The sign above the door at 917 Fifth St. NW still says "Arrow Live Poultry Co.: Taste the Difference Fresh Makes," but inside, instead of the squawks and clucks of chickens and turkeys awaiting the chopping block, one hears only the quiet snip, snip of flower stems being cut.
Arrow Live Poultry Co., since 1960 the only live poultry market in the District, has gone out of business. In its place is Dave's Flower and Fruit Co., a wholesale supplier to about 25 Washington flower vendors.
The flower shop opened a month ago, but owner Dave Eddy said he still gets so many requests for chickens that he finally hung a hand-written note on the door: "This is now a flower shop! Chickens have flown the coop! No more poultry here!" But even with the note, he said, loyal customers of the poultry market, a Washington institution for 56 years, refuse to believe that it is gone.
"I still get people, especially the Chinese, coming in here every day asking about chickens," he said. "They don't believe me when I tell them there aren't any more chickens here."
Chinese custom is to serve poultry as fresh as possible, and many restaurateurs in nearby Chinatown bought their poultry from Arrow.
"I liked the place. They sold fresh chickens," said William Lee, manager of the Ruby Restaurant, around the corner at 609 H St. NW. "I can remember, even before the restaurant was opened, my parents would take me there to buy a turkey for special holidays."
The closing of Arrow, said Lee, is "a sign of the times. I don't think the District wanted a slaughterhouse in the city anymore."
Arrow was closed because of health code violations in October, when it was cited for, among other indiscretions, having "flies, a cat and a bird in the food processing area." It closed for good last month when owner Mike Huneycutt, who spent $8,000 trying to renovate the premises, finally gave up after repeated efforts to reopen it.
Huneycutt's decison was applauded by the Washington Humane Society. "We're delighted," said executive director Jean Goldenberg. "That was a place where there was wholesale mistreatment of animals -- overcrowded conditions, filth all around, animals piled on top of each other. This should have happened years ago."
The society had done battle with Huneycutt and Arrow for six years, including bringing complaints that led to Huneycutt's arrest in 1980 on charges of "cruelly killing" animals because of using what the society said were dull knives. The charges were later dropped.
Arrow's demise also came as a welcome relief to James McNair, a neighbor who complained frequently to D.C. police and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs about unsanitary conditions at Arrow.
"I'm very glad that Arrow won't come back. It's a pleasant change, from smelling chickens to smelling flowers. It's better -- no question about it," he said.
Others, however, were dismayed. The owner of the property, Abe Mason, president of the 6th and K Auto Market, said Huneycutt "worked long and hard hours, seven days a week, to open that place, and they still wouldn't let him open it. It isn't fair."