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Thoughts from a Georgetown Shopkeeper

Today GM is turning the mic over to another guest writer: Georgetown’s newest blogger Keith Lipert.

The Holidays are a wonderful time of the year. Our village community is at its best in so many ways. The streets look so pretty with lights and garlands. However the reality for the small shopkeepers of Georgetown is much more complicated. The past decade saw rents increase sizably and it appears that the economic turn down has not noticeably affected rents. This means the rent for retailers is a much higher proportion of sales than the past few years.

On the positive side, there are now a number of national retailers that have opened new stores here which will hopefully attract more foot traffic. The drawback is that it dilutes the independent retail look of Georgetown. Moreover, national groups do not “invest” in the local community in the same way that the independents do. The independents give disproportionately to the local charities as we tend to live and spend here.

Another very encouraging sign is the vibrant cooperation between the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG), the Georgetown Business Association (GBA), and the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID). The community’s adoption and support for the Taste of Georgetown, Fashion Night Out, and Merriment is wonderful!

One idea proposed by Anthony Lanier that is fascinating is the idea that M street be more pedestrian friendly with either much wider pavements or even changing M Street between 29th and Wisconsin Avenue to be “pedestrian only” (ed. note: GM likes this idea too!). If New York City can make Times Square pedestrian only – how wonderful if we could make our Georgetown village more pedestrian friendly for the benefit of our neighborhood (rather than the quick exit for commuters rushing out of the city). This would greatly help increase the attractiveness of shopping in Georgetown and would boost consumer traffic which has seemingly declined over the past few years. The subsequent increase of sales would also boost sales tax revenue for our city.As a general observation it seems that the strength of the communities are tied in to the health of retail. The first sign of a communities downward slide are empty storefronts. Georgetowners supporting local retail is key to a healthy overall community. We small shopkeepers, really do need our neighbors to shop local. It makes a huge difference!

On that note may I wish everyone a very happy holiday and we look forward to seeing you in our stores.

Keith Lipert is the owner of the Keith Lipert Gallery, a Georgetown store specializing in contemporary fashion jewelry and decorative art.