Fairlawn Yes! Organic Market to Close after Two Years
Located on the first floor of the Grays on Pennsylvania, the Fairlawn Yes! Organic Market was the first organic supermarket located east of the Anacostia River, the first to be built since 2007, and seventh Yes! location in the city. “Residents in Ward 8 have not been able to buy fresh, nutritious food at an affordable price in their neighborhoods,” then-Mayor Adrian Fenty said in a 2010 statement. “This store changes that.” However, two years later, Gary Cha, its owner, has announced that it will close sometime in December.
“We truly wanted to be the first store to provide healthy options,” says Cha, a native Washingtonian. “We tried to do this for two years, but we can’t do this for much longer.”
Timothy Chapman, head of Chapman Development and owner of the Grays, also expressed his disappointment over the closing.
“I think the world of Gary,” he says. “I believe he’s handling this like a gentleman.” He is currently looking for a retailer to occupy the store’s space; he didn’t comment on which retailers he would like to work with, as he is just beginning the search.
Chapman first met Cha while searching for an anchor retailer for the Grays, a mixed-use property with 118 affordable housing units and views of the Washington Monument. Thanks to the Great Streets Initiative and the Supermarket Tax Credit program, the city gave Chapman $900,000 and a tax break to bring Yes! east of the Anacostia.
Cha already had success bringing Yes! to other communities in transition, such as Petworth and Brookland. In fact, some of his first customers at the Fairlawn location formerly crossed the John Philip Sousa Bridge to visit his Capitol Hill location. The Fairlawn location not only brought Yes! closer to home, but created jobs in an area where high unemployment is the norm; the citybizlist DC website reported that the store created 30 jobs, 24 of which were given to Wards 7 and 8 residents (8/31/2010).
Despite accepting supplemental nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP) and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) vouchers, Yes! suffered from low business volume, stated Cha.
“We do try to cater to the community and keep our prices low,” says Carenthia Brown, an assistant manager at the Fairlawn Yes! However, in an area where there are many food assistance recipients, not too many potential customers can afford to shop there. “Usually the first to the 15th of the month, business is great,” Brown says. “Afterwards, it goes downhill from there.”
Despite the setback at its current location in Ward 7, Cha hopes to open more locations east of the river. “The customers deserve equal access to organic food as those in Northwest,” he said.
Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander announced that she will be working with Cha to relocate Yes! to a more suitable location. Residents have complained about the store's inconvenient location parking-wise and about the high prices, she stated. Alexander is also committed to working with the owners of the Grays to find another grocery or convenience store to replace Yes!
“We want a lot of things for our community,” Alexander said in a statement. “When a new business comes to our community, we should be diligent in supporting them.”
One resident, John Capozzi, is already planning ways to rally the community to keep Yes! open.
"If Yes! closes, other businesses will think twice about moving east of the Anacostia River,” he said. Capozzi also points out that there are limited options to buy healthy food with only a few supermarkets in Wards 7 and 8.
“We can’t just keep losing businesses,” Capozzi stated. “We deserve better.”