When the government can manage to keep itself open and Metro is keeping all of its trains running, the Sugar Shack Donuts shop in Alexandria is well situated near the Braddock Road Metro station.
Sometimes the store’s owner, Rob Krupicka, stands at the corner and watches the commuters headed toward the Metro with a box or two of doughnuts they’ve picked up to take to the office.
Near the table where Krupicka sat last Friday was a sign of the sweet life he’d imagined when he opened the shop: stacks of doughnuts, some glazed, some covered with cinnamon sugar and others with colored sprinkles.
But there was also an acidic note of anger in the air, and a metallic hint of irony.
The Yellow and Blue lines were about to stop running nearby until early September, with the closure of Braddock Road and five other stations south of Reagan National Airport.
“Two big hits caused by government ineptitude,” he’d fumed in an email a couple of days earlier.
The first had been the 35-day shutdown of the federal government last December and January, which left many of his customers not knowing when they’d be paid next. The line of commuters dried up, like a 2-day-old cruller.
And now it’s the Metro shutdown.
Μany customers might still come by to take the shuttle Metro is providing, said Krupicka, who also owns Sugar Shack franchises in Arlington and D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood. But he worried there wouldn’t be enough shuttles and that those that do come would be stuck in traffic. There’s also a good chance people might work from home more often.
“If people aren’t going to an office, they’re not buying two dozen doughnuts,” Krupicka said.
Metro riders may be worried about the impact on their commutes. But business owners like Krupicka are anxious about their livelihoods.
Four years ago, he’d been on the other side serving as a Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
He’d order boxes of doughnuts for his office each week from Sugar Shack’s first store in Richmond. There are many things that divide us, but eating free doughnuts is not one of them. Democrat and Republican delegates would stop by his office.
He thought there was a demand for the doughnuts in Northern Virginia and D.C., and was still serving in office when he opened the first of his stores in Alexandria.
Discovering it was a full-time job, Krupicka decided not to run for re-election in 2015. Now he finds himself on the receiving end of government policies.
“The irony is that I’d probably be a better elected official now, because I appreciate real life more than before,” he said.
To be sure, there are business owners who say they feel safe during the shutdown. Women getting ready for June weddings will find a way to get to Bridals by Natalie on King Street, a worker there said.
But last Thursday, goodbyes were being said at Theismann’s Restaurant and Bar, near the King St-Old Town station.
A woman who lives in Huntington and usually takes the Metro to the restaurant a few times a month was at the bar. With both stations closed until after Labor Day, she wouldn’t be back for a while, she said. She wished a bartender a good summer.
A study commissioned by Visit Alexandria estimated that hotels in the area could also see a 13.5% decline in revenue, or a loss of $8.6 million during the shutdown.
Krupicka also worried about his workers. He’d had to reduce shifts during the government shutdown. He might have to do it again.
“They’re the ones who are going to feel this most directly,” he said.
Krupicka was hoping the free coffee he’s offering customers with Metro cards on Tuesdays will help. He’s also offering coffee to construction workers at all of his shops. Maybe the caffeine will get them to finish the project faster, he said.
But there’s not much else he can do.
“I can’t cut back on the dough. I can’t put fewer sprinkles on a doughnut. I can’t put less cinnamon and sugar on a cinnamon and sugar doughnut,” he said.