Homeland Security attorney Johnna French is the go-to person when it comes to finding the latest dining hotspot in the booming restaurant scene in Washington, D.C. Her weekly blog,
johnnaknowsgoodfood.com, is read by thousands. But what is
her take on the supermarkets in the District?
“Harris Teeter has a pretty decent lunch spread, as far as their
hot and cold bars,” she says. “If I am grocery shopping on the fly
and need something to eat, Harris Teeter’s food is the freshest
thing we can get in my neighborhood.”
French also gives high marks to Safeway.
“Safeway is pretty good, I will say that, as far as a basic grocery
store. They have a good formula for every neighborhood where
they have a store,” French says. “But in my neighborhood we are
getting a Whole Foods and I can see myself swapping out Safeway
for Whole Foods.”
Like many D.C. residents, French finds the new competition
has caused the older players to raise their game.
“The area supermarkets have greatly improved their selec-
tion,” she says. “The grocery stores have definitely improved and
I think that is attributable to the presence of new competitors like
Wegmans and Trader Joe’s.”
Wegmans is not in D.C. proper… yet, but scores of other food
retailers targeting all income levels are now calling Washington,
D.C. home, including Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, MOM’s
Organic Market, Yes! Organic Market, Streets Market and Café,
Costco, Target, Walmart, Save-A-Lot and Aldi. These are all in
addition to long-time stalwarts Giant Food and Safeway.
Since 2000, 30 new supermarkets have set up shop in the
68.34-square-mile District of Columbia—one has since closed—
and at least another six are on the drawing board, including two
Harris Teeters and three Whole Foods.
“I know a lot of supermarkets are vying for the space where
Walter Reed Hospital used to be, and we are interested in that
space as well,” says Jamie Miller, manager, public and community relations at Giant Food, the Landover, Md.-based division of
The competition is expected to even get hotter, as industry observers expect German deep-discount chain Lidl to open
stores in the District when it enters the U.S. later this year.
Additionally, city and other officials continue working to entice
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans to open a store in the Capital.
For now, Wegmans operates stores in the surrounding Maryland
and Virginia suburbs. French shops at Wegmans’ outpost in suburban Largo, Md. “I love Wegmans. It’s so huge. If they can put a
Walmart in D.C., I think they can put anything in D.C.,” she says.
A Wegmans official declined to comment on the chain’s expansion plans.
Observers say supermarkets are being attracted to Washington,
D.C. because of the city’s dramatic and ongoing transformation.
Since 2000, the population has increased by more than 100,000.
Tens of thousands of those are upscale, young, well-educated professionals, sparking a dramatic rebirth. Blocks that have lain fallow since the 1968 riots are sprouting apartment buildings, and
boarded-up townhouses and brownstones have been lovingly
“There has just been an amazing change in this community
from 15-20 years ago, and you are seeing that throughout the city,”