Fire Devastates Frager’s, Fund Set Up For Donations, Street Closures Remain

1115 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

A reader sends these heart breaking photos of Frager’s this morning. Last night Frager’s wrote:

“Yes, there was a fire at Frager’s. Everyone got out safely, and we are grateful for that. We will get together tomorrow and figure out how to proceed after this terrible fire, but we want to thank you for all your emails, web submissions, and above all, the hugs from so many who we met after the fire. Please stay with us while we sort this out, and thanks!”

For those who want to help, a reader sends:

Tax-Deductible Fund for Frager’s Hardware Fire

The Capitol Hill Community Foundation has set up a donation fund for Frager’s. Contributions are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE.

From their website:

Frager’s Fund Needs Your Support

A special fund is being created to provide help as needed in the aftermath of the June 5th Frager’s Hardware Fire. To make a contribution, click on the Donate button and write “Frager’s” in the Dedication section.



From DDOT:

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Metropolitan Police Department would like to inform the public that the following streets will be closed due to a structure fire in the 1100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.

· Pennsylvania Avenue from 10th to 12th Streets, SE (eastbound closed)
· 11th and 12th Streets (northbound) at G Street, SE
· E Street at 10th Street, SE

**Pennsylvania Avenue (westbound) is open**

Ed. Note: Huge props and respect to the firefighters who battled the four alarm fire. Two firefighters were injured. Wishing them a speedy recovery.

Thanks to all who emailed photos to my princeofpetworth(at) gmail account, tweeted updates to @PoPville, and uploaded photos to the PoPville flickr pool.

Looking forward to posting about rebuilding plans soon.

Update from Matchbox:

In light of the devastating fire at Frager’s Hardware near Eastern Market, the Barrack’s Row location of matchbox (521 8th Street SE) will host open interviews for employees and neighbors affected by the fire and who are in need of temporary work. From 2pm to 5pm this afternoon matchbox management, led by Fred Herrmann, Vice President of Operations for the local restaurant group, will host interviews for all interested candidates affected by the fire.

“Frager’s has been a part of our community for longer than most of us have been here. We want to do what little we can to help alleviate the pain the store’s employees and families are already experiencing, and intend to continue our help for as long as and in whatever ways possible,” Herrmann said.

The recent addition to the board of Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Herrmann plans to involve the restaurant group in the reconstruction in whatever capacity possible after the damage has been assessed and employees are placed in ongoing work.

73 Comment

  • This is just so devastating. Really glad no one was seriously injured though. We were watching the smoke in horror from NoMa last night and just couldn’t believe it was happening 🙁

  • How can you set up a tax-deductible fund for a for-profit business? And why would you want to? Presumably the place had insurance, and if the contributions for the deductible, it would not be a proper charitable purpose to receive a tax deduction for.

    • +1mill

      • You just don’t get it…

        Yes, insurance will step in, but it will take time for that to get settled. This will help in the interim, especially for those employees who need to be paid. This is a voluntary contribution by people who consider Frager’s more than just a for-profit business. Just because they are a for-profit business doesn’t mean this is a huge corporation with coffers to sustain themselves while they are shuttered.

        I hope they can come back as soon as possible. Many thanks to the first responders to who were there through out the night.

        • Assisting the business with cash is not a proper charitable purpose under the tax code. Assisting the now unemployed employees probably would be, however.

          • What are you, a tax lawyer? This is a tragedy and this business has been there for almost 100 years. A lot of neighbors feel very strongly about helping out since Fragers has done a lot for the community over the years.

            Are you really going to nit pick about “tax code”?

          • I love the smell of argument in the morning. It reminds me of victory.

          • @Anon 9:34 – considering that DC has the second largest population of lawyers in the U.S. there is a higher likelihood that anon 9:30 is a lawyer. And, yes, the wording of the fundraising effort should more clearly state what the purpose of the fund is –

          • As a person who has worked for many small businesses including a hardware store, there’s no guarantee that employees will be paid after an incident of this kind. There is no governance of how funds are spent either. Citing that the fire just happened yesterday, it looks pretty disingenuous and quite opportunistic that a tax-exempt donation fund was set up so soon.

            As a business you must remain insured, which is a requirement of operation. The building must be insured, the business must also be insured as well specifically for incidents of this nature.

            I’d never want to be one to say don’t donate to a company/people in need, but it would be unjust if this fund became huge and then on top of it insurance made a payout, when there are others who are in more dire need of donations for disasters. Somewhere in the mix the donated money (or insurance payout) would end up going to someone who doesn’t truly deserve it when this sort of thing happens.

        • There does seem to be a disconnect here. A tax deductible fund can not be set up for the purposes of helping to re-establish a for profit business no matter how valuable it was to the neighborhood. Maybe the wording needs to be changed to indicate how the funds will be used (e.g. assisting unemployed workers while the business is re-established). Nobody is saying this isn’t sad, but I have to admit that when I read the wording “Tax deductible fund for Frager’s Hardware” it just didn’t make sense.

    • It is called community.

      • The fund is set up by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, a 501(c)3 (charitable organization not involved in lobbying) organization that supports community causes, of which this certainly qualifies. Insurance might cover the bones of the building and some of the reconstruction, but it doesn’t pay the bills while the owner/operator/employees are out of work for the several months it will take to rebuild. Donate a couple bucks, feel good, help your neighbors, and hope that they do the same when it’s your time of need!

        • Actually, insurance will the bills while it is being rebuilt.

          • Don’t like it – don’t donate, simple as that. This is a great resource for the employees affected and will ensure they come back sooner and stronger.
            Hooray for Matchbox that is offering to hire displaced Frager’s employees.

    • Completely agree. Its awful that it happened, but this is a bad use of the tax code.

      • KSB

        A donation to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation is legally tax-deductible and it’s not uncommon at all for community foundations to have emergency funds earmarked for events like this. I don’t see how it’s a violation of the tax code at all. It’s a simple way for neighbors and friends of Frager’s to make an immediate impact on this grave situation for both the out-of-work employees and for the immediate neighbors with smoke and water damage to their homes. Insurance will definitely cover just about everything, but the unforeseen is scary in a situation like this and having a cushion can’t hurt!

      • and to criticize a great community organization for not providing a better description? They did get this fund up and running withn about 12 hours of the fire itself.

    • My guess is that the funds will be used to assist the 60 some odd employees that are affected by this. Presumably many of them are or will now be unemployed as result of this unfortunate situation. It’s great that the members of the Cap Hill community want to reach out and help their neighbors.

      • Some of the nearby neighbors may have been impacted as well. I walk past here on my way to work, and I overheard someone say their house was completely full of smoke. Given how toxic that smoke must be it probably won’t be safe for them to stay there.

      • Isn’t that what unemployment is for? (I really don’t know, never having been in this situation, thank God.)

        I know things take time, and I’m glad the community wants to step in a help out, but how dysfunctional is insurance industry & our social safety net if disaster funds still need to be created?

        • Unemployment benefits are incredibly meager. I looked into it last year when it looked like I was going to be unemployed (thankfully I found a new job before the old one ended and had a mere one-week gap). The amount of money I would have received from unemployment benefits would have covered about 80% of my rent. Helpful, sure, but definitely not a long-term option. (Which is why it is so important to have rainy-day savings.)

        • Yes, unemployment will cover them. As far as your other question, you can ask the same of pretty much any domestic charitable giving. Why give to the House of Ruth when we have city services devoted to justice and victim services? Why give to Bread for the City when we have food stamps?

          The answer, I think, is that our social safety net is a meant to be a blend of both public and private services. The public services tend to cover the bare minimum, and the private services are layered over that base. It’s the reason the charitable giving donation exists.

          • Right, but the point of the charities you mention is to help anyone who falls within their mission. To target a specific business is quite a bit different.

          • Yes, I wasn’t speaking of this situation specifically, merely replying to Alice’s question “but how dysfunctional is insurance industry & our social safety net if disaster funds still need to be created?”

          • Thanks TazinDC and jcm for you answers.

            I wasn’t thinking of established charities like Muriel’s Closet or Bread for the City so much as quick charities thrown together as soon as something happens. I suppose in this instance CHCF is a bit of both.

            I don’t know what the best way to help people is, I just wish there wasn’t an automatic call for money whenever a disaster/tragedy happens. Hastily thrown together charities/funds for disasters make it easy for criminals to scam good hearted people. [Note: I am not calling this organization a scam.]

    • If you’re really curious, why don’t you hire a tax lawyer and pay her or him to figure it out for you?

  • I am seriously in shock. It sounds strange to say about a store, but there was such a strong connection to that place. So much of my house was renovated, maintained, and improved with materials from Fragers and help from its employees. I told friends and family it was “the greatest hardware store in America”.

    I hope they rebuild and make it better than ever– but some of that ramshackle charm will inevitably be lost. Maybe they will be able to clean up and get the garden center operating while larger work is done?

    Thank you to all of Fragers employees for your help and cheerfulness over the years. The community is here for you, just as you were always there for us.

  • Work makes Community. Looking forward to seeing Fragers back on it’s feet.

  • “Shaking Head”…

    Being shocked that you can legally give tax free donations to a for-profit business aside, the residents of Cap Hill are more than welcome to give as much money as they want to Fragers. However, all businesses can readily purchase “interruption insurance” to cover lost profits and to make payroll during a disaster. It is pretty cheap policy. I have it and I own a consulting company where people could just as easily work out of their homes if our office was destroyed, so I have little patience for businesses who are seemingly so concerned about their employees wellbeing “after” the fact and want the public to cover their wages because the can’t work. It recently happened to a bar on the hill.

    Oh, and those folks who are fans of the store should know that it won’t be the same when rebuilt. Nothing about that place was up to code, but was grandfathered in due to age, but now that it was destroyed, it will have to be rebuilt to current code. Things like aisle width, ADA compliance etc, will all have to be incorporated, so those ridiculous tiny little aisles will be no more.

    • It really sucks what happened to Frager’s, but I have to agree. They might do a lot of good things in the community, and it’s fine if individuals want to give money. But this isn’t exactly a moral imperative here. Given the dangerous and flammable stuff that’s in every hardware store, a catastrophic fire was certainly within the realm of possibility. And that’s what business interruption insurance is for.

    • You suggesting the employees of Fragers just telecommute until the store is rebuilt? Remind me to hire you as a consultant.

      The funds are being collected to support the scores of employees now unable to work for hourly wages due to the fire. First of all, the employees haven’t been terminated, so there’s no basis for unemployment claims unless the staff are terminated (and which would not even provide a fraction of their already modest hourly pay if qualifying).

      Don’t want to donate? Just don’t. It’s beyond me why you need to be ass about other people’s compassionate response towards friends and neighbors.

      • “You suggesting the employees of Fragers just telecommute until the store is rebuilt? Remind me to hire you as a consultant”

        You need to work on your reading comprehension before you attack anyone. It’s obvious to anyone who doesn’t have an agenda that this not what Biz Owner is saying. What he or she is saying is that interruption insurance covers things like payroll while the business is being rebuilt. A totally reasonable position, unlike your (intentionally?) ignorant rant.

        • Interruption insurance covers *non-hourly* payroll, as near as I can determine (i.e. the salaries a business would be obligated to pay whether a tragedy occurred or not), not hourly wages (for which employees are paid based on every hour they show up to work). Unless you know of a specific business interruption policy that covers hourly wages and can name it specifically, I think you need to take a seat in this debate. Here, let me pull up a chair for you…

          • Must be tough being so snarky all the time.

            Also wrong. From a business insurance lawyer’s blog: “If the policy has an Ordinary Payroll Exclusion or Limitation, the company can maintain all non-hourly payroll as a continuing expense in the worksheet and submit the payroll for the hourly employees under an additional coverage endorsement, which is purchased for a specific number of days (e.g., 30, 60, 90, and up to 365) to be recovered within the Period of Restoration.”

            So yeah, you can buy coverage for hourly employees.

            Sit down yourself, jackass.

          • “submit the payroll for the hourly employees” for a hardware store that is inoperable? That’s absurd unless the hourly workers have a fixed set of hours they work every week. That’s not how retail works, *jackass*, work schedules fluctuate at retail based on the need determined by the manager. Oh, you think every hourly worker at a retail establishment has the same hours every week? Maybe because you’re a moron who lives under a rock. That little over generalized piece of information you dug up in a Google search has nothing to do with the specific needs of this *retail* business whose employees have fluctuating hourly schedules. Instead of pulling up a chair for you, I think I’ll hit you with one instead…

          • Ah, the Big Internet Tough Guy, Ladies and Gentlemen.

            We were all wondering when you’d make an appearance.

          • A big dispute in business interruption claims made by retailers is how much hourly payroll is lost. If the insurer lowballs the business, guess who gets stiffed? The hourly employees. You all act like this is Magical Fantasy Land where insurers are chomping at the bit to pay hourly employees as much as they can because insurers are Fairy Godmothers. No, this is the real world where even if you *do* have insurance, claims may not equal up to your actual losses, including the amount you need to pay hourly workers. You heartless bastards, all this fundraising is for is to make up the difference in whatever these people would be owed. If Frager’s has insurance, they’re not going to give employees an extra ten thousand they didn’t earn. Who raised you people, wolves?

          • LOL @ your name-calling and general outrage. Would you speak to someone that way in person? Be honest, now.

            As far as the *hourly* *schedule* for these *retail* *employees* is concerned…gosh, if only there was some way to look at schedules over time and figure out how many hours they worked in a typical week. Something involving math, maybe some addition and a divisor…

          • I must admit, I am giving Frager’s the benefit of the doubt and assuming what the money will go towards. If I was heartless like you people, I’d just assume they were going to take the money and go on vacation in the Alps or something. SMH.

          • Washingtonian, you’re wrong.

            Fun fact: you can pretty much buy insurance for anything.

      • Absolutely. The cold calculations and schadenfreude exhibited in some of these comments shows some of the worst qualities of insular DC residents. Capitol Hill and environs is a real community, and this is what community members do- support each other.

        If your knee-jerk reaction is “they should have had better insurance”– wow. I hope you’re not my neighbor.

        • If you – or anyone else – owns a business for that long I sure hope you have thought about proper insurance. It’s not unreasonable to say someone made a poor business decision by not thinking through insurance properly. It’s just body is being mean or inconsiderate. It’s awful what happened, but there is a side of reality to it

        • You’re right, it’s completely heartless and impractical to wonder about the coverage they may or may not hold in a discussion about the future of the business and the immediate needs of its employees. Tossing money at people because FEELINGS! is always the better approach.

          What if it turns out they’re not able to access the tax-deductible funds for some bureaucratic reason that could’ve been avoided if people had asked questions sooner? Will you feel the same way?

      • Anonymous –

        you’re being emotionally irrational. That is not at all what BizOwner was saying. He/she was actually saying that even though their employees COULD work from home in the event of a disaster, they’ve chosen to purchase insurance to safeguard their employees EVEN THOUGH they probably could operate for the time being if something happened. The point made is that clearly with a brick and mortar store like Frager’s, you CANNOT have employees work from home and therefore it would be IMPERATIVE for the business owner to purchase insurance to protect their employees (if they cared enough). This is not the public’s responsibility to step in to cover an expense that the business should have thought about in the first place.

        Nobody is being an “ass” it’s just the reality of the situation. It seems that people are concerned about why a profitable business is soliciting donations, and what those donations will be used for. You’re arguing that people are insensitive because the money will be used for lost wages. This is complete speculation. If you want to go give your money, that is your decision but it should not be tax-deductible.

      • That is not at all what the previous poster is suggesting. The previous poster is indicating that he or she has interruption insurance even though his or her employees could continue working from home if something catastrophic happened to the business. In other words, he or she has protected the employees even though they would have the ability to keep working.

        • I guess the broader question is why BizOwner is bringing his or her business model into this discussion at all. Unless he or she owns a hardware store, I don’t see the relevance.

          • it’s just to be pissy.

          • It’s relevant to the extent that a business owner who could scrape by without interruption insurance chose to have it anyway, so how cost-prohibitive could it be?

  • Don’t they have insurance?

  • Hoping for a swift recovery for Fragers. I only went a couple of times, but if I’d lived closer to Capitol Hill, I’m sure I would have been a regular customer. Like some of the commenters, I’m not sure I’m 100% comfortable with the principle of tax-deductible donations flowing to a for-profit enterprise, but it is certainly not unheard of in situations related to emergency funds or in community development/commercial corridor efforts that support facade improvement and other small business development efforts.

    The tax deductible thing is a larger structural issue within the tax code that won’t likely be solved anytime soon. For this immediate situation, anyone who is opposed on principle to a tax-deductible contribution assisting Fragers is certainly free to donate to the fund and NOT claim the deduction on their taxes (no, it doesn’t mean everyone else will automatically do the “right” thing in that respect, but at least you’ll be taking your stand). And anyone concerned about the purposes of the fund is free to do their due diligence with the Capitol Hill Community Foundation (which is a good idea before making any charitable contribution, anyway).

  • I’m definitely not a lawyer, but do find the tax deduction conversation here interesting. A good exercise might be to substitute some other business in the place of Fragers. Would you want tax-deductible contributions to go to an anti-abortion office? A gun store? A pesticide manufacturing plant?

    • Good point, and that’s what I was thinking above when I said I’m not 100% comfortable with the principle. My gut reaction to the Fragers situation is “yes, set up a fund to help this neighborhood small business and community institution!” because I know it and because to *me* it’s a worthy cause. At the same time, if someone posed to me the hypothetical question “Do you think tax-deductible contributions should provide assistance to a for-profit business?” I would probably say no. Also, some of these issues have been on my mind because I’m reading a book about the charitable sector that I think makes a lot of good points about the lack of scruity and accountability for many tax-exempt organizations (and I’ve made my career in 501c3s, so I’m not knocking the industry). Unfortunately, with all the IRS nonsense going on right now, it doesn’t look like we’re moving toward a climate of increased scrutiny at all.

      • I think it would be in the best interest of the community to have the burnt-out structure revived as soon as possible, no matter what business is operating inside it. Having an eyesore so predominately located in the neighborhood is not good.

        • True, and I think this is the logic for some of the commercial corridor work that my community development colleagues do (I don’t work in that area directy)–that a vibrant business corridor can improve local property values and quality of life and can provide employment opportunities to neighborhood residents, along with a host of other amenities.

    • Spent many dollars in Fragers over the past decade – I hope they rebuild.

      Regarding your question – I can’t speak for all of them, but the anti-abortion organizations that I support are 501c3’s unlike for profit businesses like hardware stores, gun stores, etc.

  • This is so sad! I was literally just there last weekend to get herb garden supplies. I love this store. They are always so helpful and literally have everything.

  • That place was desperately in need of a renovation. As a disabled military vet I could barely navigate the awful aisles. Sure the employees were nice and could bring me things I had questions about but it doesn’t replace actually shopping for yourself.

  • I didn’t shop at Frager’s very often, but I pass it every day on my way to work and liked having it in the neighborhood. I think a lot of us in the community want to help in some way, and money’s the only thing we can offer. If my donation helps them rebuild a little faster and not lose their wonderful employees I’d consider it worthwhile.

  • houseintherear

    It sounds as though people already reached out and wanted to help in some way, so the community association set up a fund for donations… simple as that, no harm done. You don’t have to donate if you don’t want to.

  • I loved this place – so many times during my renovation they saved my a$$. It was the subject of one of my 1st posts during my very brief stint at Apartment Therapy….

  • nothing like a fire to make people argue.

  • Also, I think if you are a tax attorney or have some sort of expertise in this area, and you actually care about this, why wouldn’t you just share some of that knowledge directly with the Capital Hill Community Foundation? All of their contact information is right there on the linked website, and as far as I know, they do great work in the community. It’s only been 12 hours since the fire, and the fund was likely set up quite hastily. If you are “not comfortable” donating money, why not get in touch with them and say why? Maybe I’m just being snarky and people have actually done this, but a lot of this thread just stinks of concern trolling, one of my biggest internet pet peeves.


  • justinbc

    There is a lot of mud slinging over what amounts mostly to speculation here. How about you all wait just a bit and get some facts?

    Has Frager’s stated they don’t have the necessary insurance those of you who are getting upset about it seem to imply they don’t have?

    Did Frager’s even solicit these donations or was it done solely by the charity organization? The latter seems to be the actual case.

    I think the anonymous poster @10:18 said it best… If you want to give, then give, and if you don’t then simply don’t. If you want to give but are for some reason upset about the tax deductible part then simply don’t deduct it when you file your taxes. If you don’t think it should be deductible and want to throw a hissy fit, contact the organization first and find out where the funds are going before basing your anger off some wording in a post you saw on a website.

  • Can also donate through GiveForward. It was set up by Julia Robey Christian. Here’s the link:

    • DC CapHill

      ^This^ Donated this morning, FELT GREAT. Don’t care if it’s tax deductible or not. I love my neighbors, my neighborhood COMMUNITY and Frager’s was my go-to time and time, again. it’s a business and staff that I care about, and I’ll gladly kick in to keep them going, no matter what their insurance claims provide.

      I seriously hope I don’t share a neighborhood with 9/10 of the “Internet Tax Wizards and Business Owners” on here. If you care more about a private citizen and local resident donating a small amount to a local business, more than you do about a company like Apple shielding some $44B in taxes in Ireland, you should all have your heads examined. Boooooo, the local business. Huzzah a Corporation worth more than my own Federal Government! Ridiculous……

      And for the one that said this money wouldn’t go to “deserving” recipients; what is your proposal for it? And don’t tell me to donate to the poor/homeless/indigent/after school program, etc. I already do, to the ones I actually think function correctly. How about the DC Government function properly for ONCE, so I don’t have to come out of pocket for that? Meanwhile, I’m sure as I type this, someone in our fair city is getting jacked for their iPhone by a student of DC public schools. Money well spent, clearly. If we had a Summer Jobs Program that wasn’t a complete JOKE, this might have been prevented. So again, please remind me why I’m giving money to something I actually CARE about and KNOW for a fact functions correctly?

      Oh yeah……

      • justinbc

        Nobody here stated they cared more about this than anything related to Apple. You’re the only one who even brought it up. Simply stating concern about Item A does not mean you can’t also have concern about Item B.

        • DC CapHill

          The (false) indignation of trying to tell another citizen what they can and cannot claim on their own 1040 tax form, is every bit as disingenuous as not caring about what Apple did to every tax payer. A minimal donation to a good cause, whose go-between happens to be a 501(c)(3), doesn’t even register a blip on the radar of “wrongs to be righted.”

          I would have hoped a gesture of kindness and goodwill would have tamped down the usual trolling of the “internet lawyer brigade”, but like the true ambulance-chasers that they are, they flocked, and were assholes, as per usual.

          Carry on……

  • So sad. A friend of mine was sending me photos and video as it was happening. Such a loss for Capitol Hill and DC.

  • Your contributions to an already qualified 501c3 are tax deductible. Thats the law. It doesnt matter what their purpose is, the tax filer is protected if the nonprofit is acting out of compliance with the tax code, as long as they dont have knowledge of said rule breaking.

    i.e. – give money if you want to the foundation. Their lawyers should be able to distribute the money appropriately.

    The nonprofit is not allowed to simply write checks to a for-profit entity or an individual to cover expenses, though. I am sure that the foundation understands the rules by which they are governed much better than me. I do think they are permitted to provide health insurance, meals, employment. I.E. the fragers employees could all become employees of the foundation and go around and fix up poor peoples’ houses or dig tree boxes or something.

    If they do not, they may get in trouble. But, people who are donating money to a qualified non-profit under the assumption that it is using the money consistent with the law should not be penalized.

    If the foundation determines that they are not allowed to disperse funds at all, which I have no way of knowing, then they have the obligation of informing their donors that the purpose for which the funds were solicited is not permissible.

    This isnt rocket science. Fragers isnt soliciting the money.

  • Since you all presumably know so much about this issue (or not, just adding opinions) why’s everyone commenting anonymously?

Comments are closed.