Washington Institutions as Listed by dcist

October 18, 2013

Writers at dcist have published their listing of “Eleven Classic Washington Stores.” Here are those that made their list:

FRAGER’S HARDWARE STORE: As the 93-year-old Frager’s burned in a devastating fire earlier this year, it was extremely apparent from the look of horror on the faces of those gathered what a D.C. institution the hardware store is. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill, there was so much more than just nails and bolts packed into the tiny aisles. When I first moved to the area several years ago, I made my first trip to Frager’s to buy orchid food. (I later killed the orchid, but that was not their fault.) It then became my go-to spot for everything from keys to my Christmas tree. Now displaced from its regular spot, Frager’s is operating as a pop-up at Eastern Market. But you better believe it will rise again from the ashes and will be around for another 100 years. — Sarah Anne Hughes

Frager’s is currently located at Eastern Market and its paint store is at 1129 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

CAPITOL HILL BOOKS: Capitol Hill Books is less like a bookstore and more like an entire row house that someone purchased solely to store their massive book collection. But that’s part of the charm that makes this Eastern Market spot a D.C. staple. Stacks of books literally line every inch of the walls. So much so that you often have to sidestep through stacks of books to avoid knocking them over. With the thousands of books littered throughout the place, it may seem impossible to navigate the shelves to find what you’re looking for, but believe it or not, there’s an order here. With prices that usually don’t exceed more than a few bucks for paperbacks, I’ve found some gems there over the years, and lost countless hours browsing the shelves. — Matt Cohen

Capitol Hill Books is located at 657 C Street SE.

SMASH! RECORDS: Here are a couple D.C. cliches for you: I bought my first LP at Smash! Records (back when it was in its original location in Georgetown); it was Fugazi’s Repeater. But I suspect I’m not the only one. Smash! Records has been a staple of the D.C. punk scene since the mid-’80s, back when harDCore was in its heyday. But unlike a lot of the counterculture from that time, Smash! has survived. It’s new digs in Adams Morgan may be a bit smaller than its original Georgetown location, but it doesn’t lack any of the charm that made it an important landmark of D.C. culture. Also, they stock some really rare shit. — Matt Cohen

Smash! Records is located at 2314 18th Street NW.

MONARCH NOVELTIES: Unless you run a carnival, arcade, or something, I can’t really think of any reason why you’d need to go to Monarch Novelties, but I’m glad it still exists. Monarch may be in the running for the longest-standing business on 14th Street. The bizarre carnival supply shop has been around since at least the mid-’60s and has survived, mostly unscathed, through decades of change and gentrification. A few years back, Washington City Paper published a fascinating profile of the Robinson family, who own the store and the apartment above it. If you’ve walked by Monarch Novelties hundreds of times and have never gone in, just do it. — Matt Cohen

Monarch Novelties is located at 1331 14th Street NW.

BIG PLANET COMICS: The original Big Planet Comics may have opened in Bethesda (where its current location is a mere two blocks from its original), but it has since grown to have locations throughout the D.C. region and, in my mind, is a classic D.C. store, especially considering all the other legendary comic book stores in D.C (R.I.P. Big Monkey Comics) that have since closed their doors. For years, I had a box at Big Planet’s Bethesda location where I spent far too much money than I’d ever admit to on comics every month. From the top Marvel and D.C. titles to more obscure, alternative comics and zines, Big Planet is a one-stop shop for all comic book nerds. Luckily, they recently opened a new location on U Street, making my comics commute far easier. — Matt Cohen

Big Planet Comics is located at 1520 U Street NW.

SULLIVAN’S TOYS & ART SUPPLIES: Since 1954, first in Cleveland Park then in Tenleytown, Sullivan’s has been selling D.C.’s kids the latest, greatest toys and art supplies. While it’s a little pricier than a Toys “R” Us, there’s an undeniable charm to the family-owned shop. — Sarah Anne Hughes

Sullivan’s is located at 4200 Wisconsin Avenue NW.

SECOND STORY BOOKS: Browsing the shelves at the Dupont Circle branch of this venerated used bookstore chain doesn’t have the chaotic sense of discovery that it did before a recent renovation. But I’ve been haunting these stores for over thirty years, and to this day I’m still surprised what I may find there: a 1970s-era Chinese propaganda poster? A reprint of a tourist brochure called “Six Racy Madams of Colorado”? A collection of 8×10 photos of long-shuttered and demolished DC movie theaters? A DVD of My Name is Joker, a three-hour Bollywood epic about a tragic clown? It’s too bad they no longer stock vinyl at the P Street branch, but the Rockville warehouse still has a generous supply of records for the patient collector, and if the warehouse is less organized than the Dupont branch, that’s all the better for the buyer addicted to the thrill of the serendipitous find. — Pat Padua

Second Story Books is located at 2000 P Street NW.

HOME RULE: Before 14th Street NW was what it is today, housewares store Home Rule was there. DCist contributor Lynne Venart says, “The owner used to shovel the whole sidewalk and clean up trash on 14th Street to try to make it more hospitable. And he was the first organizer of the Dog Days of Summer sidewalk sale.” Since 1999, they’ve been selling well-designed, interesting kitchen and bath products. Skip Bed, Bath and Beyond for this more colorful spot.

Home rule is located at 1807 14th Street NW.

BRIDGE STREET BOOKS: It doesn’t have the breadth of Politics and Prose, and it doesn’t have a cafe, but after over thirty years in business Bridge Street Books is one of the few independent bookstores we have left. They have the best selection of new poetry books in the area and a regular poetry reading series, and the shop’s modest size makes it easy to suss out the staff’s eclectic tastes. Chat up the owner sometime and he’ll tell you somethign about old school Washington book stores, especially the bookstore that he considers the best Washington ever saw, Georgetown’s long gone Seville Books. — Pat Padua

Bridge Street Books is located at 2814 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

EASTERN MARKET: Eastern Market has been a D.C. institution since it opened in 1873, back when large public market buildings were the main shopping places for residents. It’s the only one still standing and operating as a public market — the City Market at O, which used to be Northern Market, is a mixed-use development with a grocery store, and the old Georgetown Market is now Dean & Deluca. The market has all kinds of foodstuffs on the inside plus a wide variety of produce, arts and crafts vendors and more on the outside, and makes for a fun, communal, convivial, old-timey shopping vibe. What speaks most to the market’s importance to the city, both commercially and emotionally, was the outpouring of support (financial and otherwise) after the 2007 fire that gutted the place. It reopened in 2009 to great excitement and has been as busy as ever since. — Andrew Wiseman

Eastern Market is located at 225 7th Street SE.

POLITICS & PROSE: At the beginning of last year, married duo Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine were named by GQ magazine on their “50 Most Powerful People in Washington” list. Not because of Graham and Muscatine’s careers at the Washington Post, nor because Muscatine at one point wrote speeches for Hillary Clinton. Nay. They were on there because they now own a bookstore called Politics and Prose. Way up Connecticut Avenue, almost in Maryland, P&P was founded in 1984 by Barbara Meade and Carla Cohen, who died of cancer in 2010. When Meade and Cohen’s husband put the store up for sale, it inspired this piece in the New Yorker. P&P has a diverse and interesting shelf selection. Not just politics and prose, as the title suggests, but also travel, poetry, kid’s books in all shapes and sizes, etc. But their real calling is as a promoter of writers in person: from the famous (like JK Rowling) to the local (like George Pelecanos, who OK is also famous). For the bigger names, like Malcolm Gladwell on Oct. 16, they use Sixth and I as a venue. But they’ve got something of interest every night of the week. — Alexis Hauk

Politics and Prose is located at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW.

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