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by Tim Regan — August 3, 2015 at 3:15 pm 227 0

Capitol Hemp is back.

The beloved hemp store reopened today at 1770 Columbia Road NW.

Like its previous incarnation — which was raided by D.C. police before shutting down in 2011 —  the store will continue to sell “non-drug” products like hemp clothing, hemp oil-infused soap, shelled hemp seeds, and hemp paper prints.

But this time around, store co-owner Adam Eidinger won’t have to mince his words about some of the other products he’s selling.

Thanks to the District’s Initiative 71, the marijuana legalization and cultivation measure that Eidinger’s DC Cannabis Campaign helped pass in February, it’s now perfectly legal for Eidinger to tell his customers he’s selling bongs and vaporizers of the pot-smoking variety.

“This is a free speech zone for cannabis,” he says. “You can call it what it is. You can say ‘I want to get high.'”

Eidinger says he also plans to sell home marijuana cultivation kits at “barely above cost, more of a community service.”

The store will host a grand opening event on Wednesday with free hemp gelato for attendees at noon.

Borderstan reporter Jared Holt also contributed to this article.

by Tim Regan — July 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm 112 0

14th and R streets NW, Shinola

Luxury brand Shinola announced today it will open its long-awaited 14th Street store on September 3.

Shinola is a high-end retailer that sells upscale — and pricey — leather goods, bicycles, watches and other accessories.

The 5,000-square-foot-store, located at 1631 14th Street NW, will “stay as true to the original build as possible, keeping the original black and white travertine floor, moulded ceiling and additional details from the era alongside traditional Shinola fixtures,” according to a press release.

Though the press release mentions the building’s original use as a Studebaker showroom, it does not mention the building’s most recent role as the Central Union Mission shelter.

Shinola’s temporary shop at 1534 14th Street NW will be occupied by Shinola’s sister brand, Filson.

by Daniel Levitt — July 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm 117 1 Comment

Pazyryk Gallery

A local business will close soon in Dupont Circle.

Pazyryk Gallery (1327 Connecticut Ave. NW) will close “in a few months,” an employee said over the phone earlier today.

The carpet and rug store lost its lease, according to a sign in the shop window. The employee did not specify what that means.

From now until it closes, the store will offer discounts on select rugs.

by Daniel Levitt — July 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1,082 1 Comment

MidCity Dog Days

MidCity Dog Days is set to return to the Borderstan area this weekend.

The annual neighborhood sidewalk sale will take place this Saturday and Sunday on 14th Street NW from Thomas Circle to Florida Avenue NW and along U Street from 7th to 17th streets NW.

The sales will start at 9 a.m. and last until 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Though the festival started in 2000 with six businesses, more than 70 business are expected to show up this year. Participating retailers include Home Rule, Lee’s Flower Shop, Crown Pawnbrokers and Urban Essentials.

MidCity Business Improvement District Formation Director Aaron DeNu says the event has become an area tradition.

“The Dog Days Sale and Festival has been a central unifying event that brings together otherwise disparate efforts,” DeNu said in an email.

“We’re excited to continue this tradition and expand upon its base in the future.”

MidCity BID is a nonprofit that aims to create and explore business opportunities in the area.

by Tim Regan — July 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm 314 0

Hobbit House, photo via EstatelyA distinctive-looking property near Adams Morgan and Meridian Hill Park is now for sale.

The 952-square-foot home at 1732 V Street NW, known for its small doors and squat appearance, can be yours for $749,000, according to real estate website Estately.

The home sits along a row of properties known to some locals as the “hobbit houses.”

Some of the property’s history was previously chronicled on Ghosts of DC.

The home is being sold by realty company Thos. D. Walsh. Read the full listing summary below:

Wow! Location, location, location! This home is in the Sweet Spot. Steps to Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and U St. Metro, restaurants, shopping. Walking distance to 2 metros. Federal style w/great bones. Being sold “AS IS.”

Image via Estately

by Jared Holt — July 8, 2015 at 11:45 am 4,978 14 Comments

buildings-8

A longtime family-owned Caribbean restaurant and lounge has left U Street.

The Islander last week set sail from its location at 1201 U St NW after 46 years of operation.

The closing follows the June departure of “Da Queen” Chef Addie, who worked as the restaurant’s chef since its opening in 1970.

A Borderstan reporter met The Islander owner Curtis Green yesterday afternoon, but Green said he’d rather comment at a later date.

Green did not say what might replace the business.

by Jared Holt — July 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm 501 1 Comment

Joel Pollack Big Planet Comics

Big Planet Comics founder Joel Pollack loves to be compared to Jeff Albertson, the comic book guy from the Simpsons.

“Oh, you mean my idol,” he says with a laugh.

But in many ways, Pollack, who opened the first Big Planet Comics location in Bethesda 29 years ago, has surpassed his role model.

Since founding the company’s first shop, the 65-year-old comic seller has grown the company to include its own in-house publishing company and four locations — one of which resides in the upstairs space at 1520 U Street NW.

That store, along with its sister locations in Bethesda, Vienna and College Park, celebrated the company’s 29th birthday last weekend with a big sale.

Over the years, Pollack says his clientele has changed.

Though comic collecting was once thought of as the chosen hobby of basement dwellers, its appeal has grown to include businesspeople, educators and families.

“I’ve had many parents come in and thank me for getting their kids interested in reading again,” says Pollack.

When will Pollack stop selling comics? That’s debatable. But he adds the shop is doing so well that it might just outlive him.

“I still have people shopping with me from day one,” says Pollack. “I wish I was as healthy as the business.”

Image via Big Planet Comics’ Facebook Page

by Jared Holt — June 30, 2015 at 12:45 pm 0

Audiophiles who crave the warm sound of vinyl records with their coffee at Songbyrd Record Cafe have a new place to roost during the evening.

Songbyrd’s new bar and restaurant, Songbyrd Music House, located adjacent to the cafe at 2477 18th St. NW, opens tonight at 5 p.m.

The new bar will feature an exposed brick wall, wood paneling and a long bar that stretches through much of the space.

The Music House will be open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Like the cafe, the bar will be closed on Monday.

by Tim Regan — June 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm 0

14th and R streets NWLuxury brand Shinola will open its permanent store at the intersection of 14th and R streets NW in the summer or fall of this year, a media spokesperson for the company said.

Shinola currently sells upscale — and pricey — leather goods, bicycles, watches and other accessories out of a pop-up location at 1534 14th St NW.

As noted by the Washington Post in October, the building, a mixed-use development, was formerly occupied by the Central Union Mission shelter.

Central Union Mission is now located at 65 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

by Jared Holt — June 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm 246 2 Comments

Riccardi Clothier

The Dupont neighborhood will soon lose another local business.

Riccardi Clothier owner Alex Brown says his store, located at 1300 Connecticut Avenue NW, will move to its original location in Georgetown in just three days. Why? Because the rent is just too high, says Brown.

Brown has sold of Italian suits and fashion consultation from his storefront since it moved there from Georgetown five year ago.

He admits business on Connecticut has been lackluster for a while.

But Brown also says he’s glad his menswear store is moving, primarily because his going-out-of-business sale has helped him sell more suits than he’s sold in months.

And there’s another silver lining: At least the store won’t have to worry about  wayward chicken odors from when The Chickery opens next door.

by Jared Holt — June 23, 2015 at 2:20 pm 100 1 Comment

Fadi Khalaf is worried a new law could send his business up in smoke — or rather, vapor.

Three months ago, Khalaf opened M Street Vape on the second floor of 1821 M St. NW and began selling e-cigs, the electronic vapor devices sometimes marketed toward people quitting smoking.

Khalaf stocks the glass counters at the front of the store with handheld vaporizers that vary in shape and size. He also sells nicotine-infused e-juice in flavors that have names like “Superman’s Ice Cream” and “Rotolo Di Zurca.”

Though his products contain no leaf tobacco, an amendment in the D.C. Council’s proposed 2016 Fiscal Year budget would tax them as if they did.

The proposed amendment would tax vape products under the “other tobacco products” category, meaning vapor products would see a 70% tax at wholesale — the same rate as cigarettes. Premium cigars, which are defined as cigars costing more than $2, are still exempt from the 70% tax

Khalaf said the new tax would force prices increases that would largely outweigh his appeal as a boutique retailer, especially since most of the equipment and e-juices are already cheaper at online retailers.

“It’s already hard enough to open a small business,” Khalaf says. “For the local government to potentially shut my store down, with such a high tax of 70%, is unbelievable. It’s just going to drive customers across the bridge or online for their business.”

Khalaf said he feels the tax isolates small vape shops like his own. In fact, he offers discounts to customers who call and advocate against the tax.

He’s fearful that the new law would drive vapor stores out of D.C., leaving behind only major corporations who can absorb the cost with e-cigarette brands  such as Blu and Njoy.

“We’re just small shops,” Khalaf says. “All those cig-alike companies you see in convenience stores are owned by big corporations. While [D.C. Council is] going for the big corporations, they’re throwing us out of the market.”

It is still unclear how the District plans to enforce the law on out-of-state wholesalers, which Khalaf and many other vapor shops uses to source their wares.

D.C. Council is scheduled to make its final vote on June 30. If passed, the law will go into effect Oct. 1.

by Jared Holt — June 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm 562 0

Thrill-seekers in the U Street neighborhood will have a place to rent scooters starting this weekend.

Andre Esser and his crew at U Scoot are revving up for their grand opening at 12 p.m this Saturday at Vermont and U streets, steps away from the U Street Metro station.

Though the store is currently open and selling merchandise, Esser says it will not start renting out its 20 electric-blue bikes until Saturday.

Rentals work like this: Customers with a valid driver’s license and credit card are allowed to ride the bikes wherever the included gallon of gas in the tank can take them. Esser said he only asks that customers stay in the District, even though the bikes can travel up to 100 miles on that gallon.

Tentative rental rates are $25 for one hour, $49 for three hours and $99 for a day, but that those prices are still being finalized. Rates will go up to $39 per hour during prime time hours from 6-12 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Esser says his goal is to have over 100 scooters at the new location within a year.

In addition to renting out scooters, the store also sells folding electric bikes, helmets, clothing and locks.

Esser says he hopes his business will bring a new crowd to the U Street neighborhood.

“Having an added attraction down here is going to bring in people who might not usually come to U Street,” Esser says. “Where they might usually go to Adams Morgan or Georgetown, now they might come rent scooters for an hour or two and then they’ll go have dinner on U Street.”

by ARLnow.com — June 16, 2015 at 3:15 pm 0

Hemphill_BorderstanBorderstan is back and once again bringing you local news from around the community.

To celebrate our relaunch, we are for a limited time offering a special deal for advertisers. Advertise with us and support our local journalism, and we will support a local nonprofit or cause of your choice with a free ad.

It’s our version of the famous TOMS shoes promise and we’re planning to continue it as long as there’s ad space available. Whether it’s the PTA bake sale or a large charitable organization, we will help you get the word out about their good work — and your business.

For more information about our affordable rates and innovative advertising options, check out our advertising page or contact Sam Dennis at [email protected] or 703-348-0583.

by Tim Regan — June 1, 2015 at 3:00 pm 448 2 Comments

It’s easy to overlook Monarch Novelties.

Wedged between coffee and cocktail bar Slipstream and and an organic dry cleaning store, the shop’s faded, cracked sign looks messy in comparison. Two hand-lettered signs on the front door read, “RING BELL.” Four stuffed hippos wearing jester caps, an inflatable Tweety Bird, and a jovial, bug-eyed Santa Claus sunbathe in the store’s cloudy storefront window.

To some locals, the run-down shop is an eyesore.

“I can’t wrap my head around how it’s stayed open,” wrote a PoPville forum user last June. “Are any of [these buildings] slated to get torn down and rebuilt into new condos? Or will this block lag behind the rest of 14th for all time?”

But inside the shabby shop overshadowed by luxury condos and flanked by trendy bars lies a wealth of history and an assortment of odd items that are hard to find elsewhere in D.C.

Douglas Robinson, Monarch’s owner, is always the first person patrons see upon entering. From behind a small table cluttered with pads of paper, a rotary phone and a worn-down cash register, Robinson buzzes in customers, then watches them with an unwavering gaze. From time to time, he rises from his chair to follow shoppers as they browse, presumably to make sure they’re not pilfering raffle ticket rolls, plastic party hats, old postcards, finger traps or vintage political buttons inscribed with slogans like “I Hate Everybody,” and “Go Go Goldwater in ’64.”

The eclectic assortment of wares often prompts patrons to ask whether they’ve wandered into a store or a private residence. But Robinson, who actually does live above the store, always replies the same way: “You can shop here, as long as you have green currency.”

Many of the store’s wares come from garage sales, roadside stands, and going-out-of-business bargains. And those items are likely cheaper than you’d find elsewhere. Vintage buttons, for instance, sell for between $2 and $5 apiece. Postcards decorated with the portrait of President Nixon are fifty cents.

On a street where a night of cocktails might cost as much as a new pair of shoes, that’s quite a bargain.

Robinson, who’s lived in D.C. for 64 years,  also likes to dispense historical knowledge. “President Johnson used to go to mass at the National City Christian Church,” he says softly to a patron holding a Lyndon B. Johnson inauguration button. “This city has gone through its ups and downs. Lots of changes.”

Of course, Robinson has his quirks. For instance, photography is strictly forbidden in the store. He also has a unique and quiet way of speaking, so it’s not always easy to understand what he says.

Fathom Creative founder Drew Mitchell has lived and worked in the building next to Monarch Novelties since 2009, and has gotten to know Robinson well.

He’s a little like cotton candy that’s been sitting in the sun for a little too long,” says Mitchell with a laugh. “Kind of hard on the outside, but really warm and approachable when you get to know him.”

“He knows every bus route, every street, every building,” Mitchell says. “He’s explored every nook and cranny of the city. He has the memory of an elephant.”

But how can a store that sells plush animals and kazoos stay open? When asked, Robinson is tight-lipped. But Mitchell says he fields that question a lot.

“A lot of people think, with the rent on 14th Street, how in the world does this place exist?” says Mitchell. “His family owns the building outright, so [they can afford it].”

According to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, the property is owned by Lilly Robinson, and is worth over $1 million.

“It’s one of those places that gives our neighborhood its urban texture,” says Mitchell. “It can’t be manufactured.”

“We’re the last novelty store like this left,” Robinson says with a smile. “We’re the only ones.”

by Tim Regan — June 1, 2015 at 11:45 am 0

Pacers Running's new space on 14th Street

Pacers Running on P Street will move up to 14th Street near the Black Cat.

The new store, located between El Centro and City Paws at 1821 14th St., NW, will open on July 5 and carry running shoes, clothes and other accessories. It will also serve as host for events catered to local runners.

A Bluemercury franchise will move into the vacated space later this summer.

The new 14th Street Pacers location will span 300 more square feet than the old store and will be a “better space for retail and events,” says Pacers CEO Kathy Dalby.

Earlier this year, the company announced it would close its Pentagon Row location on June 28, but open a location in the Navy Yard in late August.

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