Obviously, that never happened. The DCist post had several positions for and against which all ring pretty hollow looking at the shocking demise of retail on Barracks Row. As things currently stand, that idea that we’d become another Georgetown seems, at this point, to be laughable.
The claim that we don’t want chains in the neighborhood lest it become bland and suburban and boring and whatever else is, frankly, crap. Two Starbucks manage to do just fine in the neighborhood (three, if you count the one in the chain grocery store, Safeway). I have yet to meet a neighbor who wouldn’t love to have a Trader Joe’s and/or a Whole Foods in the neighborhood.
Me? I wish we’d have gotten a Gap. Throw in a Barnes & Noble, too. Because those stores could provide retail anchors that our neighborhood is lacking. If I need a pair of jeans, I’m stuck going to Pentagon City (cringe) or buying online and hoping for the best. If there were a Gap on Barracks Row, I’d swing by for jeans, and since I was there anyway, hit whatever shops were nearby while I was there.
Many people have brought up King Street in Old Town as a perfect example of the retail mix we should be striving for. I agree with that. I used to work in Old Town and miss having access to so much diverse retail every day. The chains didn’t hurt their local businesses; instead, I’d argue, they helped them thrive.
I try to shop local when I can — Frager’s before Home Depot, Metro Mutts before Petsmart, Peregrine before Starbucks, Hill’s Kitchen before Sur la Table etc. But there are no locally made jeans — or even a local retailer who sells jeans. (Does Forecast? I don’t think I’ve ever seen jeans in there…) Our local stores need to fill needs — which I’d argue that many of the ones closing, do not. Sweet Magnolia? I liked it a lot, but how much busy, gifty stuff does one really buy? Chateau? I stopped shopping there in favor of another, better local option. Trover shop? Yeah, sorry — they never had anything I wanted.
Keeping chains away isn’t a solution. In fact, I would argue that saying yes to one or two (and actively working to attract them) would benefit our local retailers. Because I’m not going out of my way to stop into Sweet Magnolia, but if I was next door buying socks and a t-shirt anyway, I’d definitely stop in and maybe buy a cherub or two.
But as it stands now, I not only leave the Hill, but I’m leaving DC to buy things that I need, and if I see something I want along the way — it’s a VA business that’s getting those dollars. I want to Buy Local, but our local retailers need to give me a reason to do so, and we have to be more welcoming to select chains that can fill a need that our local retailers can’t.