Dear PoPville – What’s the story with Monarch Novelties?

Dear PoPville,

We’ve lived in Logan for three years now and have never been in or seen anyone inside the Monarch Novelites store on 14th (just south of P). Not to mention, we’ve only seen it open a few times. Just curious if you know what’s going on in that place…

Back in June 2009 we learned a bit when I gave Monarch Novelites Door of the Day honors.

In 2005 the City Paper wrote:

The parcel within the Jefferson site isn’t the first bit of Robinson property that the family has fervidly defended. A 1968 photo from the Washington Post shows the Robinson boys guarding their father’s 14th Street shop, Monarch Novelties, on a summer day when business owners feared a reprise of the riots that had devastated the neighborhood earlier in the year. Standing inside their storefront, with children’s stuffed animals hanging innocently over their heads, Tommy dangles a pistol over his knee and Bo stands with a shotgun half-drawn.

Tommy has lived above that shop, in his father’s house, since he was a teenager in the ’50s. One of 11 children, he’s spent most of his life helping the family run their carnival-supply business—“Dad caught the carnival bug when he was 13,” says Tommy—and for decades they’ve been supplying whatever market there is in the District for giant inflatable crayons and oversized clown eyeglasses. His brother Douglas, an even greater eccentric with a mountaineer’s long gray beard, can usually be seen sitting still through the Monarch’s window, amid the pink and blue stuffed animals. Somehow the Monarch has survived as other old-school businesses have been taxed out during 14th Street’s transformation into an urban-chic commercial strip. But whatever the Robinsons’ trick is to surviving revitalization, it doesn’t involve courting walk-in traffic: Curious window-shoppers need to be buzzed in by Douglas before they can even enter the store.

Anyone else ever venture inside?

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