Greater Greater Washington

Supermarket chains blind to walkable urban business opportunities

Many of DC's supermarkets turn long, blank walls toward the sidewalk. This space represents an enormous missed opportunity for retailing. Supermarkets like Manhattan's Fairway line their sidewalk frontage with produce stands. This draws customers into the store who see an appealing mango as they walk by, go inside, and end up buying a few items. Clearly, they've determined that any loss to theft pales in comparison to the profit in drawing more customers. Yet DC's supermarkets leave these spaces dead and unused.


Left: Fairway on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Right: Safeway on 17th Street in Dupont.
Photos by swruler9284 and M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

It seems puzzling that stores ignore this obvious opportunity literally right in front of them. According to a developer who's tried to attract supermarkets to DC, our chains, like Safeway and Giant, cling to very suburban business models despite having many successful stores in the city. They primarily measure stores by their "average receipts", the average amount of money a customer spends on a single visit.

Adding small-ticket items like produce outside the store would bring in more customers and even more total profit, but decrease the average receipts. Despite raising the store's profits, the national headquarters would very likely see the change as diminishing the store's performance.

Most of New York's supermarket chains focus entirely or almost on that market. Fairway, Food Emporium, D'Agostino, Gristede's, C-Town, and others don't answer to suburban managers who measure their stores by the standards of the typical auto-dependent strip mall store. Many of these stores can operate successfully in small spaces, and are happy to locate half or more of their stores below ground or on the second floor. They know they don't need an enormous 20-foot-high sign. And even in buildings with no parking, they can thrive.

Meanwhile, Safeway largely neglects its Dupont Circle store. Safeway, Giant, and other regional chains, when negotiating to become anchor tenants of new developments, still insist on large facades facing the sidewalk, suburban-sized signs, and vast quantities of parking, often including parking reserved exclusively for the store's patrons.

It's not all bad. Even these same chains are thinking more creatively on some of their new stores. The new Georgetown Safeway will engage the sidewalk much more than existing Safeways. My developer source says that some chains are open to adding sidewalk vending. If those outside-the-DC-box examples succeed, then our supermarket chains will learn to incorporate these elements in other stores in less-rich areas. As with many large businesses, however, these chains move and change slowly. We may well have to wait a long time for them to wake up to profit opportunities in urban areas.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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They could at least have windows.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2009 3:48 pm • linkreport

While I don't disagree with you, I think another factor in New York is that square footage is so expensive and in such short supply. Putting the produce out front also helps to maximize use of the small store footprints. While real estate isn't cheap in DC, it's generally much more available than in NY.

by nashpaul on Jan 28, 2009 4:11 pm • linkreport

I think one major difference (as you've alluded to) is that in NY, the stores are much smaller and serve much smaller neighborhoods each.

I don't know if real estate pricing (or the relative ease of driving to larger stores in DC compared to NY) makes it unaffordable for small markets to open, but it's a shame this city doesn't have more in the way of small neighborhood grocers . . . I think it's a major part of having a livable neighborhood.

One solution might be to allow food stores (and specifically food stores) with no more than, say, 1500 square feet of sales area, to open in any zoning district by-right, and without hassle.

Georgetown is nutty in its own way and would likely block this concept in the residential area (for who knows what reasons), but the resistence to supermarkets in other areas of the city seems to be led by people concerned that a new or larger store will be a destination, pulling many people in from many areas. Because they're larger stores, they *are* more of a destination than a smaller store, and more people *will* drive than if it were a smaller store.

A 1500-sf store in a dense-ish area would pull a lot of people on foot. Sure, the prices'll be a little higher, but that might be the tradeoff for having a more livable neighborhood.

Safeway might be a lost cause, but Giant is owned by Royal Ahold, a European operator that runs a number of different sized stores in different types of urban and suburban markets. I'd think they could get some help from within in developing such a neighborhood market concept in DC.

by Joey on Jan 28, 2009 4:15 pm • linkreport

Oh, another concern of dissenters in residential neighborhoods might be the fear of large trucks servicing small grocery stores on their streets.

This is a relatively easy problem to solve through zoning, though. If a zoning change were implemented to allow food stores in any zoning district by-right, it could include a clause limiting the servicing of stores on residentially zoned land.

For instance, the code could restrict trucks to no longer than, say, 16 feet, and limit them to delivering goods between 10am and 7pm to avoid the morning rush and late-night noise. A special exception permit process could be offered to allow more flexibility, if the neighbors sign on.

by Joey on Jan 28, 2009 4:20 pm • linkreport

The Magruders in Cleveland Park has produce outside - right now it is on side perpendicular to Connecticut Ave facing the parking lot but in the summer it is also on the sidewalk side. And Brookville in Cleveland Park sometimes has flowers or Christmas trees for sale out front.

by Elizabeth on Jan 28, 2009 4:26 pm • linkreport

Gosh your site is amazing. Thank you for this interesting post, which I hope sparks off debate that leads to grocery stores interracting more with the street. Excellent topic.

by Cary O'Reilly on Jan 28, 2009 4:36 pm • linkreport

I think one major difference (as you've alluded to) is that in NY, the stores are much smaller and serve much smaller neighborhoods each.

This is true, although even larger stores, such as Fairway, pictured above, have outdoor displays. Theft is a real concern, so people have to stand outside all night to watch it. Even if they don't do outdoor sales, putting useful windows in like a walk-up window for the bakery or pharmacy would still be much more street contact than today.

by цarьchitect on Jan 28, 2009 4:49 pm • linkreport

Typically sentiment of urban planning. The planners didn't have the capital, risk aversion or entreprenerial spirit, but once the investment has been made, they're only too willing to tell other people how to run their business.

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 5:00 pm • linkreport

For what it's worth: most of those NY supermarkets you mention don't follow the produce-out-front style. Gristedes, D'Agostinos, and Food Emporium typically are more like Safeway and Giant (albeit, typically as a first floor retail underneath apartments).

For the record, those three images were simply the first locations I randomly selected for each store. But it's my experience that they are typical examples of what those stores look like.

Most of the produce-out-front stores in NYC are independently owned stores (typically owned by Korean families, but not exclusively so). They wouldn't survive very long in DC because it takes NYC style density levels to ensure the produce gets turned over enough not to simply rot on the shelves. Big grocery stores in DC can do that because they draw customers from larger areas than a neighborhood store would.

by Reid on Jan 28, 2009 5:02 pm • linkreport

And Reid provides a death blow to the illusions of the reformers with his harsh reality of the nature of business.

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 5:04 pm • linkreport

"This is a relatively easy problem to solve through zoning, though."

Joey: The type of restriction that you describe is far outside the scope of what can be done through zoning.

Also, it seems that the basic premise of David's essay is flawed. Many area supermarkets and smaller groceries do display produce or other merchandise outside their entrances, although it doesn't seem that David surveyed many stores outside his immediate neighborhood. At least one local supermarket even sponsors a weekly farmer's market at its entrance, in addition to displaying its own produce, plants, flowers and other merchandise outside the entrance.

by JR on Jan 28, 2009 5:06 pm • linkreport

@MPC.

It doesn't get called the Soviet Safeway for nothing. There are guidebooks to DC that refer to the 17th and Corcoran store as such. (And yes, I know there was an older "Soviet Safeway" elsewhere.) Perhaps the proprietors of the store could stand to learn something new.

by Steve on Jan 28, 2009 5:07 pm • linkreport

I think that this has to do with typologies more than anything else. An establishment operating as a "supermarket" necessarily takes a different layout than one conceived as a "grocery store."

The urban Dutch and British supermarkets I've been in, even ones of the 17th St. Safeway or smaller, do not position much stock facing the sidewalk. They might have windows, but the traffic flow inside the market invariably places the registers toward the window.

The Whole Foods on P St. does push activity toward its big sidewalk windows, but in the form of a café and seating for people who have already made their purchases. The new Georgetown Safeway is going to place separate mini-stores toward the sidewalk.

by David Ramos on Jan 28, 2009 5:26 pm • linkreport

I live right near the new Safeway that opened at City Vista (5th & L NW). It's touted as an "urban lifestyle" Safeway. It is superior to the other DC Safeways - shiny new things often are. However it's hard to point to many things about the store that scream "urban". Perhaps the biggest difference over the City Vista Safeway and a nice new suburban Safeway are the inventory of shopping carts. A majority of the carts at the City Vista store are narrow with two baskets as opposed to being the big hulking shopping carriages the Jackass guys do stunts with. I think that signifies that Safeway does understand the City Vista store will generate more small trips and that average receipt is not the metric to focus on.

I've heard they do want to make use of their street frontage on L Street come spring. Most likely with tables & chairs rather than produce.

by Paul S on Jan 28, 2009 5:27 pm • linkreport

"And Reid provides a death blow to the illusions of the reformers with his harsh reality of the nature of business."

Woah. All I did was show that the stores mentioned weren't good examples and that the NYC style bodega idea is not that transferable to DC.

But Safeway does have the turnover to prevent food spoilage. There's nothing that would prevent Safeway from putting more goods out front (and by the way, some do), despite the fact that the Food Emporium doesn't. It just would be more innovative than David was suggesting.

You seem to be implying that since it's not done, then it can't be done, and nobody should suggest otherwise unless they want to do it themselves. That's silly. That logic would mean that someone who advocated for organic grocery stores 20 years ago was naive and destined to have their illusions dealt a death blow by the harsh realities of business.

by Reid on Jan 28, 2009 5:35 pm • linkreport

Haven't you heard, Reid? If the miracle of capitalism (a.k.a., a bureaucratic corporate command structure) has not already provided something, it must be impossible.

by jack lecou on Jan 28, 2009 5:43 pm • linkreport

JR, why do you think delivery timing restrictions are outside the scope of zoning? They're used all the time all over the country.

Are you arguing it's unconstitutional? Or are you under the assumption that it violates some other law for the City to use zoning for that purpose?

by Joey on Jan 28, 2009 5:46 pm • linkreport

Haven't you heard, Reid? If the miracle of capitalism (a.k.a., a bureaucratic corporate command structure) has not already provided something, it must be impossible.

I'll take the 'bureaucratic corporate command structure which has put its own assets on the line and has the incentive of profit to follow rather than some other source.

You seem to be implying that since it's not done, then it can't be done, and nobody should suggest otherwise unless they want to do it themselves

No, I'm only refuting the tendency among urban planners that states that the best way to deal with any issue is to zone the hell out of it. Organic markets did sprout up, didn't they? Was it a bureaucratic edict? I think not.

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 5:53 pm • linkreport

MPC, I think you're jumping the gun a little here. We were discussing this market storefront issue the other night, and I don't know that anyone thinks *restrictive* zoning is the answer.

On the contrary, at least in NY, smaller neighborhood stores seem to be the ones that are more prone to engage the sidewalk. Right now, DC zoning discourages such small neighborhood stores, because they're prohibited from operating where they'd actually be useful and profitable: residential streets.

If anything, as I suggested above, I'd recommend allowing such stores in any zoning district. This is a far cry from "zoning the hell" of them, as it provides an *additional* option while taking baby steps to appease residential NIMBY neighbors who adore restrictive zoning.

by Joey on Jan 28, 2009 5:58 pm • linkreport

I'll take the 'bureaucratic corporate command structure which has put its own assets on the line and has the incentive of profit to follow rather than some other source.

The point is that the individual managers and functionaries within large bureaucratic command structures DO NOT actually have their own assets or profits on the line, and their actual personal incentives rarely line up perfectly, or even all that well at all, with the "true" best interests of the corporation or the shareholders.

As David pointed out, store performance is widely judged based on simplistic metrics like 'average receipts'. That's completely believable, consistent with a somewhat sluggish corporate institutional culture. And it's not something you can argue away with protestations about how we're just know-it-all busybodies, ignorantly criticizing the magic of the free market.

by jack lecou on Jan 28, 2009 6:10 pm • linkreport

You're missing the point. Yes of course there are principal-agent issues in a corporate bureaucracy.

But the shareholders can fire their CEO if he doesn't meet their expectations. When was the last time you saw any shakeups due to government bungling? In the corporation, the buck has to stop somewhere. Not the case with the alternative.

Basically what the original essay comes across as is: "we don't like the aesthetics of this building, so obviously something needs to be done.

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 6:16 pm • linkreport

Well, why can't something be done, MPC? You're an advocate of neoliberal economics, so do you have a recommended course of action or policy influenced by those things? I'm not talking a micromanagerial multi-point plan, but something that would improve the aesthetics of the places in question while respecting the nature of the unfettered market, as it were? Something a bit more nuanced than platitudes about laissez-faire?

This is assuming that you're genuinely interested in urban planning, I mean, and that you're not just here to concern-troll.

by Daniel M. Laenker on Jan 28, 2009 6:26 pm • linkreport

On November 4th, there was a big shakeup due to government bungling.

It's extraordinarily hard to fire the CEO. Individual shareholders have nearly zero power, and big institutional shareholders don't think about the business in great detail. I'd say it's harder to replace the CEO of a major business than it is to replace the head of the federal government.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2009 6:26 pm • linkreport

Elizabeth: I didn't know about Magruder's and Brookville's sidewalk displays. Thanks. I notice that Magruder's bills itself as "Washington's only locally-owned supermarket chain," and Brookville appears not to be a chain. It's a lot easier for these local stores or small chains to move more nimbly.

Reid: Also a good point. Food Emporiums probably are the least creative of NYC stores. However, they are still more willing to locate in spaces where most of the store is inside the building and without suburban-sized signs (and, of course, no parking); according to the developer I spoke to, DC area chains typically won't do that.

The Wisconsin Giant, by the way, is another good example of a supermarket willing to break the formula a bit to create a better area. Most importantly, they're wrapping their new store in other, small stores. That cuts down on huge walls for giant Giant signs, but improves the vitality of the area and should bring them more customers in the long run.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2009 6:32 pm • linkreport

big institutional shareholders don't think about the business in great detail

Yea, they just like to accumulate stocks to use as paper-mache. I thought the whole 'problem' was that Wall Street was 'too greedy'. Now according to you, they don't care about profits.

On November 4th, there was a big shakeup due to government bungling.

Yea, I'm sure George was really worried whether or not he was gonna get another term. At least corporations have annual board meetings. And besides, accountability 8 years after the fact doesn't do anyone any good. At least with corporations you can objectively measure performance (profits). With the government you get things which would rightly never occur, like the 2004 presidential election.

But no, I suppose the record of history supports your notion that the federal government is more efficient and responsive than a corporation.

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 6:32 pm • linkreport

"why do you think delivery timing restrictions are outside the scope of zoning?"

Joey, The zoning regulations are "regulations controlling and restricting the height, bulk, number of stories, and the size of buildings and other structures, the open spaces around them, the density of population, and the uses of buildings, structures, and land in the District of Columbia, and for said purposes dividing the District of Columbia into zoning district."

There are other regulations that can limit the hours that deliveries can be made, but they are not within the scope of zoning. Zoning can include provisions requiring that stores have loading facilities and the size of those facilities, but it cannot dictate the size of trucks that deliver to a site or whether the truck will load from the street or alley if the building includes inadequate loading facilities. Nor does it control the use of the public space, outside the property line. That is the under the jurisdiction of another District agency.

You can read the zoning regulations on the Office of Zoning web-site. I suggest that you do so before making assumptions about what they include or how they should be changed.

by JR on Jan 28, 2009 6:37 pm • linkreport

JR: You agree that zoning can "control[] and restrict[] . . . the uses of buildings?" Loading guidelines are a form of use.

DC isn't like a Dillon Rule state (see Virginia) where the specific guidelines of what can and can't be controlled in zoning are specifically set forth from on high. DC's effectively a city *and* a state, and Congress is the only authority that can limit how the District can regulate its land uses. My understanding is that there's been no law out of Congress restricting such land use regulations.

Zoning laws frequently regulate things like hours and loading details (often through special exception/permit regulations). There's no reason DC doesn't have the authority to regulate like I described.

by Joey on Jan 28, 2009 6:45 pm • linkreport

Joey, Rather than guessing or just making things up, you might actually read the regulations, transcripts and the associated legislation.

by JR on Jan 28, 2009 7:15 pm • linkreport

David really doesn't know this city--he just likes to spout a kind of idealistic, but often ill-informed set of conventional, romantic ideas about cities. The Safeway on Columbia Road does BBQ in the summer, so the chain is willing to be somewhat creative. The P St. Whole Foods does various things outside--they had Chicago style hot dogs during the inauguration. And, as someone notice, chain markets in New York routinely do like the typical DC chain store. One reason indies will put produce outside is that the workers probably are family and much cheaper and more invested than the average chain store employee--you need to have adequate staffing to prevent shrinkage, etc.

by Rich on Jan 28, 2009 8:36 pm • linkreport



Yea, they just like to accumulate stocks to use as paper-mache. I thought the whole 'problem' was that Wall Street was 'too greedy'. Now according to you, they don't care about profits.

Those two positions are hardly incompatible. Both statements could easily be true if Wall Street's leaders were too greedy for themselves, and insufficiently greedy for their companies. Which is, I think, what happened: Wall Street spent more time worrying about their own annual bonuses than whether or not their CDO holdings were appropriately valued over the long haul. As a result, we got a few years of Wall Streeters pulling down astronomical pay packages while completely ignoring the long-term, until the long-term came to pass.



Yea, I'm sure George was really worried whether or not he was gonna get another term. At least corporations have annual board meetings.

John McCain would like to take issue with your suggestion that the Republican Party equals George W. Bush. Additionally, John Sununu, Elizabeth Dole, Gordon Smith, Ted Stevens, probably Norm Coleman, and a whole list of former Congressmen would like to take issue with your suggestion that there were no other elections in 2008.

And "annual board meetings"? It is to laugh. Okay, we'll assume you meant "annual shareholder meetings," since the political equivalent of a board meeting is a cabinet meeting, not an election. Now, if political elections ran like shareholder meetings:

1. Only the ruling party would be allowed on the ballot.

2. There would be no primary elections.

3. The ruling party would be allowed to buy as much advertising as they wanted, at taxpayer expense.

4. Only members of the ruling party would be allowed to see registered voter lists.

5. All government employees would automatically vote for the ruling party, whether they want to or not.

6. The number of votes received by the ruling party would be increased by the number of registered voters who did not vote.

7. If any other party wanted to run candidates, they would have to produce their own ballot, at their own expense.

In 2008, eight Senate seats changed parties, and shareholder meetings ousted the management of six publicly-traded US companies. There are 100 members of the US Senate, and over 5,000 US-based companies listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ.

by cminus on Jan 28, 2009 10:07 pm • linkreport

Again, if the majority of the shareholders are pleased with the executive's performance, who are we to criticize?

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 10:14 pm • linkreport

I live in SE near RFK, and the stories from the long time neighbors was the house on the corner used to be a small market 20 years ago. With its large sidewalk windows, it would have been a very convenient place to buy milk, produce or a loaf of bread.

This house is zoned R4 now, so it appears that it can't be turned into a commercial building any longer. Zoning laws apparently allowed this type of business in the past, but now the DC zoning prohibits this now. At some point this building must have either lost its grandfathered zoning, or DC may have changed it over.

My point is this, supermarkets in the city are far apart. Many in the city don't own a car. Some common items would be handy in small stores closer than a supermarket. I believe that if the zoning allowed for it, the corner market could supplement our supermarkets. If the corner market can't survive then the market will dictate and it will turn into housing again. People are spouting that its not feasible, idealistic, etc. But DC had this type of store in the past, the buildings are even still standing! But now DC prohibits them.

Zoning should allow a few fresh food markets open up round town in residential areas. If they don't work, the market will dictate, but currently its forbidden. How is there so much opposition to people getting food?

But I see it as a benefit to the residents to have closer access to quality food, which is lacking greatly in many neighborhoods. I think the real problem is residents are worried that these markets will be targets for crime, rather than delivery trucks.

Does anyone know the history as why these buildings are zoned residential now? Can they be grandfathered back into commercial?

by Erik on Jan 28, 2009 10:15 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know the history as why these buildings are zoned residential now?

Because city planners, who I honestly think were well-intentioned (seriously) thought they knew a way of using land use regulations to make the city operate better. Unfortunately, there's no way possible that the well-intentioned planning could keep up with the infinitely dynamic wants and needs of the citizenry.

by MPC on Jan 28, 2009 10:36 pm • linkreport

Erik (and David)- I think the topic of neighborhood retail zoning should definitely be the subject of a new GGW post. We just read about a popular corner market in Gtown being threatened with residential conversion, so the time to act is now.

by SG on Jan 28, 2009 10:40 pm • linkreport

That Safeway is a mess. It truly is the Soviet Safeway. I have gone into the 17th Street Safeway only to leave empty-handed; they didn't have a single item on my list in stock. Additionally, the staff is not great. Last week, my order was $9.97 cents. I handed the cashier a $20 bill, but he didn't have any pennies. I told him to not bother with the 3 cents and just give me the $10. Apparently, I was asking for the impossible. He insisted on making me wait there while he went around asking other cashiers for a roll of pennies before finally having to call to the office for extra change. I would've just left but he was holding on to my $10. Just thought I'd share.

by Adam on Jan 29, 2009 1:54 am • linkreport

Again, if the majority of the shareholders are pleased with the executive's performance, who are we to criticize?

Um, possibly the majority of shareholders, who hold a very paltry number of shares compared to three or four people who own most of them and are the only people actually satisfied? Or perhaps people that don't own shares at all and just happen to be in the way?

Also, once again, you still haven't answered my question. You've argued against the very idea of planning ad nauseam, but haven't really articulated any kind of positive alternative vision of Washington that you support.

by Daniel M. Laenker on Jan 29, 2009 1:58 am • linkreport

here's a wacky thought, the big boys like safeway and gian need not compete with smaller grocers, but partner with them.

in bloomingdale there are a bunch of corner stores, but none with anything fresh, unless you include milk. but if they and the safeway or giant over by the rhode island metro could strike up a deal to get produce at something close to what those chains pay for, the big guys could make a modest buck while the corner stores offer more produce. the little guys could come in and get what they need, paying less than the consumer, then sell it at the corner store for a bit more than the consumer pays at safeway. then i could get bananas with out having to walk more than a couple blocks, rather than a half mile.

by dano on Jan 29, 2009 8:00 am • linkreport

The 17th St Safeway management has apparently been approached before about adding windows to the 17th St wall, but said the refrigeration on the interior side would make it too difficult. IMHO it would be worth the effort, but they see it differntly. Produce stands would be easy fix, one imagines. The nearby Townhouse ("Secret Safeway") actually DOES have windows, facing 20th St, but most are painted over. That would be an easier fix, but that block has so little foot traffic, it would also be a difficult sell for management. (See http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/3184232667/)

by Michael on Jan 29, 2009 10:31 am • linkreport

Again, if the majority of the shareholders are pleased with the executive's performance, who are we to criticize?

I think it's pretty rich to expect the shareholders of a huge nationwide corporation to either know enough, care enough, or have enough influence at the right chokepoints to micromanage the sidewalk displays of a couple of stores in Washington.

Pure laissez-faire panglossianism.

by jack lecou on Jan 29, 2009 11:38 am • linkreport

I'd just like to add that it's a bit annoying to (as a pedestrian) have to enter a parking garage in order to access the entrance to a grocery store (Whole Foods in Tenleytown), or have to circle around/walk through a parking lot to enter (Giant in Friendship Heights). Both stores are within a block of a Metro station, you would think they would have more easily accessible pedestrian entrances.

by DC_Chica on Jan 29, 2009 2:27 pm • linkreport

The Tenleytown WF is a retrofitted garage which was not designed to be ped friendly. Given what is there now versus 15 years ago, it isn't too bad.

The Giant at FH is another issue. That was just rebuilt, and one would have thought a glancing access to metro would have been integrated into the planning for the site.

by William on Jan 29, 2009 2:36 pm • linkreport

I'll take the 'bureaucratic corporate command structure which has put its own assets on the line and has the incentive of profit to follow rather than some other source. Besides, if it fails they can always get the taxpayers to bail them out.

by MAO on Jan 29, 2009 3:03 pm • linkreport

Not to belittle the amazing lack of good pedestrian access to stores near metro stops, but are we really expecting people to take Metro to buy groceries? I think groceries are the type of good we should expect to have within walking distance of every person who wishes to walk to the grocery store. I know if I had to take Metro to the grocery store I'd probably just drive instead.

by Chris on Jan 29, 2009 3:06 pm • linkreport

In the corporation, the buck has to stop somewhere. Like in the CEOs pocket, after being stolen from the taxpayer.

by MAO on Jan 29, 2009 3:07 pm • linkreport

Chris, Actually, many people who commute using Metro frequently stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, even if they use a car to do their regular weekly food shopping. While some might not like the aesthetics of walking alongside several stores facing an alley and into the garage where the Tenleytown Whole Foods is located, that store actually is convenient to the Metro, both for people in the neighborhood who stop there on their way home and for residents of other Red Line neighborhoods who also shop there. When the Friendship Heights Whole Foods opens, the access from the Metro will either be using the Metro level entrance to the garage and walking to the store's garage entrance (staying dry in rainy weather) or a more circuitous route outside. I suspect that there will be many days where the relatively short walk through the garage with direct Metro access would be the preferred entrance for pedestrians and a short cut home from Metro for many residents of the new apartments on that site and the high rise buildings to the north.

by Andy on Jan 29, 2009 3:32 pm • linkreport

Just to clarify, I typically shop in my neighborhood but occassionally I find myself out in another part of the city or need something that can only be found in certain stores (and I don't have the option of driving). I mentioned the Tenleytown Whole Foods because I took the bus there the other day (which dropped me off on the opposite side of the building from the Metro) where the pedestrian entrance (once I spotted it) involves entering a door leading into the parking garage stairwell, and walking up a flight of steps to the level with the entrance. Not a major inconvenience by any means, but it would just be nice to have a more straightforwward street-level pedestrian entrance or two, along the lines of David's post about grocery stores better engaging the street. I didn't realize that it was a retrofitted garage, the design makes alot more sense to me now. And the pedestrian access to the FH Giant isn't bad once you know where to cut through a little pedestrian path in between buildings, but the first time I went, I walked towards the Giant sign on Western Ave and had to make a big loop through a poorly lit parking lot because the entrance faces away from Western or Wisconsin Ave -- again, not a huge deal but I'd love to see grocery stores that are designed to address the needs of both drivers and pedestrians.

by DC_Chica on Jan 29, 2009 4:45 pm • linkreport

DC Chica, Actually, it sounds like the bus left you off near Wilson High School, not on Wisconsin Avenue. Coming from the Metro, the approach would have been much more pleasant, going past a very pleasant juice bar alongside the alley, although you still would have had to cross another alley and walk several yards through the garage.

The first time I went to the FH Giant, I took the same circuitous route that you described. But a more direct route is either to cut through the pedestrian path that you described, near the outdoor fountain and ice cream parlor or to go into the entrance to the garage next to the county liquor store (or walk through the liquor store) and take the elevator up one level. The elevator is next to the entrance to the Giant. I agree that it could have been much more pedestrian friendly, and it was before they rebuilt to center, but I am sure many people appreciate having a Giant near the Metro. Also, residents of Friendship Heights have a free shuttle bus that goes between their apartments to the store entrance. In the case of the Chevy Chase (FH) Giant, like the planned Safeway for Georgetown, the Giant's sales area is on the second floor, with neighborhood serving stores (liquor, dry cleaners, UPS, salon, pizza) on the first floor facing Wisconsin Circle with Giant's backroom and storage space at the rear of the first floor, and so the second floor entrance to the supermarket faces the parking lot which is at a higher elevation.

by Andy on Jan 29, 2009 5:08 pm • linkreport

Why don't you open a grocery store and test your hypothesis?

by Andrew Stegmaier on Jan 29, 2009 8:22 pm • linkreport

Actually, the neighborhood stores do partner with Safeway/ Giant etc. A couple years ago, I saw the owners of the Griffin Market in Gtown carrying safeway bags of produce into the store so they could stock the shelves with a 70% markup. I just went to the primary source instead. The corner stores provide convenience, and you pay for it. Let's not romanticize it.

by Linden on Jan 29, 2009 10:09 pm • linkreport

Joey,

You're idea that grocery stores should be allowed to open anywhere they wish tells me that you definitely are not a homeowner. Imagine putting your hard earned cash in a home, only to wake up one morning to find dozen of folks piling into the rowhouse next door to you ... because lo and behold your neighbor sold it for a ton of money to someone/some corporation to put a grocery store in it. Imagine looking out your back door and now seeing big ugly dumpsters with rotten food in them and boxes and pallets piled near by. Imagine having trucks waking you early in the morning as they back up into your alley to unload their goods ... and then blocking the alley to garbage trucks and everyone else ... as you wait while they unload so that you can get your car out of the garage to go to work. Imagine walking home and having to squeeze by on the sidewalk while some clerk is out hawking the store's rotting fruit and vegetable specials of the day. Imagine having to deal with the rats that inevitably come from these places which just don't have the square footage to install the proper receptacles and storage units to keep food. Imagine having had your home turned into the sidelot for a heavy traffic "neighborhood" grocery store. No, I bet you can't. You don't own a home and can't imagine it. Otherwise you never would have suggested this idea.

Someday though you will ... and you'll think back "Jeez, what could I have been thinking!?! Man oh man!"

Incidentally, we DO have the right kind of grocery stores springing up in the District. Go drive up to the new Harris Teater in Adams Morgan. It's got plenty of parking (underground), the same plentiful choices as the average store in the 'burbs, AND reasonable prices. Why would you want to pay more for a place where you'd have to lug all your grocery bags home from on foot? Oh ... wait ... something tells me you also probably don't do much grocery shopping ... ;)

by Lance on Jan 31, 2009 11:55 pm • linkreport

Lance, I assume your home is on a farm, because I see a lot of strawmen popping up around it.

by цarьchitect on Feb 1, 2009 1:56 am • linkreport

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