Delayed by the snowfall that ground the District to a halt this month, Foggy Bottom Grocery still has no set opening date, but the owners say the market and deli should be up and running by the first week of March.
Though the store, which is partly owned by GW alumnus Kris Hart, was last set to open in mid-February, the snowfall delayed contractors’ work and delivery of store essentials, like the shelving units which currently line the store.
And now, it’s all being documented for a potential reality TV show. Connected by a former employee from Hart’s other business, Relaxed Tans and Spa, representatives from Nancy Glass Productions, a company that produces reality shows for channels like Home and Garden Television, have been filming the new management team with two handheld cameras to make a “sizzler reel” to pitch to networks, Hart said.
“It’s a little weird, I went to run down the National Mall and there were cameras following me,” Hart said, but added that it has been a cool experience.
And the store has had no shortage of obstacles since Hart obtained what used to be a bright purple townhouse from tenant owner Meseret Bekele last spring.
Hart and his partners have battled the community group West End Citizens Association since September 2009, when WECA Secretary Barbara Kahlow charged that the store’s proposed hours would be inappropriate for the neighborhood and that Hart would violate zoning orders by serving prepared foods.
After months of mediations and litigation, Hart won an alcohol license from the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which also approved his operating hours from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
Though the store has a few D.C. government hurdles left to clear – a Department of Health inspection and a hearing before the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment – Hart said his certificate of occupancy has been affirmed and he will be able to open the store before the BZA hearing. Hart said he expects the DOH inspection will occur this week, and the team is preparing to order non-perishable items to stock the shelves later this week.
“It’s been three years since I considered buying Foggy Bottom Grocery, it’s been a year since I actually bought it and had to go through all the government and bureaucratic things, but it’s been a really good experience for my career,” Hart said. “It was definitely something that will really teach me as I move on, and I’m very excited to open the doors.”
To gear up for the opening, Devlin Keating, co-owner and fellow GW alumnus, said he has already hired 20 student employees.
Various student groups will soon be targeted with “backstage passes,” inviting them to check out the store at a certain time, Keating said, allowing the new employees to gain experience before the store’s official grand opening.
“We’ll give a big discount and when they walk out, myself or one of my managers will be standing there and they can give us really honest feedback,” Hart said.