Young and Hungry

Gillian Clark Details Reasons for General Store Shuttering

Gillian Clark, perhaps better known for her testy interactions with customers than her Bobby Flay-famous fried chicken, might be out of a restaurant.

This afternoon, word trickled out about the sudden closure of The General Store. The following message was posted to The General Store's Facebook page:

It's with heavy hearts we're announcing that The General Store is closed. For the entire 4+ years we've been involved with this building we have been bullied by the landlords. The landlord has not paid his back taxes and the county is taking back the building. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for being more than just customers. We consider all of you friends.

Young & Hungry reached out to Clark for more details, and she sent us the following statement:

In 2006 we fell in love with this little blue building in Forest Glen. We knew we were working with landlords that were themselves in the business, so we were confident that they understood what could happen in this little place with us as the management team. Still, they offered to have their chef at Mrs. K’s teach me how to make fried chicken.

Looking at the mess it was inside did not deter us and we were determined to make a restaurant out of it. We were about two years into the renovation—the whole floor needed to be ripped up, although he dug out the basement (without permits) the landlord poured it two inches too short, PEPCO determined the power to be insufficient, and we later learned there was not enough parking to make it a restaurant anyway. Through all of this the landlord sued us. We spent tens of thousands in legal fees, and hundreds of thousands to avoid bankruptcy and finish this project. We knew that it would be great once it opened.

And it was—three times on the Food Network and over a million in sales in 26 short months with less than 40 seats. The landlord with two restaurants of his own nearby, could barely pay his bills and could not keep up with the payments to the lenders or his property taxes. The notice from the county about the back taxes was stapled to our door one morning. And shortly after that, the process server came to insist that we come in to landlord/tenant court to face charges that we were behind in our rent.

Considering our difficulty opening, and debt load associated with it; we made arrangements to pay a weekly rent that has been in effect for over a year. We were paying as agreed (the landlord even giving us a thumbs up to a creditor just weeks ago). He suddenly declared us in default and he wanted us to pay him an unfounded and ridiculous amount of money and he wanted it now. We fear he’s just not able to pay the debt and tax bills associated with the place and suing us and gaining possession of the property will make a much neater end for him. Nonetheless, he presented false documents in court and perjured himself to get the judge to see his side.

I am attaching before and after pictures so you can see what it is we did to this place and if he is able to run this restaurant after he takes possession of it (if you can’t make a restaurant of your own successful why not steal one) it will be because of our hard work and vision.

We are grateful and proud of having the opportunity to be The General Store and to serve this community as best as we were able. We took this eyesore of a building and made it something great.

So many others drove by it and crossed it off of their list (other chefs, architects, business people). We were undaunted and stubborn. At times we came close to giving up and sometimes I think maybe we should have turned away. But I’m proud of what we did here. We were plumb out of money but there was a knife to our backs to finish and open—attorneys, landlord, judges were folding their arms and tapping their feet. We tiled the floors, we painted, we got that walk-in together—8 feet tall walk in cooler in a 7 foot 11 inch high space. But it has been too much bullying from the landlord and we are just too old to keep fighting. I’m sure you noticed that Robin and I are IT. We are here 16 hours a day. We’ll get some rest now and concentrate on our other projects.

I hope the New General Store or whatever takes its place when the landlord gets someone else to lease the space, I hope it thrives for the sake of this community that has always been so generous and supportive.

Young & Hungry tried to contact the landlord in question, Spiro Gioldasis, without success. Montgomery County records show a lien on Gioldasis' property at 6 Post Office Road.

Photo of Gillian Clark at her former restaurant, Colorado Kitchen, by Darrow Montgomery

  • DC

    Gioldasis, - that sounds like some female infection?

  • Denise King

    Usually landlords kick people out when they don't pay rent. Why don't you'll tell the truth maybe your next venture will be successful. Own up to your failure stop making excuses for yourselves.

  • Former 4A ANC Commissioner

    I remember when this interracial lesbian couple opened Colorado Kitchen in Ward 4. I went there and Gillian and her partner weren't friendly at all. I thought it was something that I had done. Later on after speaking with other Ward 4 residents that had visited Colorado Kitchen, they were treated the same.

    I never went back to this establishment and many neighborhood residents in the 16th Street Heights area were glad when they moved. I read an article in the Washington Post several weeks ago about Gillian Clark. Many of the comments stated, she was a real bitch and not friendly. Good riddance.

  • Southeast Ken

    Her friend chicken sound delicious!

    Quote: We were about two years into the renovation—the whole floor needed to be ripped up, although he dug out the basement (without permits)

    They were wrong for not applying for permits in Montgomery County and they should have been fined. This happens all the time in D.C. and DCRA don't follow up to see if people have the proper permits.

  • Ned Pepper

    Wow. Chef Clark's statement is the kind of response I've come to expect from the self-pitying, the-world-is-against-me Ms. Clark, who seems to be her own worst enemy.

    However, she wanders into what seems to be new territory when she says "Nonetheless, he presented false documents in court and perjured himself to get the judge to see his side."

    As both of those behaviors would be serious crimes, I hope she has some good proof of that--given the apparent litigious nature of her landlord--or she is likely to be adding a libel suit to her list of woes.

  • LLS

    What does sexual orientation have to do with her ability to cook and/or run a restaurant Former 4ANC Commissioner?!You sound like an uneducated fool.

  • Uneducated Fool

    @LLS: People heavily invested in identity politics (non-working class lesbians and anyone who has ever referred to herself as a "strong black women") tend to see themselves as the victim, and the world as full of mean people who are out to get them. That's what sexual orientation has to do with her ability to cook and/or run a restaurant--she's a bitch to her patrons and she's eager to place blame anywhere but on her own shoulders, where it belongs.

  • Sixy

    I think this is a case of karma. The one time I ate at Colorado Kitchen I witnessed Clark talk trash about customers with her staff for making a basic request, while we and several other patrons were in super close proximity. I had heard others make similar claims and was shocked to see them happen myself. I ate once at the General Store with family, and then her staff was terse and tightlipped--it was almost like since they had nothing nice to say they said nothing at all. So, oh well. There's other great cooks out there.

  • Lala

    Uneducated fool, you certainly are living up to your name. That explanation is pretty weak. The world may not be against them but you cannot pretend that race and sexual orientation are never an issue when you are in the minority group. Stick with the facts and your argument will have a lot more credibility.

  • Miami Danny

    Ms. Clark's words are truly a window into a confused, paranoid mind. A million in sales in 26 months. Is she actually bragging? First time in my life I have ever felt even a twinge of sympathy for a commercial landlord. Ever. Ms. Clark really has a way with words. I bet her new landlord is just tickled :)

  • Alan

    I remember Ms. Clark's Colorado Kitchen when I lived in Brightwood where patrons were treated like zoo animals at feeding time having to beg for service and when you felt you had to exchange your dignity for a plate of food. I have since moved to the H St area and find Ms. Clark is opening a place down the street from me. The best advice I can give her is unlike Brightwood H St has many quality restaurants so no matter how talented a cook you are the rude act won't play down here.

  • CAC

    As a lesbian who owns a small business, a home in Takoma Park, has a Master's Degree, and has been in a relationship for over 10 years, I really resent that nasty remark that attempts to link both her race and her sexuality to her personality or her success/failure as a businesswoman.

    I've never heard anyone say, "That heterosexual white guy treated me terribly when I came into his shop. Good riddance to him."

    And most people who try to use phrases like "identity politics" typically confuse the fight for equal rights with being a "victim". It's usually very thinly veiled bigotry.