By Matthew Koehler
On Dec. 1, at 5 p.m., a day after Small Business Saturday, District Hardware and Bike permanently shuttered its doors to business.
In a statement released on their website, the owners stated, “Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out the way we thought or planned, and we are unable to continue operating.”
On various social media outlets, Southwest residents expressed their disappointment at the closure of the neighborhood’s best known and only hardware store and bike shop (and Café, which I frequented several times a month):
Mary E. – I’m so sorry to see you all go. When the store opened two years ago it completely changed my life. Southwest DC had not had a hardware store for decades… you truly provided a much needed service and community gathering spot for everyone in our neighborhood.
Kristian K. – 6 years ago, you lent my brother and I bicycles when our bikes were stolen right before the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk was to start. You helped make a terrible situation disappear for the weekend and showed us, and many others, the kindness that does exist in this world. We are so sorry to hear the news of the store closing. I hope you all know what a difference you made in our world and the 3-Day Walk community. The news of what you did went viral in our pink world and pink family showed you how much it meant to us and them. We wish all the best for everyone.
Mel M. – Such incredibly sad news!!! First DC Row, and now one of the last places that actually gave The Wharf that true neighborhood feel. You all did our neighborhood a real service. Thank you for the great cups of coffee, cold beers, potting soil to bring our balcony to life, light bulbs, keys, numerous bike necessities and welcoming faces. You will truly be missed dearly!!!
While disheartened by the closure some residents wondered if there wasn’t something that could be done about it and offered suggestions moving forward:
Bob C. – My suggestion is ANC and other groups that can influence such things push for future 4th St SW development to include community-serving retail like this. More in the center of residential SW and with a supermarket, Subway, and All About Burger, more affordable options for most of us. We can’t expect the Wharf to be something it isn’t nor to draw customers that find it inconvenient.
Following a few threads I found online, I discovered lots of Southwesters had emailed PN Hoffman, the developers who own and manage the property, to see if something could be done to save District Hardware, but there were no promising responses.
I contacted Monty Hoffman to see if there were any efforts being made to save the hardware store and this is the response I received from their press office:
Like others in the Southwest community, we are saddened by the Conway Family’s decision to close District Hardware & Bike Shop and Velo Café. The Wharf is founded on the principle of supporting locally-owned and operated businesses and continues to be fully committed to supporting all its retailers.
Several of the community members I talked to blamed high rent at The Wharf as being a possible culprit, and pointed to other locally owned business being pushed out due to not making rent.
Another problem might have been that with the high percentage of rentals, not housing people can own, especially down at The Wharf, people don’t need materials and tools for DIY home projects. That sort of work would get contracted out to contractors, who wouldn’t use a neighborhood hardware store for materials. Perhaps, one Nextdoor commenter suggested, a different location would’ve served the neighborhood better:
Pat R. – This is sad news. Wonder if they could leave the Wharf and move to 4th Street? It would certainly feel more like a community hardware store. The visitors to the Wharf certainly don’t need a hardware store or maybe not a grocery store. But our community away from the Wharf sure does; it adds to our grocery store, library, and less costly places that every neighborhood needs. Sorry to see it close.
The Southwester reached out to District Hardware and Bike for comment but did not get a reply.
District Hardware and Bike was opened in Foggy Bottom in 1971 by Neil Conway. With their closure at The Wharf, they close out almost 50 years of serving the DC community and making good memories with their patrons.