District residents were heartbroken a year ago when the Hechinger Co. shut its doors. Not only had a philanthropic corporate citizen just gone out of business, but locals were also left without a major hardware store. The pain didn’t last long. Earlier this month, the Home Depot—the very chain that helped drive Hechinger out of business—announced a move into the old Hechinger building atop the Tenleytown Metro station.
A logical retail response to Washington’s underserved hardware market? That’s just what they want you to think. Over the years, D.C.ers have proven willing to shop in Rockville. And chains like Home Depot don’t abandon their native suburbs unless someone has an agenda. Thanks to the Washington City Paper’s highly trained team of conspiracy theorists, we have more suspects than you can swing a two-by-four at.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Repairs. Metro has taken a beating this year for a series of fires, floods, and escalator breakdowns. By securing a hardware store atop a Red Line station, the transit authority can quietly dash up for some WD-40 next time anything goes wrong—thus avoiding the need to admit to the public that things still need fixing.
Secret trainloads of gold. The subway basically stops in Home Depot’s basement. No one could see the loot Metro might use to bribe the chain’s decision-makers.
Fight overdevelopment. Neighbors near Wisconsin Avenue have been upset about plans for new condominium developments they say will swamp their neighbors. With easier access to saws, activists can cut objectionable extra units off the forthcoming project.
Do the math: If every resident of a tony Northwest neighborhood vows to buy a chainsaw whenever a new developer arrives—and then ditches it to avoid suspicion for vandalism—that’s enough to keep a store in the black for decades.
Pride. For the past year, Hechinger has had to see his name plastered across a major piece of empty city real estate—a dismal and public reminder of his company’s recent failure. A new store will finally take down that infernal sign.
Hechinger is one of Old Washington’s biggest philanthropists. What’s to say some of those donated millions don’t wind up sending the children of Home Depot executives to camp? —Stephanie Mencimer and Michael Schaffer