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What’s the Story with the Seemingly Abandoned Bemmi Hardware?

by Prince Of Petworth June 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm 28 Comments

12th and Florida Ave, NW

“Dear PoPville,

Any idea what the deal is with this hardware store at 12th and Florida? Looks like they closed one day and just never came back.”

Ed. Note: Back in 2011 we talked about this building during a horse’s ass award nomination. At that time I was admonished for nominating them for a Horse’s ass award, really just using the language horse’s ass – but anyway a DCRA rep commented:

“We will be sending out a vacant property inspector tomorrow to the property to determine whether the property is entirely vacant. Under the D.C. vacant property tax law, the entire building must be vacant in order for it to be subject to either the Class 3 or Class 4 property tax rates.”

Not sure about the current tax status but I haven’t seen any movement at the hardware store since.

  • sbc

    OTR’s site says it’s still owned by A. Worku (same person as in 2011) but it’s not getting the homestead deduction. Its assessed value has actually declined from the 2014 to proposed 2015 amount. It’s not listed as vacant or blighted.

  • Anonymous

    I sometimes see people on the balcony upstairs but never downstairs. Not sure if they’re connected. That said, would love for this place to be some kind of retail some day (coffee shop preferred, please).

  • RC

    Actually – I’ve always wished that this was an operating hardware store.

    • Anonymous


  • Neighbor

    Also, what is the deal with the house across 12th Place that has every single wood blind closed always, a serious security gate on their garage, and like 8 security cameras positioned along the outside? It seems like something fishy is going on in there.

    • Anonymous

      Normally I’d agree that somewhere like that screams “grow house” but it’s almost too obvious for that.

      • Anonymous

        Oooooooooh. You might be right; that would explain it. And frankly, we don’t really have them in DC, so I doubt anyone would even recognize the signs. And they have their parking pad built like Fort Knox (including a cover over the top).

        • 12th Place

          That hardware store was never really a hardware store. We thought it was a front for something else. And someone near that corner uses the public street trashcan for the garbage – sofas, large mirrors etc. Maybe it’s the people who live above the “store”.

          For the house on the corner of 12th Place and Florida with all the security, none of you are correct. it’s just a neighbor who has had too much crime happen on that corner. Whenever something happens around him, he checks his cameras, and provides footage. He has provided video of package thiefs, and another one of a burglar riding off on a bike stolen from a house break-in.

    • 11th & W

      Ha, I know exactly the place you’re talking about. I wonder if someone famous/notable lives there?

    • Anonymous

      It’s not an actual garage, but a parking pad with a serious security gate/wall and a cover over the top of the parking pad (really weird, IMHO). My guess is some sort of medical pot grow operation by the homeowner.

      • A cover over the parking pad isn’t THAT weird, IMO — it would give the car some protection against the elements, carport-style.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, but coupled with the house’s other extreme-seeming security measures, it is.

    • Anonymous

      There is at least one house at the end of the block that keeps cameras and generously shares with neighbors and the police the videos of various crimes along that otherwise pretty unwatched stretch of Florida Ave. I appreciate it.

  • ngbr

    it looks like there may be an apartment or two attached to this with entrances on the side/rear. not sure if anyone lives there but i’m certainly curious about the place.

  • Kevin

    I live around the corner from there and went in a few times when they were open. They had a very small selection of goods. They probably closed 7 or 8 years ago.

    What’s really strange is the same random assortment of new products have been in the window ever since!

    • Anonymous

      I’ve seen the lights on inside the upper apartment(s) over the past few years. My guess is that the hardware store owner retired/got sick and still continues to live upstairs. They’re sitting on a gold mine if they ever wanted to sell to a developer. One could easily build a 4 to 6 unit condo building on the site.

      • Anonymous

        I’m sensing an awesome confluence of PoP-ville pet peeves here…the Horse’s Ass award winner is sold to a developer who builds a massive pop-up to rival the famed “middle finger of V street” lore!

  • Anonymous

    Can we talk about Coopers Hardware on 14th, too? Same story. Vacant (I’ve never seen lights on upstairs or anything) but intact, like they just locked up and walked away one day.
    I checked the property tax records. It says it’s in the residential class (not vacant) (and though the use code is “store”, the tax class is residential– weird, right?), but not receiving the homestead deduction. I remember it was put up for sale last year for something stupid like $8M. Of course nothing has happened. Any rumors floating around?

  • Anonymous

    What I bought my house in the neighborhood in 2007, I thought “woohoo, hardware store, that’s so convenient.” But of course, it was closed. No idea how long they were closed before that, but there have been no changes in the display or anything in the time since then. Of course, when people visit they still see and say, “A hardware store! How convenient for you!” Heh.

  • DCLady

    I live not too far from the so called “hardware store.” I’ve thought it was a front for the ethiopian owners to funnel money through. Before, it’s current owner(s), it was a functioning hardware store and grocery store before that. It would be useful as grocery store again!

  • Low Headways

    Is there, like, a way to force a sale? I’m guessing not if it’s not technically “blighted,” but I would love to see anything make better use of the space.

    Who wants to join my kickstarter for “Bean Joist,” a coffee shop/hardware store in the thriving SoFlo Twelfth Street corridor?

    • Anonymous

      If you figure out how to force property sales, please please please let me know. Bacon Funeral Home tops the list. But it’s a long list.

  • Allison

    And then there’s the house across the street from Bemmi’s with the “This is not a Brothel” plaque on the door. I wonder how many visitors they got before they had that sign made up.

    • Anonymous

      A one time that use to be a funeral home. Not sure about the brothel!!??

    • Anonymous

      None actually. I know the people that live in the house, and the sign is a joke.

  • zeeeeee

    I lived in an apartment in this building from 2004-2007. There are two apartments in the back and one apartment above the hardware store. The hardware store was run by the woman who owned the building. She lived in the apartment above the store with her high-school aged son. The building is in her husbands name, if I remember correctly, though he was never around. I think he lived back home in Ethiopia. The store was actually pretty well stocked, and it closed suddenly right around the time that I moved out. She just put a sign on the window that said something along the lines of “we will be closed for a while”. I never got a chance to ask her why she closed it.
    It would be nice to see someone re-open that hardware store, or do something with that space.


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