“Say No! To Corner Stores in our Neighborhood”


“Dear PoPville,

This was delivered with my mail yesterday in Petworth – anyone else receive one?
Good luck making sense of it.”

83 Comment

  • These uses are all over the City in residential areas. The problem is that over time they have become horrible for the most part. Its really a matter of enforcement not zoning. I like Rock Creek Market a lot. They are always clean, friendly and have a good selection. Gees MArket on the other hand is pure trash. They are cited yearly for illegal activity and continue to operate. A better approach would be to ban the sale of singles and all tobacco products if you want to cut down on related “hanging out” issues etc. This flier is not a very nuanced reading of the zoning rewite.I live in a corner residential unit and no, I would not be able to just turn it into a commercial use.

    • …because selling tobacco products invites crime, robberies, and overall contributes to the downfall of the neighborhood. On the tail end of the tobacco free CVS news I see.

  • Am I the only one who is very confused by this poster? I’ve read it twice and I’m still not sure whether it is for or against corner stores.

    • I *think* he is quoting (without quotation marks) pro-zoning-update material in order to dispute it. So unclear.

    • I agree. They post pros and cons, but claim they’re against?!? Depending on your area, stores can attract loiterers…but not always. When I lived downtown, I lived across from 2 and never saw loitering . Around the corner from where I live now, people will hang outside the store in the coldest of temperatures.

    • same here.

    • The campaign should be against “dirty” corner stores, small time criminals, and street-level loitering in residential areas, but no, lawmakers and police think that issuing speed tickets with cameras while sitting in offices and in police cruisers constitutes good crime prevention.

  • I think the idea of corner retail (no, not just corner markets- could also be for art, dray goods retail, etc) is awesome and will make DC a better place. I think it’s the best and most important part of the zoning re-write. People are scared of change, but for the most part these are a return to the rules that governed the early part of this city. Many storefronts in Cap Hill, Gtown and elsewhere that have always been storefronts, couldn’t be under the current rules. They are grandfathered in. And if they shut down, they’d need a variance to re-open as commercial space.

  • brookland_rez

    I think it depends on the neighborhood. When I lived near 3rd and K NE in 2006 timeframe, before the neighborhood cleaned up, there was a corner store on the corner of 6th and L where there was always a lot of loitering outside on the corner by ahem “corner boys”. I was there until 2008, but by the time I left, the area cleaned up sufficiently that there was no longer that element.

  • Wowza, whoever thought of the slogan for this campaign is an idiot.

    • I can just picture them working on this flyer, “Yeah, we’re on a roll here with trashy, flashy, smelly, boozy, and……darnit, we’ll just go with open late.”

  • houseintherear

    So basically, we should really want corner stores and also not want them.

  • I think I get what the flyer says albeit confusing. Most of these corner stores sell out of date food, junk food, liquer and smokes. I true, clean and well managed market would be nice. I live near a corner store in Columbia Heights. It’s a rat hole and people hang out there all hours of the day and night. There have been been several assaults. I’m not sure what we can do, but it’s a blight in the neighborhood.

  • Do we know who’s responsible for these? I’d really like to kick them in the ‘nads.

  • God forbid you could buy a gallon of milk or a six pack of beer within walking distance of a house. The horror!

    • You don’t get it. Not all corner stores are like the ones over by Sibley Hospital. Most are like the ones at 1st and U Nw. Guys hanging out , dealing drugs, harassing people walking by, dirty, limited selection of items. From what I can see of the corner stores already in the city they are havens for illicit behavior, and I am not convinced that any store can stay open by just selling bumpers of beer, chips, cigarettes and lottery tickets. I think a lot of them are involved in the very illegal behavior that is hanging out and going on in front of them

      • ROFL…Oh Mona. Thanks for the SNL “Church Lady” flashback.

      • +1 to what Mona said re. “Guys hanging out , dealing drugs, harassing people walking by, dirty, limited selection of items.”
        I don’t think corner stores are necessarily fronts for something else per se (though at least one has been busted for selling khat), but in struggling neighborhoods, they attract and foster the worst elements.
        And Nathan, there was no need to be so dismissive of Mona’s point of view.

        • Corner stores are what makes cities. They nice corner stores which are in Georgetown and other “nice” areas were once prominently blacks. Just moving to DC two years ago it is obvious to see how the influx of CVS’s can lea cornerstores to try to stay in business by any means. They have to compete with corporations! CVS’s have security guards and for the most part police are always near or in them as well. DC should instead promote corner stores, and help protect the ones already here. These small businesses are important to some communities!

  • The zoning change sounds pretty good, the way the flyer describes it. They’re not really making their case against it, if that’s what they’re trying to do…but then again, I can’t tell.

  • Corner stores in a neighborhood?!? Quelle Horreur!

  • Not only is this person deranged judging but the text, he also included a picture of Cornercopia. Cornercopia! It’s basically the platonic ideal of a great corner store here in the Navy Yard.

    • They should have used that pic and said “Dream Store” then a pic of a corner store from the wire or a similar show and said “Reality Store”. It would have gone perfectly with the flyer’s text.

    • I really like that, from what I can see in a grainy black-and-white, the two people “hanging out on the corner” in front of the store in the picture are two nicely dressed young white women with a dog. They look SUPER threatening!
      Better be careful and walk quickly with your head down past those two, or they just might say something awful to you, like “hey! you look really familiar – did you go to Vassar?”…

  • I can’t follow this at all. Or can I?

  • The idea of having varieties of neighborhood/block stores sounds nice, but seriously? I would not want to live near one or right next to one. Who would? And how in the world of DC would enforcement or non-discriminatory rules work in making sure shady stores didn’t opened on every block?

    • gotryit

      DC doesn’t do it – your dollars do. If enough people are buying 40s and lottery tickets, then that’s what the store is going to sell. If enough people won’t step foot in that place, and instead spend their money at a place like “Cornercopia”, then that’s what will flourish. Use basic capitalism; hooray.

      • Except the city/fed subsidizes housing, so basic capitalism is not allowed to function. If your free market approach were allowed to function all the guys “hanging out” would be priced out and gone within a few years. But as long as the projects remain, and section 8, and rent control, they remain. And in that context, the context of the DC we actually live in, corner stores can be a problem. The solution, as others have pointed out, is voluntary agreements banning alcohol singles, not banning the stores themselves.

        • The solution is have security like those CVS’s have. Compare the corner stores to all those CVS chains in DC. The only benefit CVS should have over corner stores is their pharmacy. There are alternatives besides not selling singles, because how are these corner stores going to compete with these corporations? Even though corner stores may have some negative traits they are an essential piece to cities. Removing them would be destroying history, culture, and community.

    • The old corner store on my block closed several years back and was converted into a residence. Folks–including the immediate neighbors–were reminiscing at our last block party about how much they missed it. So, I think that’s an answer to your question, “Who would?”

  • This is satirical, right?

  • The flyer is poorly done. It’s trying to say: “The rationale is X. However, the reality is going to be Y. The rules are A, B, C, and D. However, those rules aren’t actually going to be enforced.”
    In theory, corner stores are a nice idea. In practice, the ones I see specialize in junk food, lottery tickets, and alcohol and contribute heavily to litter on nearby residential streets. They also attract loitering.
    My neighborhood has a bunch of corner stores already. I can understand how someone in a neighborhood that doesn’t have corner stores would want to keep it that way.

  • Corner stores are a fundamental part of keeping mixed-use sidewalk spaces in large metropolitan areas safe. It is very sad to see such (confusing) disdain for a proposal that would increase adult visibility of common public areas and minimize the mischief that occurs on otherwise unoccupied corners.

    I am continually confused by the desire of DC residents to build up pockets of exclusively residential areas in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

  • This flyer was sent from around the corner from my house. This area has corner stores that are seedy and uninviting. I’m waiting for someone to open a clean corner store. Sadly, I think it’s going to take Walmart coming to the neighborhood for this to happen.

  • I missed the cornercopia photo.. If its the one in SE, that place is awesome. They have great sandwiches and good beer/wine selection. Again, the issue isn’t corner stores but more about the quality of them. Who wouldn’t love to be able to walk a block or two and get some quality items in a clean, safe store. So just regulate them more, ban certain items or bullet proof class etc…shut down the ones that break the law the first offense.

  • Satire, folks. It is uncomfortably close to the types of flyers unhinged NIMBYs send out, but this is clearly satire.

    • gotryit

      recommendation for future satire: be funny

    • Certainly not Colbert quality. My guess is that it was more focused on calling out the ridiculousness of the opposition to corner stores rather than trying to be funny about it.

  • I rarely ever read something and immediately think it’s got a racial overtone, but the idea that we want to get rid of some corner stores because people hang out in front of them and promote other corner stores that sell “healthy” food is about as good a use of code words that I can think of.

    • Black people eat healthy food too.

      • Not saying they don’t but the line asking if we really want people hanging out on the corner of our residential neighborhood isn’t something you hear much complaining about in Georgetown or Dupont.

    • Don’t disagree, but I’ll bet $100 this flyer was actually written by a middle-class native Black DCite.

      • Wow! I’m curious. Could you elaborate on your ability to ascertain the writer’s race, class, and place of residence (okay — that might be a given) based on the flyer?

  • You have to have corner stores, especially now in Petworth. The new Safeway is under construction and the backup Safeway is closed due to rats. Yes! is too expensive for most folks. The corner store provides the basic supplies to get by.

    • In the 2-3 blocks of Georgia Avenue south of the Petworth Safeway, there are four mini-marts (one north of the Metro entrance, three south of it) and a CVS.

    • People always say this about Yes being too expensive but I find that the items I purchase are about the same at Safeway. 3 bucks for a carton of eggs, 3 bucks for milk, 4 -5 bucks for a half chicken. What do people buy that is so much less expensive at Safeway?

  • Too much holier than thou. This person should not live in a city.

  • I think it’s a poorly executed attempt at satire. Personally, I LOVE corner stores. I used to live over on the Hill and while many were little markets, most were coffee shops, dry cleaners, small offices, etc. I liked them – it let you have stuff nearby that you could stop in at while walking the dog that wasn’t necessarily needed, but wasn’t worth walking three or five blocks to a commercial corridor to go to.
    For example, I could make a special trip for dry cleaning – I don’t use it often – but it was handy to have one at the end of the block instead of needing to make that special trip. I think they should be allowed pretty much everywhere.
    Think of how nice it would be to have Duke’s from 17th Street a block away from you, or how great it would be to have a Georgetown Valet nearby. These aren’t places that will, by themselves, produce big trash / rat / noise / loitering problems, and they could do well in certain neighborhoods.

  • I live right by the Avenue Supermarket on NH Ave, but I never go there. Mostly because it has been written up for things like changing expiration dates and storing dairy in temperatures which are too high. People also loiter, deal drugs, and there’s a whole lot of shout at each other in the parking lots. The police know about it, and do their weekly drive by, but it doesn’t change anything. It’s a shame too, because many people choose to hop on the bus to do their shopping elsewhere. I hate to be one of those people, but based most of the corner stores in this city, I don’t think they’ll be much different or add anything positive to our neighborhood.

    • I don’t know. Seems like a corner store that opened up today might be quite a bit different than a place like Avenue Supermarket that’s been limping along for a very long time. In many areas, real estate prices alone would dictate that.

    • I live near there and I don’t understand why MPD doesn’t do anything about the open air drug trade and loitering. That whole shopping center is horrible. Not to mention all of the trash thrown on the streets.

    • I live near there too and am praying it goes out of business and closes ASAP. It smells gross, the people who hang out there are shady as hell and it’s a blight on the whole neighborhood. The whole shopping center is. I recently decided to stop going there, but they sell enough lottery tickets, smokes and alcohol to stay open for a long time, unfortunately.

  • If I do receive one, it’ll go straight in the trash (actually, recycling).

  • What a lot of hooey. I live on 17th Street and there are three corner stores each within about two block of my apartment, and they’re fine. They sell alcohol, but during limited hours. They sell lottery tickets, but that hasn’t lead to street corner dice games. They are not fancy at all, and they don’t have people hanging outside them. And considering what my rent is, it sure doesn’t seem as if the stores have depressed property values one cent.
    I think the folks behind this paranoid notice need to dial it waaaay down.

    • There is a world of difference between the corner stores in Dupont, Capitol Hill, etc. and those in Columbia Heights, Pleasant Plains, Park View, and similar neighborhoods.

      • But that’s my point – there doesn’t have to be. The places near me are not some high-end artisanal anything. They’re just basic corner stores. This flyer is implying that every corner store will bring doom to whatever neighborhood it’s located in. A corner store does not have to be about loitering, trash, and public drunkenness, in any neighborhood in the city. You set the rules (and as I poined out, that includes limited hours overall, and even more limited hours for alcohol sales), you enforce the rules, and things will be fine.

  • The writer of this has no clue about the history of the city. Corner stores were THE source of groceries that weren’t perishable or delivered. You can see the vestiges of them all over though most are houses now. This was the case prior to the large grocery chains and more modern/reliable refrigeration. So a move for more corner stores is a bit retro actually. Of course from the 60’s onward they did get a bit of a bad rap for over charging and selling less that good product in the grocery desert that was the District of Columbia. Maybe this is what they are really protesting? Or is it the though of “newcomers” opening corner stores?

  • That corner store pictured in Nsvy Yard is awesome. A great asset to the neighborhood with good sandwiches as an alternative to all the chains moving in.

    So, this made me say yes to corner stores.

  • I actually am sort of fascinated by the corner stores in Bloomingdale/Col Heights that have refused to gentrify. Is it really more profitable to exclusively sell booze and cigarettes, rather than branch out into the absurdly overpriced things gentrifiers love to spend their money on because of convenience? Bodegas in NYC are an excellent reflection of the profit motive at work as their tiny stores are crammed floor to ceiling with little conveniences for all sorts of people. Here, seems like only one type of consumer is serviced. Just seems really odd. I’d love for one of these blogs to do an interview with one of the owners of one of these places and get their perspective about why they prefer to do nothing rather than make a profit, typically the primary goal of a shopkeeper.

    • 100% agree. It really is baffling.

      • +2

        I’m not really interested in junk food, cheap beer, cigarettes or lotto tickets but I’m sure others would say differently. But then again I’ve never asked if they’d consider requests for items either.

        • Rose makes a great point — that she never asked a store owner if they’d consider requests for specific items. Perhaps if specific requests were made, and customers actually made regular purchases of these items, store owners would find it easier to fund changes that would be mutually beneficial. Win/Win.

      • Some of you “baffled” folks need to recognize that changing a store in accordance with the changing tastes of a neighborhood likely requires substantial cash to remodel, the find and pay for new inventory, and to accommodate the probably losses due to spoiled fresh food — something that is less likely with stuff like sodas and chips. For longterm store owners just getting by, it’s not that they don’t want to “make a profit” — but likely that their profit margin is so low, that they lack the resources to fund what is essentially a new business to match the needs of the new neighbors.

    • Indeed. In NYC, the corner stores (they call them bodegas) were really good barometers of gentrification. First, they’d carry more products (healthier snacks, nicer beer), and then they’d renovate, often years before new bars and restaurants would open in an area. Maybe store owners in NYC are more savvy? Maybe shoppers there are just more demanding, since WAY fewer people have cars and so really rely on those stores for a lot of last-minute and late night purchases. I know I did when I lived there.

      • Maybe the store owners in NYC have more access to cash and/or other resources that support their ability to make improvements. It’s not about being ‘savvy’ – it’s about funding. I think the slow process that Uptowner describes is dead on: store owners try to make small investments to carry products that will attract new customers. A steady base of customers able to buy more expensive merchandise means that store owners make a bit more money. Making a bit more money, having some assurance that they can continue to afford the rent or taxes, then allows them to invest in renovating. Those of you who want these types of changes need to support them by being consistent customers. I don’t know what supports such as low interest business loans are available, but city policies that support neighborhood businesses are an important piece in ensuring their survival.

  • While I at first thought this was idiotic, on second read, it might actually be brilliant, reverse-psychology marketing. Let’s say you are trying to open or advocate for corner stores in a neighborhood where a lot of people are against them. You create a flyer that leads with a “Say No! to corner stores!”. The people against it, are like, yes!, I agree, I will read this informative document! Then by the end of it, they are thinking, hmm, well actually, maybe corner stores aren’t so bad.

    • Plus it makes it make the anti-corner store crowd look like loony bins, and so people on the fence may say, whoa, no way am I siding with this bunch of idiots! If this was really the intention, then it was quite masterful.

  • I’m having a really hard time telling whether they’re pro or con?


  • Wow, this dicussion is surreal. I’m a old timer in D.C., I’ve lived here 59 years. I grew up with corner stores on every other block. That was the beauty of living in the city – not having to drive two miles to get a carton of milk. My sister moved to P.G. when she got married and had a family and her sons were never able to walk to the store. I hate the suburbs and the surburban mentality that I see creeping into the city. Yes, the city is gritty and yes some stores will sell stuff that’s not too good. But like someone mentioned, if that happens report them and don’t patronize the store. Over time they will disappear and maybe someone else will buy the store and begin to sell items that the neighborhood wants and needs. But to try to pass laws to eliminate corner stores is kind of crazy. I think some of you people will be sorry in the years to come when you don’t have the convenience of neighborhood corner stores.

    • I don’t think anyone’s talking about “passing laws” to try to get rid of existing corner stores. The flyer is about proposed changes to the zoning regulations that would allow corner stores in places that are currently zoned residential-only.
      I agree with you that corner stores are not an intrinsically bad thing and ideally would be like tiny grocery stores. But what’s your take on the places that, even if they aren’t selling anything illegal, are bringing the community down by selling junk food, lottery tickets, and alcohol?

  • I love a good corner store. Too bad too many of them are disappointing; including the one near my home that is largely a liquor store with a dash of expired rancid milk.

    I wish it were possible to enforce corner stores into offering healthy staples and fresh produce.

  • Is anyone familiar with the Metro K in Adams Morgan, on the corner of Columbia & Belmont? I am borderline obsessed with them, they are incredible. HUGE produce selection, along with a million other useful things you’d think a corner market wouldn’t have (rubber gloves? Check! Borax for extra laundry whitening power? Check! I’m always surprised.) Best part was, if you’re making dinner and realize you need a tomato, all you gotta do is run next door to Metro K. Problem solved! Got to the point where I only went to the grungy Columbia Rd Safeway 1x per mo for meats. I miss Metro K most out of all the other conveniences of the neighborhood since moving from Adams Morgan to Petworth. If only more corner stores could be like that, there would be no debate.

  • Dude…how about you take a picture of a real problem. This AWESOME corner store is a favorite of many in the EYA Capitol Quarter Neighborhood next to the Department of Transportation and in one of the most up and coming parts of Washington. They close on the weekends, offer fantastic made-for-you sandwiches and are perfect neighbors. Sure, there are a few civil servants hanging out in front on and warm day, but why do you need to use this good small business to further control your fiefdom? Stop wasting paper, people’s time and focus on a real problem.

  • I live right by Fairmont Market. The place has not been open for the past several months, but when it was, it did not cause people to loiter outside. They sold enough junk food, lottery tickets and beer/wine to stay open with no problem, I think it has been closed due to the owner having health issues. The place was kind of a dump and sold mostly junk food, but it was nice to have something that was only a block away where I could easily pick up beer or toilet paper if I ran out. I am hoping that the place will re-open, either under new ownership or (hopefully) the owner’s health will improve. While it would be nice if they gutted the place and made it nicer inside, I am fine with the way it was, I just want my corner store back.

Comments are closed.