Joe Englert on Whole Foods Coming to H Street NE: “It’s Sad in Some Ways”
Big news for H Street NE today: Whole Foods is coming. The grocery chain plans to build a 39,000 square-foot store below a new apartment complex on H between 6th and 7th streets NE, where Murry's grocery store now sits. It's expected to open in the fall of 2016.
Y&H happened to ask self-described tavern magnate Joe Englert, an owner of several H Street establishments including Rock & Roll Hotel, Granville Moore's, The Pug, and H Street Country Club, about the prospect of the yuppie grocer coming to H Street NE a few weeks ago. Here's a portion of the transcript from our conversation, beginning with Englert's feelings about the corridor:
JE: What I sort of like about H Street is I think it’s not baked yet, you know what I mean? We don’t know what it’s going to be yet. You know what 14th Street is going to be. You know what Dupont is. You don’t know what H Street is going to be yet. Hopefully, it just remains strange and sort of uncompleted all the time, I think that would be really good. I usually like people on H Street a lot. I think there’s a real openness and small town sort of atmosphere about it. And I hate the word diverse, but there’s a mixed bag of people...It’s just not done yet. It’s not smooth, slick. It’s just not perfect and brand name yet. It’s not Georgetown… It’s not really corporate.
Y&H: So let me ask you this: If and when Whole Foods comes to H Street, is that progress or a sign of the yuppie apocalypse?
JE: Well, it’s sad in some ways.
Y&H: It would be sad?
JE: It’s good if you’re looking at it from a holistic point of view. Maybe ultimately it’s good because the schools would improve for the smaller kids. More money into the neighborhood perhaps means more empowered people would advocate for better schools and better education. That’s a good thing. But the sameness and the cookie-cutter branding I think would be depressing…Right now, you know you’re on H Street because it’s unbaked, it’s unfinished, it’s not slick, it’s still sort of rough. It would be a shame if it’s just like Columbia Heights.
Y&H: So you wouldn’t go buy your organic quinoa there?
JE: God, I don’t think the food’s good there. Besides nut and cheese, I don’t know why anybody would go to Whole Foods.