Adams Morgan residents protest over Metro K Supermarket’s potential closure

Demonstrators rally outside Metro K Supermarket on Monday evening. Photo courtesy Amanda Menas.
Demonstrators rally outside Metro K Supermarket on Monday evening. Photo courtesy Amanda Menas.

By: Amanda Menas

“Everybody gets something at Metro.” Gretchen, a neighbor of Netherlands Apartments, came to a rally at Metro K Supermarket Monday evening. Metro K Supermarket may close its doors November 30 due to rent a increase. 

The Hottel family, owners of the stretch of store fronts on Columbia Road, will be raising the rent of the retail location 30 percent, in addition to requiring $150,000 in renovation fees. Ho Sang Cho, who rented the storefront in 2002, and has had a family connection to the location since the 1970s, will no longer be able to afford the property.

“When we had one of these big snow storms, the people stayed overnight so they’d be there to meet people,” Gretchen said about Cho and his employees. Her home is on the next corner. Since Gretchen is wheelchair-bound, Metro K is the most accessible place for her to buy food. The next supermarket, a Safeway, is too far.

Jamie Sycamore, the independent candidate running for the Ward 1’s councilmember seat, attended the event. “Affordable living is not just about building something here and then leaving it to the developers,” Sycamore said. “It’s about having our community involved in everyday businesses. This is something that impacts every single one of us here.”

After being interrupted with chants of “keep it open”, Sycamore continued, “We’re going to keep it open! That’s what I’m asking. Where’s the council in this? It’s all about asking about small and local businesses, and they have a celebration one day a year right? Well, this is about celebrating it 365 days per year by keeping this open.”

Dennis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, organized the rally on Monday evening, after just two days of planning. He worked to gather signatures on a petition to the management company, Borger Management, which now has nearly 1,400 signatures.

“Obviously, the community wants the store to stay,” James said about the near 200 neighbors who came out in support. However, he’d “be surprised if the city council acts here. It would be sweetheart legislation.”

According to James, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said she would write a letter of support, yet it has not been made public at this time. ANC 1C commissioners Ted Guthrie and Amanda Foxberry were also in attendance. They also voted to write a letter of support.

According to the Washington City Paper, Joe Borger from Borger Management released information that a new lease has been executed with a different grocer for the property.

However, neighbors are still concerned about the storefront remaining empty for an extended period of time. There are five other empty storefronts close to Metro K Supermarket. The only communication James received on behalf of Cho from Borger Management was this: “We don’t discuss lease terms with non-parties.” Closing the store will also impact the manager, who has worked there for 21 years and filmed the rally.  

James ended his speech to the demonstrators by applauding their support for local business. “Adams Morgan has prided itself for a long, long time of being about unique businesses that serve the community, even to the point of one-of-a-kind restaurants or bars.”

Neighbors responded by saying, “We don’t need another restaurant, we need a grocery store!”