Part of the store’s success, she said, has come from its location. For 19 years, it has sat in the same spot within view of the gates — a place that made it visible to new customers and convenient to loyal, hurried one. Among its regulars were congressmen, out-of-town baseball fans and commuters looking for a quick soda (or something harder). Former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams said that he went there some days to pick up a bottle of water and some nights to grab a bottle of wine. At the new spot, Parnelli estimates she will lose about 50 percent of her business and questions whether she is delaying an inevitable closure.
The same afternoon Parnelli spoke to Lopez, she peeked in the door to check out the construction at her old location, which closed July 15. The glass walls were barricaded. The inside, gutted. Parnelli brought a hand to her mouth and fought back tears.
“This was my store,” she said. “They took my life away.”
Parnelli said she felt she had little choice but to move. A few years ago, she said, an employee of Ashkenazy told her the store was a prime location and suggested she offer to pay more than what she was already paying each month in rent. She didn’t. Later, she said, they told her she would have to move and showed her potential spaces. None, she said, were comparable. Finally, late last year, Parnelli said, she received a letter stating she would have to vacate and after months of negotiations, a deal was reached for her to leave altogether. Parnelli said that it was her customers and employees, some have been with her for more than a decade, who pushed her to ask whether she could take another location instead.
Mineo said that she can’t discuss private negotiations but that the company “cut a very fair deal” with Parnelli and that the store remains in the station “because we do care about the building and the tenancy.”
Mineo said that a mom-and-pop called Tops, which offers healthful food options, will move into part of the space vacated by the liquor store and the post office, which also moved downstairs. Most of the area will go to a British sandwich place, Pret a Manger, which means “ready to eat” and has locations in New York, Chicago and Hong Kong.
Parnelli said she hopes to open Union Wine and Liquor at its new location this month.
For Taylor, that can’t happen soon enough. Since the store closed, he and his friends have adjusted. They no longer take turns picking up the usual order: two six packs and a box of wine. Now, it’s each person for himself. Some bring it from home. Others walk blocks out of their way.
“Were just counting down the days,” he said, “until they open up again.”