Goodbye, Artmosphere…

Some sad news…although this isn’t in DC but is along the Rhode Island Ave/Route 1 corridor and connected to our redevelopment as it is the redevelopment that is occurring in Mt. Ranier. Why is this sad? Because redevelopment around us will encourage redevelopment here. We need to make sure that when new retailers/cafes/restaurants, etc, etc come to Rhode Island Ave NE, we need to frequent the locations to keep them in business.

Thanks to Laura for catching this and sending over to me!

Arts district’s Artmosphere café to close

Owner may reopen 3-year-old coffee shop/performance space elsewhere

by Elahe Izadi | Staff Writer

After three years of struggling to stay afloat, Mount Rainier’s Artmosphere Digital Café will close April 26.

Dyrell Madison, along with wife Andaiye Scott-Madison, originally opened the business as a coffee shop but after not being able to cover costs, they expanded to live entertainment and added a food menu, Madison said.

“I am sad; I’m losing $150,000. I sold my house to open up this business,” he said.

The venture struggled with metered-parking issues, an inconvenient location on the north side of Route 1 and employee turnover that came with hiring youth in the community, Madison said.

He also lamented the lack of visible development along Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainier.

“I don’t think we really got the support we needed in this location. This has been a very tough sell at this location,” he said.

Madison said he picked the location for Artmosphere because he thought there would be future surrounding arts-related development.

“We were told that the properties around us would be developed and there would be a thriving arts’ audience coming in,” he said.

The café is in the Gateway Arts District, a 2-mile stretch designated by the state in 2003 to attract businesses and artists to the Route 1 corridor. The nonprofit Gateway Community Development Corp. oversees and supports development in the district.

Gateway CDC Executive Director Cheryl Derricotte said that despite the current economic climate, she believes the arts district will eventually thrive.

“I’m very sorry that Artmosphere is closing and this is absolutely a very difficult climate for small businesses,” she said. “However, I think in the long run arts-related businesses will do fine… The early successes in the arts district show there’s a demand for arts-related businesses.”

Derricotte pointed to newly opened

ezStorage building on Route 1 in Brentwood, with all five of its storefront studios rented out, and the recent opening of Rhode Island Reds Café on the border of North Brentwood and Hyattsville as recent successes.

Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles said that the parking became an issue for the café after it added live music.

“That was supposed to be a café. A place where you could get sandwiches, great teas, great coffee and while you needed to do something on the Internet, you could,” she said. “I don’t think the parking was ever there to be for an entertainment district.”

Madison said he may apply for nonprofit status and reopen Artmosphere elsewhere, possibly Washington, D.C.

9 thoughts on “Goodbye, Artmosphere…

  1. That is sad. But I admit I never went to the coffeeshop. Seems places like that need an anchor, another reason to go to that area. And parking is always going to be a problem, unless you have a lot of walking traffic.

    One place that continues to surprise me is Big Bear Cafe. That place is packed almost all the time. I wish we could replicate that near further north/east up Rhode Island Ave. That shop retained it’s old world charm with dark wood benches and white walls with art. It is really an enjoyable place to hang out and use wireless.

  2. About Big Bear… of my clients is an investor in Big Bear and she was telling me today that one of the biggest reasons they made it big was the opening of the farmers market. Apparently, the farmers market was a huge boom to their business when it opened a few months after Big Bear opened. I would love to see a farmers market up our way too! There was a segment on Kojo Nnamdi lately about how the city is encouraging community gardens and more farmers markets, perhaps we should look into this for our communities in ward 5.

  3. That makes perfect sense. The farmer’s market provided the anchor and introduced a large swath of people to the cafe at a critical time.

    Seems the library on 18th could be used in a similar way. I head there frequently with little ones in tow and it would be great to stop and get a treat on the way – a non-fast-food treat.

    Brookland has a farmer’s market at the Brookland metro. I liked to frequent it even though it was sparse in its offerings and customers. Plus the management of it seemed to spark routine debate on the brookland listserve. Still it is/was better than nothing. I wonder if it will return this year.

    In any case, do you think this area could support two farmer’s markets?

    1. I think the Woodridge community could support a farmer’s market. There should be one on Rhode Island Ave NE. There is a HUGE residential area around this area (Woodridge, mainly), and could attract more foot traffic to the Avenue. Curious how one goes about getting something like this started?

  4. I’m so envious of Big Bear too, and the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market, which is so much more vibrant than the Brookland one – so many more vendors.

    I try to make a habit of going to the Brookland Sunday Farmer’s market every week, to support and hopefully grow it. I think it does get a lot of foot traffic (vendors have said so) and presumably benefits from proximity to Metro and other 12th St. businesses, but despite that it doesn’t seem to flourish. That may indeed be due to poor management; it doesn’t bode well that spring has come and a regular customer like me doesn’t know if/when the market is returning. But based on the Brookland market’s limited success with all it has going for it, I’m not sure I agree that Woodridge could support another market.

  5. Big Bear Cafe: I never would have discovered the BEST macchiato in DC if it weren’t for the fabulous Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market. On the other hand, part of what makes BFM so great is getting a gorgeous espresso at the Big Bear Cafe on a beautiful sunny Sunday noon. But we have to wait until Sunday, May 17 for the 2009 Opening Day…argh! Meanwhile, you can hit the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market starting Saturday, May 2 (shameless plug).

    TUESDAY Brookland Farmers’ Market: I don’t have anything to say about the Sunday market, but the Tuesday market, 4p-7p, run by a real live scruffy-looking grouchy farmer, the inimitable Mike Tabor of Licking Bend Creek Farm, should be opening May 19th. I say we pour our energy and dollars into his market and make it THE mid-week destination market. He cares deeply about sustainable farming practices and has pioneered the banning of plastic bags (i.e., be SURE to bring your own bags!)

    Rhode Island Reds Cafe – Also technically on Rhode Island, but up and around the curve into Hyattsville. Sorry, but Artmosphere didn’t have half the charm of this place. The food is outstanding, the coffee aspires to BBC greatness, and it’s right at the junction of the Northeast Branch trail and the Northwest Branch trail so you can safely ride a bike there from Brookland and many other points.

    1. In fact, I went by there today for lunch after Mrs. Higgins recommendation in an earlier post. I had a salad…it was pretty good. It seems like a really neat place and the sandwiches looked really good as well. I spoke with the owner, and he said that he is going to start having music (low level, so nothing drastic) for Thursdays starting next week. He also said that he is starting a dinner and brunch menu (Sundays). The dinner menu looked like it was pizza (handmade from scratch). So that is positive. I think we may head out there this coming Thursday for a pizza and some music. He said the music will start at 7pm…but may not last for a long time. He did indicate that he wants to have different types of music for the THursday nights.

      I recommend this place. Check it out. It is what it is…a good sandwich, salad, and pizza place.

      1. That’s good to know, i will have to check it out. I love the building they are in we also drive past it. Any idea what it used to be? With the distinctive turrets on the building.

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