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Holiday Season Brings Return of Small Business Saturday and “Miracle on 7th Street” to Shaw’s Diverse Neighborhoods

Accompanying images can be viewed in the December 2016 issue pdf

By Alexander M. Padro*

Many would say that bringing retail back to central Shaw was miracle enough, but the return this year of the Christmas pop up bar, Miracle on 7th Street, is amazing, too.

Saturday, November 26, 2016 saw Mayor Muriel Bowser once again joined by members of the DC Council, celebrating the remarkable renaissance that the Shaw neighborhoods, led by Shaw Main Streets, <www.shawmainstreets.org>

which planned the day’s events, has been able to generate along 7th and 9th Streets, NW, during the past decade and a half. As part of the seventh annual national Small Business Saturday promotion sponsored by American Express, the elected officials, including DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, and At-Large Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Elissa Silverman, were joined by U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, DC Department of Small and Local Business Development Director Ana Harvey, and DC Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Vincent Orange for a press conference at the Shaw Bijou, followed by a string of 17 ribbon cuttings for recently opened businesses in Shaw.

Several of the speakers noted the efforts made by Shaw Main Streets, which won the 2016 Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center, in bringing back the area’s historic 7th and 9th Streets commercial corridors following decades of disinvestment after the 1968 riots.

Other speakers emphasized the impact on the local economy that is generated by shopping at small, locally-owned businesses, encouraging the public to keep spending their dollars with independent businesses instead of chains and multinational corporations all year round, not just on Small Business Saturday.

The Shaw Bijou restaurant is the latest of nearly 300 businesses to open since Shaw Main Streets began operation in 2003. The modern American restaurant, co-owned by Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi, himself a Shaw resident, represents the dining and entertainment growth that has made the formerly distressed 9th Street business corridor the center of the city’s booming food scene.

After cutting the ribbon celebrating the Shaw Bijou’s opening, the contingent of officials and news media was transported between locations in a luxury limo van dubbed the “Ribbon Cutting Express.” The rest of the ribbons were cut for businesses that help keep their customers fit (Shaw Yoga, District Cryo, and Composition ID), looking good (Blush and Cuttin’ Up Barber Shop), well-dressed (Bucketfeet, Ministry Apparel, One Love Massive), satisfy their hunger and thirst (Dirty Goose, Haikan, Half Smoke, The Passenger, Service Bar, and Tasty Burger), and help get the word out (The Grand Scheme and Otim Williams PR). Business owners were at each location to pose for their photo ops, which appeared on TV news that afternoon and evening.

Following the press conference, Mayor Bowser shopped at Lettie Gooch Boutique for the second Small Business Saturday in a row. Part of the cluster of fashion-focused retailers at the JBG Companies’ The Shay development at 8th and T Streets, Lettie Gooch initially opened on 9th Street in 2005 before returning to Shaw in 2015.

The night before saw the return of another Shaw tradition — Miracle on 7th Street, a holiday cocktail bar pop up that transformed Mockingbird Hill in 2015 into a holiday drinking wonderland, generating lines that stretched down the block, has expanded this year to include two adjacent establishments, Eat the Rich and Southern Efficiency, also owned by DC restaurant and bar entrepreneurs Derek Brown and Angie Fetherston. Both have been extensively decorated to make the season bright, with Mockingbird Hill sporting silvery Santa Claus-hatted narwhals, puffy clouds and projected Northern Lights; giant photographic portraits of Christmas-garbed rescue goats at Southern Efficiency; and a riot of Christmas tree lights adding color to the scene at Eat the Rich. Each of the three establishments are open seven days a week (except December 25th) through the end of the year with a menu of holiday-themed cocktails with merrymaking  names (“9 Ladies Dancing,” “Put on a Yarmulke,” and “Xmas is Run by a Big Eastern Syndicate,” to name but three of 12) and things to eat like the Schweddy Balls (with smoked gouda and cranberry tomato sauce), truffled popcorn, and turkey and meatloaf sandwiches.

This year’s three times the space dedicated to the Christmas (and Hanukkah) bar scene may cut down the wait to get in, but if the advance publicity and opening night lines are any indication, “Miracle” is likely to once again bring the crowds that boosted every neighboring Shaw businesses’ sales last year.

And if all the new places to shop and eat in Shaw weren’t enough, a holiday retail pop up, Shop n’ Shaw, is bringing 32 mostly local artisans and their creations to the historic Wonder Bread Factory in the 600 block of S Street just in time for holiday gift shopping. Organized by Poppir.com, which has been called the Air BnB of retail, the holiday bazaar will kick off with an opening party on December 15th,  from seven to 11 p.m., featuring live music, a fashion show, and much more. The pop up itself will be open for shopping on just two days, the 17th and 18th, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. As part of the Made in DC initiative, the Shop n’ Shaw Pop Up Bazaar follows in the footsteps of the December 2014 Shaw Arts, Crafts and Fashion Market that highlighted items by local artists, creatives, and makers.

So even if it doesn’t snow, the shopping, dining and drinking in Shaw looks likely to be merry and bright this holiday season, and beyond.

*The writer, a long-time resident of the Shaw neighborhood, has been a Shaw ANC commissioner since 2001 and executive director of Shaw Main Streets since 2004.

Copyright © 2016 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Shaw Main Streets, Inc. All rights reserved.