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Update: 3 p.m. Borger Management’s Joe Borger wrote to say, “I am happy to report that we have an executed lease with a grocer for 1864 Columbia Road NW.” That grocer is not Metro K Supermarket.
Ho Sang Cho is worried about what will happen if his Adams Morgan business, Metro K Supermarket, is forced to close because he can’t afford the rent increases and meet other demands from his landlord. “There’s no real grocery store around there and also old and retired people. It’s so convenient for them to come to our store,” he says. “I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Cho took over the market in 2002, but the address has a long history as a local, mid-sized urban grocery store. He says the most recent lease he signed was a five year lease with a five-year option to renew. The landlord is now raising the rent by 30 percent and asking for renovations that would cost roughly $150,000. The lease expires Nov. 30.
“Recently many big franchises are coming into D.C.,” Cho says. “It’s really difficult to maintain sales for this small retail store. I can’t handle the increases.” Cho says he’s heard that interested parties are hoping to do a flip job, renovate it, and sell it.
Denis James, the president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, is advocating for Cho and Metro K Supermarket to stay in business. A rally is planned for Monday night at 5:30 p.m. in front of the store. James is enlarging a petition signed by more than 1,400 neighbors and pasting it on poster board.
A major appeal of Metro K is its convenient location. “There are a lot of high rises on Columbia Road and some of the side streets,” James says. “The 42 bus stops right in front of it and in the evening, I see people piling off the bus and going straight in to pick up food to cook for dinner. You don’t need a car. It’s so close, you don’t even need a granny cart.”
And it’s not just immediate neighbors that want the market to stay in business. James was surprised by how far flung some of the signatories on the petition were. “It’s not fancy,” James says. “It’s just regular. It’s not Whole Foods or anything like that. But it’s really essential. I can’t imagine what I’d do without it.”
James, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly five decades, says the Hottel family owns the stretch of retail that includes the market, a dry-cleaners, and The Grill from Ipanema. A copy of the lease City Paper obtained lists “Hottel Tenants In Common” as the entity granting the lease. The ownership structure appears to be complex and involve several families, according to additional obtained documents.
James, together with the association, sent a letter to Borger Management Company in September asking to begin a conversation. Later that month, he sent a copy of the petition, which had 960 signatures at the time, to six members of the Hottel family. Borger Management said they would not discuss the property in their response, and the Hottel family did not reply.
James does not know whether his efforts will save the market. “I’ve been involved in politics and things like this for a long time and it seems like the trends are for the bright and shiny and new as opposed to the good old standbys,” he says. “Why is there a reason to change this?”
Metro K Supermarket, 1864 Columbia Road NW; (202) 483-6100