Retailers also had to get used to the fact that D.C. residents shop differently than their suburban counterparts.
“In D.C., we shop more in the European style,” says Sellars. “People
shop three or five days a week, versus shopping in the suburban style
where you shop once a week or every two weeks. They buy what they
need for that evening’s meal.”
That can be seen at the Whole Foods on P Street, where at 5: 30 on
a weeknight, the quick moving line for express registers 11–22 is some
20-deep, snaking half way down the salad bar aisle.
Since most residents do not own cars, they also have more expendable income to spend on groceries and dining out, Sellars notes.
Organic foods have become big business in D.C. Giant generally has
two aisles in each of its stores devoted to its Nature’s Promise natural/organics products. “We have really expanded on our natural and
organics to the extent that our offerings are comparable or even larger
than Whole Foods,” Miller says.
Whole Foods has three more stores on the drawing board in D.C.,
and the hometown Yes! Organic Market has grown to six stores in the
District, plus one in Hyattsville, Md.
Last year Rockville, Md.-based MOM’s Organic Market entered
Washington, D.C. with a 16,000-square-foot store on New York
Avenue, NE. Now a desolate stretch of empty lots, junkyards and old
warehouses, the area, dubbed the Hecht Warehouse District, will be
the nexus of the next wave of development. MOM’s is literally get-
ting in on the ground floor. Its store is on the first floor of the park-
ing garage next to the landmark glass-block The Hecht Co. depart-
ment store warehouse that is being converted into 330 apartments and
200,000 square feet of retail.
It is almost guaranteed that officials with the National Fertilizer
Institute will not be MOM’s customers, since each aisle has a sign
overhead against lawn care, proclaiming statistics such as “per acre
the average lawn receives more fertilizers and pesticides than an acre
Big box stores are also expanding into the District. Walmart has
three stores, although in January it reneged on promises to build two
additional stores in Ward 7 and Ward 8 in the poorer Southeast side
of the city.
Costco opened a store three years ago that is doing “amazingly
well,” according to Sellars.
“The Costco parking lot really gets filled up on weekends,” Sellars
says. “One thing we’ve learned about Costco and Target and these
other stores is that we are getting reverse leakage on taxes. D.C. used
to have a leakage in over $1 billion in sales tax that all went to the sub-
urbs. We don’t know what that number is today, but it is well below $1
billion because we have more retail stores here, and the population has
increased. There is still leakage, but it is not as much.”
Costco’s success may attract other membership warehouses.
“We don’t have a BJ’s yet, but we have been talking to them,” Sellars
says. “They have been looking at the sales [figures] from Costco.”
“Safeway has a store in Georgetown that is called the ‘Social Safeway’
because for a long time it was literally where people would go and link
up. It was the Tinder of grocery stores. People would go and meet at the
grocery store—it was like a happy hour spot,” French says.