From Luis Gomez
Whether you call it gentrification, revitalization or simply development, the U Street corridor has changed rapidly in the past decade. The eastern end of this famous DC avenue often gets the most attention due to the new residential buildings, and restaurants and clubs that have proliferated on U Street east of 14th Street NW.
However, new businesses have also opened on the western end of U Street, one of them being Greater Goods at 1626 U Street NW. As part of an ongoing series focusing on local entrepreneurs and retail businesses, we talked to Daniel Velez, founder and owner of Greater Goods.
Borderstan: Tell us a little bit about your businesses.
Velez: Greater Goods is DC’s source for eco-friendly products and services. Our goal is to help people live more sustainably by offering “greener” versions of products they use every day.
Borderstan: When did you start your business? Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Velez: We started in November 2007 with a very small number of products! I was thinking a lot about our dependence on foreign oil, energy independence, and global warming. There was no place in DC that sold the green products I was looking for, so I decided to open one myself.
Borderstan: Many entrepreneurs, business owners have had other start-ups and businesses. What was the most unusual job you ever had or most interesting business you owned?
Velez: A friend and I created a company right out of college so we could take on a video editing project. I had no idea what I was doing, but we got the project and then didn’t sleep for weeks working on it. We called it Front Stoop Productions. The company lasted just one project.
Borderstan: What brought you to Borderstan and how long have you been here?
Velez: Well, I’ve lived in DC most of my life and have witnessed the U Street transformation… pretty exciting how far it’s come. Now there is a real push to brand the area as having the best window shopping in DC, and great nightlife, etc. I live in Adams Morgan so the store is within walking distance.
Borderstan: What do you like most about the Borderstan area or rather Dupont-Logan-U Street area?
Velez: There is a good mix of retail and residential, and it’s been great to see the renewal of the area over the past 10 years. I also enjoy the diversity of the small businesses in this area. You just don’t get that anywhere else in DC.
Borderstan: Have you been affected by the economic recession? Are things getting better?
Velez: Yeah, the recession hit us just as we were getting off the ground. The kinds of products we sell tend to be some of the first things to go when people cut back on their spending. We had a 10% increase sales in 2009 though, so I think that points to the business expanding, adding new products, and getting our name out there more. The recession definitely had an impact, but it just slowed our growth.
Borderstan: What are the best and worst things about owning your own business?
Velez: As I think any small business owner would tell you, there is a great amount of satisfaction in working on something you are passionate about. Over the past few years we have built a solid group of customers who are behind our mission and like the products we carry. I love interacting with people who come into the store. At the same time, it is all-consuming and I don’t have much time for anything else. We also share market space with giants like Target who have bigger marketing budgets. But I think people enjoy the personal attention they get from a neighborhood business.