Chatter has reached the contentious corners of Anacostia that Busboys & Poets is interested in the Southside. But Washington’s first suburb needs Busboys more than Busboys needs it.
"Over here, it is wait and see,” say the old-timers who have seen it all before. While newcomers largely live by the restoration creed of, “Just wait and you’ll see.” Somewhere these two groups unite in agreement that their neighborhood has too many vacant storefronts and not enough places to eat.
Busboys owner Andy Shallal has expressed interest in Anacostia, after a successful run at vending for LUMEN8Anacostia, an arts “temporium” funded by the DC Office of Planning in April. Here are some possible locations to be on the lookout for.
“It Must Have Been Here All Along”
Up and down the vacant storefronts on lower Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road white lettering faces the sidewalk offering up optimistic, albeit cryptic, messages. “SHOW ME WITH YOUR ARMS HOW MUCH” streaks the glass of 2022 MLK.
A couple steps away at 2004 MLK, “WE CAN JUST PRETEND” was spread out on four glass panels of the former furniture store. The broken glass for “JUST” has been replaced. It now reads, “WE CAN _ PRETEND.”
In both reality and parody, this former showroom would make a great locale for Busboys. Multiple floors, a loading dock, and other amenities make this as good a spot as any. However, word on the street is a social service job training program is actively looking at the space and working on a building needs assessment.
Down MLK and up Good Hope Road, you get farther away from the Metro but you’re right at the foot of the recently completed 11th Street Bridge. A Busyboys here would attract immediate neighbors in Anacostia, Fairlawn, and Randle Highlands as well as attract neighbors from the clusters of Capitol Hill neighborhoods, a short car, bus, or bike ride away.
Most recently a dry cleaning plant, the two-story buff brick building at 1306 — 1308 Good Hope Road looks an ideal home for Busboys, complete with a welcoming missive, “IT MUST HAVE BEEN HERE ALL ALONG.” An expired Building Permit lingers above “BEEN.”
Next door the Good Hope Institute, a thriving Methadone clinic, can be a friend or foe to the restaurant. A friend if patients can enter into an ever-present jobs training program that would provide living wage jobs, a foe if patients panhandle and intimidate customers.
Further up Good Hope Road SE, next-door to Ketcham Elementary School sits a wrap-around Art-Deco building that has been vacant so long that the for-sale sign has been lost to the elements. Hugging the corner of 15th & Good Hope Road, the adjacent storefronts, formerly a printing office, church, barbershop, and hair salon, are all vacant, and have been for many years.
With only a smattering of religious-themed bookstores east of the river, Busboys’ opening would presumably bring along its progressive-themed bookstore, run by Teaching for Change. The vacant properties at 15th & Good Hope Road would seem to offer the most potential for a fully realized bookshop in its own space.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it
According to a source familiar with area commercial real estate, the most likely destination for Busboys will be the current location of Uniontown Bar & Grill at 2200 MLK, Jr. Avenue. Proximity to the nearby Metro, a five minute walk, is guiding this thinking.
Although paying rent for the upstairs, Uniontown has only built out the street level making the eatery feel rather cramped. With the proprietor facing criminal charges, management problems will eventually arise with immediate concerns such as the liquor license needing guidance from a seasoned restaurateur.
”[Busboys proprietor Andy Shallal] is the frontiersmen that legitimizes the neighborhood,” a local developer said. “He’ll take his time. He took more than a year to open in Hyattsville.”
Either buying out or waiting out Uniontown might be the most logical and prudent business decision, however, historic Anacostia’s commercial thoroughfare has a critical mass of properties worth a look in the meantime.