Willow Fashion and Petworth Citizen are celebrating their birthday / anniversary, and it made me think about Upshur Street before those community stalwarts opened up.
I remember the Island Cafe at 829 Upshur Street NW, where Petworth Citizen now resides. I remember the shooting in 2008, the fights on the street, the trash, the stabbing in 2012, the Maryland cars parked in front and in the alley and the continual ABRA violations.
The owner tried once in a while to do things for the community, and some good bands would play there, but more often than not it could be a dangerous spot for residents. People didn't like walking down Upshur in the evening.
I remember being thrilled it finally closed in 2012 and wondering what, if anything, would take its place and hoping that whatever did would be a better neighbor in the community.
That hope was well-placed. Three years ago, Petworth Citizen opened in the space, and along with Domku, helped make a welcome change to Upshur Street. Instead of graffiti along the wall, now's there's an amazing mural.
"I've been a fan of Petworth neighborhood for a long time and I love the architectural scale of Upshur Street," Petworth Citizen owner Paul Ruppert told me. "I had been looking for a spot in the area and when the chance to open a neighborhood restaurant and bar in the old Island Cafe space came up, I knew I had to jump on it."
The back room of the Island Cafe, once dark and covered in mirrored walls, is now the Reading Room, described by the Washington Post as "DC's best bar for bookish types." Its walls are covered in multi-hued books, and imaginative cocktails are regularly served by Chantal Tseng and Dan Searing. (I had my first Petworth News Shindig in the Reading Room in the summer of 2015.)
The name "Petworth Citizen" comes from a community newspaper that was published during the First World War. "The name connects to the history of the neighborhood and also to our literary offerings and free book library in the Reading Room," Paul said. "In three years I hope we'll be continuing on serving the neighborhood as best as we can - as a quintessential neighborhood hang-out."
Paul and Petworth Citizen is looking for feedback from neighbors, and is asking you to take a survey.
"One thing that is important to all my businesses is that we want to respond to the needs and desires of our customers. Thus, we've decided to create a survey to allow our neighbors to weigh in on how we are doing and what ideas they might have for the future." Take the survey and share your opinion.
Willow Fashion, at 843 Upshur Street, opened its doors four years ago, the passion and idea of Julie Wineinger. It started as a place to find interesting women's fashion, and now is one of the best local places to find great fashion for kids, women, men and a ton of amazing Petworth items and gifts.
From improvements on the streetscape to the Arts & Craft Fair, the Fashion Fest and countless sponsorships of neighborhood events, Willow has worked hard on being a good neighbor.
"Petworth is my neighborhood so it just made sense to open a store in walking distance from house!" Julie told me. "I am a firm believer that business owners should be productive and active members of their community and it makes it that task easier when your customers are also your neighbors."
When thinking about why she opened the clothing, accessory and gift store in Petworth, Julie said, "There weren't any stores like Willow in Petworth (there aren't many in DC really) and so I just decided to take the plunge and open one. Where Willow will be in 4 years is a tough question especially with the pace in which DC is changing but I hope to still be in Petworth."
Julie is celebrating Willow's 4th birthday with a "Sparkle & Shine" party on Thursday, October 6th, from 6:30-8:30pm. They're offering cocktails and cupcakes plus goody bags for the first 25 people at the party.
Happy birthday & anniversary! Thanks for contributing for the better to the ever-changing fabric of the neighborhood.