Smokey’s Barbershop on H Street, NE Sold to a Developer

1338 H Street NE
1338 H St, NE courtesy The Feldman Group

From a press release:

“The Feldman Group of Marcus & Millichap announced today the sale of 1338 H Street NE along the H Street Corridor of Washington, D.C. The 1,656-SF asset sold for $835,000.

Josh Feldman, First Vice President of Investments, and Ian Ruel, Investment Associate, of the Feldman Group closed the off-market transaction. The property was purchased by The 11th Property Group, which plans to develop the asset into a mixed-use project. The previous owner operated a barbershop at the property since 1999. “This sale proves that for developers looking for projects along H Street NE, there are still opportunities as long-term owner/operators move on to the next phases of their lives,” explains Feldman.

The 11th Property Group had already closed on the property next door at the time of the sale. The Feldman Group was able to facilitate the acquisition of 1338 H Street NE so that they could increase the size of their project.”

smokey's
Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

57 Comment

  • And the dulling of DC continues. What does the “Oldies” part refer to?

    • justinbc

      There are about 18 other hair places along the H Street corridor, I’m not convinced closing one constitutes “dulling”.

      • Cool. Tell that to the people who have lived in the neighborhood their whole lives who are losing something they care about. It’s not that hard to be sensitive about gentrification, people. Attitudes like this are why white people are despised.

        • Neighborhoods change, people change, places change. Living somewhere and expecting that area to remain a time capsule indefinitely is unreasonable. While I understand lamenting the coming and going of things, you have to move on at some point. I’m ‘insensitive to gentrification’

        • Because the owner chose to sell…

        • justinbc

          Yeah, for sure, white people made the guy sell his business for a likely substantial profit. That type of attitude is why I don’t really feel bad for someone walking an extra block, or in some cases on H Street half a block, to find the next place to get their hair cut. Saying something will be more “dull” because an old business closed, without even knowing what’s coming in next, is just ignorant. If anything a barbershop or hair salon every 200 feet is dull.

        • If “white people are despised” because we embrace progress and improve neighborhoods, I am happy to be despised!

          • Wow. Come on guys. This is an extremely disappointing attitude to see. I’m happy about the positive changes in our neighborhood too, but that doesn’t mean people can’t be sad to see a business close. I didn’t see any comments like this when it was announced Metro Mutts was closing (and I am among the commenters who expressed my sadness that it was closing).

          • Lets be real- this is only happened because it was one of the last places with cheaper real estate. Otherwise NO one cared about these neighborhoods for a very long time before affordability became an issue in the city.

            But I will say- I don’t agree with Welp’s comment and I think that mentality is what keeps us as a nation behind. I am all for change and growth of neighborhoods- but this just didn’t happen organically.

          • +1 to anon 11:55.

          • LOL @ Anonymous.

            We are “a nation behind” because we don’t give a hoot about the poor in this country nor the poor in our own neighborhoods. No one gave a hoot about the H Street area until people started buying real estate left and right and priced out the people already living there. Instead of trying to build up the area using the people there; you simply built it up by replacing the poorer (and darker) people living there white, more affluent people. And once that happened, then you started getting better schools, a more involved government, etc.

          • Ugh I need an edit button. Because I missed a few words and I think a punctuation to really drive home my point.

        • “White people are despised”, you sound like a real neighborly inclusive peach.

        • Welp, you do realize H St. was originally a Jewish neighborhood, right?

        • Remember when they literally burned down 75% of the businesses on H st?

      • +1

        4 barbershops and 5 hairsalons between 4th and 14th – all of whom never full. Been here since 89 and personally I don’t see it as dulling, just market changes and business closing, moving or adapting. Then again some folks also mourned the closing of 1 of 8 liquor stores on the same stretch. To each his own 🙂

      • MadMax.. please be sensitive and aware of what you are saying… not just another “hair place”.. we are talking about a barbershop that has been there for years, a safe space particular for African Americans who have been going there for years. Which is now gone to pave the way for some “trendy”spot for transients..

        • justinbc

          Trendy transients? Do you know what the opening business will be? Do you know how long people who will prospectively go there have lived in the area? My comment is at least based on the facts as they’re presented currently, you’re just speculating.

          • northeazy

            This place is a total eyesore. It is not a “safe space.” What does that even mean? Are you implying that DC is hostile to African Americans thereby necessitating safe spaces? It is a perpetually empty barbershop that curiously sells candy and high sugar drinks to the community. I even went to get my haircut there once when I first moved to the community and it was by far the worst cut in my life.

        • MadMax is known to have a diminished empathic ability. The ability to empathize with others can be extremely difficult for a certain type of person.

        • I’m not familiar with this particular barbershop, but historically, barbershops and hair salons have been sort of community institutions in African-American neighborhoods. So I can see how people might feel a bit sad/wistful at one closing.
          .
          The newer residents of H Street aren’t necessarily transients, but I think people who’ve been in D.C. a relatively short time are used to rapid development and things being in constant flux. Yes, it’s a city and things change, but the pace of change didn’t use to be so dramatic — have a little understanding.

          • Blithe

            Thank you for — eloquently — making this point textdoc! It can be hard for some of us to see community institutions that have been part of our lives for decades go. It’s even harder when what replaces them are businesses, condos, etc, that offer goods or services that those of us who patronized the older businesses might not welcome. And harder still when there’s open disparagement of the older businesses, and often of the people whose needs they served, “cause: Progress. I think you make an excellent point about the impact of the dramatic pace of the changes — which can, indeed be dramatic for some of us, but a welcomed aspect of city life for newer residents.

          • justinbc

            The “ownership” of the city mentality is surely part of the problem too. The nation’s capital has changed demographic composition by neighborhood quite a lot over the past 200 years. No sub-culture owns any neighborhood, or DC itself, unless they literally own the buildings. The owner of this particular place decided to cash out, so those who feel disenfranchised should be directing their anger at him, not “white people”. And god forbid a new business opens up that actually offers those old residents something they didn’t have access to before, compared to the 12th barbershop in a half-mile stretch.

          • Blithe

            MadMax, one of the points that I was trying to make, and will try to make more clearly this time, is that for the most part, the variety of new businesses that have replaced the old ones that I, personally, mourn, are not of interest to me. Beer gardens are popping up — not bookstores. I’ll also add that businesses and the community spirit that goes along with them are not always interchangeable — at least for many of the people who frequent them. I’ve always wondered why so many bars and beer gardens — but that’s, in large part, because none of them meet my very personal, idiosyncratic set of needs.
            – It’s funny that the people making the “white people” comments seem to be white, as far as I can tell. While that is an apparent part of the current rapid demographic shift, so are things like “young”, and “college educated” — factors that are clearly driving the kinds of new businesses that replace many of the old ones.
            – The owner of this particular building decided to cash out. And good for him or her if that represents something positive. In many cases though, it also represents what happens when taxes and other expenses rise much faster than income and profits. — which can be influenced by the demographic changes in a particular community. I can recognize that — and also recognize that the impact of this on communities is not uniformly positive. I can also recognize that one person’s positive can have a negative impact on someone else — and vice versa.

          • justinbc

            Blithe, I would love a bookstore here. I don’t think it’s gentrifiers fault that you don’t see stores like that opening up, blame Amazon, and the 50% of American households who have Prime memberships (and that applies for almost all retail). There’s no mention whatsoever in the description of what will be opening here, other than “mixed-use”, which is why I don’t get how someone can call it dull already. That’s really all I take issue with, I completely get why people like to gather in barbershops. But equating the loss of one (out of a dozen) barbershops on a strip to the building of one yet unknown business as “dull” is just pointless. As for the white people comments, anyone stating that is just responding to the poster above who called white people despicable.

          • “No sub-culture owns any neighborhood, or DC itself, unless they literally own the buildings.” Sure, but people can have a sentimental attachment to places. Isn’t that understandable, even if you seem to be sentiment-free in this respect?

    • Oldies probably refers to the sale of mix tapes. There whole wall on the side where you wait was full of cassette mix tapes, not sure if they were actually still for sale or just a remanent of the past.

  • having lived in this area for several years, this one fills me with an extra bid of sadness. i love the sign and the look of the place, and the candy selection he offered. genuine old school.

  • I’m not familiar with Smokey’s but it’s been around for 18 years. I suspect it serves as a community gathering spot as many barbershops in DC do, although maybe not for the gentrifiers. Whatever level of change may be inevitable, I don’t welcome the sterile commercialization of H St and the loss of real community gathering spaces. I’m sure as hell not going to celebrate yet another Sweetgreen or the like.

    • I mean, of course, but what’s the proposed solution here to the owner wanting to sell?

      I support strong social services in DC to help people affected by gentrification, but I’ve never heard a plan that actually makes sense to stop gentrification. There’s a long-term trend of people wanting to move into DC and other cities; we don’t allow much building (relative to the population increase), so businesses are bought out and rents go up.

      • Blithe

        I don’t know if this is realistic, or what plans are in place to help with this, so please feel free to correct and amend my suggestion. One issue that I’ve seen is that with gentrification, property values have risen dramatically. So someone who purchased a property X years ago for $100,000, can no longer manage the taxes now that the property is worth, say, $1,000,000. And a barbershop, for example, with a longtime clientele, can’t usually dramatically increase prices, while maintaining their current clients. I’m not sure what sort of cut-off I’d use — 10 years? 20 years?– but I wonder if there’s a way to freeze the property taxes based on the original purchase price of a property rather than the current property value as long as the original owner(s) still owned the business. (I put owner(s) in plural to allow the freeze to be applied to someone working for and owning a small family business as well.) My goal would be to protect and maintain longtime small businesses — so some clarification of what , exactly constitutes a “small” business would be needed. I get that it’s impossible to control for changes in payroll, or the overall costs of living, but putting some sort of freeze on property taxes for some, might be a workable solution for people who would rather maintain their businesses than sell them.

        • Blithe: You should have spent more time researching how taxes work in DC than writing about your opinion. I’m not going to spend the effort explaining how real estate taxes in DC work, but I will say that it wasn’t taxes that pushed the owner, or 97% of owners out in DC. I analyze real estate for a living.

          • Blithe

            danger dave, I”m sure you noticed that I started my comment by noting that my suggestion might not be realistic. If you don’t want to take the time to explain how real estate taxes in DC work, then don’t. I will say though, that while I don’t know the tax implications of owning a business, my personal experience has been that property taxes were a huge factor in my own decisions re: deciding to sell a property, as well as critical factors in decisions that members of my family and I have made regarding continuing to live in DC, where all of us were born.
            tldr: Thank you for taking the time to explain that you don’t want to take the time to explain. 😉

    • A sweetgreen or Chopt in this location would be fantastic! Fingers crossed.

    • one person’s barbershop is another person’s sweetgreen

  • I’m sad to see the great facade go, and generally speaking it’s not great to see a neighborhood institution leave, but unfortunately I don’t have a great idea for any other outcome here. I got a haircut from this place about 7 years ago when I first moved to H Street and… well, it had to be “fixed” before I could go to work the next day. Friendly guys though.

    • maxwell smart

      Was going to second on the facade – would love to see it restored to it’s original glory instead of being replaced by, what I am guessing, will be something generic and totally forgettable.

      • Restore the facade and turn the place into a hipster bar with a barbershop influenced setting.

      • +1 on the facade – the tilework and the signage look pretty sweet. If the architects could incorporate that in some way into the new structure that could look really nice.

  • “Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is gentrification. There are rules.

  • The first wave of H St redevelopment was concentrated among abandoned storefronts; nothing was lost. But over the last few years, many active businesses have closed, and they will be missed. Yes, they sold voluntarily; yes, the owner made a profit; and yes, I’m sure whatever comes there will look nice and by enjoyed by many people.

    I was a customer of Smokey’s over the last decade. For me, it was just a place to get a haircut, but for most of the people who came in it was also a “third place” – a social environment outside of work and home (the “first two places”) where that serve as “anchors of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction” (Wikipedia).

    There are other places to get a haircut, but the community at Smokey’s will be displaced. Whatever is gained, this is clearly a loss, and emblematic of the changes that have occurred over the past few years.

    Yes, the Oldies referred to the music for sale – not mix tapes, just regular commercial albums, mostly jazz and R&B, if I remember correctly. It was mostly CDs, but there were some tapes. I doubt they sold many of either recently.

    • This is a good point.

      Very few things in this world are all benefit and no cost, or all cost and no benefit. A person pointing out the cost of something – in this case the loss of a business s/he likes – is not necessarily making a statement about the benefits of that same thing – in this case a new development with new businesses.

      It is consistent to believe both that a change will result in a net benefit and that the change comes at a cost.

  • The “no one forced the owner to sell” comments are rather short-sighted. The clientele at most barbershops live in the neighborhood or close by. It doesn’t take a genius to see that a barbershop founded on H st in ’99 has probably lost a good portion of its original/frequent clientele over the past 7-8 years, alone. The owner still has to pay employees and (considerably higher) property tax. So, no, nobody forced the owner to sell but he/she may not have had much choice.

    • Fair enough. But since we’re speculating, which is a fine Popvillian tradition, it could also be that the owner paid off the mortgage long ago, and the property value increased dramatically since 1999, thereby more than offsetting the property tax bill and payroll expenses, and he cashed out and made a cool $835,000 profit. I get your point though…none of us knows the owner’s financial situation.

      • Blithe

        Question: How do you see a dramatic increase in the property value “offsetting” the property tax bill and payroll expenses?” — without selling the property? As I see it, even if a mortgage has been paid off long ago, if the income or profit is increasing at a much slower rate than the rising property taxes based on the current value of the property, and other, possibly rapidly increasing expenses, someone who once had a profitable, stable business ends up falling farther and farther behind, until they are forced to sell. An equity loan would help in the short term, but would only go so far if the profits — which could have supported the mortgage free business (or even the mortgage a at the original purchase price) and the original slowly increasing taxes — can’t support the current leap in expenses.

        • being forced into a windfall, while there are some downsides, isn’t exactly a sob story.

          • Blithe

            Being forced to give up a business that may have been your life’s work, or a home that represented safety and security for your family, or a community and community relationships that may have taken decades to build, for many, represent more than what you dismiss as “some downsides”. Not everybody sees this or values this. And that’s how we end up with the communities that reflect the values that those with enough gold, or enough clout, or enough numbers to effect change desire and possibly deserve.

  • Word on the street is that Smokey’s is just moving across the street. I was told that by a neighboring business owner about 2 weeks ago…

  • ImageMaster

    As a photojournalist for the last 43 years & having been born and raised in DC, less than two miles from the H Street Corridor, I started taking a close look at the H Street Corridor in 2001 when I transitioned from 28 years of shooting film to the digital film medium. One of the first photos I took of an old established institution on the H Street Corridor was the “North-West Restaurant Cafe & Carry Out” at 3rd & H Streets, N.W. That little restaurant was frequented by cabbies primarily in the 90s. Since that business closed, the first mixed-use building was erected at that sight with a 24-hour CVS serving the immediate community and those in the condos and residences above it. From that point on, I have been photographically documenting the major changes along the H Street Corridor starting at 11th & H Streets, N.W. across from the Grand Hyatt Hotel and ending at the Langston Golf Course at H Street & Oklahoma Avenue, N.E. The images that I have captured since 2001 are clearly show not only the physical changes along the corridor but the demographic and economic changes as well. My images are pre-DC Streetcar development and up to and beyond the inaugural opening of that line to the surrounding citizenry. The grand opening of the new Whole Foods Store on March 15, 2017 has clearly ushered in an even more definitive confirmation of a sea change to the community. In the last two years alone, I have photographed buildings like the H Street Self-Storage Building that I remember being there in the 50’s when I was a child and the H Street Corridor on the N.E. side was a hearty community of residents and businesses that were Jewish-owned, Caucasian-owned and Black-owned as well. That building was demolished so quickly along with a number of mom and pop stores adjacent to it that I was in shock on my next visit down H Street, N.E. in 2015 to see the dug-out foundation & footers in preparation for the construction of the Apollo mixed-use project that would replace the H Street Self-Storage facility. I have photos of the open space at 3rd & H Street, N.E. across from the old Children’s Museum, prior to the construction of the mixed-use structure Giant Food Store and the multiple businesses that are a part of that facility. The construction of the Streetcar tracks leading up to Union Station provided me with extraordinary images for one of my clients who was part of the engineering team that made it possible for the Streetcars to climb that steep portion of the H Street Bridge. I even had the honor of documenting the Premiere of the play “Anne & Emmett” by Janet Langhart Cohen in 2011 at the Atlas Theater which brought Vice President Biden, Secretary Colin & Mrs. Powell, Wolf Blitzer, Secretary Alexander, Bob Johnson, Dick Gregory, Secretary William Cohen, Congressman John Conyers, actor Michael Douglas and so many other icons. The Atlas Theater was the catalyst for the H Street Corridor renaissance in the late 80s at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in that part of DC. As an author of 4 books, I am planning a book on the images I’ve captured over the last 17 years in hopes that those who lost in the transition of the H Street Corridor and those who won will be able to acknowledge the impact on both. It’s going to be an incredible history lesson. I only wish I had the vision 17 years ago to conduct video interviews of those citizens who lived in that community for generations only to see it change without any input from them beyond their ability to adapt to that change or be moved by the winds of change. A missed opportunity for sure. http://www.solidimage.com.

    • ImageMaster

      I might also add that the photograph of the Smokey Barbershop is far from totally renovated and new red brick facade that, in reviewing my thousands of images since 2001, was effective on at least on 9/28/2011. The image used gives readers the impression that the building is currently an eye-sore worth tearing down when it fact, it is one of the more architecturally enhanced buildings on the entire H Street, N.E. Corridor. I also wanted to add that in addition to Whole Foods, the new Ben’s Chili Bowl and Ben’s Upstairs building has also advanced it’s footprint from their historical location on U Street, N.W. to the N.E. corridor. The diversity of the cuisine that now exists on H Street has even closed a Popeye’s chicken joint that my images show was doing well up until around 2015/2016 when it either lost it’s lease or simply closed. I don’t know which so it’s just speculation.