Sunday, December 31, 2006

What's In the Market?

Many things. Here is a bit of information (this is a reworking of a post that originally appeared in the blog Frozen Tropics). This is really just a slightly reworked (and shortened) version of the handout from the market tour. *Except as noted, all photos by Elise Bernard. Text by Elise Bernard and Richard Layman

About the Market
The Capital City Market, also known as the Florida Market, (and once known as the Union Market) is DC's own wholesale food district. One of the things that makes this area unique is is its almost
exclusive dedication to the business of selling goods wholesale for restaurants & small food stores.Many of the buildings in the market were constructed in the 1920s, but they were not always part of the market.

Originally the area was used by Sidney Hechinger for his building deconstruction and materials sales business. When the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Interurban railroad closed in the late 1920s, Hechinger moved his business to that location (which is home to Hechinger Mall today). 1931 brought the demolition of the Central Market (a photo of the Central Market can be seen here courtesy of Victorian Secrets) to clean space for the National Archives. For a time food marketing activities were also centered around 5th and K Streets NW, in a public market and other buildings (images also available at the link above). Of course, the rise of supermarkets also impacted the distribution of food at the retail level.

Some parts of the market are more recent construction (such those as the portion housing MS3000 [formerly Kang's Farm] & Sam Wang's, which was built in 1986 under the Barry administration). Many of these establishments are family owned & primarily serve small businesses in the city, although the convenience and critical mass of businesses attracts people from Virginia and Maryland as well. As the ethnic make up of the city has shifted over the decades, so has the store ownership changed (though this is not necessarily the case for landownership), where Greeks, Jewish, and Italians once dominated, Koreans, Latinos, Africans, and African-Americans now constitute the majority of the vendors and shop owners.

Though DC once had other market areas like this one, few are in existence today. Eastern Market is one of the few survivors. Sadly, Eastern Market recently suffered a tragic fire and some of its vendors have been temporarily displaced. Many people do not know that there was a plan calling for the demolition of Eastern Market in the 1960s. Thankfully, the neighborhood rallied around Eastern Market and it survived as the shopping destination many of us know and love today. We hope that the Capital City Market will also survive for future generations.

---the following section is somewhat in flux, so an update appears immediately below---

The construction of the New York Avenue metro station, contributed to a massive increase in developer interest in the surrounding area, and many people have begun to raise questions about the Market's future. One proposal, New Town at the Capital City Market, has garnered the most attention. This is due in no small part to the fact that John Ray is acting as its spokesman and former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange was a strong supporter (see, among other stories the Washington Post story A Developer Peddles A New Vision for An Old Market, DC North’s Is New Town the End of the Florida Market?, and the Examiner’s There’s a Stench at the Florida Avenue Market).

New Town is the brainchild of Sang Oh Choi of Sang Oh Development, LLC, who owns some land (and a business) in the market. His vision for the area involves a significant changes in the predominate use and character of the area. It calls for a complete redevelopment that would include the addition of housing (not allowed under the Market's current commercial / light industrial zoning) office buildings, a YMCA, an amphitheater, and various other things (a movie theater and a bowling alley have also been mentioned). Sang Oh Choi has stated that he does not wish to displace the existing vendors, but rather to incorporate the market into his overall plan. Two other members of Mr. Choi's family also own significant sections of the market, but they are not proponents of the New Town plan.

In total, there are nearly 70 individual landowners in the Market and a provision recently inserted into the New Town Bill (which goes before the Council again in May) requires the developers to obtain consent from owners of 51% of the land before they can use eminent domain to seize all of the land in the Market.

Among other things, we are concerned that this plan would likely result in the ultimate death of the market because (1) the new construction would lead to higher rents, and (2) it can be difficult to successfully integrate housing into an industrial setting like this (many of the businesses start up around 2-3am).

Other visions for the area have focused on highlighting the existing market & creating development that builds on the unique strengths off the area (the introduction of restaurants & a small culinary school). Recently one of the older buildings here, the U.S. Beef building (located at 4th & Morse), was demolished (pursuant to a request for proposals -"RFP" issued a few years back). My Choi plans to erect an 11 story mixed-use building on the site. Read about the building, the Gateway Market and Residences, here:


It is now unclear exactly what will happen to the Market. The New Town camp got backing from Apollo Real Estate Advisors. This was big news, but they haven't managed to get the requisite amount of land. Some parties have expressed the opinion that the New Town legislation is now completely dead. Another developer, J Street Developers, has purchased a significant amount of land in and around the market and they want to play some sort or role here. Interestingly J Street purchased the DC Farmers Market building from Sang Oh Choi's brother, who was an outspoken critic of the New Town plan. The Office of Planning small area plan appears to be somewhat delayed. I've heard the delay stems from a funding problem. Meanwhile, another large landowner, Gallaudet University, is meeting with developers, but not exhibiting a real interest in selling its land. Instead, it appears that Gallaudet may wish to develop its own parcels. Mr. Choi's building on the US Beef parcel is on hold until the small area plan is completed. Change is coming to the Market, but what form that change will take is still unclear.

Stops on the Tour

One of the big things in urban design is called “legibility” or understanding what you see. The Florida Market isn’t as legible as a typical shopping center. So it helps to have an introduction. Most places don’t have prices marked, but the prices tend to be pretty good. Just like at a grocery store, if you are buying produce, each type goes into a separate bag. Some of the places, like Sam Wang’s, have separate counters for retail and wholesale sales. Many places are wholesale only and we don’t include them on the tour. Cash is preferred although some places take credit cards.Restrooms are available in the DC Farmers Market building * -- but not elsewhere. Some of the stores like Sam Wang’s or MS3000 open in the very early hours of the day (say 4 a.m. or earlier) and close by 4 pm in the afternoon. Others don’t open that early but still aren’t open much later than that. It’s better to buy fresh foods earlier in the week, because they tend to not get new shipments later in the week. And Saturday is an easy day to go there, but the lines can be long.GO EARLY.

This is a large market. We've tried to assemble a short list of place that sell to the public and are likely to appeal to retail customers. After you have visited the places below you'll have a good grounding in the area and be ready to explore a bit more on your own.
K-Young's Deli & Carryout (formerly Young's Deli)
325 Morse St. NE 202-543-1417 M-Sat 5:30am-4pm
Korean, Salvadorian, & America food

Obeng International
300 block of Morse St. NE 202-544-8255 M-Sat 7am-4pm
West African food galore. Here you can purchase a variety of spices and staples, or you might prefer to visit the butcher counter, where meats are custom cut.

Premium Seafood
300 Morse St. NE, Suite R 202-543-8881 M-Sat
Asian foods, fish and seafood

Sam Wang's
300 block of Morse St. NE 202-544-5163 M-Sat 6am-3pm
A market selling a variety of fresh vegetables & fruits (including many more "exotic" items).

Don Pepe’s Cash and Carry
300 Morse Street NE, 202-544-2633 M-Saturday
Latin American butcher shop and canned goods, spices and hot sauces.

U.S. Beef
300 block of Morse St. NE 202-543-8320 M-Sat-6am-4pm
A variety of unusual cuts of meat are available. Also sells chicken, fish & pickled vegetables. The meat room is particularly interesting and they have a massive room for butchering.

MS3000 (formerly Kang's Farm)
350 Morse St. NE 202-546-1911 M-Sat 5:30am-4pm
The closest the market comes to a general grocery store. Kang's offers a variety of fruits & vegetables, but you can also get small or large quantities of spices or staples such as brown rice. Kang's also boasts the fish room which offers a variety of seafood, including live crab. Unfortunately, because most of the market is not open on Sundays, Kang's does not get fresh shipments of fish on Saturdays. Customers seeking to purchase fish/seafood are advised to do so earlier in the week, rather than on a Saturday.

Eastern Supply
1250 4th Street NE (enter off Morse Street) M-Sat
Kitchen, catering and restaurant supplies

La Villa Distributors
1265 4th Street NE 202-543-9677 M-Sat
Mexican-Hispanic Foods

Eastern Seafood
407 Morse St. NE. 202-543-5600
A good source for winter (cabbage) kimchee and noodles.

Best Equipment
413 Morse St NE. 202-544-2525 M-F 8:30-4pm Sat 8:30-3:30
Anything and everything for the commercial kitchen (& at prices you won't believe)

Caribbean Crescent
1280 5th Street NE 202-547-3101 M-F 6:30-4:30 Sat 7am-5pm (open for retail 3 days a week, I believe they are Mon, Wed [maybe] and Sat)
Despite the name this place sells mostly Indian & Middle Eastern foods. You can find a variety of lentils, curries, and some flat bread to go with them. They do Halal butchering.

Photo by Ken Firestone (all rights reserved)
Mexican Fruit
1309 5th Street NE 202-431-1644 M-Sat 6am-5pm
An outdoor fruit stand. Bins of fruits & vegetables await you outside this storefront. In the spring and summer they may also sell live plants.

Far East Noodles
1325 5th Street NE (behind the DC Farmers Market building)
202-546-8033 M-Sat 7 am – 4 pm
Chinese noodles and pot stickers

All African
A Pan-African food selection. They butcher smoked goat on the premises.

DC Farmers Market
T-TH 7am-5:30pm, F & Sat 7am-6:30pm, Sun 7am-2pm
An indoor market packed with vendors selling mostly food, but there are a few who deal in sunglasses, cds, or other goods. The various vendors offer all kinds of meats, fowl, fish & fruits & vegetables. The meat selections extend far beyond what you'll find at Safeway of Giant, and you will not find grocery store prices here.

Friends at the Market(flea market)
Featuring its own dj, this market offers all the fun of a typical swap meet. You never know what you'll find. A variety of old tools (both electric & manual) can be found here.

Photo by Ken Firestone, all rights reserved
519 Morse St. NE, 202-544-0184 Tues–Sat
Everything Italian is at your disposal. An excellent deli counter completes this little shop that holds much more than you would believe from the outside. Wines, cheeses, sausages, pastas &; more are on offer. Litteri's also makes some of the best sandwiches in town. Pre-packaged (but fresh) sandwiches are available by the register, or get it made to order at the deli counter.

Please also check out Josh William's small, but still rockin' interactive siteabout the Market.


Blogger Scenic Artisan said...

good god that a lot of info!
thanks for putting this all together.

happy new year!

1/01/2007 8:01 AM  
Blogger inked said...

Thanks, it's still a work in progress.

1/18/2007 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who just moved to the area, thanks so much!!! I'd seen this mentioned but didn't know the hours. All that fresh produce at my disposal is really exciting.

1/19/2007 10:27 AM  
Blogger inked said...

glad to hear you are excited about the Market. It really does have a great deal to offer. It can just be a bit intimidating at first.

1/21/2007 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone said there is a flower shop/market stand? Is that still the case?

1/23/2007 7:34 AM  
Blogger inked said...

I'm not aware of one. But there might be someone who sells seasonally.

1/23/2007 7:51 AM  
Anonymous that's what i said...

wow. it's so cool to have all this documented!

it'll be nice to have around after the market is gone.

thanks inked!

5/25/2007 4:10 PM  
Anonymous hey man, that's what i said...

Yes, it will be a pretty neat historical archive. I can't wait to see what amenities we'll get once the old stuff is finally gone.

5/25/2007 4:11 PM  
Blogger inked said...

Reponding to the question above about a flowershop/market stand, I think that must be Mexican fruit (which sells year round). In warmer months they do sell some plants, but mostly things like, herbs, squash, & peppers.I've never seen them sell flowers.

For the last two commenters, all of the existing proposals for the Market call for keeping the existing vendors (whether that will actually happen is more of a question). I still don't think they have the votes for New Town.

5/27/2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger cokinosgirl said...

Thanks for the amazing history and truly useful guide. I was just over there a lot- doing a writing project on my family which settled near there in the early 1900s here's the link.

5/27/2007 9:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Does the market work on sundays???

10/18/2015 9:05 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Does anyone know the new location the gentleman who use to have the hat store in the front part of the 4th street market? The name of his store was "The Hat Man"

12/24/2015 6:32 AM  
Blogger inked said...

Sorry, I have no idea.

Unknown at 9:05,
That depends on the store, but most of the wholesale market is closed on Sundays. Union Market, Mexican Fruits, and some stuff is open on Sundays.

12/24/2015 8:25 AM  

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