Walmart, which has something of a reputation for making things tough for nearby local businesses (a charge the company disputes), took action to counteract that rap by announcing that it would lease two spaces at its planned Georgia Avenue store to other businesses, preferably local ones. Now we know more about what those businesses will be: a bank and a restaurant.
On April 3, according to an email obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, Walmart’s director of community affairs, Nina Albert, informed Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser that the smaller of the two retail spaces would be filled by a bank, but that the larger one was still available, and she suggested that Bowser publicize the availability.
Bowser’s office, it turned out, was already working on it. Two weeks earlier, Carla Merritt of the LeDroit Park Development Company, which specializes in retail, had emailed two Bowser staffers regarding “Councilmember Bowser’s desire to have a coffee shop co-located with the Wal-Mart being built on GA Ave NW.” Merritt suggested two retailers that were “preliminarily interested” in the space: Sticky Fingers Bakery, which currently operates in Columbia Heights, and DC Scoop Cafe on U Street.
But the owner of DC Scoop Cafe, who answered the phone but declined to give her name, says it hasn’t worked out. Doron Petersan, the owner of Sticky Fingers, says she decided against pursuing a store in the Walmart space, partly because she “personally will not support Walmart.”
“It’s definitely conflicting for a business like me, a tiny little self-run business,” says Petersan. “While Walmart might bring a lot of business to that area and help my business succeed, at the same time Walmart is a monopoly of sorts and puts small businesses out of business.”
Merritt says she was in touch with Walmart and its retail broker until a few weeks ago, at which point they informed her that they’d signed a letter of intent with a business. But they didn’t tell her what type of business it was.
Bowser, however, has some insight. She says she was hearing that it would be either a pizza place or a coffee shop, but that the coffee shop idea now appears to be out. Regardless, she says, it’ll be a sit-down food establishment.
“The space is really well suited to a food use, and that is my preference for the space,” she says.
Walmart spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg declines to provide additional information, writing in an email, “Negotiations are currently taking place, but we have no details to provide at this time.” But she says the Georgia Avenue Walmart is expected to open at the end of the year.
Rendering of the Georgia Avenue store via Walmart