Georgetown bakery closing after 27 years

Photo by Bill Petros/The Current
Furin's of Georgetown, a bakery, catering company and cafe, will close July 31.
Furin's of Georgetown, a bakery, catering company and cafe, will close July 31.

By Jackie Zubrzycki

Current Correspondent

 

Furin’s of Georgetown, an M Street staple for 27 years, will close its doors on July 31.

combination catering company, bakery and cafe is truly a family affair: Owner Bernie Furin, his wife Wendy and his son Chris are daily fixtures in the kitchen and behind the counter, having purchased the building at 2805 M St. seven years ago.

But rising food prices and property taxes and a general decline in catering business have combined to make staying afloat untenable, said Chris Furin, who has worked at Furin’s since he was 13. “Food costs have gone up 30 percent over the past year. … None of our other costs were going down, but we’ve had a difficult time raising our prices,” he said.

He added that the lack of a liquor license made it more difficult to make ends meet. “We tried to keep it going as long as we could. … That’s why you’ll see a lot of big businesses coming [to Georgetown that] can afford the cost of doing business,” he said.

The building has been acquired by Foxhall Partners, which also owns the building that houses Hook and a number other Georgetown properties. Foxhall did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The sale took place privately, according to a real estate agent for Furin’s, and the business will remain open through July.

But as the end approaches and word gets out, the community is beginning to mourn the loss of yet another small business.

The restaurant’s reputation and proximity to the Four Seasons means it has seen its share of celebrity visitors. Madeleine Albright, George Will, Chris Malone, Karl Rove, George Soros, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Ted Danson and Angela Lansbury are just a few of the notables who have breakfasted or lunched at Furin’s.

Local families and businesspeople have also made Furin’s a popular breakfast spot and bakery.

Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, spoke of children who enjoyed Furin’s cakes for every birthday, of weddings and graduations catered by Furin’s, and of another Georgetown resident who would particularly miss the place: Tom Birch “eats there every single day,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s going to do without it!”

Birch, a Georgetown advisory neighborhood commissioner, spoke about the family’s warmth. “Bernie is so devoted to customer service. He, Wendy and Chris feel like part of the community and make us feel like part of Furin’s.”

Realtor Nancy Itteilag, who worked with the Furin family to sell the building, says a generation of Georgetown kids grew up on Furin’s cookies and cakes. “When I told my daughter, she said, ‘They can’t sell Furin’s! You have to buy it!’”

Not all aspects of the business have declined. The new batch of cupcakeries in Georgetown, for instance, didn’t hurt Furin’s; in fact, Chris Furin said, it helped. “People walking from Metro see a sign saying cupcakes and come in. We probably make 200 cupcakes a day. We used to make about 30.”

Furin’s also took advantage of new online coupon sites like LivingSocial and Groupon, but Furin said such services offer limited benefit to businesses with small profit margins, as all products need to be discounted by at least 50 percent. “We got a lot of business, but you see them one time and that’s it.”

Itteilag noted that the closing was part of a “quiet problem”: “Small-business owners who are reaching the age of retirement, anyway, are spurred on to retire by the expense of doing business. It’s driving them out.”

Altemus also commented on the departure of locally owned, independent retailers from Georgetown, citing the recent loss of Proper Topper gift and clothing store and others. “If we lose more small businesses and restaurants, Georgetown won’t be any different than Tysons Corner. If the big businesses are the only businesses that can make it, it loses some of the historic charm.”

Itteilag and the Georgetown Business Association are organizing an event in mid-August to celebrate Bernie Furin’s contributions to the community. Chris Furin will continue to make cakes through a separate business venture called Cakes by Chris Furin, which he said will probably be based in Rockville.

Chris expressed sadness about leaving Georgetown, saying that Furin’s “prided [itself] on providing good food at an affordable price for Georgetown customers. We’re going to miss everybody.”

 

This article appears in the July 6 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

0 Comments For This Article

Edith Schafer

Loosing Furin's is to me a huge loss. It has been a pleasant friendly old fashioned constant in a trendy increasingly homogenized world. I loved to go there. Edith Schafer

The Heimbold Family

To The Furin Family:

You have nourished our family for 27 years and we thank you. We arrived in Georgetown just when you were starting your business. Every day we enjoyed your elegantly displayed windows with smiles on our faces and, of course, looked forward to the good food. Maay times Furin's was our meeting place for breakfast and lunch. Spur of the moment delicious take-out and "oh" those fabulous baked goods were our other constants. Now we will mourn the loss of another vital small business in Georgetown. We will miss Furin's always and wish the Furin family great good luck with the next chapter of your lives.

Best wishes,
The Heimbold Family

Nancy Flinn

Furin's has been a lifeline for me. During months and years of illness, there would be a knock on my door, and Wendy, Georg or someone from Furin's would bring a bag of food for me. This was their gift many times. I hail from small town Vermont where care and support might be expected. Furin's concern and love of their customers exceed all my experience. They will be so missed, not just for the wonderful breakfasts - pancakes (like crepes), lunches - great burgers, cakes and cookies but especially for the care and love. This cannot be replicated.

Anonymous

Furin's has been a particularly strong supporter of community organizations in Georgetown. Friends of Rose Park, Inc., for one, benefited from the generousity of the Furin family. Thank you and we will miss you in the neighborhood. Pam Moore

william

Another great loss,realtors take note!!! We are looking to buy a new home we are starting to rethink Georgetown. Why pay those prices when it more and more could be anywhere in america!! Another lose of the charm that makes the neighborhood worth the extra cash! SAD,SAD,SAD!!!

Joan Kennan

Why is it that all the GOOD, desirable stores in Georgetown are the ones to depart? The ho-hum chains and shoe/clothing stores seem to remain and banks proliforate. I love doing all my clothing/gift shopping in Georgetown but it is getting harded and harded to do so.

Anonymous

Furin's was a special place to those of us who were there when it started and were very happy to see a small business cater with lunchs (and breakfast) affordable to all. A place where everyone who was a regular was greeted with a smile and a "how are you"? I retired three years ago from a local law firm, but tried to visit every few months. The establishment will be truly missed. However, best wishes to Bernie and Wendy on their retirement and to Chris with his cake business. I will always cherish my memories of your great salads and sandwiches and be grateful for the "small town business and pleasures" enjoyed for over 25 years.

Rochelle

Dear Furin Family,

My heart breaks all the way in San Francisco with the news that your fine restaurant is closing. I am no celebrity diner or notable visitor. I'm just a GWU alumni who was comforted and delighted by Furin's food and staff when I lived in DC over a decade ago. This little restaurant was a powerhouse of reliably delicious and fresh food. My friends and I considered Furin's to have the absolute best brunch (with a carrot cake cupcake to go!).

Most notably, Furin's was often a surrogate for mom's kitchen when I was a homesick student or a stressed young professional. Over their blue-and-white tablecloths we discussed career plans, financial woes, love sicknesses... My best friends and I even chose Furin's to cater our graduation brunch. It only seemed appropriate to have their salads and sandwiches right there on that important day like another member of our family.

Thank you Furin family for many lovely meals, memories, and comforts! All the best to you.

anonymous

Dear Furin Family, are you absolutely certain you can't raise your prices 30% across the board to be able to stay in business? Where I am, I'm paying $2.75 for a Danish pastry that is less than half the size of the old-time Danish. Also, here in Bar Harbor, sandwiches- to- go cost anywhere from $7 to $15. The Georgetown area should be able to do just as well. Rent is high here, too, and most businesses have to make their money during the tourist season. Where do you come out on these two thoughts?

anonymous

Dear Furin Family, are you absolutely certain you can't raise your prices 30% across the board to be able to stay in business? Where I am, I'm paying $2.75 for a Danish pastry that is less than half the size of the old-time Danish. Also, here in Bar Harbor, sandwiches- to- go cost anywhere from $7 to $15. The Georgetown area should be able to do just as well. Rent is high here, too, and most businesses have to make their money during the tourist season. Where do you come out on these two thoughts?