Georgetown Markets Build Community

It used to be the two “S’s,” Scheele’s and Sara’s, that kept the east side of Georgetown going. That’s where us disorganized people go to pick up a pint of milk for cereal or bottle of wine for a dinner party. Now the two “S’s” have been joined by a third, Stachowski’s, and the neighborhood is hopping.

Stachowski’s opened on the corner of 28th and P streets last April. “Initially the neighborhood was our core group,” says Jyoti Mukherjee, the store’s manager. “Now it is steady all day everyday. We probably serve about 400 people a day—people from all over, Arlington, Bethesda, Capitol Hill.”

Stachowski’s, named after local chef and owner Jamie Stachowski, is primarily a butcher shop, but it does a brisk business in sandwiches and take-out dinners. The most popular things on the menu are probably the pastrami sandwich and the grinder, but the shop sells cookies, bread and fancy sodas as well. Aside from the standard steaks, and lots of sausages, there’s also a lot of demand for pork and veal cheeks. Probably the weirdest order they’ve ever gotten was for quail gizzards.

Business is very good. So good, in fact, that there is some discussion of opening new stores in other walkable neighborhoods. “We are the right concept at the right time in the exact right place,” Mukherjee says. “Being on this corner and the smells and the life around this place–there’s a great sense of community here.”

And that is what is it all about, say the Georgetowners who rely on their neighborhood food stores. “They build community,” says Dave Salwen, a Scheele’s loyalist. “They know you, they know your neighbors, and you get to know your neighbors.”

And the stores are part of the fabric of the block. Scheele’s, which is at 29th and Dumbarton, “keeps keys, lends jumper cables, we’ve used their fax machine, done package drop off there,” says Barrett Tilney. “I even got a Christmas card this year from Ms. Lee (Scheele’s former owner)!”

Scheele’s current owner, Dong Kim, says his customers are loyal; there just aren’t enough of them. His store stocks items of acute need in the neighborhood: bagels for sleepy teenage boys, tennis balls for the avid players at Rose Park, Diet Coke for the frazzled yummy mummies. “It is important for the neighborhood,” Kim says, though he is planning to use Twitter and other social media to pull in more customers.

Sara’s, on busy Q Street, is all things to all neighbors, both a place to pick up bread and a drycleaner, shoehorned into a fairly tiny space. It, too, has a devoted clientele. “I go there a couple of times of a week,” says Ned Herrington, “mostly when I run out of chicken noodle soup.”

And (this is sort of a secret,), the coolest Georgetowners have something neither money nor fame can buy: a house account. Sara’s doesn’t offer them, but Scheele’s does and Stachowski’s is starting to—meaning you can get your morning coffee or dinner’s duck casserole without resorting to such a plebian thing as carrying a wallet.

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