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The State of Georgetown 2011 is good

Every January, GM walks up and down the streets of Georgetown updating his database of the stores of Georgetown. He started this two years ago by simply scribbling down on a notepad every establishment on M and Wisconsin. Last year, working from an established list GM could take the time to expand the scope a little more and make sure to get all the stores on Wisconsin and M as well as those just off. Well this year GM went whole hog. He gathered a list of every single establishment in Georgetown. From Le Petite Corner Store to Jean Pierre to Tony and Joes to Jack’s Boathouse.

And what’s the grand total? (drum role) 527. That adds exactly 100 stores over last year’s tally (that doesn’t mean there are 100 new stores, of course, it just means GM counted 100 more. Some are new, some were just off GM’s scope last year).

Here’s how those numbers break down:

Independents Vs. Chains:

GM first started surveying stores in Georgetown to get a sense of just how many stores are independent and how many are chains. The first set of numbers surprised GM. Of the establishments on Wisconsin and M, 70% were independent. Last year’s survey found almost identical results.

As of today and including all establishments, the number is a tad higher: 73%. That makes sense, since a lot of the new stores that GM captured are off of the main drag and thus more likely to be independent.

Chains represent 26% of establishments. The last percentage or so are regional chains (e.g. Five Guys).

As he’s done in the past, this year GM again took at look at how those percentages look like when one considers only stores within one block of Wisconsin and M. Not surprisingly, the chain percentage goes up. However, as in past years, they still can’t crack 50%. Right now, chains make up only 41% of establishments within one block of M and Wisconsin.

Openings and Closings:

2009 was a brutal year for Georgetown shops. GM noted 47 closings in 2009 (the BID only counted 35.) Last year GM counted 22 new stores. Thus according to GM, Georgetown suffered a net loss of about 25 stores. However, 20 of the store closings were in the mall, and almost all of the store openings were not in the mall. So most of those net losses (i.e. vacancies) were in the mall.

2010 was better for Georgetown, although not great. GM counted 43 closings in Georgetown. The mall can’t be blamed quite as much this year; it only lost 16 stores (it’s hard to have a lot of store closings when you don’t have many stores open). That means 27 non-mall stores closed in Georgetown in 2010. (Arguably you could shave off a couple of those closings and call them “store reinventions”, e.g. News Cafe->Thunder Burger or Philly Pizza->Go Fresh, but GM’s counting those as one closing and one opening).

And speaking of openings, there is some good news on that front: 30 new stores opened. That’s up 36% from last year. Unfortunately it still means that Georgetown had a net loss of 13 stores in 2010.

Independent stores took the brunt of the bad news last year. We lost 32 of them (13 in the mall, 19 non-mall). We gained 20 independent stores (8 mall, 12 non-mall), bringing the net loss to 12. Chains only had a net loss of one.

Store Variety

The store variety in Georgetown stayed about the same. Restaurants and clothing stores still dominate:


A new category that GM added to this year’s pie is the ever growing “sweets” category. We already have 12 ice cream, cupcake, or candy stores in Georgetown. That number is scheduled to tick up to 13 when Sprinkles opens. Georgetown definitely has a sweet tooth.


So as we look ahead to 2011, GM thinks we can say that the worst is behind us. Plenty of new establishments are planned to be opened this year. While they skew heavily towards chains (e.g. Brooks Brothers, All Saints, Calvin Klein, etc.) keep in mind that there would need to be 200 more chain stores before they matched the number of independent stores we have. (Although, GM should not lean too heavily on the saintly reputation of independent stores. A lot of those independent stores are those run down stores on Wisconsin between P and N).

Either way, it’s important to stop and remember once in a while: if you’re in Georgetown you’re within walking distance of over five-hundred stores, restaurants, and other establishments. No other neighborhood in the District can come even close to that sort of density.