by Sara Thayer
While we clamor for new and improved business on Rhode Island Avenue NE, other neighborhoods with similar hopes said good-bye to a 2-year old diner on Bladensburg Road in Trinidad. The Capital City Diner, affectionately known as the Cap City Diner closed its doors last weekend. The Cap City Diner, housed by an antique diner car transported from New York, offered inexpensive diner fare prepared behind the eat-in bar and booths. Service was surprisingly fast and there was a genuine sense of appreciation for your business. The waffles were delicious. The fried chicken was spectacular. And unlike the national competitor (I’ll say it, Denny’s!) you could get a bloody Mary with your eggs. Yet, while Denny’s thrives across the country, Matt & the Capital City Diner crew packed up their “mom and pop” business, driven out, according to their good-bye letter, from:
…rising costs, a declining economy, and a national chain “diner” restaurant opening almost a stone’s throw away.
Many stories have already covered the closing of the diner, but there is still the lingering elephant in the room that has not been addressed: How can places like Rhode Island Avenue NE expect to attract businesses when unique, beloved establishments such as the Cap City Diner go under the second a large, dime-a-dozen national chain moves in across the street? How can we expect entrepreneurs to take a chance on RIA Ave NE when patrons become busy, the economy remains bad, and supporting your local business suddenly becomes a burden? The psychology literature calls this the “bystander effect,” where we see something unpleasant happening, but feel less responsibility to act than if weren’t others there to share the responsibility (and blame). How responsible would we feel if Flip It closed its doors? Or Lace? Looking forward, we need to think about how we as individuals are responsible for the success of businesses that are already on the avenue rather than complaining that we don’t have enough. The success of one is a success for all.
My challenge to you, the reader, is to think of at least one business on the Avenue or even 12th str. that you have been “meaning” to visit, regardless of whether you have visited there before. Go to that business this week, and report back here on the RIA Insider blog about your experience (please be courteous). Better yet, after you have done that, hop on over to Yelp (or your preferred rating mechanism) and give that business a shout out.
My business? Carl’s Subs. Lunch is calling.
Author Edit as of 2/07/12 9:58 PM
I have to say, I am surprised by the immediate responses. Although the article began with an example and admittedly *personal* praise of a local business that has gone under, the purpose of the article was to highlight how we as consumers have a responsibility to help perpetuate businesses in our own area. Personal conjectures about why a specific business had to close is merely speculation, as far as I’m concerned. Further, readers have taken this as an opportunity to vent things they did not care for about the Diner, which is not really the purpose of the article. I urge you to see beyond your personal feelings about the diner that was ‘case-in-point’ and think about how you can and do help (or hurt) business that is on or near the Avenue NE, and think about exploring your neighborhood beyond your comfort zone to give other businesses a chance.