Monday, January 28, 2008

Where the Stores Aren't

While downtown Silver Spring has a growing number and variety of restaurants (and no, they aren’t all chains), the growth in retail stores has not kept pace. Particularly absent are the types of stores that appeal to 20/30-something males like myself. Women have certainly fared better with stores such as Ulta, Ann Taylor Loft and Marimekko, all of which occupy prime real estate along the Promenade. It would also seem that another women’s clothing store is opening up in the vacant space on the corner of Ellsworth and Georgia Avenue across from Marimekko, possibly a New York & Company. DSW does sell men’s shoes, but from the prevalence of women’s footwear available there, I suspect a majority of their business is not from male shoppers.

Sure, there’s a Men’s Warehouse, but how frequently does one need a new suit? What I’m talking about are a wider variety of stores to browse where there is a good chance of finding something worth buying. Hell, if they put in a Banana Republic, that would probably cover 80% of my wardrobe right there. I never think to go to go to downtown Silver Spring to shop, only to eat. Instead of retail stores, we have blocks and blocks of hair and nail places, which must do a thriving business since they keep opening up newer and nicer ones. Other inner suburbs like Bethesda and Clarendon have a much stronger retail mix than Silver Spring.

What we need are larger stores like Crate & Barrel along with some smaller independent shops that sell things like paper products, toys, etc. There were rumors in the past that Urban Outfitters and Bed Bath & Beyond were going to set up shop, but nothing ever came out of that.

There are a few stores that I do visit occasionally, some more than others:

Strosniders Hardware - Best. Hardware Store. Ever. The parking lot's a bitch, but when you're in there, they'll spend half an hour helping you to find a five cent screw.

Silver Spring Books – It’s not as big as some other used bookstores (RIP Bonifant Books), but I can usually find some obscure title that piques my interest if I look hard enough. Also earns points for being the place of employment of a fictional character.

Borders – I don’t so much shop here as browse. That’s because unless I have a particularly good coupon or I need to obtain something immediately, I will generally end up paying significantly more for a book than I would on Amazon. This is the ultimate “time killer” place for me in downtown Silver Spring.

CD Gamexchange – I rarely go anymore, but when I used to work in downtown Silver Spring, it was a good place to walk to and waste time during my lunch break. There was a time where they had tons of old NES games for 50¢ to $1, but now they price them at $5 or more.

Alliance Comics – I buy comics very infrequently, but it’s still a fun place to look around. I also have to include this since I’ve been going there since I was 8, when it was Geppi’s Comic World.
We've already had a discussion on this blog over what type of stores residents would like to see. Of course, this was in the context of City Place, which hasn't done a damn thing lately to shed the "Shitty Place" label. I made a rare foray into City Place a few weeks back after spying the "Steve & Barry's Grand Opening: Holiday Season" sign. This was after New Year's and the storefront was still covered with plywood. I guess the sign didn't specifically mention WHICH holiday season.

Oh, and God forbid they put in a drugstore on the north side of Georgia Avenue.

A side note: I don't know what happened to it, but for awhile Silver Spring had an interesting shop on Fenton St. that specialized in the sales and service of electric razors. I had to go in once to get a replacement part on my razor and they gave it to me free of charge. It is rare these days that you can find a place with such a specific specialization where they know immediately what your issue is and how to fix it. I was also fascinated by all the antique electric razors they had for sale, as that's something you don't see very often. Not that I use an electric razor anymore, but I think it's a shame that the store is gone nonetheless.



30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you wrote!

I belive the main problem is one with perception that retailers have of Silver Spring, that the demographic will not spend the kind of money needed for "upscale". Slowly but surely, we are proving them wrong by the success of such restaurants as Rays The Classics and Nicaro. By upscale, I don't necessarily mean expensive, but simply a better quality of merchandise. We have crap in DTSS and there is such pent up desire to spend good money in our own backyards that it's not even funny.

silver spring penguin said...

I'd be glad if a New York & Company opened on Ellsworth. Ann Taylor Loft doesn't always cut it; Marimekko is overpriced and of poor quality.

Open a Banana Republic (or an Old Navy for broke-ass people like me), and life would be good.

Re: specialty shops, an eyeglass repair place is set to open way down Georgia Ave, near Eastern Ave. I don't think they repair lenses. Just frames.

Go figure.

Dan Reed said...

Isn't there a New York and Company in Wheaton Plaza already? That seems a bit much.

I think it says a lot about how developers view men's shopping habits. Men are supposed to run in a store, grab something, and get the hell out. Downtown Silver Spring is meant for lingering, so they fill it (and similarly-minded shopping centers) with places aimed at women. (I like to linger, so I am at an impasse as well.)

Anonymous said...

Right on. But beware -- any introduction of retail chains (and how much QUALITY mom & pop retail is there, anymore?)will be met by howls of protests by the people who miss the Old Silver Spring (many of whom will proudly tell you that they purchase most/all their clothing in secondhand stores!)

Upscale retailers will come when they see the "critical mass" of their demographic (and they don't care what color, just that the $$ is there). Right now, however, they see a very mixed demographic -- good for diversity, but not good when you want a particular group to buy your stuff. (Fact is, the people running the traditional junk stores of Silver Spring probably are disappointed that THEIR demographic is shrinking!)

The Hitman said...

Another major issue for some potential stores is the loitering factor. My girlfriend and I were talking about this sitting outside of Macaroni Grill a few weeks back. Any high traffic store, say an Old Navy, or an Urban Outfitters, is going to be a hotbed for teenage loitering.

I have to imagine some companies aren't interested in dealing with that.

TheRov said...

Sorry, Hitman, your loitering theory falls apart when you're talking about Urban Outfitters. That place is MADE for teenage loitering.

I agree that including stores with products for men would be a big bonus. I hate deserting Mr. Big on the pedestrian avenue while I dart into DSW or ATL for a 5-minute recon of the products. Banana Republic, J. Crew, and other stores that serve both men and women work well for us--we can each go to our corners and meet up again. Love the idea of C&B--our favorite browsing store.

Does anyone else find the central DTSS area *too* jam-packed with restaurants? We hate going there Fri/Sat nights in good weather because it's so mobbed, bringing to mind the Yogi Berra observation...

rd said...

Actually, the more loitering (as long as there isn't subsequent crime) the more sales. This is why B&N & Borders have cafes and random crap to look at. Basically sales & money spent are directly proportional to the amount of time you spend at a store. Go figure...

silver spring penguin said...

Good point about the loitering factor, Hitman. But I have to think that businesses take loitering into account.

I guess the trick is to sell something that no customer can refuse. I don't know how Borders does it, but somehow they manage.

chaz said...

I think it's been mentioned before, but an Old Navy seems like it would be a good fit with the family-friendly atmosphere of DTSS. Urban Outfitters would be eaten up by the teen crowd, and along with American Apparel would make Silver Spring a store-bought hipster paradise, but they already have two stores nearby. Likewise J Crew, which has three area locations. Proximity to Bethesda, Montgomery Mall and White Flint probably hurts the chances of DTSS retail development with those and other chains.

Steve and Barry's may be the best we're getting!

And a big +1 on Strosniders. Every time I need something that I can't quite figure out where to get (recently, a lock for the gym, a cast-iron skillet, plastic things to plug up outlets), Strosniders comes through.

Jake Young said...

A Casual Male Big N'Tall would suit My needs QUITE well. Maybe right next to the Chik-Fil-A and the Coldstone Creamery? I've never taken the plunge inside cd/game exchange, but I am looking for a secondhand Dreamcast and a VHS copy of Fletch...

Springvale Roader said...

What does it cost to buy a home or condo in DTSS -- $100 million, give or take? Seriously, there is a market for decent wares, and even upscale stuff.

Our "mall" should have a Macy's or a Dillards or Bloomingdales or some place for people to buy good clothing. How about a store that sells stuff for the kitchen? (It's sad that Strosniders is the default kitchen wares store). A CVS would be nice -- maybe after that new store that moved into IA,Etc. folds. A pet supplies store.

Some people may not like this, but DTSS is full of middle class people and getting more all the time. Yet we're still stuck with bargain basement crapola stores. The market is there, waiting.

Sligo said...

Is there any other kind of Dreamcast? :)

Anonymous said...

Give us a fabric store- G St Fabrics or something- I hate going to Rockville.

Niko said...

For those that dont like chains that are all over the DC metro area why dont they bring in chains from other regions that cater to both men and women. Stores like Buckle, or Anchor Blue. Can they also put a place where I can buy a nice pair of jeans (True Religion, 7 for all mankind, Rock and Republic, etc). It seems like they are just putting in lower-end stores like Steve and Barrys. People who shop at those stores arent the only ones that live in Silver Spring. On the Petrie Ross Ventures (Company that owns City Place) website it says that they try to put things in that the community wants. Has anyone talked to the company though? Some more bars would be nice 2.

Springvale Roader said...

Here's a thought: one of the local blogs, maybe even this one, had an article about horrible the Majestic Theater is. I contacted Consolidated Theaters (as I had in the past, with no response), the Majestic's owners, to complain about the chaos there and I mentioned that a local blog was talking about it. Surprise! They actually got back to me via email with a named person I could respond to. Alas, in the end they only cared about what was on the blog and never did respond to my concerns about their sh*thole of a movie theater, which is why I don't go there.

Anyways, perhaps we could contact Petrie Ross Ventures and let them know that a Silver Spring blog, or maybe all of them, are running articles about how craptastic City Place is. All that we would need would be for someone, say, someone with a local blog, to run an article. Hmmm -- where could we find such a person?

chaz said...

Agree on the kitchenware store. A Sur la Table that offered cooking classes would rock!

I know I suggested Old Navy, but I think Silver Spring could potentially support a smaller independent clothing store, as well--like DenimBar, The District Line, or Commonwealth. I would probably never go into a Buckle or Metropark, but I wouldn't complain about it.

Sligo said...

Springvale Roader,

I was thinking the same thing... look for it soon.

TY said...

Don't know if you've looked lately, but Steve and Barry's is open. You have to go down to the food court and enter down there. They're trying to move their winter inventory so everything in the store is on sale for $8.98 or less. I know it's not upscale, etc. etc. but they have a lot of good collegiate stuff, t-shirts, and basics. And Starburys!

Anonymous said...

I went to the Electric Shaver Shop all the time to have my razor cleaned, repaired or to get a new blade etc. Too bad they are gone. I talked with the woman who was the owner shortly before they closed and she simply retired.

There is another one over in Virginia. I called them shortly after the store in SS closed and the owners were related. This is the info I found on the VA store, its far but hey.

Electric Shaver Shop
5807 Leesburg Pike
Baileys Crossroads, VA 22041
703-820-2811

City Palace said...

I believe Jet Legs is a men's clothing store.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the escalator leading down to Steve and Barry's is open as well as the food court entrance. They do have some pretty good stuff especially the funny slogan t-shirts.

b said...

Jet Legs? Like when Joe Namath (of the New York Jets) shaved his legs?

Niko said...

Here is the information i found from the Petrie Ross website. I tried using the contact form on there website but no one responded. I haven't tried e-mailing or calling the leasing person.

Leasing Contact Information:
Dennis Galanis, Petrie Ross Ventures, 410.573.3800, dg@petrieross.com

WashingtonGardener said...

There is a new upscale woman's clothes boutique - Metamorphasis - where the upscale interior decor place was by Strosniders.
And for upscale men's and women's hip designer threads check out the store on Georgia Ave between Plaza Art and the old fire dept. Independent, cool and yes, a bit pricey. But there window display alone brings me pleasure every time I pass.
Amen to Anon. on the G St Fabrics or at least a Joann's -- something!
What does Old Navy have that both American Apparel Ans Steve&Barry don't offer -- and do better?
We DO need some kind of place for basics - Target, Macy's, or BB&B - very hard to find a set of sheets, pack of socks, stock pot, etc. in downtown SS.

DC guy said...

Barely a month after the post about the Electric Shaver Shop in Falls Church, it too has closed.

The store is empty, there's no forwarding phone number, and even the website is down (as if they couldn't even make a go of online retail?)

What's happened to all the mom-and-pop stores? Is there no retail expertise left in the DC area?

MMKODC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MMKODC said...

As everyone else points out, it's clear that Silver Spring needs more stores that meet the needs of its community. But, while not a general store providing wares to fill in all the missing gaps in DTSS (though that is what I had originally planned and is the reason why I can’t resist carrying toys and knitting supplies), that Marimekko on the corner fits the community well and will complement the retailers that finally cater to those that are young-at-heart but not so young. Marimekko has come to mean many things to many people over its 57 year history. While its price-point is obviously more Banana Republic or Nordstrom than the other stores in the Downtown Silver Spring area, as the local owner, I can say that the location was selected over the "more obvious" choices (yes, Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Georgetown). The store - and the concept behind it and community events it sponsors and will grow - speaks to the philosophy of the company - Marimekko stores are found at the crossroads of communities the world over. It's a really hard brand to pigeonhole. Our customers (brick & mortar and web) come to the brand because they know that the company has not strayed from its roots. Those roots? To find and groom artists and to print the artists' work on cloth and products. They have what no other retailer -- maybe with the exception of Coach -- has: an authentic story built on the heels of World War II and a company identity that has shown the ability to weather the test of time. It's a multi-generational brand - but, unfortunately, the generation that's newest to the brand (hence its recent one-time affiliation with H&M) is the twenty and early thirty-somethings. I work diligently with Marimekko corporate to identify more accessibly priced accessories and other items. What makes it tricky (if anyone cares) is that their products are still produced in Europe. I encourage folks to take a walk through a company that grew through extremely non-conformist beginnings - www.marimekko.com. As for me, I'll continue enjoy being in the community that I expressly chose. If anyone is interested in finding out more about the store and how we view who we are in the context of the community, come on by the store and ask for me (Marni) or visit our marimekkowashingtondc.com site and drop me an email. We’re a friendly bunch – and if I could stock a men’s store-within-a-store – and I’ve been asked – I would. I just can’t do it this year.

Tim McDaniel, tmcd@panix.com said...

I've been searching for electric razor information on the Web and hit this page. The Washington Post shows that Electric Shaver Shops Virginia Inc filed for bankruptcy, Chapter 7 liquidation, on 29 October 2008. I had had hopes for the store in Silver Spring ... sigh For buying replacement parts, I guess it's the march of the Internet.

cd.gamexchange said...

Thanks for including The CD/Game Exchange in your short list. We have been going thru some changes over the last couple of years.....but we are still family owned and operated.....and still hanging on in this coporate climate. Come in and say Hi sometime,
Sam

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