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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket vs. Yes! Organic Market

Art of War Concept: Those who use the military skillfully do not raise troops twice and do not provide food three times.
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If you haven't heard by now the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket has closed and Yes! Organic Market is soon to follow by closing at the end of the year.

Though there has been a lot of press about both, most of the attention has been focused on Yes! because it is the newer business and received financial help from the District Government to open East of the River. The news has led many to believe that the closure is because the community is either not interested in organic food products or its just too expensive.

A couple of weekends ago, I put on my Mike Debonis/Tim Craig hat and did some investigative reporting. I wanted to compare the prices of food products from Yes! Organic to those at the Anacostia Warehouse.

The Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket is located on Good Hope Rd and has been in operation for a number of years. I’ve been told that it has done well financially so I was assuming that prices must be cheaper. I was never a regular shopper at the Anacostia Warehouse. I’ve been in one time and left quick. Needless to say, the facility was hideous and I cannot understand for the life of me why the District did not shut this place down years ago. I am sure it had hundreds of health code violations.

But let’s put that on pause and compare prices between the two. Again, keep in mind, this is supposed to be my version of an undercover sting operation so the pics might not be the best.

Bananas

                                                    AWS                                         Yes!
                                           .89 cents per lb                          .79 cents per lb

Milk

                                                        AWS                                          Yes!
                                                 $4.59 per gallon                       $4.49 per gallon

EGGS

                                                     AWS                                            Yes!
                                             $3.59 per carton                          $3.99 per carton

CHEESE

                                                    AWS                                         Yes!
                                                   $3.59                                         $3.59

CEREAL

                                                     AWS                                      Yes!
                                                    $5.29                                      $3.99

OATMEAL

                                                          AWS                                         Yes!
                                                          $4.59                                        $3.00

CHICKEN BREAST

                                                      AWS                                       Yes!
                                                $3.14 per lb                            $2.42 per lb

CHICKEN LEGS

                                                  AWS                                        Yes!
                                            $1.89 per lb                               $1.89 per lb

ONIONS

                                                   AWS                                        Yes!
                                                   $1.39                                       $1.49

CABBAGE

                                                    AWS                                        Yes!
                                           .79 cents per lb                            $1.49 per lb

BABY FOOD

                                                      AWS                                     Yes!
                                                   .99 cents                               .99 cents


HONEY

                                                           AWS                                            Yes!
                                                           $5.19                                           $2.99

So here is what I learned doing this exercise:
1. Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket was charging some outrageous prices for some of its products.
2. Though its prices were high, it was supported by residents in part because it was convenient to get to and they were familiar with its food products.
3. There is a mental barrier when people think of organic food. I think many assume that organic food is different and more expensive.
4. Yes! Organic most likely is going out of business because they were not aggressive in introducing residents to it food products.
5.  Organic manufactures should rebrand there packaging to make it more appealing to customers. If packaging looks bland, I think people think the food is tasteless.
6. Location, Location, Location is important in real estate. Though many wanted to support the store, it was a hassle to get in and out of the building.
7. The City needs to step in and work with the new owner of the AWS Building to get a full service grocery story in this location.

14 comments:

  1. Great blog. I'm sad to see YES! closing. There is a YES! market at Eastern Market/Barracks Row which is also no joy when it comes to parking at least the one closing had a few dedicated spaces in the parking garage. I think many people were unaware of that. East of the River really needs quality markets and residents have to support the quality businesses that open in our neighborhood

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  2. Thank you Charles for this report.

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  3. Organic food is, generally, more expensive. That is well established.
    But that doesn't prove why YES is going out of business--if it is.
    Instead of speculating, why haven't you asked YES why it is closing?

    What makes you think "the city" can improve the way the next tenant--which might not be a food store--does business? Does "the city" know more about retailing than do retailers? "The city" is in the business of local governing, not retailing.

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  4. Good work Charles!! I would LOVE to see another one come into Anacostia that is willing to get out there and mingle with the residents. Food samples and cooking demos away from the store, giving out recipes, marketing how their produce is better than what is offered in the healthy corner project would all make a difference in the bottom line.

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  5. Sorry to see the Yes! Market go, not so sorry to see AWS go. Yes! provided a nice selection of healthy and unique food choices. However, even with the few dedicated indoor parking spaces, parking could still be a challenge. And, if you were driving west on Pennsylvania Avenue, you really have to know the layout of the streets to navigate over to the store. I am less apt to venture to Eastern Market unless it is a really must have item and it’s conveniently available at Yes! I am hoping for a new grocer at the old AWS location, one with variety and a new kept store.

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  6. I meant a 'better' kept store.

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  7. Charles,
    Thanks for this report. As a regular YES shopper it is sad to see them go. I did find the store expensive, but normally, I only bought items that they had on-sale. To address Fast Eddie, "the City" can do a better job promoting the few businesses that we have east of the river before they go under. That is why we have elected officials to cut the ribbon when the business opens and there is no restriction from those elected officials from assisting them if they are in trouble! It is a fine line, but it can be done!
    As an example, after the Thai Orchid Restaurant was robbed at gunpoint, the community rallied and that Restaurant (Great Food!!-- www.thaiorchidskitchen.com) is doing well!

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  8. The Yes! Market East of the River on Penn Ave is closing because it is in an awful location with only northbound traffic having access to the building. The area where the store is located is in the process of gentrification; however, the Yes! Market came a bit too soon. The area still lacks the diverse pedestrian traffic that the Eastern Market enjoys. Also, alot of the residents in that area are very resistant to change and are often times not likely to 'venture' into an 'organic' market. This is going to change in the next few years as more and more millenials poor into that area and snap up the only 'affordable' real estate left in the city!

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  9. I must say that your Blog was great. As you pointed out, the stores have pretty much the same the prices; however, it is the habits of the people in that area that caused Yes! Market to close. Here is an excerpt from the HillRag article that quotes the owner's reasons for closing the Penn Ave location.

    Chapman first met Cha while searching for an anchor retailer for the Grays, a mixed-use property with 118 affordable housing units and views of the Washington Monument. Thanks to the Great Streets Initiative and the Supermarket Tax Credit program, the city gave Chapman $900,000 and a tax break to bring Yes! east of the Anacostia.

    Cha already had success bringing Yes! to other communities in transition, such as Petworth and Brookland. In fact, some of his first customers at the Fairlawn location formerly crossed the John Philip Sousa Bridge to visit his Capitol Hill location. The Fairlawn location not only brought Yes! closer to home, but created jobs in an area where high unemployment is the norm; the citybizlist DC website reported that the store created 30 jobs, 24 of which were given to Wards 7 and 8 residents (8/31/2010).

    Despite accepting supplemental nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP) and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) vouchers, Yes! suffered from low business volume, stated Cha.

    “We do try to cater to the community and keep our prices low,” says Carenthia Brown, an assistant manager at the Fairlawn Yes! However, in an area where there are many food assistance recipients, not too many potential customers can afford to shop there. “Usually the first to the 15th of the month, business is great,” Brown says. “Afterwards, it goes downhill from there.”

    Despite the setback at its current location in Ward 7, Cha hopes to open more locations east of the river. “The customers deserve equal access to organic food as those in Northwest,” he said.

    Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander announced that she will be working with Cha to relocate Yes! to a more suitable location. Residents have complained about the store's inconvenient location parking-wise and about the high prices, she stated. Alexander is also committed to working with the owners of the Grays to find another grocery or convenience store to replace Yes!

    Source: http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/content/fairlawn-yes-organic-market-close-after-two-years

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  10. I agree with the too soon theory. Until we change the mindset that quality has benefits and the economic downturn in that community any business with the hope of uplifting and increasing a positive way of life will ultimately fail.

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  11. Sandra B. wrote:

    Interesting comparison. I had yet to go to Yes! for the very reasons you state. Anticipating higher prices and the hassle of getting into the store. I don't like underground parking if I can avoid it. While AWS was not pretty, it was convenient for me. Have purchased most items at one time or another (which were satisfactory), but did not shop there regularly. I stopped in just this Sunday for some frozen vegetables, was surprised to learn of the closing.

    We had a tradition of trekking to the AWS after a big snow storm to get popcorn and hot chocolate. I will miss that.
    SMB

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