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Ellwood Thompson’s Offically Terminates Lease in DCUSA (Columbia Heights)

by Prince Of Petworth January 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm 78 Comments

In what is arguably the least surprising news I have ever posted:

January 13, 2011, Richmond, VA – Ellwood Thompsons’s Local Market: Further to the

October 2008 signing of a lease agreement with New York based Grid Properties, for space
within DCUSA in Washington, DC, the parties have mutually agreed to terminate the lease, after
full analysis of the challenging economic circumstances.

In announcing the termination, Rick Hood, CEO of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market,
stated “We regret that Ellwood Thompson’s was not able to proceed with Grid Properties in
order to occupy the space in Columbia Heights.”

As a twitter user said – now is the time to reignite hopes for a Trader Joe’s!!!

  • John David

    This is disappointing, but at least now maybe we can hope for a different grocery store that will actually open.

  • John K.

    OMG! Trader Joe’s would do absolutely insane business here. How can we make this happen?

    • Anon

      YES TJ’s plzzzzzzzzzz

    • You can go on there website and suggest a new location… I have been suggesting DCUSA as new location once a week for the last year. I have a reminder in my calendar to do this. If we really wanted to get organized we could do some sort of online petition.

  • Oh, you haven’t met? Well, rhetoric, meet reality. Reality, rhetoric.

  • TJ

    If the residents of Columbia Heights (and all of Ward One for that matter) want a Trader Joe’s, they should put on a full-court press with the company like the Logan folks did for Whole Foods. This was tried with TJ previously to get them to come into the 14th & U area, but the residents didn’t get a whole lot of support from a certain short man with a bowtie. Maybe now he’ll be on board.

  • John

    I’d prefer a MOM’s organic market but Trader Joes will do at this point. Even though I think people like it because it’s “cute” not because they deliver a superior product. After all, we have product in Target and Giant, the point is that we want better. Better being full service/organic. But I digress. Rick Hood can suck it. Also when they say that both parties mutually terminated the lease does this mean they let them off the hook for the before mentioned 1 million in termination fees?
    Now that the news is official should we get the community involved in luring another grocer to the site. I still think we could get Whole Foods back to the table. but we could lobby Trader Joes and MOM’s as well.

  • Anonymous

    Let the wishful, unrealistic proposals begin.

  • Ok, if we are being unrealistic, then I would love a capoeira studion there–not surprisingly.

    • ess

      you might not be serious, but BETA academy is apparently moving someplace bigger than its current digs in a church basement at 1459 Columbia. I think it’s going to be on U St, but who knows?

  • El Gringo

    Any ideas what the biggest obstacle to a Trader Joe’s would be?

    I know that a lack of designated parking was a deal-breaker for Whole Foods…would it be the same problem with TJ’s?

    I’m betting that Trader Joe’s is more likely to move on this space since they only currently have 1 store in DC (vs. the 3 that Whole Food’s already has)

  • Anonymous

    I doubt Trader Joes would do too well there. With Target and Giant right next door, it would be hard for them to get a lot of business.

    Not to forget that their only store in DC is in foggy bottom, close to GW and Georgetown with lots of students.

    CH is not gentrified enough and there are not that many yuppies to support a TJ there.

    Although they definitely will have my business if they decide to open shop in CH!

    • rooty tooty

      “CH is not gentrified enough and there are not that many yuppies to support a TJ there.”

      Oh contraire.

      Plus you’re neglecting the fact that this would be the only Trader Joe’s that is within a block of a metro station. I know plenty of NW DC folk who drive to the West End TJ’s and would gladly get to one if it was walkable from Adams Morgan/Mt Pleasant/Petworth or easily metro-able from Shaw/U Street.

      If you build it, they will come.

      • Don’t forget people coming from points north to CH to go to a hypothetical Trader Joe’s. The Bethesda location is beyond schlepping distance from Metro and the Silver Spring location is a 10-15 minute bus ride from the Metro and crossing US 29 with groceries is not pleasant.

        Open a Trader Joe’s in CH and the Silver Spring folk will come to escape MoCo Frogger and get their Three-Buck Chuck. I know I would’ve before I moved to MtP.

        • VG

          I don’t think Maryland TJs can sell wine either. That’s not the only reason to go, but one of the best, I think.

          • John

            3 buck chuck?

          • El Gringo


          • They can’t sell wine. A former friend who used to work at the Alexandria location told stories of loads of Maryland people going there for their wine/beer fix with some odd people driving all the way from alcohol-fearing Pennsylvania(!!!). That alone is insane.

    • Anonymous

      the notion that only the gentry shop at trader joes is ignorant.
      and the idea that there might be a good grocery store in dc that wouldn’t do well is crazy.
      also, i live in NE, but go to the trader joes in foggy bottom. so do many of my neighbors. it’s not just a neighborhood grocer.

    • Chris

      I agree, Columbia Heights is not gentrified enough. The average income in the area is no where near that of the average Trader Joe’s customer. I’ve never seen a Trader Joe’s in a neighborhood as transitional as Columbia Heights.

      • Anonymous

        if you’ve never seen it, it must be impossible.

  • John

    someone tell Mario Batali to put an Eately there!

    • brian


  • John

    Also re: Whole Foods. They are probably our best bet. They saw the value in the location and had plans in place. It would probably be very easy for them to pull their plans off the shelf and dust them off then for another grocer to come in from scratch. Again the only complaint from whole foods was parking and it’s been demonstrated there is plenty of parking to go around.

    • Anonymous

      I really hope so. I don’t get the draw of a Trader Joes at the location at all. I mean, come on, TJs is a glorified bulk discounter. If you want frozen pasta meals, microwaveable foods, and shrink-wrapped produce, you can already get that stuff for cheap at Target. What you can’t get is quality local meats, quality fresh seafood, or veggies that haven’t been sprayed, waxed and shipped from Guatemala or virtually as far.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, you’d have to go to Bestway for that…

        • Cory

          Bestway? I might buy an onion there or a carton of milk but the place is filthy and meat and seafood sections smell horrible. Bestway is going for low-priced food, not-necessarily high quality. I would prefer to see a Yes! Organic somewhere in DCUSA or Mt Pleasant. The popularity of our farmers’ markets shows that there is heavy demand for these products.

          • rooty tooty

            Take Metro one stop north to Petworth. Yes! Organic is about a 7 minute walk from the station.

      • Anonymous

        Ever been to the DC Wharf? Right underneath the SW flyway near Lefant plaza. You would have to be a shark to get sea food that is more fresh than what they sell there

        • Anonymous

          Just becuase it’s near water doesn’t mean it’s super-fresh.

          • Anonymous

            i wonder how much of the what they sell there even comes from american waters.

  • AreaMan

    This organic food fetishization that DC has continues to be mystifying to me. Even in NY, where the retailing standards are so much higher than in DC, the affluent are generally quite happy to go to the neighborhood supermarket. Only in DC is a large, well-stocked, recently-remodeled, middle-of-the-road chain supermarket considered unworthy.

    You people really need to get lives.

    • A city having spent decades in a heavily unionized grocery duopoly of mediocrity as DC did with Giant and Safeway can breed such feelings, especially when two non-union chains (Harris Teeter & Wegmans) blow them out of the water and another union chain (Shoppers) comes close.

      • Polytasker

        WEGMANS! I would love to see them open a store in the District.

        • eb

          unfortunately, wegmans doesn’t do urban stores. yet.

    • Anon

      Well this would be all well and fine if we had a “large, well-stocked, recently-remodeled, middle-of-the-road chain supermarket”. What about the Giant’s you say? Sure it’s large, remodeled and middle of the road, but it’s NEVER well stocked. The produce and meat depts are a joke. On more than one occasion, the meat dept has only had ground beef & pork chops available…I had the butcher confirm this also. The ENTIRE dept!!!

    • KenyonDweller

      If you want to eat pesticide laden processed food, be my guest. There is a reason organic food has exploded in popularity. People want to eat without being poisoned. DC is hardly alone in this. You get a life.

      • victoria

        Optimal organic pesticide-free food would produce about 3/4 of the world’s need. (The Alchemy of Air – Thomas Hager – p. 11) So, gather up 20 of your friends and family members and pick the 5 that must die.

        • Chris

          It sounds like you’re saying that organic food is about 25% less efficient (assuming what we are consuming now is an approximation of “the world’s need”). In a world where food prices are rising, going organic and encouraging others to do so is a recipe for mass starvation.

    • spookiness


  • Shawn

    Trader Joe’s! The lines at Giant indicate that the demand for groceries in this neighborhood is still high….

  • Wong Tong

    Can we stop throwing money at Columbia Heights? This is a lost neighborhood and already a clusterf*ck. Better off putting TJs elsewhere.

    • Kevin

      You wong!

    • WDC

      A lost neighborhood? A clusterfuck? (C’mon, if you’re man enough to use the word, sack up enough to type it out.)

      Let me guess, you’re trying to drive everywhere. Because for a perpetual pedestrian, CH is the best residential neighborhood in the city. There is simply no other six-block strip that is as convenient for daily needs.

      • Wong Tong

        You douche. For the “perpetual pedestrian” an indoor mall such as the DCUSA structure (or Pentagon City for that matter) or any suburban strip mall would offer the most convenience within a short distance. Let me guess, you just moved into Highland Park and enjoyed the glossy brochure. My point is that with a MALL in your front yard, your neighborhood is anything but a residential neighborhood.

        But hey, how can you put a price on being able to walk to both Ruby Tuesday and IHOP?

        • Anonymous

          Dude, it’s a residential neighborhood. with a mall, and a ruby tuesday’s (both of which I love dearly).

          DCUSA, the Tivoli, and Civic Plaza make a really nice focal point for columbia heights. there is nothing to hate. The people who want to live next to it do, and the people who want to live 4 or 5 blocks from it do that too.

          what CH lacks is humongous office buildings. thats what makes it residential.

          If it’s not a “residential neighborhood” then what is it?

          • El Gringo


          • jcm

            That’s not true. I wanted to live next to it, but don’t have enough money, so instead I live 4 or 5 blocks from it. 🙂

          • Wong Tong

            A retail shopping neighborhood? For people that previously lived in Ballston and wanted to try out “the city”?

            Then again, you admitted to dearly loving Ruby Tuesday’s. If TJ’s doesn’t come, at least you can celebrate the opening of an Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or a Bennigan’s, all of which would fit that area perfectly.

          • victoria

            To wong tong – I’ve lived in CH back when it actually was “the city” – and you’re romanticizing things a bit dear.

            Yeah – I would rather have had the empty lots – with nothing but a Woolworths and a Waffle Shop – transformed into a Venetian plaza or Barcelona market square – but guess what.

            Ugly chain stores don’t actually kill a neighborhood. Every time I go to Target I get into conversations with all sorts of people. (The plaza, however is a travesty.)

        • WDC

          Hahaha!!! Highland park. That’s a good one. No, I couldn’t afford that. I got my rowhouse three blocks up when then gettin’ was good. I watched the boarded-up blight get demolished.
          I gotta say, if this isn’t a residential neighborhood, all my neighbors who’ve been in their houses for 30+ years are going to be mighty surprised.
          Now get back in your car and leave us real city folk in peace. Kaythxbye.

    • John

      What are these lines everyone ALWAYS speaks of? I never have to wait very long…at least not obscenely long. Even after work sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    Trader Joe’s would rock this location for one reason and one reason only: Cheap booze.

    Nowhere else can you get a dozen good bottles of wine for under $60.

    Yuppies, hipsters, nimbys, oldtimers, bums, homeless, and plain old normal people will all buy wine here.

    It’s not just for vegan yupsters, there are value buys to be found there too. Like the 99 cent pizza doe and tofu. Also the cheese is cheaper and better than at Giant (I’m going off of the Old Town location). They were created by the owner of Aldi, after all.

    I think they could take on Giant and Target and hold their own, if not win.

    • Whole Food sells pretty good wine for $2.99… Same as TJs

  • jae

    Actually, the Yes Organic in Petworth is doing very well, and it definitely draws from all walks of life. Lots of organics, good bulk section–including spices, and decent overall grocery that’s not outrageously expensive if you’re paying attention to what you’re buying. Plus you can get plenty of cheap wine there.

  • mark



  • Marcus Aurelius

    White Castle!!!!

  • victoria

    Ruff N’ Ready! They would be perfect for this location. We have plenty of grocery options in the neighborhood. What was the last thing anyone wanted and couldn’t find? I made a special trip to TJs for Lyles Golden Syrup and they didn’t have it. (Anyone know where to find it?)

    And for cheap wine – bought some Target box wine for a camping trip last summer and found it entirely decent. OK – it costs $5-6 bucks a bottle – but still.

    • saf

      I’ve bought Lyle’s at Giant and have seen it Harris Teeter.

      If everybody is sold out, Rodman’s on Wisconsin at Garrison should have it.

      • victoria

        Tried Rodman’s and they didn’t have it. HT in Adams Morgan didn’t either.

        • saf

          Huh. Really, I’ve bought it in all those places. Have you asked them to stock it?

          • victoria

            Wow – whatever are you doing with Lyles’ golden syrup that you’ve bought it at Giant, Rodmans’, Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s and Amazon! (I have a mere couple of recipes.)

          • saf

            Pecan pie – My pecan pie requires it.

            Also, I’ve taken to subbing it for corn syrup in candy recipes. Adds a nice caramel taste!

          • saf

            Oh, and not Trader Joe’s or Amazon. That’s someone else.

  • MK

    Victoria, I get Lyles from Amazon. Yeah, I know it’s stupid but I didn’t feel like leaving the house to search for it.

    • victoria

      Amazon never occurred to me! Thanks

  • Anonymous

    Doesnt DC need a real bowling alley?

    • Brad

      hahaha — i love it. if we’re going to fantasize, let’s fantasize big! $1 bowling!!

    • Anonymous

      does it?
      how often do you wish to bowl?

  • Anonymous

    What should really go there is a plant that manufacturers something people want. That’s what is needed right now in this city, region and country.

    If that’s impossible, I’d like to see the city government take the space and set up a job training center, free clinic, economic skills center, free day care center, or something else that serves the community.

    If you want high end groceries, please go the mile and a half tops to Whole Foods in Logan Circle or shop at the perfectly adequate Target and Giant for food.

    • Pete

      Columbia Heights Brewery!

  • TJS
  • Thought

    The margins for grocery stores are very slim. The rate of shoplifting in Columbia Heights (I’ve seen it at Giant too many times) is too high. Would a Trader Joe’s in Columbia Heights be busy? Yes. Would it be profitable? No.

    If you think the German parent company/owners of Trader Joe’s haven’t considered this, I want some of what you are smoking.

    Want a Trader Joe’s in Columbia Heights? Better get a certain short man that wears a bow tie to get rid of the section 8 housing first.

    Sorry, this is reality.

    • Anonymous

      you say they’ve thought about the crime, but is there reason to think that columbia heights is a location that they ever even considered?
      how did you come by this knowledge? or are you just making up shit?

      • Thought

        Let’s say a grocery store charges $5 for a jar of peanut butter. Of this, the store will keep 3%. These are the profit margins of grocery stores. 3%.

        Now, if that jar of peanut butter walks out of the grocery store in somebody’s pocket, the grocery store didn’t lose 15 cents. They lost $5.

        You would have to sell 33 jars of peanut butter to make up for the one stolen.

        Knowing this, would you open a grocery store in Columbia Heights?

        This isn’t a Columbia Heights thing… it is a crime issue. It is a problem for any urban area in any city, and not just in the US. I’m sure the German owners of Trader Joe’s see similar issues in Berlin.

        • Anonymous

          so how do they deal with it in berlin?

  • Columbia Heights Res

    An ALDI would fit in nicely there and they are building their first store over in NE by H St. Its the smaller cheaper cousin to Trader Joes. I think they may have the same parent company or there is some connection between the two.

  • I do LOVE Trader Joes, Whole Foods and all of the above but I’m honestly terrified of what a grocery store would do to traffic at that intersection. I’d love a Michaels or DSW or even have Andy open up another Busboys or something THEN to have Trader Joes or other grocery just a couple blocks north. There is PLENTY of empty real estate, including the the bottom floor of the new condos going in across the Exxon on 14th and Parkwood by PhoViet. Just an opinion but I’m not gonna complain (rather be doing cartwheels) if I see a TJ sign anywhere up in CH.


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