Just when you thought chain stores were taking over the planet, chalk one up for little Norm’s Beer and Wine store in Vienna. And maybe give a little credit to the chain grocer that once threatened them, The Fresh Market, which has now agreed to let Norm’s stay in its cozy spot just off Maple Avenue at Branch Road.
Last month, Norm’s customers launched an uprising after learning that The Fresh Market, an upscale grocery making its debut in the D.C. area in an old A&P space, had signed a lease with a non-compete clause for neighboring merchants selling alcohol. This meant that when Norm’s lease expired, the 2,100-square foot store had to go.
In addition to some media coverage, both here and in Fresh Market’s hometown of Greensboro, N.C., the chain also received e-mails, phone calls and petitions from backers of Norm’s, some of whom weren’t even customers, owner Norman Yow said Monday. They just didn’t like seeing a local business getting shoved around. The Save Norm’s Beer and Wine Facebook page now has more than 1,700 fans.
So late last month, the president of Fresh Market called Yow. “He was very positive and very generous, very complimentary of our business and community,” Yow said. “They decided we’d be a good partner to have as a neighbor, that we could bring business into the location. It looks like I could stay here as long as I want.”
The Fresh Market, which is set to open this summer, issued this statement, and posted it on the “Save Norm’s” Facebook page: “Being responsible and active participants in the community is what The Fresh Market does and is an important part of who we are. As we have learned more about the Vienna community it has become apparent that Norm’s Beer & Wine is an integral part of the fabric of Vienna. We will work with Norm so that he can continue to serve his patrons from his existing location. We look forward to being neighbors with Norm’s Beer & Wine and together serving the residents of Vienna for many years to come.”
“I’m very grateful to the Vienna community,” Yow said. “It felt really good.”
Here’s Norm and others speaking last month, while the threat still loomed: