Monday, September 11, 2006

I Dream of Retail

When, oh when, the Growler asks, will our neighborhood get the retail and service businesses it needs and deserves?

The Parker-Gray District is beginning to resemble a small scale version of Prince George's County, where there is also a large pool of individuals with substantial incomes but few local businesses where they might want to spend their dollars.

Here's just few of the types of businesses the Growler would like to see around here:

1. Full-service grocery with fresh produce, dairy and meat. This may come off the list if we get the Harris Teeter at the Madison. (The Growler likes Whole Foods but it's expensive and lacks staples. We need an everyday alternative.)

2. Pharmacy (CVS, RiteAid, Walgreens, etc.) for over the counter and prescribed medications. Could be bundled with #1.

3. Bakery (we miss you, Firehook!) and coffee shops. The Growler never imagined pining for a Starbucks before, but would welcome the green and white logo swaying on a sign in Parker-Gray.

4. Gourmet wine and cheese shop. You have to go to Mt. Vernon Avenue, Bashford Lane, Whole Foods or King Street to fulfil your jones for Syrah or goat cheese. Why not get the fix here?

5. Ice cream and sweets shop. This is a fervent plea to Del Ray's Dairy Godmother to branch out and start an outpost of the Dreamery over here.

6. Ethnic or specialty restaurants (Mexican, Afghan, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Greek, Malaysian or anything cheap, delicious and chic).

7. Full service day spa (not to be confused with the current "Spa Court")

As for the rest, the Growler has mixed opinions. More dry cleaners? Maybe, but only if strategically placed. Boutique fashion stores? Nah, Pentagon City is too close and convenient.

The Growler's worst retail nightmare for Parker-Gray: a proliferation of check cashing stores. Yes, they might serve a need but only at an exploitative level.

Surveying the district, we have economy food already available, like the Blue and White, Goody's, and McDonald's for carry-out and one restaurant for sit-down service(Sarge's). There's several nail and hair salons and barber shops, but some don't seem to be thriving as well as they did, even as recently as last year.

There's some corner groceries, holdovers from the old days when people did their marketing locally. Now those business mostly supply junk food, sodas, cigarettes, wine and beer. Their numbers have dwindled drastically over the quarter century the Growler has been on the scene.

But where's the quality? Where are the businesses that meet the needs of the new homeowners who have spent $500,000 and up for their homes? Where is the retail activity that lures homebuyers here and shores up house prices, which are already dropping dramatically in Parker-Gray?

This neighborhood has the potential to have the diversity, variety and vitality of D.C.'s U Street corridor or even H Street, NE. Why hasn't that happened?

Residents here (particularly two income families) are pulling in five- and six-figure salaries. But they aren't spending those dollars in the neighborhood. We're yearning for smart businessmen who are ready to capitalize on this pent-up demand.

So what would you like to see around here?