Whole Foods Missed, Future Undecided

“Georgetowners appear to be really missing the Whole Foods Market on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park,” commented Jamie Scott, economic development manager of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, discussing the BID’s recent survey of residents, which asked Georgetowners what they want.

One of the strongest “wants” identified in the survey — to be presented at the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting tonight, Monday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Georgetown Visitation School — was more boutique grocery stores.

The Glover Park Whole Foods was a popular smaller grocery store that offered samples of gourmet cheese, desserts, seafood, fruit and wine at stations around the store, valet pickup in the garage, two buffet tables with hot dishes and a custom pizza oven. Launched in 1996, it employed more than 150 people.

In March of last year, management voluntarily closed the store after a report of rat infestation by the District Department of Health. Heavy demolition was begun for a remodeling.

In May, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued a stop-work order due to the store’s failure to obtain building permits. But to obtain the permits the store required the permission of the landlord, Wical Limited Partnership, which Wical had not given (Wical says that Whole Foods didn’t ask). Wikal then canceled the store’s current lease for being closed more than 60 days concurrently.

In July, Whole Foods sued Wical, alleging a “conflicting lease” and demanding that Wical consent to the permits and pay damages. Whole Foods claimed it had spent more than $1 million on the project so far. In September, Wical asked the court to dismiss the case, which would allow the lease to be terminated.

Now, on Jan. 23, Judge Royce Lamberth mostly denied Wical’s motion to dismiss the suit. The order did dismiss Whole Foods’ motion to force Wical to sign off on the building-permit application for the remodeling, as well as a motion to declare that Wical is in breach of contract.

Complicating matters, in June of 2017, Amazon (owned by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos) agreed to buy the Whole Foods chain for $13.4 billion. The deal could transform the company that pioneered online shopping, allowing it to open stores and warehouses closer to customers in order to deliver orders in as little as two hours. Whole Foods stores could become locations for returning online orders of all kinds and Amazon could also use them to cut delivery times for online orders, according to business analysts.

In the meantime, a new Trader Joe’s is being constructed at the former Holiday Inn site, a few blocks south of Whole Foods on Wisconsin Avenue at Whitehaven Street. It is expected to open in 2019.


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