Photo by The Georgetown Dish
Judy Schlosser, founder of P Street Pictures, which has served Georgetown for 28 years
Judy Schlosser, founder of P Street Pictures, which has served Georgetown for 28 years

She has survived prolonged recessions, floods and blizzards, crime waves, upturns and downturns. She has kept the doors of her neighborhood-oriented business open on P Street for 28 years in Georgetown, supporting two co-workers for 25 years. She has "framed," as she calls it, many if not most houses in Georgetown.

Judy Schlosser at the framing table in the basement under the store (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Judy Schlosser at the framing table in the basement under the store
But now, Judy Schlosser, founder of this simple but beloved frame shop, who never needed a bank loan and never missed a monthly rent payment, is about to lose her business over a broken air conditioner.

It's a sunny, hot day and a neighbor brings in his two dogs to get out of the sun. "Come right over here! We have treats for you," she says, patting the animals gently. She is shaken, but putting on a cheerful smile.

"I can't believe it," the neighbor says. "I feel sick to my stomach."

The phone is ringing. Neighbors and customers are upset.  They are incredulous.

When the air conditioner at P Street Pictures went on the blink in June, Schlosser called her landlord of 25 years, Bob Enzel, and told him of the problem. When technicians determined that a new unit was necessary and would cost $5,000, Enzel discouraged Schlosser from making the investment without signing a long-term lease. She had been month-to-month for 25 years.   

Schlosser agreed with the logic and paid an annual rent increase that month, bringing her rent to $3000 for 600 square feet of first-floor space and a basement of the same size.
 
Enzel wrote Schlosser a letter saying, "You have been a good tenant, and we want to help."

But "help" in this case came in the form of a second letter in July, Schlosser says, in which Enzel said he couldn't offer a lease because another party was interested in the space and "I want to explore my options," Schlosser said. A notice to vacate followed shortly thereafter, giving the 28-year-old business eight weeks to get out.  

"I didn't do anything wrong," Schlosser says, her voice rising. "I've just been plugging along, keeping going, making payroll." The landlord has not spoken with her in weeks, now communicating in legal-sounding letters.

Enzel didn't return a call from The Georgetown Dish seeking comment.

The Washington Post's John Yang featured P Street Pictures on the front page of the Business Section in 1998 (Photo by: Epson GT-1500) The Washington Post's John Yang featured P Street Pictures on the front page of the Business Section in 1998
Over the years, P Street Pictures went through busy periods and slow times, but meanwhile built one of the finest reputations in one of the most competitive markets in Washington, having framed photos and artwork for presidents, judges and journalists -- the full range of Georgetown VIPs and beyond.

"I got a call once from the DNC. They needed something framed for the next day. It was going on Air Force One. The woman said, 'It's for the big guy,'" meaning President Bill Clinton, Schlosser giggles, remembering the adventure. "There were two framed pieces -- one for Al Gore. Lapel pins from all 50 states. They sent me a picture of Clinton holding it."

There have been Senators and Congressmen. "We even framed pictures for the guy who headed the IMF," she whispers, referring to Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The big names of Georgetown -- Woodward, Walsh, Dowd, Kelley, Joynt, Kassebaum and Baker -- came to this store. "Stephanie Cutter got my son a job with Sen. Kerry!" she adds, looking hopeful again.
 
Schlosser started the business after working as an accountant for 10 years. Desperate for a change, she apprenticed herself to two framers and bought a mat cutter and a vise. She got a loan from her parents and used all her savings -- $10,000 --  to rent a tiny space a few doors down on P Street, where her business was born. Somewhere along the way she raised two boys and hired Drena Anderson and Susan Barreca, who have each stayed on for 25 years.

But that history seems to carry little significance with her landlord, whose latest letter says she will be "required to surrender the premises October 31." Enzel won't say who the new tenant is. Upstairs in the same building, he rents out three one-bedroom apartments in addition to the frame shop.

"I've been framing everything with Judy over the years," says portrait photographer Matt Mendelsohn, who has been coming to the store since the 1990s, even after moving to Alexandria years ago. "You do business with someone you know, because they do a good job, they do an expert job. You do business with people. That this landlord could be this out of touch with his humanity, it's unbelievable. You shouldn't do this to people in this economy," he says.

Schlosser is scrambling to find another space, but if the notice to vacate holds, she will have to stop taking orders September 15, have a fire sale of all her prints and frames, and miss a holiday season that could help the business survive until finding a new location.

Schlosser turns 60 on Sunday. For the first time in her life, her husband bought her a bracelet, she says, a nice piece of jewelry. Between answering calls from worried neighbors to offering customers' dogs a biscuit, Schlosser twists the delicate chain with her fingers.  

"Thanks for coming by," she says, walking a customer out of the store as Anderson and Barreca look on with watchful eyes.

"It's awful," says Mendelsohn. "To think that this could happen. It totally bums me out."

P Street Pictures is at 2621 P St. NW, tel. (202) 337-0066.
 

0 Comments For This Article

Katherine

Enzel recently kicked out another beloved tenant from one of his tiny basement apartments after three years of paying rents on time. Why? She complained about his double-dipping another tenant by charging her extra for rent/computers when he was getting the same from a new tenant. This guy is MEAN with a capitol "M!"

Anonymous

This is a shame! The landlord should reconsider his actions and help keep a long-standing DC business in tact and at it's same location. After 28 years, why the greed now?

Liz Murphy

If Judy Schlosser agreed with Mr. Enzel's logic that she should sign a long-term lease, why is he now giving her such grief? She and her business are one of Georgetown's greatest assets. She deserves better treatment.

yvette hausner

A tenant in good standing for 28 years and willing to sign a long-term lease and yet her history and integrity are dismissed as if she and her customers should simply understand "it's business". Mr. Enzel's tactics are reprehensible.

Yvette

Sally Craig

P Street Pictures is not only a neighborhood treasure but a regional one. As more and more independent frame shops have closed their doors, P Street has held on, despite a two-year downturn. Their commitment to the highest quality framing and the friendliest customer service has made me a loyal customer for the past eight years. And Judy Schlosser goes way beyond what is normally thought of as typical customer service. A year ago I moved to Takoma Park and Judy came out and helped me to rehang my art and photos (not all of which she had even framed)--on her day off, no less! I know she will succeed in reinventing P Street wherever she lands, but P Street will never be the same without her friendly business anchoring the corner of 27th and P Streets, NW. What a sad commentary that greed has trumped loyalty.

William Morrow

Mr. Enzel clearly cares more about the almighty dollar than the fabric of the community that has helped his properties rise in value. What a low life.

Lauren Cole

I have know Judy for at least 28 years, met her when my son was a year old. Judy has put her heart and soul into her business, she has proved herself to be a successful female business owner. To hear this news about the landlord is sickening to say the least. Whatever path this unfortunate turn of events leads Judy and P Street Pictures down I know that Judy will land on her feet with a smile on her face. The year that my son was accepted into Penn State - Judy, at the last minute, framed his acceptance letter for me to give him as a gift at Christmas time, during her busy session - she is a wonderful person with an exception talent. Pooh, Pooh to the landlord for his greed.

anonymous

Just a little alert for the landlord. Judy is a known commodity and a new tenant would not be. The landlord could be letting himself in for who knows what with a new tenant. My advice? Keep the known quantity. The old adage: Don't change a winning game--especially in this economic climate. Hey, she's establishment.

Marc Janecki

Unfortunately this Enzel is showing who he is. One only hopes he gets back what he is giving out. I'm not one to wish misfortune on anyone - would rather take the high road, but sometimes there is an exception. This guy needs to get screwed back royally. I think you should e-mail him all these comments so he knows what his neighbors think of him.
I've been doing business with Judy for 20 years and continue to use her even though I've moved my business to Palm Beach, Florida. I KNOW her character and professionalism in business. Too bad after 28years her landlord has not appreciated or learned from her. He had a good thing. I hope his next tenant screws him over and he tanks. I think his other tenants should bail on him.....before he pulls the rug out from under them also.
Let me know where you go, Judy....I'll be following you.
Marc Janecki Design.