In downtown Washington, economic development is often measured in huge increments: millions of dollars invested, hundreds of condominiums built, tens of thousands of square feet of Class A office space planned.
On Alabama Avenue SE last week, progress came with the drip of an espresso machine.
East-of-the-river Washington welcomed its first Starbucks coffee bar Monday, in an attractively laid-out kiosk at the center of a large, bustling Safeway supermarket.
Residents of Hillcrest, Penn Branch, Congress Heights and Anacostia still don't have a white-tablecloth restaurant, an ice cream parlor or a bookstore -- all of which they've clamored for. But they no longer have to travel to Prince George's County or Capitol Hill for $3 lattes or Frappuccinos.
Frothy drinks, buttery scones and all other manner of Starbucks paraphernalia -- from candies and mints to coffee mugs and travel cups that cost up to $23.95 -- all are available at the Good Hope Marketplace Safeway at Alabama Avenue and Good Hope Road.
Reggie Johnson, 56, a retired Metrobus driver, was thrilled.
"I can walk here. My tax dollars don't have to go to Maryland," said Johnson, who has lived all his life in nearby Fort Dupont. Before shopping for groceries Tuesday, he stopped to buy a venti Frappuccino topped with whipped cream.
"Here in Southeast, we don't have many eateries," Johnson said. "Many of the chains don't want to invest here. There are many residents who would patronize the businesses if they would come."
Safeway store manager Steve Gray said traffic was brisk at the kiosk right from the start. Each time he sent an employee around the store with sample tastes of the strawberry Frappuccino or some other delicacy, customers would head for the counter to order full-size versions.
Gray said Safeway officials decided to make the kiosk as visible as possible. It sits front and center as customers walk into the store, with attractive amber light fixtures and distinctive, geometrically patterned tiling, and three honey-colored sets of tables and chairs where patrons can sit down to sip.
Some of the first customers lingered in the cafe area as long as 45 minutes, Gray said. Other shoppers who had purchased prepared food at the deli counter also tried to sit there, only to have Gray gently explain that the seats were for Starbucks customers only.
Starbucks has been locating kiosks in Safeway's larger stores for about four years now. Many supermarkets in the Washington suburbs have them, as do the Safeways on upper Georgia Avenue and on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown.
Paul Trantham, 36, is one of a dozen employees at the Alabama Avenue store who was promoted to barista after several weeks of training in how to make coffee drinks.
He said customers see the opening as a sign of change in their neighborhood, which is also slated for a major new shopping center on the other side of Alabama Avenue.
"Last night," he said Tuesday, "a customer came in and said, 'Safeway has a Starbucks? What's next?' "