Florida Market tour, Saturday 2/23/2008
The Florida Market (Capital City Market) is a "market district" in Northeast DC. Subject to great development interest and pressure due to its close-in location, relatively large tract of land (although in use) and with better transit access since the opening of the infill New York Avenue Metro Station in 2004, the Market is still going strong.
It's hard to say what will happen exactly. It's not clear if there is enough momentum behind the original development group to steer development in the area. Another firm, J Street Development, has acquired property including that of one of the most vociferious opponents of the original plan. But Gallaudet University plans to proceed with its own plans independent of the original investment group. That makes it almost impossible for the original plan to proceed because it was reliant on a large tract of Gallaudet-owned land.
Like everything else that is unfamiliar, it's helpful to get an introduction to the Florida Market in order to understand it, to make it legible. Florida Market is considered gritty and less attractive compared to a typical supermarket, but just one business there, MS3000, does 50% more business each month than a typical Giant or Safeway supermarket. Who is to say that this is a "marginal" district, other than those with other plans?
Florida Market is mostly a wholesale operation, but it has 15 to 20 businesses that sell retail as well, in addition to a market building that while privately owned, functions as a "public market" comparable to a building like DC's Eastern Market.
Inside the Market building at Florida Market. Because the Florida Market's retail customer base skews to lower-income folks, immigrants, and ethnic groups, it doesn't always get the respect it deserves vis-a-vis other supermarketing options.
The tour will be led by Elise Bernard of Frozen Tropics, myself, and Ken Firestone. It will begin at 10 am at the SW corner of 4th and Morse Streets NE (about 1.5 blocks from the NY Avenue Metro Station). Elise, Ken and I will meet for Korean breakfast food at K Young's at 300 Morse Street at about 9:15 am and you (at least some of you, the place has limited capacity) are welcome to join us beforehand. The tour will last about two hours.
Litteri's (Mike the owner, restocking). Photo by Ken Firestone.
Mari at the In Shaw blog mentioned this tour, which she has attended in the past, and she offers some very practical advice which I don't usually remember to give. She writes:
One, it is a working warehouse area not a tourist spot. It isn't squeaky clean and watch out for the forklifts and guys moving boxes. Second, many of the businesses are cash only. Third, 70% of the time there is no price on anything. Trust me, most of the time it is way cheaper than the Giant. Lastly, for several places you will need your receipt checked by the guy at the door.
So it's reasonable to mention that this tour isn't so much about building time in for buying stuff, because the lines can be long, since we're going during the peak shopping time. Many people double back and buy after the tour is over. Plus, as Mari mentions, the last stop is at Litteri's and it's easy to then buy to your heart's content...
2. Paul Pascal of the Property Onwer and Merchants Association group, which organized in response to the redevelopment initiative, and his wife Brenda, will be joining us on the tour. Brenda's father owned a poultry business in the market (her family still owns the property), and both Paul and Brenda are great sources on the history and ebb and flow of the Florida Market, not to mention Paul is up-to-date on the latest wheeling and dealing.