Fourteenth Street NW in Washington, D.C., is a major boundary line for change in the city. At one point in the not-too-distant past, the young professionals who have flocked to the District over the last decade and a half would not have thought to venture east of 14th. Now, it’s the epicenter for the city’s schmancy restaurants and tawdry condo buildings.
Some of the residents of those condos don’t care too much for the thought of the decidedly not-fancy commercial tenant coming to the storefront at 2300 14th Street NW: a 7-Eleven mart. In fact, they residents have launched a petition asking 7-Eleven to kindly open its store somewhere else.
“We’re hoping to get enough support behind the opposition to compel them and demonstrate that the neighborhood would rather have a more local bodega, clothier or anything else,” the petition’s author, Ezra Weinblatt, told Tim Regan of Borderstan, a D.C. neighborhood blog.
This condo dweller feels entitled to a storefront clothier just because the building is adjacent to the place where he lives. But this petitioner goes further. He acknowledges that there is demand in his neighborhood for the products provided by 7-Eleven. That’s the problem. It’s the 7-Eleven customers he doesn’t want in his neighborhood.
Weinblatt tells Regan that he and his fellow condo owners are “not impressed by the processed and sugary foods” sold at 7-Eleven. Fine, but just a block or so away, there’s a CVS that sells all the same prepackaged foodstuffs. Chains don’t appear to be the problem here, either; there are Subway and Dunkin Donuts outlets on the same stretch of the 14th Street corridor.
The petition itself is contradictory: 7-Eleven stands to “cannibalize existing businesses, assuming anyone was to patronize the establishment.” But in the interview with Regan, the petitioner is clearer: “People hanging out at four in the morning on a street corner are not looking to pick up trash. They’re looking for trouble. We don’t want trouble.”
In the context of D.C., this is a dog-whistle. Day laborers congregate outside the 7-Eleven in another neighborhood, Mount Pleasant. That’s the only feature of any of the stores in D.C. that stands out. The store a few blocks away on U Street NW isn’t scary. The 7-Eleven mart in nearby Foggy Bottom is attractive, even. And the 7-Eleven in Columbia Heights showcases art from the community. Hell, when the 7-Eleven opened on H Street NE a few years back, they held a banging block party to celebrate.
It’s one thing when someone groans about a store he doesn’t like opening in his neighborhood. It’s another when nearly 200 others join him in his call to keep out commercial enterprises that cater to people of lower means. It’s classism.