Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the neighborhood supermarket

this new sign was just installed in December

Anacostia gets a lot of attention for being a "food desert". We often hear about how Safeway moved out, how McDonald's moved out (thank goodness), and the perception of it being easier to cross over to Capitol Hill or even Arlington to shop than to anything in our general neck of the woods.

we share a sort of bond over here in River East - perceived lack of services, bad reputations, unknown-ness... to the point where even a full-service grocery store within the bounds of actual Anacostia is overlooked as not real enough to get a mention.

much bigger than a corner convenience store

Enter the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket. Located at the corner of Good Hope and 14th, the store is in the old Safeway space and carries pretty much everything for not-unreasonable prices.

there's a sort of 1970s retro style on the inside... (okay, this place could pass for a period movie set)

there's even a guy (viewable through the window) who prepares the selection of fresh-cut meats

loving the old school wax polish reference

yogurt, milk, eggs, somewhat obscured by a giant banner

...but ignore the browning ceiling tiles and wood-veneer paneling and focus on the fresh produce and surprisingly good selection all around.

i was most surprised to discover the wide selection of produce

and the general freshness, despite not-awesome interior decor

To state the obvious, this isn't a corporate owned and operated grocery store. The inside could use a redo (although I'd hate to lose the mod timewarp), but this is a true local business that's pretty great for what it is.

full disclosure: I had never stepped inside until I was touring Tufts University professor Parke Wilde around the neighborhood last fall and he suggested we stop inside. His write-up and other interesting food posts can be found on his U.S. Food Policy blog.

photos by DG-rad


The Advocate said...

You know what thank goodness for your post because I had passed that grocery store hundress of times but NEVER stepped inside either. The exterior was so drab and dark (and just a little scary) I made the assumption (you know what they say about assumptions) that it was probably going to be the stereotypical little run down shop with too little options but too much dirt and too high prices.

I have to admit I had wondered a few times in my passisng by why they just didnt close it down or a big chain take it over.

That shows you how you can live in a place and stereotype it yourself and not even be aware.

I agree - they should totally keep that old school vibe but an exterior renovation to remove the steel bars and replace with storefront windows would be sweet. Perhaps the new sign is an indicator of more to come and if a refurbishment of the inside could be done I would totally stop in and do some shopping.

anacostiaque said...

I agree on the exterior renovation comments. The problem in Anacostia is with appearances.

Unfortunately, if storefronts aren't made to look inviting, more people will continue to pass by stores like this.

Either the owners don't know good marketing or crime is a real concern here. Which is it?

Safewaygoer said...

Wait a minute! I'm actually a bit shocked to see this post (and comments) written from the perspective that they were. I've shopped there many times (in a pinch) and it must be clarified that while it is better than the corner marts (quantity wise), it is far from a positive example of grocery shopping in our neighborhood.

Let's start with the large first aisle that you're funneled into through a turnstyle (theft deterrent). For a regular grocery store, that would be the produce/deli section. For the Warehouse, its palette after palette of six packs, 40s and cheap wine anchored by their refrigerated equals. Shortly after you'll see a hundred different sugary bottled teas and sodas. Eventually there will be some dairy, but don't expect to have any options in terms of size or sell-by date if you want your milk skim and not whole, chocolate or banana-flavored. Those fruits and veggies? Go waaaay to the other side on half of the aisle in the furthest corner. I tried to buy something as mainstream as an apple once and all of the single-variety apples were wrinkly. The prices aren't quite as high as a truck stop, but given the lack of sales (except if something is going bad), I wouldn't suggest it for your weekly shopping. That said, I usually forego so much because of the price or lack of availability, that I spend less. Keep in mind too that you will be the only one there buying groceries and not just in for some beer and cigarettes.

I can't tell if the writers of the previous comments have actually been inside yet, but I'm going to guess that they have not yet.

Don't get me wrong, the Warehouse has been a convenience for me several times. I write this because I don't want people to think, even for a minute, that this is a viable alternate for a grocery store and that we can further postpone an upgrade for our neighborhood.

I'm glad they spiffied up the outside, but I would much rather have seen them tackle the ugly, vast parking lot and its associated drunks than the sign on top.

DG-rad said...


I agree with you on many accounts: this isn't the best grocery store ever, it doesn't have the same selection as a major, much larger store, etc. However, for what it is (a smaller scale, non-chain, in a not great space), it is a surprisingly convenient option.

I will 100% advocate for something better, however, right now the reason we don't have a better store is that there is no redevelopment happening right now to accomodate one.

Four Points' plans for downtown Anacostia include a new grocery store, but it will only be when developers really sieze on the Good Hope opportunity that we will get something much better.

This is why we can't shy away from higher-density development (not at the expense of quality, scale, and character), so that retailers will see the real opportunity here.

anacostiaque said...

I will say that I've never been inside - probably due to the exterior (drunks, loiterers, etc.)

Don't get me wrong, I live in Anacostia (5 years) and would like it to succeed. It's hard to get a gauge on which direction we're going - and the timeline.

The Clark - Poplar Point - DC United situation was a really big letdown for us, because we bought into the idea that Anacostia could be redeveloped (and other parts of WDC were way too expensive.)

While I like historic preservation, I'm not sure that it willbe enough to keep us here.

Safewaygoer said...

I just had to laugh at the idea because the Anacostia Warehouse and its in-your-face beer selection has long been one of my favorite funny anecdotes about my hood.

I think we're all on the same page, but the post and comments threw me off and made me wonder if I was in the Twilight Zone or something.

We'll get there, Anacostia!

Hannah said...

wish i had me some detergens in my grocery store
happy day 5 of lent DG

Braveheart said...

I've been in this store once, about 3 years ago before I moved to River East. I really didn't like it one bit - perhaps because I like to spend my dollars strategically, and at the time the Warehouse didn't seem like the type of business I wanted support... can't remember what made me feel that way though.

I am glad that DG-rad posted this article because now I've seen a better more positive perspective of the store. I'm still not going to shopp there, but at least I have a slightly better attitude about it being there.

mrb said...

cabage is spelled wrong. also can you get dried apple tofu kosher organic sausage there?
thanks for having us!

Bearhawke said...

Concerning the 'browning' of the ceiling tiles; that could be due to cigarette smoking being allowed in stores everywhere in the DC area prior to ca. 1980. The first smoking ban that I am aware of was in 1978 in Arlington. Note I left DC that same year for the California then Arizona so my hands-on experience back there ends.