Regular readers of this blog are well aware that there’s an update to the D.C. zoning code underway—-and that not everyone’s happy about it. Nowhere is dissatisfaction with the proposed changes more concentrated than in and around the Upper Northwest neighborhood of Chevy Chase. Three elements of the proposal have aroused particular opposition: the reduction of parking minimums in new buildings near Metro stations, the increased ability to create accessory dwelling units, and the allowance of new corner stores. All of these provisions, the Upper Northwest opponents argue, would bring density, noise, and congestion to their quiet neighborhoods.
Which is why it’s a touch ironic that the only actual corner store in Chevy Chase is one of the loveliest in town, and beloved by its neighbors. Corner stores, it turns out, are full of paradoxes, surprises, and reflections of the changing times. There’s the Windows Cafe in Bloomingdale that recently saw its rent triple amid neighborhood gentrification. There’s the Deanwood store that was once suburban, if not downright rural, but is now “declining, declining, declining.” There’s the upmarket Georgetown shop that just turned 120. There’s the Anacostia not-quite-corner store that stocks leggings up to size XXXXL. And across the city, there’s a push to bring fresh foods into markets better known for packaged junk.
The cover package of today’s City Paper is all about the quirky, variable, neighborhood-anchoring institution of the corner store. Pick up a copy if you’re able, or check it out online. You’ll learn a thing or two about small-scale retail in far-flung corners of the city—-or maybe your own.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery