The grocery invasion takes a step back: Plans for a Yes! Organic Market at the site of the former H Street Playhouse have fallen through, Yes! owner Gary Cha confirms.
The Frozen Tropics blog reported in April that a Yes! store was coming to 1365 H St. NE, though Cha told me at the time that some details still had to be worked out. Cha now says he was hoping to add a second level to the space, but because the building is a historic landmark, he would have had to set the second level back so it was not visible from the street—-a process that proved too difficult to pull off.
“That site is a historic landmark, and so there’s quite a bit of restrictions on what you can do to expand,” Cha says. “If we’re not able to do much expansion, it doesn’t really justify it. And on top of that, because it was a car dealership before, a lender was requiring us to do a lot of tests, which was very costly.”
Cha says he still intends to buy a building on or near H Street to open a new store. He’s undaunted by the Giant that recently opened on the street and the Whole Foods that’s rumored to be coming as well.
“We’re a niche market, and there will always be Whole Foods and Giants and major markets,” he says. “We’ll have to find ways to stay in business with them around. We’ll have to differentiate ourselves.”
Cha hopes that D.C. residents will support a local store whose dollars stay in the District. “Yes! Organic, that money stays in the community, whereas Trader Joe’s, that money goes to Germany,” he says. Trader Joe’s is owned by a German family but is headquartered in California.
Yes! recently closed its struggling Fairlawn store and reopened it as a conventional market. The company is known for opening stores in areas without much grocery competition, such as Petworth and Brookland. H Street would represent a departure from that trend.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery