The Anacostia community has its fair share of carry-outs, wing spots and fast food restaurants. But the emergence of the highly successful DC chain, Busboys and Poets might be the anchor the neighborhood needs to turn the tide of development.
On a boarded-up building, passersby can see a giant plastered sign indicating the arrival of a new Busboys location at the 2000 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
“We haven’t set a specific date of opening yet”, says Eli Gotay, manager of the chain’s latest addition in Brookland, “the launch is still in negotiations, but we are committed to opening in that community hopefully, by spring or summer 2016”
In Wards 7 and 8, many people encounter the inevitable grocery gap that faces DC during the lunch rush. Residents there, are hard-pressed to find dining options that are fresh and healthy.
“Anacostia and Congress Heights are food deserts,” says Christopher Bradshaw, President of Dreaming Out Loud, a non-profit which aims to build equitable food systems in DC. “In general, most east of the river is, with only three full-service grocery stores for 150,000 people.”
According to a study published by D.C. Hunger Solutions, the District has a grocery gap where Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8 are underserved by full-service grocery retail compared to other areas of the city. “If there are no places to shop, people have to look for decent food elsewhere,” Bradshaw said.
Commercial business space on Good Hope Road is in full bloom. Permits, signs, and construction abound.
The Anacostia Business Improvement District wants to energize commercial property owners and commercial tenants to invest in the community. They recently posted a Notice of Funding Availability for up to 3 million dollars for the construction of retail, restaurant and neighborhood-based development along the Martin Luther King Commercial Corridor. Funds that may be bid upon by organizations like, the Far Southeast Strengthening Collaborative who spearheads this anchor project.
“I believe that the opening of Busboys and Poets in Ward 8 will spark additional dining and commerce here”, said Ward 8 resident Tyon Jones. “Other businesses will see that residents here in Ward 8 are willing to invest in the kind of economic development that satisfies both social and economic needs.” Other eateries are popping up around the Good Hope Road and MLK intersection, such as Turning Natural, a vegan smoothie, and juice restaurant just across the street.
“They come like literally all day, sometimes twice a day and now they are coming on the weekends,” says Turning Natural employee, Victoria Garnes, speaking of government employees from the neighboring Social Services and Department of Housing agencies. “Our owner, Jerri Evans, grew up in Anacostia and wants to give back to the community by educated people on a healthier lifestyle.”
Busboys and Poets intended to contribute to communities in all eight wards from its inception. This is the final step in the process. “Busboy’s attempt is not to change the landscape, but become a part of it.” Gotay said, “We want to be available to everybody.”