WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- This year Lower Georgia Avenue has a little extra sparkle for the holiday season. Recognizing that DC's small retailers and restaurants face declining sales as the temperature drops, the Lower Georgia Ave Main Street (LGAMS) managed by local nonprofit District Bridges worked with small business owners to bring attention to their stores with LGAMS Holiday Lights. Nearly 60 businesses created beautiful displays that reminded residents that these neighborhood shops are attractive alternatives to online commerce, food deliveries, and suburban malls.
From 12/1-12/11, community judges and residents cast votes for their favorite displays. Winners included both legacy businesses and newcomers:
- Overall Best in Show: Fish in the Neighborhood
- People's Choice: Here's the Scoop
- Most Georgia Avenue: Spruill's Bluebird Barbershop
- Most DC: Smitty's Bar
- Best Use of Merchandise: Second Story Boutique
- Best Window Display: Willow
- Most Creative Use of Lights: Tsehay Ethiopian Restaurant and Salt & Pepper Grill
- Most Colorful Display: GA Ave Business Solutions
- Best Indoor/Outdoor Display: Taqueria del Barrio
But will the decor be enough to make a difference to small businesses' bottom lines? DC's brick and mortar establishments have not escaped national trends creating what analysts have called a "retail apocalypse." Facing challenges from Internet commerce and changing consumer preferences, small businesses are especially vulnerable. They do not have the economies of scale to take advantage of bulk purchasing or large margins to absorb regional variation in fixed costs. Additionally, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition's recent study ranked DC as America's most gentrified city, and commercial property owners are shifting property tax burden increases to tenants. In DC, the most vulnerable are those that have been here the longest and have served communities in times of economic hardship but are now finding revenue increases unable to keep pace with rising land costs.
"There are very few protections offered to commercial tenants against displacement from escalating rents," says Jennifer Kuiper, LGAMS Neighborhood Director. Yet the presence of community-serving businesses shapes the character, culture, and availability of needed goods and services that make DC's neighborhoods not only attractive but also inclusive.
"We see ourselves as an integral part of the community…where everyone can come, share ideas and then go out and execute on those ideas," shares Pablo Sierra, owner of Walls of Books in Park View. "It's imperative that we maintain and always build on our relationships in the community—to know the needs and how we can help fill those needs."
To try to stabilize small businesses, LGAMS is exploring models for building ownership for businesses. However, ownership does not adequately protect businesses from tax burdens that are increasing faster than revenues. The DC Council's Committee on Business and Economic Development is also working on policy solutions.
"In the meantime," urges Kuiper, "Next time you're in need of a dress, haircut, coffee, or gift, think local first and help keep our community filled with the amazing businesses that help make it such a unique place to live."
Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street Holiday Lights is organized by District Bridges' Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street program. To learn more, visit www.LGAHolidayLights.org.
SOURCE District Bridges' Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street