14th Street’s Growing Number of Retail Casualties

by Rebecca Cooper

Mid City Caffe and Miss Pixie’s

The past week brought news that a number of retail mainstays along a six-block stretch of 14th Street in Logan Circle are closing.

Mid City Caffe, Pulp, and Playbill Cafe all revealed that they would be shutting their doors or moving. This flurry of news came just a few weeks after Miss Pixie’s Furniture & Whatnot announced that it would also be moving from its current space at 1626 14th Street NW, making it a somber month for Logan Circle retail.

The building boom along 14th Street over the last few years has been well-documented, and with that development, the area has seen a surge in nightlife-oriented establishments. Consequently, many businesses that aren’t catering to a dinner and drinks crowd have struggled. In light of recent news, UrbanTurf spoke with some daytime-focused businesses along the strip to see whether or not they feel the pressure of the burgeoning bar and restaurant scene.

To adjust to the changing landscape, Danny Jean-Jacques, general manager of ACKC chocolate shop at 1529C 14th St. NW (map), said that the shop has shifted its focus to draw more nighttime business, with a more cafe-like set up, open mic nights on Mondays, and small shows on Saturdays. (He added that the chocolate-focused cafe is not closing, as was mistakenly reported earlier this month.)

“The mom and pop shops come and go, making way for bars,” Jean-Jacques said. “We’re definitely trying to take advantage of that.”

A block away, Mia Worrell, co-owner of Timothy Paul Bedding at 1529A 14th St. NW (map), felt differently. Worrell said she knows that things like restaurants, banks and pharmacies are attractive to landlords, but she hears from clients all the time who want more basic businesses in the neighborhood. For example, one client lamented the lack of a place to buy things for a baby; Worrell has since co-opted a section of her store to carry baby clothes and bedding.

But Elsayed Monsour, co-owner of Playbill Cafe (map) — a business that has had a largely nighttime clientele since it opened more than 13 years ago — says the neighborhood doesn’t support daytime-focused businesses very well.

“I don’t think the area really needs more clothing stores as I don’t think the ones that are here are doing well,” Monsour says.


Rather than a day versus night issue, Monsour sees the narrative of 14th Street as a far more familiar one: that of new versus old, and high rent versus low. “Our area is moving in the right direction, but unfortunately, the neighborhood joints, the old places, can’t stay,” he says. “It’s very expensive, and I cannot pass that on to my customers.”

Relocating within the neighborhood can be tough, given the rent. When Miss Pixie’s Furniture & Whatnot found out it had to move, owner Pixie Windsor started looking at spaces north of Columbia Heights because the rents in those areas are much more in line with her business model.

“I can’t find anything (in Logan Circle) that’s not $50 to $75 per square foot, and I’m looking for more like $10,” she told UrbanTurf. “It’s such a double-edged sword. DC is prospering, and my business has just been explosive here. But now I might have to move to where that’s not going to be the case.”

Monsour and his partner, Jeffrey DeMontier, are optimistic about keeping Playbill near the Logan Circle neighborhood, however; they’re looking at spaces around 9th, 10th, and 11th Streets NW — off the main 14th Street drag. “It’s the nature of our business, of all business, really,” he said. “When the time comes, you have to move.”

And where those older businesses leave vacancies — such as the space that Go Mama Go! used to occupy a couple stores down from Pulp — there are also opportunities.

“In any neighborhood in transition, a lot of restaurants come in and it does push some people out, but it also attracts people like us,” says Chris Davis of Current Boutique, the consignment clothing store that moved into that same space at 1809 14th St. NW (map).

Davis’ wife and business partner, Carmen Lopez, disputes claims about the low weekday foot traffic in the area, saying they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the business at the new store. “It’s actually exceeded my expectations, in terms of shoppers,” she said, adding that she’s had to increase staff during the week.

While surprised to hear about nearby businesses closing, she thinks that it is the restaurant-level rent, not the lack of patrons, that is the cause.

“Landlords have stars in their eyes when they see what a restaurant pays,” she says. “It’s a whole different ballgame than it was 10 years ago.”

See other articles related to: editors choice, 14th street

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/14th_streets_growing_number_of_retail_casualties/4256


  1. jj said at 3:48 pm on Friday September 30, 2011:

    The landlords are price gouging.  Period.  The only establishments that can afford to be there are those with liquor licenses raking in high profits off of getting people wasted.  Nice.  Pulp and Miss Pixies were neighborhood treasures.  Very sorry to see them go.

  1. Nick the Greek said at 5:38 pm on Friday September 30, 2011:

    Green Pets and the dog boarder closed down due to high rents on 14th St and they are both still empty.  As a commercial landlord, I want income, not empty buildings.  The landlords have to realize that this is NOT Georgetown and the internet is taking a lot of business away.  The neighborhood can support only so many restaurant/bars before it becomes totally over saturated, like Adams Morgan and it is an undesirable neighborhood.

  1. scott said at 11:16 am on Saturday October 1, 2011:

    Why didn’t Miss Pixies and the other businesses quoted negotiate longer term leases?  Miss Pixies has only been there a couple of years.  Surely they would have at least a ten year lease with options to extend.  Something isn’t adding up.

  1. swester said at 11:53 am on Sunday October 2, 2011:

    It won’t end until every neighborhood looks like Georgetown or Columbia Heights - the same old corporate retail crap, over and over again, because they’re the only ones who can pay the ludicrously high rent without batting an eye.

  1. Timmy Geithner said at 12:40 pm on Monday October 3, 2011:

    I will really miss Miss Pixie’s, Midcity, and Pulp.  I wish these businesses were not closing or leaving 14th street.  I am sad.

    I am not angry, however.  I’m not angry at landlords or at the businesses that can make enough of a profit to pay market rents and stay on 14th or at the forces of the market that increase or decrease property values, raise or lower rents,  drive development patterns.

    I am thankful for the market forces and profit motives that brought Whole Foods, Starbucks, Pitango, Logan Hardware, Carribou, Timothy Paul Bedding, Masa 14, Rice, ACKC, Estadio, Fedex, Posto, Great Wall, AYT Auto, Birch and Barley, Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Universal Gear, and the many, many more businesses in the 14th St. area that are thriving.

    My neighborhood is safe, vibrant, growing, and fun.  Especially in a time when so many communities are suffering from falling property values and failing businesses, I refuse to let the fact that a few businesses I patronize and enjoy are closing blind me to how lucky I am to live in such a great neighborhood that is so prosperous.

  1. J. said at 10:48 pm on Wednesday October 5, 2011:

    We desperately need commercial rent control in this city.  We need businesses that provide *useful* goods, services, and meeting places, not another $50/plate restaurant or fancy bar.  This is unregulated capitalism as its worst, and the ruthlessness of the landlords is absolutely despicable.  SMALL-BUSINESS TENANTS NEED TO ORGANIZE TO ENACT COMMERCIAL RENT CONTROL!

  1. Sam said at 2:36 pm on Thursday October 6, 2011:

    J, you do realize that almost all the places listed above that ware closing were paying an average rent that was 3X below the local immediate area. Also the building owners could not afford to keep the buildings themselves if they didnt get rent revenue that corresponded with rising property taxes. This is basic real estate market demand and neighborhood turn over.Calm Down!!!

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