Will Target Target Local Merchants?
Todd Pfeiffer, owner of Pfeiffer's Hardware, surprised me when he said he isn't too nervous about the new Target and the DC USA shopping bonanza just down the street at 14th and Irving.
He said most of his business comes from contractors looking for building materials and tools that Target just doesn't have. Besides that, he said, "We have a huge, loyal clientele of people who love knowing the guy behind the counter and knowing that he'll say hi to your children and your dog."
The Mt. Pleasant Business Association met this morning, as shoppers from all over the city invaded the brand-spanking-new Target in Columbia Heights. They've received a $106,000 grant from the city as some kind of consolation prize, since the Target's new underground parking lot got a sweet subsidy to the tune of $46 million from the National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC), which was semi-private at the time and is now part of a D.C. city agency.
The Mt. Pleasant Business Association is planning to use the money to spruce up their facades and otherwise plot to lure people in to the neighborhood. Pfeiffer says it would be a shame if people "come out of the metro and go to Target and not even know we're two blocks away." They'd like to change the metro station's name to "Columbia Heights / Mt. Pleasant" to remind people of the neighborhood business district.
"People may not understand the consequences of shopping over there [at the DC USA shopping center] as opposed to at Mt. Pleasant businesses, and that it may mean that these businesses fail," said Pfeiffer. "It's all well and good to say that you love local shopping, but spending money there instead of here could lead to these businesses' demise."
Yoli's Boutique closed a couple months ago, apparently an early casualty of the DC USA. Pfeiffer said the owner was afraid of the impact the DC USA would have.
Pfeiffer and I agreed that most businesses on the street were probably safe – Target doesn't have a pupusería yet, for example, and the bodegas in the 'hood aren't about to lose their business to Target – but there is some apprehension about how they will be affected.
When I tried to look at the bright side of the new shopping center, saying, well at least we'll have a place to get things like vacuum cleaners that you never used to be able to get around here, Pfeiffer reminded me that I can get a vacuum cleaner at Brothers Sew & Vac in Cleveland Park, or he could have special-ordered me one.
It made the bright side a little less bright. I have to admit, I'm more likely to go to Target than Brothers Sew & Vac.–Tanya Snyder