Though the exact timing of their departure is uncertain, many of the pavilion’s small-business owners are already considering their next steps. Here’s a sample:
City Electronics, Toyland and Video Postcard
Owner Gi Chung has owned his three shops — which sell souvenirs, electronics and trinkets — for the past 28 years, working seven days a week since then. Though he would have liked to keep the shops going another five or six years, he said moving locations “is not easy for a small business” because of high rent outside the pavilion. In his experience, landlords prefer to rent to businesses larger than his. (Vendors at the pavilion pay $35 a square foot, according to the GSA.)
So he’s retiring.
Chung said he’s spent a “lifetime” at the pavilion, but that it hasn’t been easy — many other stores in the building sell souvenirs similar to the ones he sells. During the building’s peak tourist season — spring and summer — he estimates he gets a few hundred customers a day; a typical shopper spends between $15 and $20.
Chung said he isn’t sure what his five-person staff will do, but that they’ll likely have to scramble for other jobs.
Short Stop News
Owner and manager Sung Joo-Young also plans to stop working after running her souvenir shop and newsstand for more than 20 years.
Joo-Young has never hired any other staff for her small shop, and said she doesn’t think it is worth it to move. She’s taking the news in stride. She said she planned to retire soon anyway, and that except for tours, she gets “not too many” customers, especially during the off-season.
Sam Park manages Bistro Sensation, a sandwich and salad vendor his family has owned for more than 14 years.
Closing down the business isn’t an option, though he said, “it could be something else” instead of sandwiches — as long as it’s bringing in revenue for his family.
Park and his family have been looking around Virginia and D.C. for places to move the shop. “But it’s hard. You won’t find anywhere else with this kind of rent,” he said, which he noted was much lower than any other property he’s seen.
Park has been trying to persuade his family to open a food truck because they wouldn’t have to pay rent. But he said he’s worried about the competition their truck may face from other vendors outside the pavilion. Though he said the pavilion’s many souvenir shops are extremely competitive because they all offer similar products, “food’s not as competitive” there.
Doler Shah, who has owned Indian food eatery Indian Delight for the past 29 years, said she’s worried about retaining her loyal customer base.
Because of its proximity to many government buildings, Indian Delight draws customers on their lunch breaks from offices close by — mainly the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment of Arts, the Justice Department, the Smithsonian and the U.S. Agency for International Development, Shah said.