For the business of Washington's West End - from Stella Rosenbalatt's Market at 1000 25th St. NW to Ulysses Auger's House of Beef on 22nd Street - one thing is certain: Things will never be the same.
Rosenblatt's is likely not to survive the heavy reconstruction of the area; Blackie's House of Beef is likely to prosper.
Stella Rosenblatt's brick market stands on the southern boundary of the West End of K Street. Behind the counter, she rings up the fifth purchase of the day: a pack of cigarettes. "I'm breaking even - that's all" she says. Rosenblatt has been in the grocery business here for 39 years, and has been robbed at gunpoint five times.But that was a long time ago. She says she has not been troubled by crime for years.
The problem seems to be that time has passed Stella Rosenblatt by. She can no longer compete with the large supermarket chains for business. But she stays, convinced that the daily routine keeps her alive.
Surrounded by high-rise apartment complexes, Rosenblatt's is a relic of the old days of the West End, an area bordered on the north by N Street; New Hampshire Avenue on the east; Rock Creek Parkway on the west and K Street on the south.
Rosenblatt remembers when all the buildings in the neighborhood were like hers.
"I've seen my friends get rich by selling their property to the developers," she said.
Five blocks away, Ulysses (Blackie) Auger started a small business on rented land at 22nd and M streets in 1946. It was a small sandwich and coffee shop called the Minute Grill. Three years after he began operating, he lost the lease and the site became a used car lot.
The auto dealer financed Auger's aquisition of a nearby lot so the diner could remain. It became Blackie's House of Beef, which today employs a staff of 200.
Auger plans to build a 350-room, $20 million hotel atop the restaurant. He also intends to build a $10-million apartment house one block away.
Shop owners near the proposed site of the apartment complex predict that the whole block will be developed into high-rise buildings and rowhouses. Shopkeepers such as Leo Condolon, owner of the Piano Shop at 2214M St., are sure their leases will not be renewed.
Condolon says his four-year lease with Auger will probably not be renewed. He has been renting and selling used spinets and Steinway pianos for five years in the West End and business there has been good, he said. Condolon is not sure where he will relocate.
Five doors away, the Gulf Station at 24th and M streets has a three-year lease with Oliver T. Carr, a major developer in West End and downtown. The station's owner, Carl Lotto, said he knew when he signed the lease it would not be renewed.
Development in the West End is a multimillion-dollar project, made possible by an alliance of city planners, real estate owners and developers, which culminated in the West End Plan, an 81-page report published in 1973 by the D.C. Office of Planning and Management. The zoning changes replaced the largely industrial zoning area with primarily commercial-residential areas that allow combined use of property for office and apartment complexes.
The authors of the West End Plan call for the area to become a revitalized "round-the-clock," pedestrian-oriented neighborhood with expanded retail and entertainment services to augment residential life there.
Oliver T. Carr's Westbridge office and condominium complex is going up on the site of what was once the Sealtest Dairy, a building which for years was a vacant reminder of the West End's industrial past. According to Don Bresnahan, a leasing agent for the Carr Co., there are negotiations to bring a bank or savings and loan association into the complex, along with a restaurant and other service establishments.
Another building scheduled for completion this spring is the Guest Quarters hotel. It is being built on the original site of Diplomat Cleaners, a dry-cleaning firm that relocated a block away on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"The neighborhood is changing there's no doubt about that," a Diplomat employe said. Pointing to the 2500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, she added, "There used to be a Chinese laundry, a barbershop, the locksmith and shoe repair store . . ."
"There was a sense of community here 20 years ago," said Al Kaufman, at 2430 Pennsylvania Ave. After 28 years at the market, Kaufman says he has seen many changes. "There were families with children here . . .
The mother would come in for her food shopping. Now, mostly singles or working couples live in the neighborhood - we don't know them as well now because they're in a hurry. They just don't have time to talk."
Another commercial landmark of the West End is the Washington Circle Drug Store. Managed by pharmacist Robert Sinker, the store has the atmosphere of an urban general store. It is privately owned and has an individual personality that some larger drug store chains do not.
"People come here and socialize," Sinker said. "People have even gotten married after meeting in the store."
City planners say they want existing businesses to remain in the area, either in present structures or in leased or owned space of new commercial building. Several West End businesses, however, cannot afford to stay in an area where the land value has increased, pushing up rents and taxes.
"For the small retail business the rents are too high" said Arthur Aiken, owner of Art's Printing and Duplication. He said the rent for his shop jumped 50 percent three months ago.
Frederick W. Goundry, vice president of Capital Cadillac agrees with Aiken but says "you can't stop growth; it's inevitable." Capital is moving from the site it has occupied in the West End for 43 years because of "high taxes and the need for more storage space," Goundry said.
According to Goundry, the Tasea Investment Co., which owns the property, will develop it in communication with Carr, probably into as a commercial-residential site.
Not everybody is certain about the future. Ivangelos Ganginis wonders what will happen to his Bargain Corner at M and 22nd streets. Ganginis' 10-year lease does not make him feel secure he said. because he sees surrounding buildings being torn down. He says he wants to stay in the area and hopes to repeat the experience he had with his home, "I was told to move in six months (then) and I've stayed for six years," he recalled with a grin.
But Phillip J. Brown, an owner of the B and W Garage on 24th Street says he is determined to stay in the West End.He says his views concerning the area's future were not reflected in Carr's West End Planning committee, a federation of property owners who in 1972 formed plans for the area, including suggested zoning changes that Brown says he never approved.
Carr's plan was submitted to the city for consideration in rezoning the West End - the end product of which changed the industrial zoning to commercial-residential areas.
Brown contends that the rezoning of his property meant "enormous financila losses" for him and "enormous windfall profits for speculators who have supported the plan."
Currently involved in a legal battle with Carr, Brown says he still thinks it is more profitable for him to operate the garage than to sell it.
City planners say parking establishments take up about 31 percent of the land in the West End. The West End plans call for large offices rather than small shops to take up the greatest amount of commercial space in the area.The reports states that "most office buildings in the area are owned by the occupants." According to the plan, this trend runs counter to the downtown area of Washington, where most occupants rent office space.
The Westbridge, Potomac Outlook and other buildings zoned for both residential and commercial space however, will lease office space to businesses.
According to Don Bresnahan, Carr's leasing agent, there should be no problem in renting out space to commercial businesses. "The downtown area is growing in the West End's direction," he said.
Theodore Pedas, owner of the West End Theater at 23rd and L streets, said the movie theater will be expanded in anticipation of new patrons. Pedas and his brother James also operate the Circle theaters throughout the District.
"We have plans to build an additional auditorium in the lower level (of the West End Theater) to bring in live theater," he said. The Pedas brothers bought the movie house in 1975 when it housed a theatrical training and production company. They brought it "to take advantage of what's happening in the area," Pedas said.
Next door, the former Tinker's restaurant at 1113 23rd St. has been bought by Paul Loukas, owner of two Georgetown discos. Loukas plans to open a French restaurant called Le Jardin this summer.
Sure to prosper because of the changes in the West End is Blackie Auger's Deja Vu, a drinking and dancing club. Manager Frank Snyder says business is good and will be better once the development takes place.
Deja Vu is a multi-roomed club built on the foundation of one of the first businesses in the West End, Pratt's Brake ShoP.
"The hydraulic lifts from the auto shop are underneath the dance floor," Snyder said. He pointed to a window on the far wall. "That was the office of the shop. If you look closely, you can see the remains of a decal (advertising a kind of motor oil)."
This is a poignant example of change for the West End, once the automobile business center of the District.
Next: Lifestyles of the West End.