One Update to the Listicle: Ellwood Thompsons is OUT

I forgot to put this on the list, but this one grinds my gears. Every now and again we get another update or so about whether the elusive Ellwood Thompson's grocery store will open in DC USA. Inevitably, we also hear from people who are clamoring for the store, always a bunch of whine whine whine about the apparent lack of a "good" grocery store in the area.

Given the decline in the economy and so-forth, Ellwood Thompson's has put the project on hold. However, Councilmember Jim Graham has been sure to include tax breaks for the Richmond-based grocer, should they ever make it to D.C.

For 2010, I make the following proclamation:

OUT: Ellwood Thompson's at DC USA
IN: Shopping at one of the THREE grocery stores within a 0.5 mile radius of DC USA.

There is absolutely no need for the District to give Ellwood Thompson's a tax break to install yet another grocery store in an already filled market. The tax breaks being used were to bring stores to under-served areas, and I don't care what you say, this area is not under-served. Look at this map, excuse the poor quality, I don't have access to Photoshop and I'm under a time crunch:

OK, so if you live in Columbia Heights proper, you can grocery shop at Target and Giant. There's the Safeway in Adams Morgan (recently renovated, by the way) which is roughly half a mile from DC USA. There's also the Harris Teeter on Kalorama, which is also a half mile from DC USA. If you live in Petworth, well, you've got a Safeway and a YES Organic Market, and if you're going down to Columbia Heights... bam, you've got the Target and the Giant.

So really, why the obsession with Ellwood Thompson's? If you're so obsessed to get your Arugula or whatever it is you need so badly that Giant doesn't have, take the Circulator down to Whole Foods. It takes all of 10 minutes (or less).

Speaking of which, what's the deal with the Giant haters? Giant has cheap prices and the widest selection in the whole area. Oh yeah, I like the fancy atmosphere of Harris Teeter as much as the next person, and the samples are great, but $3.99 for store brand marinara sauce? Really? $5.99 for some Ricotta cheese? Screw that noise, Giant's got store brand that's the same exact thing.

So come on, don't spend our tax dollars on bringing some stupid upscale grocery store to an already brimming with selection market. I don't like seeing vacant storefronts at DC USA but thems the breaks for the Great Recession. If it were so profitable to open at DC USA, they would have done it already. Move along now, maybe we can get another furniture store. Crate and Barrel anyone?


  1. Thank you! I'm sick of hearing about this as well.

    Also, all Giants are not created equal. Have you been to the Shaw Giant?

  2. Don't forget the Bestway either, right? COME ON! That Giant sucks. The teet' and the post-renovation Safeway are good choices - unless you live in "real columbia heights" and carry your groceries home. Everyone wanted the ET - except you - probably because you charachterize anyone who wants a nice staff and clean store as a snob. 1998 called - they want their schtick back.

  3. I don't understand how the Giant sucks. The shelves are stocked and the aisles are wide and if you go "off-peak" the lines aren't bad either. It's better now that it has the self-checkout too.

  4. Have you ever been to the Richmond Ellwood Thompson? It is amazing! I know it seems like another Whole Foods, but it's really great place that supports local farmers. And honestly, I've seen multiple products there that I've never been able to get anywhere else. So don't count it out!

  5. Why get on the bus to Whole Foods when you can also walk less than a mile to get to another Yes! Organic Market you didn't mention? Hrm. Copying and pasting a link isn't working, and a google maps link is awfully long to type, so check it yourself: 2123 14th St NW (W St). Totally with you on this.

    Anyone who thinks that particular Giant sucks should seriously think about what's available in other neighborhoods - the Safeway in Petworth you mention really is terrible (and more expensive, to boot); the Giant at 7th and O is also pretty terrible. The closest grocery to my office - the Safeway at Waterfront/SEU station - is also pretty awful. Columbia Heights is one of the better served neighborhoods in DC in terms of grocery stores (its no friendship heights with its soon-to-be trifecta of whole-foods-ness mind you, but if that's what you want, then you know. move to ward 3).

    There are still way too many neighborhoods in this city that are underserved by grocery stores. E.g. the only full-service grocery (not a corner store) that I know of in Ward 8 is the Giant on Alabama Ave.

    Oh. Right. Those people are poor. And not-white. They don't really need produce, right?

    Why again is the city giving out tax abatements like candy? There's plenty of evidence to show they result in little lasting impact in terms of positive economic development. DC's got to figure out a better way to compete with Maryland and Virginia - or better yet, cooperate with them to compete with the rest of the country - than giving away money that could fund something important. Like, I don't know. Crumbling schools or a crumbling transit infrastructure. But I guess that's where I should end this tangent and comment and leave it for another day...

  6. Dave,

    You're slipping!


  7. Back to the topic at hand.

    The reason why a segment (read: white, upper-middle-class) of the residents of Columbia Heights so badly want a specialty foods store like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or Balducci's, is that it provides a certain image they want to project onto themselves. An urban neighborhood with one of these stores means the area is part of a select group, where there are a sizable number of successful, wealthy people ready to do their part in helping the world by buying local organic produce and artisinal breads at inflated prices. Ergo, the people who live in and around this neighborhood must be successful and wealthy. It makes them feel better about living with six other people in a delapidated rowhouse eight blocks away, nervous to walk at night past the scary minorities.

    Also see: Logan Circle.

    I think Stuff White People Like summed it up best:


  8. The Columbia Heights Giant is a pretty good store - lots of selection. The lines are horrible if you go at peak times (7PM on weeknights) but I just avoid those times.

    The problem with the Giant is that their produce sucks. I always find myself digging through the piles of onions, peppers, fruit to find the one piece that isn't all fucked up/bruised/beat to shit. That's really the one place I find it lacking.

  9. Stuff white people like: using the word "ergo"

  10. Put a bookstore or hardware store in there! We have enough grocery stores.