Gary Cha, owner of the local chain of Yes! Organic Market stores, will continue selling groceries on Pennsylvania Avenue east of the Anacostia River, but he will do it after taking the word “organic” out of the store’s name.
In November, Cha announced that he needed to close the store because customers were having a tough time getting to it and he was losing money every month.
But after weeks of discussion with residents of the neighborhood, shoppers, his landlord and and city officials, Cha says he is going to give the store another try with an altered concept that he hopes will be more attractive to customers.
Cha plans to rename the store “Healthy Gourmet Market” and add more conventional groceries to the Pennsylvania Avenue location, such as mainstream cereals and beverages, as opposed to the more niche organic products that are staples of his stores in other District neighborhoods.
“It will be like a conventional grocery store. When people walk in there they will recognize names and brands that they have seen before,” he said.
Cha does not operate any other stores using names other than Yes! Organic, but he said that after speaking with Tim Chapman, developer of the building, and staff for Victor Hoskins, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, he said he thought more customers might consider shopping at the store if he pulled the word “organic” from the name.
Cha said shoppers may think his products are more expensive than they really are, something he considered after reading a post from the blog, the The Art of Ward 8, showing that his prices were competitive with those of Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket, which closed recently. “I said, ‘Wow, that’s the impression we have, that we’re expensive,’” he said. “That’s an impression that’s hard to fight.”
There haven’t been any changes to the traffic pattern that Cha cited as one of the reasons for the store’s struggles, but he said he hoped the new concept would help “Healthy Gourmet Market” become a success.
“By operating under a different name, not organic, we’d have a better name of attracting more business there,” he said.
Chapman said he was glad that Cha would remain open. He described the new concept as “not high-end organic, but not low-end, if you know what I mean. Like a normal grocery store.”
Jose Sousa, a spokesman for Hoskins did not immediately comment.
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