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When a new independent food or retail business opens up in an empty space, you know they probably went through months of looking before settling down. Just listen to Coffy Cafe proprietor Philecia Harris, who talked to New Columbia Heights about her space search:
Yeah, it’s pretty rough out there, it’s been a couple of years of searching and waiting. Residential realtors work quickly but commercial realtors can take months to respond to an offer. From the beginning I was priced out of H St., 14th and U, got no response from a number of locales while other places wanted a cafe but weren’t quite right for me. I bid on a spot near Eastern Market but they chose another business, started negotiations with Allegro Apts just up 14th—first convo they seemed exited but one day they just stopped responding. I was told I had “my ducks in a row” and a solid business plan. There are some small business set-asides in the big CH mall (DCUSA) but the spaces I could afford were under the escalator which worried me. Then one day I saw the sign in the window at Kelsey apartments, they accepted a number of small business applications and after a great deal of vetting they chose me :-).
Chains are obviously less of a risk than the individual entrepreneur, and with D.C. as attractive as it is to national retailers, it’s a landlord’s market: They can pretty much pick and choose.