- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Come the end of November, Grover Brice will never sell another American flag on Veterans Day from his table at the corner of Seventh and P streets NW in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Brice, a 76-year-old World War II veteran, and all the other vendors at the open-air market have been told by Giant Food Inc. that they have to pack up and leave the vacant lot leased by the food chain.
Mr. Brice, who sells shoes, clothing and Old Glory, says Giant is kicking them out just as they were gearing up for the holidays.
"We have to order our stock well in advance of Christmas," he said. "They say we can't stay, but I've already paid for all of [the stock]."
Mr. Brice said he sells a high-quality tennis shoe for $20, which he said is about all some members of the community can afford.
"If you have four children, you can't afford to go out an pay $100 a pair for shoes," he said. "You can get shoes for all the kids here [for $100]."
The vendors have no idea what they'll do after their open-air market in front of the supermarket is closed down. Mr. Brice, for example, does not have a city vendor permit to sell on the sidewalk and there is a moratorium on new permits.
Even if he could, selling on the street would be hard on him. "You have to be out there at five [a.m.] to get a good spot," Mr. Brice said. "I'm getting too old for that."
The market is on a parcel adjacent to the Seven and O Street Market, which was once a farmers' market in the Shaw community. Tenants in the old market building have been told to leave, too, said Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant.
"We have a ground lease for the entire site. We are going to be replacing some of the tenant mix with what we feel the community wants," Mr. Scher said. "We are also attempting to spruce up the facility."
Mr. Scher referred questions about what shops or offices will replace the existing vendors to Al Gonosalow with Madison Retail Group. Mr. Gonosalow did not return phone calls made to his office since Friday.
The market building houses a dry cleaner, too, also told to move by the end of the month.
The Seven and O Street Market area has for years been plagued with drug dealing and violence. Yet some people believe that since the street market opened four years ago, selling legitimate merchandise, most of the crime has subsided.
The area is about two blocks north of the new convention center and is across the street from the new Kennedy Community Center, which is under construction and will eventually offer indoor track, tennis and swimming facilities.
Leroy Thorpe, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who represents the neighborhood, believes the vendors are being forced out because of the gentrification of the neighborhood. He said the vendors paid their $15 per day to help keep the economy going in the neighborhood before new construction began and property values began to soar.
"This is the last African-American community inside Ward 2," said Mr. Thorpe.
"This is not necessary," he said. "This has to do with economics. People with money come in and want to dictate, but they don't want to give anything back."
Mary Sutherland, president of the neighborhood association, said the vendors have helped clean up her neighborhood and provide a service to the community.
"It helps everyone. They sell us things we need, and people aren't having to pay full price," Miss Sutherland said.
Abdullah Talib, 41, of Southwest, said this will be the second time Giant has moved him during the last six years. He said he used to have a permit to sell incense and perfume on the sidewalk by the grocery store, but they forced him out.
He said he moved to the open-air market because he'd rather pay the $15 daily fee to set up at the open-air market than pay the city's $1,500 annual license fee to sell on the sidewalks, even if he could get a permit.
"I have no idea where I'm going to move," said Mr. Talib. On a good day he says he makes about $75.
"This is the only place you can go," he said. "I like dealing with this neighborhood."
Everett C. Lucas Jr., the owner of Variety Market at 1511 Seventh Street NW, says he can't understand why Giant considers the market competition, rather than realizing it is a draw to the community.
"It generates more people. It really helps the neighborhood," said Mr. Lucas, who has seen the community decline and then revitalize a couple of times in the last 30 years.
Mr. Thorpe said he does not know why Giant is moving the people from the market when they have no plans for it yet. As the local advisory neighborhood commissioner, an elected position, Mr. Thorpe acts as the legal representative of the community.
"They don't have one tenant lined up that I know of," said Mr. Thorpe. "We don't know what they plan to do with it. They have not talked to anyone in the neighborhood, so how do they know what we want?"

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide