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Flyer says "say no to corner stores," but makes a convincing case for them

Some residents have received this flyer, which urges them to "SAY NO! TO CORNER STORES" in the DC Zoning Update. But on closer inspection, it's hard to tell how the flyer is arguing against corner stores.

Almost all of the text (and the photo) come directly from the DC Office of Planning's fact sheet which lays out the case for corner stores: more potential access to healthy food, ability to shop nearby without a long drive, and rules to ensure the stores don't harm neighbors.

Rather than argue against these, the flyer just repeats the same rationale, with a few comments sprinkled in like "DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?" and "YOU DECIDE."

Is this for real? Or, as David Garber mused, "genius marketing *for* corner stores and the DC Zoning Update"?

Mark Bjorge pointed out, "It's a Rorschach test. Answers will depend on where one lives." What he means is that in many neighborhoods, the basic word "corner store" conjures up images of a run-down store that just sells junk food and liquor and cigarettes and the like from behind metal gates or thick plexiglass, and with folks hanging out in front up to no good.

I've spoken to people from some neighborhoods who immediately thought of that the moment they heard about the proposal. In fact, the address on the flyer is from a section of Petworth where some corner stores have looked like that. Within that context, reading the OP fact sheet one might well have exactly this reaction of disbelief.

Perhaps this is another example like this exchange from a year ago where zoning update opponent Linda Schmitt posted a photograph of an alley accessory dwelling. To her, it perfectly illustrated what residents should fear. But to me and many others, the well-maintained, attractive, clean little brick building was instead an ideal example of why accessory dwellings sounded great.

In neighborhoods with higher-quality stores, the idea of bringing in a small grocery within walking distance sounds great. Residents of the Navy Yard neighborhood can enjoy Cornercopia, the store pictured in the OP fact sheet and the flyer, which embodies what people want in such a store. Those who feel confident that looser restrictions on zoning might bring in a desirable amenity instead of blight, therefore, are excited about zoning opening the door to such an asset.

To help ensure that new stores are only positive and not negative, OP has dialed back the corner store proposal so that now any store, except a grocery, will need a public hearing and a "special exception." It is also fair for people to demand that DC enforce the rules that limit the amount of trash and noise a store could generate.

If you think that corner stores aren't automatically a bad thing for every neighborhood, you've got one last chance to let the Zoning Commission know. There are three more public hearings on the zoning update this week.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I have a corner store several doors down from my house. And sure, I wish it had a better selection of beer and food, but it's also incredibly convenient when I run out of milk or some other staple.

I guess they also sell lottery tickets and 40s, but I'm sure people would find other places to buy those nearby if the corner store weren't there.

I'm kind of baffled by this opposition to convenience.

by Gray on Feb 10, 2014 4:12 pm • linkreport

I almost thought this was some kind of reverse psychology at first, now I'm just confused.

by BTA on Feb 10, 2014 4:27 pm • linkreport

They will tell you what to think as soon as they decide it.

by Crickey7 on Feb 10, 2014 4:34 pm • linkreport

Huh?!? This flyer is so bad it borders on parody. Is the opposition to the zoning changes really this inept? If so, it gives me great encouragement that the changes will be approved. You would think that they would at least put a photo of a really trashy corner store on their flyer rather than a photo of one the District's nicest cornet stores. As for people hanging out on corners, they can't be as dangerous as the people driving down our streets. I've never had a problem with the former but have almost been killed or maimed by the latter on several occasions. Anyway, I wish we had a corner store close our house.

by rg on Feb 10, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

Those ADUs are better known as Schmitthaussen.

by fongfong on Feb 10, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

I guess they were too busy raging-out over corner stores to proofread their flyer...

by MLD on Feb 10, 2014 4:57 pm • linkreport

@fongfong -b/c Schmitt's or blacksmiths live there?

by Tina on Feb 10, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

When clever people write, it confounds the less aware until it's too late. Mark Bjorge is right when he calls it "a Rorschach test". It's sort of brilliant if it works.

by Randall M. on Feb 10, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

Anyone who thinks corner stores are automatically trashy should look at Broad Branch Market in Chevy Chase, DC. It's high quality and has become a mainstay of the community.

People hanging out there are likely to be kids on bikes or people eating ice cream cones.

by Steve on Feb 10, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

If the thought of you or your neighbors being able to walk to a store absolutely horrifies you then I'm not so sure you're built for living in any sort of neighborhood with lots smaller than a couple of acres.

I say this having lived near a number of very seedy corner stores but ultimately thankful for having something that I could walk to.

by drumz on Feb 10, 2014 5:38 pm • linkreport

There's an almost corner store on Lanier Place. It's about size of a small efficiency apartment. It's really handy in a pinch.

The flyer conflates healthy eating choices with corner stores. There's no logic to that aspect of the argument at all.

Perhaps someone can convincingly demonstrate that a corner store won't work at a particular location. But I don't think there's any argument for blanket opposition.

by kob on Feb 10, 2014 6:38 pm • linkreport

@fonffong-ohh haha i hadn't read the whole article. Schmitthaus indeed

by Tina on Feb 10, 2014 7:18 pm • linkreport

I've never understood why no grocery store chain creates something like "Tesco Express" or "Sainsbury's Local" for the US market? In other words, something smaller than a US-style drug store, but a bit larger than a 7-11, but focusing on offering a full-range of actual food products, including fruit and veg, rather than just junk. They'd make a killing in urban areas! Tesco stupidly tried this in Phoenix with Fresh & Easy, but of course people in Phoenix don't want smaller, neighborhood stores: they can just drive their cars to a big store!

by James on Feb 10, 2014 8:54 pm • linkreport

James- Safeway had this exact concept with their Capitol Markets. One was at 19th and S NW and one was downtown near K. They flopped.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 10, 2014 9:01 pm • linkreport

Corner stores and large grocery stores serve entirely different needs. You go to that "almost corner store" on Lanier when you really just need eggs five minutes ago (i.e. you are in the middle of cooking breakfast) or if you are on the way home and simply won't pass the real grocery and only need a couple things. If you can spare even another ten minutes you go to the real grocery store.

by Adams Moorhen on Feb 10, 2014 9:19 pm • linkreport

Obvious sarcasm... That is a clever flyer by supporters of corner stores, not opponents.

by Bill on Feb 10, 2014 11:27 pm • linkreport

Ha!. This flyer was made by the same people who just copied sections out of the encyclopedia when a report was due back in their school days!

by Brian on Feb 11, 2014 6:17 am • linkreport

I am dismayed as well. Who issued this ad?

by Iqbal Khaiy on Feb 11, 2014 8:52 am • linkreport

You don't need a corner store to hang out on the corner. The old guys who sell herion will hang out on all sorts of corners.

by Mari on Feb 11, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

I don't understand why any rational human being would not want a corner store in their neighborhood. Do you really want to have to get in your car and drive to a grocery store every time you run out of milk?
The character of the store will reflect the character of the neighborhood. I live a few blocks from the delightful Cornercopia pictured in the flyer... but I never go there because I have a perfectly good corner store around the corner from my house. It is not trashy or flashy and there is no bulletproof glass, just useful groceries and a surprisingly decent beer and wine selection.

by alurin on Feb 11, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

Seems to me as an excuse for having a reason for not getting grocery chains to come to underserved areas of the city.

by MoCoCit on Feb 11, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

Come on, one of the axioms of smart-growth community-building is quality corner stores. This reminds me of the debate over the opening of Domku, with all kinds of weird knee-jerk opposition. Or when our local ANC commissioner spoke out against a tree-planting with 'who's going to rake the leaves?' (true story).

by BCDC on Feb 15, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

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