If you noticed 12th Street businesses looking better than ever, it could be because of improvements to five storefronts sponsored by the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).
DSLBD paid for exterior painting, lighting, awnings, signage, glass, and security gates for five businesses that applied to a grant program targeted exclusively at 12th Street businesses.
According to a DSLBD spokesperson, each business received $10,000 to $15,000 in storefront improvements.
Not only did DSLBD pay for all the work, but District employees coordinated with the contractors to make it all happen. The only expense picked up by the business owners was permit fees.
Doris Johnson, owner of Total Relaxation, was ecstatic about the increased visibility of her store, which sells bath and spa products, spa services, and gifts.
“People are calling more, they are getting out of their cars and coming in, and they are getting off the bus and coming in,” she said. “It so changed the face of my business that after it was completed, I just wanted to sit outside and stare at it.”
Doris Johnson said that as a small business owner, she never would have been able to accomplish the improvements on her own. Ms. Johnson gave particular credit to Camille Nixon, DSLBD project manager. “In terms of excellence and outstanding service, she went to the highest level—even above that,” said Ms. Johnson. “She handled every detail.”
Charles Oguh, owner of Brookland Grill (formerly called the Ice Cream Station) was equally thankful.
Mr. Oguh said his new sign and freshly painted storefront were generating compliments from customers.
He said DSLBD also helped him rename his restaurant “Brookland Grill” so customers would know he sold more than ice cream. Brookland Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, including items like rotisserie chicken, macaroni and cheese, and crab cakes.
“If I was doing it myself it would have been very difficult,” he said.
Mr. Oguh also commended the work of Camille Nixon. “She is one of the best DC employees I have run into,” he said. He added that the experience was so positive that he is now planning to make improvements to the restaurant’s interior on his own.
Nadeem Ali, owner of Pizza Boli’s, said his storefront received a new sign and new glass. He credited the improvements with increasing his sales by 5%.
Mr. Ali, who applied to the program when it was first announced several years ago, said he was glad to see the improvements finally come to fruition. “It took forever but it was worth it,” he said.
The 12th Street storefront improvement program was initially launched in partnership with the Brookland Community Development Corporation (CDC) in 2006. The Brookland CDC was awarded $300,000 to make improvements to more than two dozen storefronts on 12th Street.
The District government rescinded the funds in 2007 after determining that the Brookland CDC had misappropriated $10,000.
In 2008, DSLBD restarted the program in partnership with the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF), but reduced the total amount of funding to $87,000.