Updated: March 3, 2015 at 7:52 p.m.
The mourning period for the iconic Cone E. Island is coming to an end as 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. heralds in a new era of late-night desserts with a brick-and-mortar Captain Cookie and the Milkman.
Students who think the wait for this new campus shop has seemed never ending are not alone. After what owner Kirk Francis called a frustrating and taxing process that began in March, Captain Cookie plans to open as soon as it sets up tables and chairs on its second floor this week.
When the Opeus Group, the construction company hired for the job, ripped out the remnants of Cone E. Island, Francis said he realized the storefront would take more extensive repair work than he expected. Cone E. Island, which had occupied the space for 27 years, closed last spring because of shrinking profits and growing debt.
The sinks were outdated, the wiring was not up to code and the safe in the storage closet was covered with rust, Francis said. Workers later discovered that the pipes were clogged by two decades of ice cream residue, which forced construction to stop for three weeks.
“We’ve had four or five plumbers come in and say they won’t [fix] it because they’re afraid that when they blow out the pipe it might rupture someplace where it’s leaking already and then they’ll be liable. We’re trying to find a less cautious plumber to take on the job,” Francis said in October.
The problems were made worse by the age of the building itself, with the original foundation dating back to 1896. While blowing out a pipe is an easy task for a plumber, Francis said, with such poorly maintained plumbing, any routine job could cause unforeseen complications. But the pipe was successfully blown out in mid-October, allowing renovations to move forward.
Any work done to the building’s historical facade, such as installing the vinyl figure of Captain Cookie on the outer brick wall, needed approval. But Francis said recognizable details like the sign were important to a smooth transition from truck to storefront.
During a break in construction, Francis submitted samples for paint, tiles and countertops. When he learned that installing wallpaper in the store would cost about $10,000, he decided to decorate the walls himself.
“The goal is to have people feel kind of like they’re standing inside a comic book when they’re in there,” Francis said in October. “To that end, the walls are going to be a dot matrix, probably like a light blue on a darker blue.”
Inside, the tables and counters fold down and the chairs stack to allow for more space – part of Francis’ plan to turn the store into GW’s new “campus hub.” In addition to baking cookies, the store will serve milkshakes and home-brewed sodas, make late-night deliveries and brew coffee, supplied by Francis’ friends who own Sidamo Coffee and Tea on H Street in Northeast D.C.
His mother, Sheryl Moon, flew from Florida to D.C. to help him put the finishing touches on the store. She said she used to buy houses, renovate them and sell them for a profit, a process called house flipping.
“He used to help me, so I knew he had an entrepreneur’s spirit, too,” she said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the name of the construction company. It is the Opeus Group, not The Opus Group. We regret this error.