Clover Food Lab’s Search for Locations in DC by Ayr Muir – What do you think about the old Central Union Mission Site in Logan Circle?

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Is it OK to open in a former homeless shelter?

INTRO

Hi, my name is Ayr, I run Clover Food Lab, a rapidly growing fast food company in Boston. We’re trying to make better tasting food available to everybody.

I wrote a post about the Newsom building on H St. NW the other day that was picked up by PoPville and others and the resulting comments have been amazingly helpful. Thanks everybody.

So I reached out to Dan (Prince of Petworth) to ask if we could post regularly on PoPville during the course of our real estate search. I offer an outsider’s view of DC paired with an inside view of a DC real estate search.

I’m hoping you all can help us sort through this search to find the best locations ever. I don’t know much about this market and you, collectively, know the most. And I’m hoping by the time we open we’ve already made some friends who will help us get off to a great start.

LAST VISIT: NEW DEVELOPMENT

I admit, I left this past trip to DC feeling a bit confused. But that’s good, right? Clarity follows the cloud of confusion. Right?

Based in no small part on the comments of the loyal readers of PoPville and our own website (cloverfoodlab.com). I made a spreadsheet summarizing your input and targeted new sites. I asked Gary, my realtor, to focus on more developed sites this past trip to DC. We looked at a place I didn’t like at all across from the Verizon center. Great location, but no character, step down, no venting. Not the place where DC meets Clover.

We looked at some new developments. This is foreign to me. In Boston we don’t have these.

I’m even learning of stories where landlords are buying out tenants so that they can upgrade to better operators. I’ve never heard of that in Boston. And they seem to take a real interest in creating a good mix of different uses. Overall it’s a really sophisticated approach to development and pretty exciting for an operator like Clover. We love the idea of being a part of a well curated mix of retail that’s constantly picked and pruned.

We visited a development on 14th St. NW near R st. (I added the NW this time, see, I’m learning.) From what I understand this development used to be a homeless shelter that was relocated. I don’t know how that’s seen here. I can’t imagine that being done in Boston, it would be very controversial. Is that why we don’t see new developments in Boston?

There are 2 buildings, one that used to be 3 town houses, and another that’s slightly larger. There is going to be retail at the street and 160 condos above. The building is beautiful. We would be looking at one of the smaller “town houses.” The developer clearly cares about the aesthetics, and making adjustments that are historically accurate. I’m told these are going to regain bay windows, that were removed when the first floors was converted to garages for cars.

The ceilings are high. Light is beautiful. We’re looking at a space that I believe is 1,500 sq ft. We’d be paying a lot, something like $80/ square foot. That comes out to about $330/ day rent, which means we’d need about $3.5k/ day sales, which for us means 600 customers (our prices are low). Any chance of that here?

We had a great cup of coffee at Peregrine across the street (I recognize them from a visit to Union Market, and we know the folks at Counter Culture well, dating back to a visit there in 2011). What do you all think of 14th NW? Would we have a lunch business?

80 Comment

  • Lunch rush, no, dinner rush, absolutely yes.

  • I don’t know whether there is an appreciable lunch crowd that far up 14th St. But I can’t imagine there will be any controversy associated with opening in the former Central Union Mission space. The controversy about that building ended when the Mission voluntarily left it for a new home in a different neighborhood.

  • justinbc

    There is a decent amount of lunch traffic there during the day, but it’s not huge. Most of your business would have to be done after hours (and if you could pull a liquor license all the better). That particular area, according to many, is THE spot to be at the moment in terms of development, but you have to realize that because of that there is an extreme amount of competition (especially so in the “healthy” department). You would be sandwiched in between a Whole Foods and a Trader Joes (and a SweetGreen just down the street too), not direct competitors, but something to consider from a business perspective. The bonus of this location is that this area gets tons of press from pretty much all local blogs/sites/whatever, so you would get constant free PR. It’s also a relatively young demographic. Don’t sweat the homeless shelter aspect, people will eat that kind of thing up here. I used to live a block away, it’s an excellent location if you can afford it.

  • First, full disclosure – I live a block away, so have an interest in diversity of good food choices. That said, a few thoughts:
    – Booming neighborhood, with all the good and bad that implies
    – I think there are a lot of buyers for your products – they are in the sweet spot for a lot of people in this area.
    – Lots of competition from many restaurants within 4 blocks, but relatively few are doing “fast food”, and fewer still are doing healthy fast food. So I think competition would not be particularly fierce.
    – The Central Union Mission left but got a good payout for their location, as well as a good new location closer to downtown. So I think this was seen as win-win by all involved. No bad feelings generally speaking.
    – I agree that the building is beautiful, and it is a great development opportunity – it looks like the developer has been sensitive to the design of the building so far.
    – Re: 600 customers a day, I think that is reasonable. Would be worth checking with Taylor Gourmet and/or Chipotle to see what their customer counts are (if you can get that info).

    Hope this works out, would love to have some more food diversity in the neighborhood.

    • Great advice

      • I also agree with everything posted here. If the rent in this building is not overwhelming, then it is perhaps one of the best locations you can pick for an entrance into the DC market. Much more foot traffic and much more centrally located than H Street. Perhaps a little more high end yuppie than the funky vibe you said you were initially looking for, but if you were concerned about edginess on H Street (which you mentioned), that won’t be an issue here. Disclosure: I do not live or work in this immediate area but visit a restaurant or shop around that intersection about once a week.

      • After reading the discussion below regarding lunch covers, I realized that you aren’t necessarily open for dinner. If that’s the case, then this location is far from ideal and you are best off in dupont south or Chinatown. There are old, character filled buildings in both of those neighborhoods.

        • There is never a line for lunch at the 14th street Chipotle, and they have a new staff and don’t serve that fast, so I would expect one. Would not recommend opening north of there unless you are ok with taking a big risk.

  • Granted, I’m partial because I live nearby (you will probably get a lot of well-intentioned, but biased advice along similar lines). I would put a location someplace between 9th and 6th on Florida Avenue in NW. First, it’s very well connected: You’ll be between two metro stops, and on several major bus routes through the city. Second, demand for such a place is likely to be high and growing: 3 new high density high rise condo/apt buildings are coming into that area, and numerous older buildings are being renovated in northern Shaw. Third, there is a dearth of supply for such food options in the area. There are several good restaurants around, none of which offer fast and healthy food options. Fourth, the area is changing rapidly, but has progressed enough, I think, to be low-risk from a business perspective. I’d welcome a Clover in Shaw.

    • To add, I think you’d be extremely lucky to find a suitable space with a guaranteed lunch rush that wasn’t characterless or extremely expensive to lease. I aim to get people on their way to work for a quick, streamlined breakfast and/or be near high density housing to get those that are too lazy/busy to cook for themselves.

    • justinbc

      I used to run that route daily, is there really any lunch crowd there? It seems like that’s where they want to a majority of their business.

      • Probably not much to speak of at this point, but I’m struggling to think of a spot that’s not downtown or South Dupont that will have a consistent lunch rush. This may be wrong or an oversimplification, but it seems like you have to choose in this city between a business area (lunch rush, dead on weekends and at night) or residential area (dinner and weekend business).

        • justinbc

          Pretty much. One of the few exceptions I can think of is Barracks Row. Due to it’s proximity to the Capitol area sites and a constant stream of tourists, it always seems to be busy. Plus you’ve got staffers not far away, and a huge built in residential populace. The one drawback is that real estate rarely opens up on that stretch, and when it does I’m sure it’s pricey. It would probably be my recommendation to them though (and even though I live nearby, I’m rather unlikely to actually go eat a meatless meal, but I would like to see them succeed here).

          • Ahh, yes. Personal preferences/morality/ethics aside, it seems like a business that can do meat-less well, and cater to those stained few of us that find animals to be rather tasty would do well in this city. I think DC is a fairly health-conscious city, but not an exclusively “crunchy” one, in the organic-free-range-artisan-crafted-sustainably-sourced-honey-sweetened-chia-amaranth-acai-granola sense of the word. Basically, I think there are more than enough meat-eaters to make up for the few militant vegans that would be turned off by your serving meat that it just makes business sense to serve both.

          • As a vegetarian who is not “crunchy”, I can say that the reason vegetarian restaurants have not done very well in this city is largely because their service always sucks (Soul Veg, Java Green, etc.), and they tend to focus on a lot of fake meat products (see former), which turn off meat eaters. But, who doesn’t love a great veggie soup (see SouperGirl in Takoma Park) or awesome falafel? There are plenty of veggie dishes that meat eaters would like if they were done really well and the service was reliable, and with all of the small, local, farming-oriented markets opening and doing well (Smucker Farms, Pleasant Pops, etc.), I think a great vegetarian restaurant is an untapped market in DC and would do well in the right location. Even though you didn’t like the Chinatown location, that would be a heavy lunch crowd. 14th street would be great too, but you would want to adjust your hours.

    • There is a lunch crowd in the Florida Avenue/Shaw area, and it’s connected to Howard University Hospital. The rather sizeable former pharmacy spot at the corner of 7th and Florida would be perfect for a business like this. It’s right next door to Howard U Hospital, and is a natural confluence of two busy transit corridors – Georgia Ave and Florida Ave. Alternatively, there are a lot of spaces for rent/sale on 7th St between P and Q. With the apartments above the O St Market, the huge apartment building on the west side of 7th St between P and Q, and other natural demand in the neighborhood, you’d be getting in on the “next 14th St” before rents go sky high.

      • Completely forgot about the Hospital/University, good point! I’m guessing the former pharmacy is probably too big and likely mired in legal issues for the foreseeable future, but there are plenty of other spaces that are or will soon be open. +1 on the next 14th street. I’d patronize your establishment even more if you bought out the Boost Mobile/GoGo Music Emporium on the corner of 7th and FL.

        • Well, the pharmacy company itself is mired in legal issues, but they’re no longer a tenant in the space so that shouldn’t be a problem at all. And +1 on the GoGo Music Emporium. I would donate a considerable amount to a kickstarter campaign for any business that takes over that space!

      • I live right around here, work from home, and am vegetarian so would frequent your place (so that’s 1/600 of your biz a couple times/week…..). As others have mentioned, the lunch options are dire around here, but there are also very few offices for lunch traffic (besides Howard U and Howard hospital). That said, Kafe Bohem is always crowded during the day, and the new office building above the Shaw metro is getting filled up. It could be a riskier area but quite a bit cheaper than 14th street I’m sure. I saw a build-to-suit restaurant spot on Florida between 7th and 6th just yesterday, between Flash (DJ club) and the “coming soon” Asian fusion spot.

  • 600 seems like a LOT for that area. Not a lot of businesses/offices in that area to generate a huge lunch crowd, though I am usually only in that area on weekends. Does anybody here work in that area – have a better sense of the weekday lunchtime traffic?

  • The homeless shelter relocated, so I don’t think you need to worry too much about any negative associations or bad feelings regarding the former use of the space. I agree that from the outside, at least, the property seems amazing. 14th and R NW seems like a very bustling location, and there’s plenty of new development around to help business. This is a location that’s definitely easy for me to get to, in a neighborhood I frequent, although not for a weekday lunch. I work and live downtown and am car-less, so I’m not familiar with what lunch traffic around there would be. I’d prefer to have you in my neck of the woods! I understand the concern over getting the location right, which means high volume lunch traffic, and the core of downtown would give you that for sure, but I’m not sure about the chances of finding an aesthetically pleasing place that won’t break the bank downtown. Why not ask neighboring lunch spots what their volume is like? Would they share, be friendly, give you very valuable insight?

  • One area that impresses me as pretty wide open — the western end of 200-300 PA Ave SE near the Capitol. Spike Mendelson is minting bricks of cash with mediocrity there. It’s well enough located to get the lunch crowd around Capitol, LC, and HHS and close enough to draw both neighborhood and tourists on weekends. Very close to Cap South Metro, Circulator route, etc. A littler further east is probably more interesting commercially (around Eastern Market/Barracks Row) but maybe less traffic around workday lunch. Don’t know about cost /sqft but can’t imagine it’s higher than Logan.

    • oh yeah – also lots of catering opportunity

    • +1. The Sweetgreen always has a line out the door during the lunch rush because there aren’t many other healthy, quick options nearby.

    • +1 to this. I walked by this area last night–there’s a stretch between Eastern Market and the Cap South area that is basically devoid of anything other than Hank’s. Was surprised at how quiet it was compared to 8th Street and the area where Hawk n’ Dove and everything else is located.

      • That stretch (near Hanks) might be a little bit more tough for a lunch crowd because it’s too far for most Hill staffers. Anonymous 1:24 is right. Other than Sweetgreen, we’re really limited in healthy lunch options.

    • +1 – I work in this area. We could use another option.

    • Yes, the 200 or 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE is the best location for lunch… your line will be out the door. So, so many people working from the Hill and surrounding area.

  • If you only serve breakfast and lunch like you do in Boston, I seriously doubt you’ll get the 600 covers a day (you can pull off pricing a buck or so more than in Boston so you don’t necessarily need 600). If you serve dinner too and open on weekends, it’s definitely doable though.
    Yep-like everyone else says, no one will care about the homeless shelter thing.

  • As noted in the recent Post article on Le Diplomate, there’s no real lunch crowd in that area.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-stephen-starr-made-le-diplomate-the-hottest-table-in-town/2014/03/04/f40cc19e-a24e-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

    “There were a couple miscalculations: The location isn’t convenient for D.C.’s business lunch crowd — the bistro isn’t open for breakfast or lunch, just weekend brunch — and Starr didn’t realize D.C.’s Metro system closed at midnight during the week, which made it harder to hire servers and kitchen staff.”

    • justinbc

      He didn’t realize it closed? That seems like something you might ask someone before dropping $6M…

    • I read that article and didn’t get the statement about the business lunch crowd. My office is at 15th & M, and I would love to take clients to Le Diplomate for lunch. I have expressed this several times to waiters and managers there. When I am trying to impress a client with a nice lunch, I have no problem with a 5-minute cab ride (or 10 minute walk, for that matter). I have taken people much farther than Le Diplomate. If they opened for lunch, they might be surprised.

  • lovefifteen

    The homeless shelter sold the place and made a lot of money so it it was a win-win situation. There would be zero hard feelings. I doubt this location could sustain 600+ lunches per day during the work week.

    Why don’t you open a place near Metro Center or Farragut West/North? You’ll def get 600+ customers if you’re offering inexpensive healthy food. Have you seen the lines at Roti, Breadline, Pret-a-Manger and District Taco? These areas need more healthy lunch options that aren’t expensive.

  • What about Blagden Alley? Or somewhere in the area between 13 and 7th, bordered by K through N. Enough character with a some good residents (Blagden Alley is pretty amazing) yet not so far away it can’t pick up a decent lunch crowd (maybe 5 min walk to a good deal of offices).

    • I was also going to suggest over this way too. Development along 7th and 9th streets is really getting underway, and I imagine it’s a good time to negotiate a decent rent. You’d have access to the convention center crowds, a gajillion new neighbors in the O St. Market complex, and hotel guests from the new Marriot that is going up at 9th and Mass. When I travel for business, I always look for unique, healthy options for lunch instead of fast food or chain restaurants (or places priced out of my per diem allowance.) If you do plan to specialize for lunch only, you should talk with the owner of Juice Joint (I think he’s from Mass too! Instant connection potential!) on Vermont Ave. about his take-away dinner options. Juice Joint caters mostly to a lunch crowd, but they stay open until 5:00 and offer take-away service for dinner sandwiches and other options. He could probably also give you some perspective about being a small healthy food operation in DC duking it out with the Sweet Greens and Prets and other health-minded chains.

    • I don’t think the space in Blagden Alley has brought astounding success to most of the existing businesses there, most appear to be limping. With anticipated development, rents have gone way up, although there is not yet increased foot traffic, nor any sort of a lunch rush at all (why would there be, it’s surrounded by residential on three sides). It’s not a friendly walk from the convention center or the hotels, those customers have to walk by too many other storefronts to get off the beaten path. They will not get bored enough to walk past them, since they are in town for short jaunts, and probably busy…

  • i used to live a few blocks from the harvard square location. it was really really good and very convenient. now i live at 14th and P. I would be reallly really really happy if this did open here (especially since I’ve actually got money to spend now)

  • I think Mt. Vernon Triangle could be a consideration for your needs (in the vicinity of 5th and K NW). There’s lunch traffic already with the convention center nearby, and many residential buildings opening up that could provide suitable space and dinner traffic.

    • justinbc

      MVT would probably be my second suggestion, behind the Barracks / Penn Ave stretch. The Marriott opening there will provide hundreds of clients a day who don’t want to pay for overpriced hotel food.

  • 1) Almost knowone will know or care it used to be a homeless shelter. As was pointed out, it was a win-win for both parties.
    2) Not so sure about the lunch traffic, but it is a residential commerical strip (more Treamont in South End than Boylston or Newberry in Back Bay). So day time foot traffic is going to be pretty light (relative to the real estate prices which are set for night time/weekend potential).

    Perhaps on 7th or 9th street across from the Convention Center would work. It’s an emerging area that is somewhat closer to the office crowd (than 14th and R) and would have the convention crowds right across the street. Plus, the area has a little more character than Galley Place (Convention Center excluded). The downside is it is more of a potential foot traffic location, currently it is pretty dead. But, it could work if your place is a “destination”.

    Alternatively, perhaps somewhere on Conn Ave south of Dupont, but north of M street. Seems like you would get a good weekday and somewhat of a weekend traffic flow.

    The The Mt. Vernon Triangle area might also work. Seems to have pretty good foot traffic all day. The downside is the buidings are all new, so it may not have the character you seek.

    DC’s height limit has had the impact of spreading development around, as a result we have after-work places in the residential hoods and lunch places in the downtown, but not a lot of true 18-7 neighborhoods like you would find in Central Bos or City Center Philly.

  • you dont want this place anywhere downtown. Yes during lunch, but the place is a ghost town during the weekend. Maybe DuPont circle would be a happy medium between not ‘dead downtown’ and not too far away from that weekday lunch crowd

  • Why not 9th and F st NW—the old (current?) Living Social building. Tons of character, tons of lunch crowds, and there is night time traffic in that area as well (probably more on 7th….which is only 2 blocks away, but that’s like a mile in terms of DC customers). Along H Street NW between 9th and 6th street would be similar.

    • Second the area

      9th and F’s still open as livingsocial, I don’t think they’re closing out until late summer/fall. That seems a little big for a place like this, no? And spread over four floors, they’d have to reno to make one manageable restaurant space.

      Has anyone moved into the old cowgirl creamery spot yet? You’d think that would have some of the infrastructure already in place.

  • As others have mentioned, the problem with 14th street would be the lunch rush during the week. People are there, but you aren’t going to get the crowds like you will in other parts of the city. For established areas with a lunch and dinner crowd, I would consider the following (some of which have already been mentioned)
    - Capitol South (Penn around 3rd SE)
    - Dupont (either just north of the circle, or anywhere south of the circle)
    - Georgetown (people on popville hate G’town, but it is CRAWLING with people at all times of day and night, and a lot of those people like to eat healthy things to boot)
    - Foggy Bottom
    - Downtown

    • Dupont, Gtown and West End all have good foot traffic West End probably has least competition but less of a well defined commercial core (maybe around the new WF?). Foods trucks are very active around GW fwiw, which suggests a market maybe being unmet.

      • Yeah, all good choices. I wonder if the West End has the traffic on the weekends? As you point out, there isn’t really a commerical coridor. Just lots of stuff here and there.

        • Like the commenter below mentioned, I think that if you go further south towards Foggy Bottom metro, you’ll have more foot traffic at all hours. That said, you’d have less competition (except for about 6-10 food trucks every day) if you went further towards West End, but you’d be surrounded by a ton of offices, hotels and residential buildings.

  • The area around McPherson Square’s east exit (14th & I/Franklin Square) could really use some more exciting lunch options.

  • -7th street and Florida AVE NW area
    -Navy Yard/Ballpark SW/SE area
    -NoMa NE

    • tons of workers in NoMa during the day – big lunch crowd – would be right up the alley of many NPR employees, i’m sure!

      • Wanted to second the call for NoMa! There are several huge office buildings going up (and a lot are already here), and our only lunch options are Potbelly and Roti… I’m dying for a Sweetgreen. This area has a ton of lunch customers and very low rents.

        • are there any dinner options in NOMA yet? When I lived north of it, McDonald’s was about it. I don’t find (developed) NOMA to be a very pleasing place to walk though (it’s too damn boring and synthetic), and if other people feel the same way, it may not be a good lunch spot.

  • cool idea to gather ideas from the PoPville community…
    The old Mission Building is a great spot and building, but 14th street already has so much going on. I know you need to turn 600 plates a day, but I hope you will consider some of these other areas that are rapidly on the rise (or at least for your 2nd location :)
    Shaw, NoMA, Navy Yard, Southwest Waterfront (not much here yet, but it will be a huge new area soon).
    Also, re lunchtime crowds, with our government-based city, many government buildings don’t have cafeterias and they house 1000s of employees that are looking for good lunch options. Of course these buildings aren’t always in the most picturesque part of town or in historic buildings, but there is certainly a healthy lunch demand. (ie Waterfront Metro station area in SW, Navy Yard, etc…) Can’t wait to try your food!

  • I live nearby and sometimes work at home. The lunch trade varies a lot in size by restaurant. Some get a lot of people, others don’t. Most people probably work in the area or work out of their homes. Because of all the construction in the area, you also may get the white collar side of the developer trades. Dinner time and weekend brunch are very busy.

    That end of 14th Street is short on fast food and long on forgettable midmarket places with burgers/chicken, bland Mexican food, etc. and pricier, better Italian, French, and Tapas. My go-to is a Thai restaurant which is reasonable and one of the few relatively authentic Thai places in DC proper. There’s more fast food or fast casual with takeout further North and those are all over the place in cuisine.

    I’d love to have some place healthy and not ridiculously expensive for lunch and definitely would patronize for dinner.

    Hopefully, you won’t be going to Peregrine’s level of pretense. In which case, I’ll find some other place for lunch.

    • Actually, DC has some very good, authentic Thai food, much of which is better than Thai Thanic. Regent Thai, Thai X-ing, Beau Thai, and Little Serow to name a few. Off topic, but found it strange that you singled that out as your authentic go-to.

      • Sorry to continue on this diversion… but I think he’s talking about Rice, which is on 14th b/w Q and Corcoran, about a block from the Central Union Mission site. That place is authentic and delicious, and if you haven’t tried it you should!

    • I live at Union Row and sometimes work from home. When I do, I try to get out for lunch, albeit on the late side. G Sandwich shop and Busboys and Poets are always hopping. I’d go for an all odd hours type operation at 14th and R – lunch, late afternoon early dinner, late night. I think that contributes to B & P success is they are serving brunch lunch and dinner all day long.

  • Not knowing your business I would think you’d be insane not to also provide dinner hours irrespective of what food you serve and especially late hours on the weekends! 14th Street is a dinner location first and foremost. I don’t see you getting anywhere near 600 people a day unless you are open nights.

  • Interesting question. I think a dinner service is a must to really tap the market on 14th Street. In terms of lunch time, while it is certainly not as busy as downtown business/tourist neighborhoods, it is worth noting that there are many day time businesses on the street due to its popularity for furniture, clothing and other retail. Plus there are two new buildings currently being built on the street that will house only offices rather than housing. One is in the block with the Studio Theater and the other is on the block with Perigrine Coffee. So there will be an increase in daytime foot traffic. Plus there is a cowork space that opened above Barcelona as well as many people who work from home. And in speaking with someone who works at one of the many salons on the street, he bemoaned the complete lack of lunch options. He was very happy to have Chipotle open. This is something to also consider. Chipotle is not going to open anywhere they don’t think we have a good revenue stream. It is pretty much a complete endorsement of the street for quick dining options. The main thing to avoid is the fate of Bar di Bari which sort of served quick food along with a wine/coffee push. It did not survive very long but it had very limited interior space and didn’t really seem to know what it wanted to be. There are certainly other neighborhoods that will welcome a quality, healthy food option, so I don’t think this is ultimately an either/or option. Look at the many locations of Taylor Gourmet now. For all the options that are present on 14th Street, there is a dearth of healthy quick service options in the neighborhood, especially around where this project is going in. Other locations certainly may have less competition but the mix of retail, office and residential could ultimately be a perfect environment for your business to enter the DC market.

  • I’d reconsider Chinatown–unique area in that it has an enormous number of residents (MTV/Chinatown/Judiciary Square high rise apt buildings are aplenty), but also a large lunch time crowd. Close enough to the court houses & Judiciary Square, City Center/Metro Center office buildings, etc. You also can draw in tourists visiting the nearby museums. I work in L’enfant and have been known to venture to Chinatown for lunch. I’d think that it would be hard-pressed to find a better area of the city for consistent business from opening to close.

    • Obviously Chinatown has all those great features. But wouldn’t you guess that Chinatown is like two or three times as expensive for exactly those reasons?

  • I love Clover, and I’m thrilled that you’re coming to DC.

    If you’re looking for lunch traffic, I can’t think of a better location than Federal Triangle, the area around 13th and Pennsylvania NW. Here’s why:

    - There are ~4000 EPA employees in the Federal Triangle complex — generally people who appreciate good sustainable/vegetarian food. There are many thousands of workers from other agencies/departments in the complex and other buildings nearby as well.

    - Until recently, Federal Triangle had two food courts, in the Reagan Building and in the Old Post Office. Trump purchased the Old Post Office Building a while back and closed that food court a couple of weeks ago. The Reagan Building food court is busy throughout the lunch period and only 1-2 of the stalls are much good.

    - The only other “fast casual” restaurants in the area are national chains that aren’t particularly interesting, healthy, or oriented towards sustainable food.

    - Federal Triangle is a couple of blocks from both the National Mall and the White House, and it gets significant tourist traffic.

    - There have been empty restaurants on the opposite side of Pennsylvania Ave, but I believe that those went out of business because their lunch offerings were heavy/lengthy/boozy, which most workers in the area no longer have time or money for, and because very few people are in that area for dinner.

    I’ll be visiting you wherever you end up, though!

  • Isn’t Rumors going bankrupt? That would be a good location (19th&M NW)

  • I loved your Cambridge shop and got lunch/dinner there regularly. It opened up when I was a student. The Central Union Mission space is only a couple blocks from where I live now, along with many other Cambridge transplants, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to hear you’re planning to open in DC. With regard to pricing and rent, much as it pains me to say so, you can definitely charge more in DC than you did in Harvard Square. In DC your clientele, is wealthy, young professionals, not poor students.

  • Way better to open on H.. Between H&Pizza, Taylor and Clover, that 1100 block of H would become a real lunch time destination (Horace and Dickies at the corner of 12th and H draws a sizable lunch crowd too and Ben’s Chili Bowl is coming at 10th & H).

  • Judiciary Square desperately needs places to eat. My office near 3rd & D NW is about a 15 minute walk from both Union Station and Gallery Place. Combine that with the inevitable lines I’ll face at both locations its not a regular thing for me. By my office there is the Jack’s Deli and the super small food court at Judiciary Sq. Dept. of Labor has a great cafeteria but that’s about the best we an come up with in close proximity. With all the courts and gov’t agencies nearby you’ve got a ready and eager audience for lunch!

  • Next trip, look for something by the foggy bottom metro, maybe near the west end of K street. This is where you will find the biggest lunch demand and probably the least competition. Its right by the GWU campus and the hospital as well as near the State Department buildings. I’ve been told this is the busiest metro stop and densest part of the city during day time.

  • 1. Does this location have a lunch crowd? YES and it will only grow — exponentially. This area is booming.

    —>> Historically it has not had much of a daytime crowd, which many older residents may be aluding to, but if you are looking for a true “up and coming” – there is no better placein DC. The 7 block area by this location has received (and is scheduled to receive) 4,000+ brand new residents and dozens of new businesses (yes, daytime) from 2013-2016 (just research all the new buildings – district, harper, etc).

    • Apartments don’t equal lunch traffic, offices do — and this is 1/2 mile north of Mass Ave, the bright line separating offices from residential. Very few people will spend half of their lunch hour (if they even have a full hour) walking to/from a restaurant.

      Nor would I consider Logan Circle to be “up and coming” anymore. Agreed with others that the rents on 14th are priced for bars, which might have a similar gross but vastly higher profit margins than Clover — which, like most lunch restaurants, needs to turn out huge volumes at a lower margin. There’s a good business reason why Estadio, Le Diplomate, and Pearl Dive are packed at night while, say, Point Chaud moved south of Mass Ave.

  • No one cares what it used to be including the fact that it used to be a homeless shelter. We’ll eat good food from anywhere. Restaurant’s open in old sex clubs and peep booth arcades for Pete’s sake. ( :

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