Written by Teresa Edmondson, Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street Manager
It was the 70s, and the car was king. Growing up in New Jersey, I had the good fortune of having a dad who loved to set out in his Dodge station wagon with his five kids in tow.
The first time I encountered Georgia Avenue in northwest D.C. was during one of those adventures. My dad’s first cousin lived on Rittenhouse Street off Georgia Avenue. And because the cousins were as close as brothers, we would take weekend road trips to Washington DC. As a child, I loved D.C. from the very first moment I laid eyes on it. Such a beautiful city!
My second encounter with Georgia Avenue was when my brother enrolled at Howard University and later made D.C. his home. While I lived in New York City, I was with family and friends in D.C. almost more than I was there. To all of us, the vendors, bookstores, poets, artists, revolutionaries, and cultural traditions of the nation’s capital made the city feel wonderfully unique and alive. While U. Street and 14th Street were still recovering from the turmoil of the ’60s, Georgia Avenue – one of D.C.’s historically African American business corridors – was very much alive.
It’s been many years since these first encounters, and my love for this city has not waned. February marks 26 years since I moved here for good. Like others, I’ve witnessed the remarkable, historic transformation of this beautiful city has been going through—changes which have brought tremendous loss in the African American community. Without question, there have been gains. Many who love D.C. have worked hard to preserve its historical diversity and vitality. But now we have an additional task – pulling our small business economy through the shock of COVID-19. The owners of these businesses are our friends and neighbors. Their efforts give our communities life and character.
The Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street includes the communities of Pleasant Plains, Park View, and Petworth. It is a one, and a half-mile area made up of hundreds of old and new businesses that – like those nationwide — need our support now more than ever. Many are family-owned legacy businesses that have been in the community for 20 years or more. Like the courageous owners of newer businesses on Georgia Avenue, legacy business owners face uncertainty in their revenues and fighting to keep themselves afloat.
Have you explored this area lately? You might be surprised at the breadth of items one can procure in the Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street. You can find cuisine from the four corners of the earth, gourmet coffee, and vegan options! You can purchase healing crystals, essential oils, natural wines, and spirits. We have thrift stores and independent bookstores. You can get ice cream and fresh herbs! Businesses here offer services such as salsa classes, group exercise, photography, veterinary care, CPA services, and so much more! Just about anything you need is here. Even when you need a laugh, Lower Georgia Avenue has comedy clubs for that too.
The next time you’re thinking about running to a big box store or clicking your mouse on Amazon, please think about which items on your list are already close by at a business on Lower Georgia Avenue. By supporting local businesses, we preserve our lively culture and street life and support our friends, neighbors, and the larger community. And isn’t that what an inclusive, healthy, loving community is all about? I say, yes!
Picture the things you love most about your neighborhood. What about the small businesses that make our community unique? If you don’t act now, the COVID-19 crisis could irreparably damage the places you love most. As we begin to understand the cascading impacts the last several months are having on our economy, the resources we rely on to support small businesses will be significantly restricted.
That is why we need your support today to ensure that District Bridges and our Main Street programs will be here for our businesses and community in the coming year.