04 Apr 2022

Building community:

Saving Mott’s Market, one neighbor at a time

Walter Street is perhaps one of the more picturesque streets in DC, where every neighbor says hello. It’s exactly the right kind of environment to launch a grassroots effort to save a little market located at the western end of this street. As you may have read, Mott’s Market closed its doors exactly a month ago, on March 4, after serving continuously as some sort of convenience store for well over 100 years. The Cho family, who was leasing the space and had been in the space since 2010, did not want to continue operating, due largely to COVID. After the store closed, the current owners put the little building up for sale– the beloved corner store in the middle of the street.

While discussing and wondering about the fate that might befall Mott’s –an upscale restaurant or boutique? condos?– Walter Street neighbor Jordan LaCrosse found herself mulling ideas over with her neighbors. What if, they wondered, the neighbors saved Mott’s?

To some, the idea of saving Mott’s may not make much sense: after all, the location is just four blocks away from the Safeway on 14th and D SE, and about five blocks away from Eastern Market (and Yes! and Trader Joe’s). There is an upscale corner store, Wine and Butter, at 11th right off Lincoln Park. Why save Mott’s? For one, it’s always been a grocery store: having a stake in what comes in to replace the store would be preserving an important bit of old Washington. You can read more about Mott’s Market and its place in Washington business history here.

But most importantly, a corner store is an incredible convenience. Being able to walk just one or two blocks for some emergency toilet paper is the kind of small blessing that living in a city bestows upon you. It’s also a place accessible to everyone: From young kids making their first purchases and learning how to make change, to people with limited mobility, to anyone on a tight budget, a corner store is a help, a friend, and a set of eyes watching out for others. A corner store is a gathering place and a little bit of salvation for when you forgot something. For neighbor Amanda Meyers, “Mott’s was a great resource to our community and was a staple for my husband Aaron and me… Family-run corner stores are a hallmark of DC and Capitol Hill history and a part of our neighborhood culture that we don’t want to lose.”

Artwork courtesy of Save Mott’s Market

Back to the story: Nearby neighbors started chatting about their plans up and down the street. As neighbor Scott Davis said, ” If there were no porches on Walter Street, this wouldn’t have happened.” But the more they chatted, the more serious things became: What if the neighbors could pitch in to buy Mott’s and have a say in what they want coming to the space? To this effect, the neighbors have come together and created a movement they call Save Mott’s Market. Jordan tells me she and her fellow organizers have created an LLC so as to be part owners in the property. They are excited to welcome as many neighbors as possible to be involved and be stakeholders, especially as a deadline approaches: The building’s sellers are accepting offers through Friday, April 8, and Save Mott’s Market is hoping to put in a bid. The group will be doing a walk-through of the property this afternoon and are trying to reach as many neighbors as possible so that as many people as wish to do so can own a little piece of Mott’s.

What happens if they are outbid on Friday? Jordan assures me that this would not be the end of Save Mott’s: After all, when a new business comes in, they have to approach the ANC and the neighborhood about any changes or modifications they may want to introduce. SMM is planning on making sure that, should their bid not be accepted, they’ll still be engaged and involved in the future of this little store that has meant so much to so many.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Save Mott’s Market effort and potentially own a piece of a local corner store (and a little piece of history), email savemottsmarket@gmail.com

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