Get our free newsletter
Dupont Circle resident Nancy Fiedler had no idea that her ordinary trip to the Safeway at 17th and Corcoran Streets NW for a little butter would turn into a social crusade. Fiedler extracted a single stick of butter from one of the four-stick packs in the cooler. But when she got to the checkout counter, the store manager nixed her butter buy, telling Fielder that breaking up packs of butter violated D.C. health regulations, and that she would have to splurge for the whole $3 pack. Enraged, Fiedler lodged a protest with Safeway’s Lanham, Md., headquarters, arguing that the single-stick ban discriminated against poor customers. Safeway public affairs director Brian G. Downing responded that the supermarket’s brass hadn’t yet formulated a companywide policy on butter parsing. “In areas with many single shoppers, selling just one stick of butter is not unusual,” wrote Downing. “In an area with many families, store managers may feel it’s best to keep items intact.” Fiedler’s lobbying forced a change of policy at the 17th Street outlet, where customers can now score a single stick for about 70 cents. But she suspects a class conspiracy behind the company’s all-or-nothing butter policy. “Why do I have a nagging feeling that this only happens in poorer neighborhoods?” asks Fiedler.
Market Bull Capitol Hill’s crumbling Eastern Market appears on track to gets its overdue face lift next spring. The project, which will cost about $4 million, will bring the building up to code, install a new handicapped-accessible entrance and an elevator, remove asbestos and lead paint, and renovate the basement for retail use, according to James Fagelson of the D.C. Office of Economic Development. Weekend art vendors are thrilled by the new plan, and architects will begin sketching elevator shafts as soon as the control board OKs their contract. But no plan for Eastern Market ever makes it cleanly through the thicket of nostalgic community groups. The Concerned Citizens of Eastern Market (CCEM) is fighting the plan, arguing that the registered historic building is exempt from modern code standards. The work could cost as little as $500,000 if the city simply fixes the wiring and plumbing, says CCEM member Jane McCune. “We think it’s unconscionable to spend this much money in a poverty-stricken city,” says McCune. “But they want to go ahead come hell or high water.” Fagelson disputes CCEM’s take on the law and says its $500,000 figure is “a number they just pulled out of the air.”
Maybe They Went to the Wrong Room Every year, the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) tries to honor the region’s homegrown musical talent at the “Wammies,” its annual awards ceremony. Unfortunately, since WAMA tends to nominate the same people—folks like jazz vocalist Mary Ann Redmond—year after year, the ceremony hasn’t drawn huge crowds. But at last week’s Wammies, even many of the honorees didn’t bother to stop by the Sheraton Washington ballroom to pick up their statuettes. The night’s biggest winner was blues diva Eva Cassidy, who recently died of cancer. Cassidy’s parents showed up to accept her 10 Wammies. WAMA spokeswoman Stacey Williams blames the poor attendance on timing. “I think as it worked out a lot of the artists who won are now on tour or in the studio, and therefore couldn’t make the show.” Could it also be that the no-shows mistakenly went to the Washington “Hinckley” Hilton ballroom, which had been the traditional site of Wammies, rather then the new venue? “I don’t think that was it,” sighs Williams.