.

    • Ironic that the person who “only went a couple of times but liked the food and the atmosphere” isn’t sure why they closed. Simple- we have to support small, locally-owned businesses.

      • Maybe he didn’t live close by? Maybe he frequented other small businesses in the area? If the place was always busy as he says, maybe it simply closed because the owner retired? While I don’t take issue with supporting small businesses in lieu of national chains, it is not our duty to race around town with a checklist in hand to ensure we have sufficiently supported every small business.

  • what year did this place close?

    • DAKOTA nightclub opened in the space in the summer of 1987, later changing ownership and its name in early 1990.

      • Did it then change back to Avignone Freres again in the early 90’s? I definitely remember going there in ’91-’92.

        • I remember Mr Pietro Orcino owned the business as early as the 1960s. When he passed in the 1980s, his son John took over but ended up losing it due to financial problems.

  • I live around the corner. If anyone with more ambition, capital and food-skills than me is reading this: resurrect this establishment and I pledge to drink your coffee and snarf your baked goods with the religiosity displayed by a 12-year-old encountering Justin Bieber for the first time.

    • Great idea, but simply not feasible. Rent’s very cheap or almost nothing if your family has owned a business there for decades. If you have to pay market rents, it really eats into your bottom line. That’s why most coffee shops and restaurants go towards higher-end of the price points and we have fewer and fewer reasonably priced greasy spoons, local bakeries, simple coffee/dessert places, etc.

  • saf

    I loved that place. It was a wonderful place to get coffee and breakfast when I live in that neighborhood.

  • Seems like someone could do a LOT better than a Payless Shoes place there. What does it need, hmm? A boutique hotel across the street? (heh heh heh)

  • Would love to see a ‘fast fashion’ store in that space — Gap, Banana Republic, H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters or something similar.

  • It’s funny how people have such great memories. I guess time heals all wounds? I lived at Ontario & Lamont in the early ’90’s and I remember Avignon Freres having terrible service and average food. It’s hard to remember which was first (Avingon Freres closing or The Diner opening) but it wouldn’t surprise me if those two events were correlated. The point is just because something is “an independent business” doesn’t make it good. They probably closed because they weren’t running a good business, not because peopel prefer IHOP. The Diner, obviously, has done very well.

    I miss the Little Giant in Mt. Pleasant a lot more… now there was a greasy spoon!

  • The Avignone Freres in the postcard view was a charming, very old-world, Old City DC kind of place. Like a lot of DC back in the 1970s-80s, it was seemingly untouched by time. The food was OK, but I thought that the baked goods at Reeves downtown were a little better. When this location closed—and became Dakota nightclub—a lot of renovation work was done. I know that those iron decorative iron railings were removed and sold off. There was another incarnation of Avignone Freres that opened up later on, just a few doors away. The name was the same, the food was edible, but the magic was gone. To try to re-create the same place, in the same space, would be a tremendous drain on even the deepest pockets.

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