14th Street: PULP Gift Store to Close Doors in November

by Borderstan.com September 27, 2011 at 6:28 pm 2,698 21 Comments

PULP, 14th Street NW, Logan Circle

After nine years at 14th and S Streets NW, PULP will close its doors on November 23. (Borderstan file photo)

From Matty Rhoades

PULP, the locally owned gift and card shop at 1803 14th Street NW will close its doors November 23, according to Bev Jones, store manager. The store opened in November 2002 and carries a variety of gifts, cards, and children’s books and toys.

The current owner of the store was in the process of selling to new owners, but the business deal fell through, according to Jones. The original owner, Ron Henderson, died in February 2009. PULP also had a Provincetown, Massachusetts, store for several years.

Word of PULP’s closing comes just after the owner of 1409 Playbill Cafe announced he would move to find a more affordable space. The store joins several other 14th Street NW stores that have closed in the past year, including Garden District, El Paraiso (which has another location in Alexandria), Ruff ‘& Ready furnishings (owner looking for a new location) and go mama go!

PULP was one of the stores that opened on the 14th Street corridor in the early part of last decade as the retail strip was beginning to transform to meet the needs of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Together with Home Rule, go mama go! and Garden District (when it was located at the Standard BBQ location), the four stores formed a mini shopping block.

  • Anonymous

    The day is rapidly approaching when I won’t be able to buy anything on 14th Street except a $10,000 sofa and a $100 dinner.

    • Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

    • almondwine

      Don’t forget $25,000 iPhone docks!

  • minnesota60

    This is depressing. I think this is a great store and I shop there regularly. There also used to be a great gift and card shop on 17th Street, on the lower level of a building, on the west side. She left five or six years ago due to high rents. This leaves us with what? CVS, Safeway and Target?

  • Marisa

    This is heartbreaking! This is one of my favorite store in the neighborhood & I have been shopping there for well over 6 years. The folks that work at pulp are always warm to me, my family and my big begging dog. We’ll miss you!

  • J.

    It saddens me (and greatly inconveniences me) to see 14th Street transform into a corridor of expensive bars and restaurants that cater more to weekend revelers than to the people who actually live here. Somehow, the D.C. Council must act to encourage local businesses that provide useful goods and services and community spaces, even though they may not be as lucrative as a fancy restaurant or bar. Even the most affluent residents of the neighborhood are in need of these basic services and gathering places, but the logic of the market, it seems, has rendered them unsustainable. In my mind, this is very unfortunate, even tragic, and cause for regulatory action by the D.C. Council.

  • Debbie

    This makes me almost as sad as the closing of Candida’s World of Books.

  • @HStreetDC

    Same problem on Capitol Hill and on H Street. All over town. Small local retail can’t afford the same rents as phone stores, banks, and chains.
    I’ve been arguing for some time for a requirement for “affordable” neighborhood-serving retail in new developments in addition to affordable housing. Affordable housing is a noble idea that benefits a few, while affordable small shops, and such benefit thousands, including daytime workers, users of public transit, and nearby residents.

    • Would love to hear more about how this would work.

      • Gene

        Matty, the same issue in Cleveland Park a few years back: The 2 story retail strip on west side of Conn @ Ordway. Neighborhood didn’t want to lose the shoe repair and the cleaners at the expense of national chains. The new owner created smaller storefront(s) for the shoe repair & dry cleaners.

        I don’t know whether these spaces’ per s.f. rents were lower or if they were offset by charging other tenants more. Either way, this sort of solution would (seem to me) to only work in a multi-tenant bldg and many or most bldgs on 14th are single-tenant.

        I’d hate to see 14th St turn into Adams Morgan: All clubs & restaurants with no ties to community and no daytime/everyday retail (except for 2 coffee shops and a diner). Kind of like U St.

  • Ben

    This is really sad news–and the strongest indicator yet that 14th Street has become a victim of its own success. If you want to see what 14th Street will look like in 10 years, I would direct your attention to Penn Quarter, with its high-end eateries, posh nightclubs and chain retail. It attracts a lot of people, it has its charms, but it’s nothing particularly unique or special.

    Sadly, there is only so much the District government can do to prevent this type of thing from happening–and this assumes that it should. After all, the conditions that allowed Pulp to open on 14th Street in the first place are the same conditions that might allow the next Pulp to open in a Petworth, Brookland or Hill East. The strongest levers the District government can pull are tax levers, and even completely eliminating taxes would only go so far to help a small business in a building where the landlord wants to charge $80/sf.

    It’s really unfortunate that such a fun and unique store is shutting down, but the writing has been on the wall for some time. When you’re surrounded by restaurants, bars and nightclubs paying out exhorbitant amounts in rent, and furniture stores peddling $30k bedroom sets, there isn’t much room for a card and gift shop.

  • OTBerbur

    I’m very sad and disappointed about Pulp closing. I was a regular customer from the time the store first opened in late 2002 in what is now the space above Cork Market. They had clever merchandise and treated their customers (and their pets) extremely well.

    Nevertheless, I’m not sure we can reach any broader conclusions from the closing. As the situation was explained to me by the weekend manager who told me about the closing on Sunday, the main reason the store is closing is that the estate of the business’ founder no longer wanted to operate a retail business at a remote location, a prospective sale fell through, and no other buyer could be found. If the founder were still alive, I suspect the business would be operating in 2012. By the same token, Go Mama Go would probably still be in business today were it not for the untimely death of its owner/operator. Good retail — at least on a non-chain level — is generally the result of good merchants, and good merchants are no more immortal than anyone else.

  • SkkBy

    Very sad indeed. I echo all the same sentiments that have already been posted. I want progress on 14&U but not at the expense of small businesses like this. Sad.

  • Graham

    This is the saddest part of gentrification. A neighborhood video store/shoe repair shop/mini market closes, due to soaring rents. It gives way to a store that sells high-end baby clothes, or women’s clothing or a FrozenYo.

    These business that have replaced the original mom and pop shop rarely last that long, maybe 2-3 years tops, and then they flip into another expensive concept store.

    But the shoe repair shop/bakery/video store/mini market, will never open back in that spot again. It becomes a revolving door of stuff that people don’t need and usually can’t afford.

  • Charles O who lives in the neighborhood

    This news is SO heart breaking! I go here all the time for quirky clever gifts and cards not to mention how nice the Folks are that work there!
    Is it only about affordable rent? DC should step in so that these small business owners are not pushed out of all the other neighborhoods as well!
    They certainly layed the red carpet out for the 4 new DC locations of WalMart!
    Is this closing a “done deal”?

  • anonymous

    Seriously, though… Pulp wasn’t really that special of a store. I can’t remember a single time I was able to even find a card I liked there. I won’t miss it.

    • anonymous is a jerk

      Really, anonymous? Not a single time? Not one time could you go into the best shop on 14th street and summon any sense of humor? Not once? Not even for your name in this post? So what did you do? Did you pick out a Hallmark card that played Cheeseburger in Paradise? HA! Clever. I tell ya.

      • Jimmy Buffet

        Even I don’t want to hear Cheeseburger in Paradise. What’s wrong with you Anonymous? Have a little respect for the stalwart store of 14th street. I for one will miss the hell out of Pulp and all the Pulpsters. The staff was equally as fun as the cards, and I cannot remember a time going into Pulp without hearing the sound of complete strangers giggling over the fun and funky products.

        Pulp will be greatly missed and I can only hope to run into the awesome people who worked there somewhere else in our beautiful city.

  • Logan Simmons

    This makes me sad too. I loved Ron and bought many a birthday card, hilarious gag gifts, gifts for baby showers, Christmas stocking stuffers and more. It was the perfect place to go when you needed A GIFT that was special but had NO idea what you wanted to buy. There was also opened a store on Capitol Hill — does anybody know the fate of that one?

    These comments make me wonder: IS there a way that neighborhood residents can come together and recruit the kinds of businesses they want? What would it take to keep a gentrifying neighborhood reasonably off the chain, so to speak?

  • jrs

    I loved Pulp, and bought many cards and goofy gifts there. It was the anti-Hallmark store, and that was what was great about it.
    The problem with Mom and Pop type operations is that eventually, Mom and Pop have had enough – whether it’s the rent, the economy, no heirs willing to take over, etc. I loved go mama go as well. Anyone remember Reed Electric in Georgetown? Family business that went under after the death of the owner. They actually hung a sign that said they had to close because of the burden of the estate tax. It’s now a TD Bank. Sadness…
    My point being that there are a lot of factors that can cause a store to close. Mom and Pop’s are particularly fragile. My thanks to Ron and the others (like Home Rule and go mama go) who saw an opportunity on 14th St before others did, and made a successful go of it. They brought life to a desolate stretch of 14th St and helped bring the neighborhood back.

  • Lisa

    I lived on 17th Street when IT was the hip zone with small places. Then 14th Street was the alternative. Things cycle through, but this is a shame. I live in Petworth now, waiting for its hipness to sprout. Buy local, everybody.


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