The large building that occupies most of the 9th Street block between Upshur and Varnum Streets has a new owner, and some big plans for the future.
Don’t worry, El Torogoz is staying. Redsun Embroidery has become an African art and sports memorabilia shop, and Super Market All in One (777 Market), the corner convenience store at Varnum and 9th, may be on its way out soon.
In December 2017, the building that comprises 4231 through 4239 9th Street was purchased by Cathedral Property Partners, a DC developer that is bullish on Petworth and interested in bringing retail and restaurants, rather than residential properties. Cathedral co-owner Robbie Leibner says the developer is here to stay, and wants to provide tenants that serve the neighborhood.
The ground floor of the building is currently home to El Torogoz Salvadorian restaurant (4231 9th Street), Super Market All in One convenience store (4239 9th Street), and the now-shuttered Redsun embroidery shop (4237 9th Street). The second floor above the convenience store is an apartment, while the third floor is storage space that until recently was being illegally subleased as residential space.
Cathedral has extended its lease with El Torogoz, and is upgrading the restaurant’s facade via a Main Streets grant. Cathedral and El Torogoz are also working on another exciting development that they are not quite ready to publicly reveal — stay tuned!
Speaking about El Torogoz’s owner David Ventura, Leibner said, “David is the kind of operator we want,” and pointed out that El Torogoz has operated in this location for many years, and is active in the community.
Redsun embroidery, which closed earlier this year, is becoming an African art and variety shop called “On Consignment.” The store is set to open next week. In addition to African art, which is mostly from Ghana, the shop sells sports memorabilia and some clothing items.
Leibner said he tried hard to respond to neighborhood demand by opening a coffee shop or restaurant in the Redsun space, but ultimately the space was too small to accommodate any cooking equipment.
“One of the things we’ve done is spend a lot of time, particularly Saturday mornings, sitting on the corner and talking to people,” Leibner said. “I've heard consistently requests for food and coffee shops. But the harsh reality is that [the Redsun space] is a little too small to accommodate someone who wants to do food service.”
So, when Leibner met the couple behind On Consignment, Darryl and Leah Corum, he was thrilled. The store fit the footprint of the space, and had goods that Leibner thought the neighborhood would appreciate. (Article coming soon!)
That leaves the corner store, Super Market All in One. Leibner was not shy about his distaste for the current tenant; in fact, Cathedral took the corner store to court earlier in the year because the cornerstone was letting people live in the third floor storage space illegally. The store allegedly sells synthetic marijuana products, loose cigarettes and out-of-state cigarette packs.
“We are concerned with the use,” Leibner said. “And in a perfect world we’d like to see something that sells more than pop and chips to kids after school.”
All in One has 18 months left on its lease, Leibner said, though he hinted that it’s possible the lease may terminate sooner. Once the corner store is out, Cathedral plans to lease the space to a food-related business. The corner store space is large enough to accommodate a small restaurant.
Leibner, who has lived in northwest DC all his life, said Cathedral has been scoping this area for about two years before purchasing the 9th Street series of buildings.
“This neighborhood is special,” Leibner said. “It’s a real neighborhood with people who are committed to making it a great place to live. It’s got a great vibe.”
In turn, Leibner said Cathedral is interested in being a part of Petworth’s fabric, and bringing businesses that residents want to see, even though throwing up condos would be more lucrative. He is currently scouting other locations around Georgia Avenue and also upper 14th Street.
“The developer’s real job is creating a synergy among your tenants so people want to shop there and want to be there,” he said. “There are a lot of condos going up here, but people need a place to shop."