Rustik Chooses Brookland

Nearly a year ago, Rustik Tavern, located in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, made it clear that Woodridge would be the location for their next restaurant. This got a lot of residents, including FoRIA, excited at the opportunity to have the restaurant in their area since many have been patronizing the current restaurant in hopes of convincing them to come to RIA. The Friends of RIA (FoRIA) rallied their support to help bring the restaurant to that end of the neighborhood, and even held a “Rhode” Trip to the restaurant to show the support they would receive along RIA. The restaurant even worked with the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (which is headquartered along RIA NE in Woodridge) to secure a location along RIA. Rustik then flamed those fires of excitement by tweeting their intent to move to Woodridge, thanking FoRIA for its support to get them there.

All for naught.

New Rustik restaurant, directly across from Little Ricky's on 12th Street.
New Rustik restaurant site, directly across from Little Ricky’s on 12th Street.

As Diton Pashaj, one of the owners of Rustik, explains to the Insider, they have leased a building along 12th Street, near the corner of Monroe Ave, as the location of their new restaurant. Although Pashaj noted that “there wasn’t one specific reason why it didn’t work out” on RIA, he later stated in his email that since the “Brookland deal went through faster”, he chose this location.

It does sting to be let down (more like snubbed) by Rustik but also could point to a larger problem for RIA regardless of the real reason Pashaj decided to forgo RIA. If it is true, that it was a space and leasing issue, then this could hamper businesses that are interested in opening along the Avenue — even though other businesses don’t seem to have any issues and realtors are actively trying to lease space today along RIA. If the reason was something else (more likely) then that points to other issues that groups like FoRIA and the City need to try and address. Is it the 30,000 cars that pass through daily? Is it the hungry residents with disposable income in the immediate area? Is it the designation as a Great Street, which will bring redevelopment dollars and more business to the Avenue? All of this could really discourage businesses from thinking about opening on RIA (read through facetious glasses, if you will).

Bottom line: RIA NE is on an upward trajectory in terms of redevelopment; in many cases, faster than many of the surrounding areas. Passing on the opportunity to be part of that is Rustik’s loss, not RIA’s. As Pashaj said, “I don’t think it will take long before it turns into a vibrant commercial corridor”.

Congrats, my Brookland friends.

15 thoughts on “Rustik Chooses Brookland

  1. It may not be RIA’s time just yet… As a person who lives squarely between the two corridors, 12th and RIA, I think with MSM 12th is a better poised low hanging fruit for development. That can then, once successful signal that the incomes and demand is in this area, so people will want to try further up RIA.

    1. In all honesty, I disagree. The city has designated RIA a Great Street and is offering grants to businesses and improvements, and has is going to designate it as a Main Street, which will increase the focus of revitalization to that corridor. 12th Street does not have that designation (although they had it once and lost it due to inactivity). 12th Street is great and can sustain it and I am very happy to see it succeed but so can RIA, that’s why we are seeing more and more businesses looking at and opening along RIA… economically, it’s a better investment. Which is why I moved to Woodridge, right off of RIA instead of 12th Street.

  2. Personally, I’m a bit disappointed by the narrow definition that the RI Insider (and FORIA, often) takes of “Rhode Island Ave”. While the name suggests a broader inclusion of the larger Rhode Island Corridor, in practice, the focus has been much more on Woodridge than the rest of the corridor. This new location for Rustik is only a few blocks off of RIA. Sure, it might be closer to CUA than RIA, but the neighborhoods are clearly interlinked. And, as someone who lives further south along the Ave, this new location will serve my needs more than it would have in Woodridge (I can walk to this location, but not so much had it moved further north). Thus, in the end, this Rhode Island Ave resident is happy with the new location.

    1. Thanks for the comment although you are quite mistaken on the view of this blog and FoRIA. The Insider has focused on all of the Avenue… taking a stroll through the blog… you’ll see articles on Rhode Island Row, on Boundary Stone, on Rustik (Bloomingdale), on Brentwood, on Brookland, New York Avenue, Mount Ranier…. yes, there is a lot also on Woodridge since this is the area that, according to the Small Area Plan, will be the “Main Street” concept and potential for revitalization. As for FoRIA, they’ve focused quite a bit on most of all of RIA with clean ups, “Rhode” trips, and other activities… I’m happy that Rustik’s new location works for you. I would have been happy if they moved to RIA and 12th Street… the point of this is to have it on RIA, as they indicated, and that is where this blog (and I imagine FoRIA) would also like to see it since. you know, the main purpose of this blog and that organization is the revitalization of Rhode Island Avenue.

    2. Hey Brentwood!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about FoRIA and your perception of our goals. It certainly helps us learn and grow as an organization when we get commentary like yours.

      Speaking on behalf of FoRIA, we are thrilled that a great Ward 5 business like Rustik is expanding… to yet another great Ward 5 location! Diton is a savvy entrepreneur, and we will look forward to him opening MORE locations in the future.

      As far as us being Woodridge-centric… that has certainly been true in the past. When we first got started as an organization, we had very limited resources and organizational capacity (still do, really). We saw Woodridge, with its distinct commercial corridor and attractive, but empty storefronts as our “low hanging fruit”. We focused our efforts accordingly. These days, thanks to a great team of volunteers and the engagement of this growing community, we are actively expanding our activities to work with business and commercial property owners up and down the length of RIA between 4th St NE and Eastern Avenue. Our goals remain the same: to support existing local businesses, and to bring in new businesses that are appropriate for our community and that will enhance the entire commercial corridor of RIA.

      You are so right, Brentwood, when you talk about how interlinked the neighborhoods are along the RIA corridor. It is one of the many reasons that RIA is such a Great Street, and FoRIA is looking forward to continuing to promote *all* of RIA as a welcoming and growing community.

      Thanks again for your honest critique, and please don’t hesitate to give us your feedback on how we’re doing in the future. We gladly accept both kudos and concerns. 🙂

      Best regards,
      Kyle Todd, Executive Director

      1. I’d have to say I tend to agree with the Woodridge focus. RIA NE needs investment throughout. Near RIA NE (4th st, specifically) seems ripe for revitalization. However, the 12th St. corridor is welcome news from a near Rhode Islander, and could be viewed similarly from those from 20th and beyond.

        Baby steps.

  3. RIA will have its day, but for now the 12th St corridor is more established. Plus it’s more centrally located, it will draw customers from Brookland, Michigan Park, as well as Woodridge. Also with the new development going in at the metro there will be even more potential customers. Plus 12th St is metro accessible.

    It just makes more sense to locate on 12th St at this point. RIA especially at the far eastern end is still a wasteland of metal roll-up doors and blight. Not trying to offend, but it is what it is.

  4. I think Rhode Island Ave is ready for this kind of biz. The Ave already has a lot of businesses that are doing quite well, and also see more about to open. I think I read this differently than most but to me, Rustic snubbed people on Rhode Island (which they did no matter how you look at with them keep saying they were looking to open there) then suddenly open on 12th without a word or hint. didn’t read this as a brookland vs woodridge. Just bad way to go about it, not that people are mad about it. Good that they are opening in the area though. I think it helps no matter what. And to call Woodridge a “wasteland’ shows youre ignorant to the actual area.

  5. I did not say Woodridge was a wasteland, just the eastern end of RIA. I suppose this is subject to opinion, but when practically every storefront is empty and blighted, it is. The only business of value down there is Rita’s.

    If I were Rustik, I would locate on 12th St too, for the reasons I mentioned above.

    1. Just a FYI: Art Enables, Carl’s Subs, Zeke’s Coffee, Oliver Friendly’s, and one liquor store come to mind that end and side of the street before Rita’s. Not really blighted.

      1. Ok, so Rita’s being the only business of value is an exaggeration. There’s also Family Dollar, and Dudley’s beauty school.

        But you have to admit 12th St is more established, and a bar like Rustik is likely to do better when you have other sit down restaurants and a metro close by. That’s all I’m saying, that 12th St is a better location at this time. 12th St is further along the development process.

      2. I actually think the housing stock in Woodridge is quite nice. If I didn’t care about being close to the metro, I would buy one.

        RIA, like I said will eventually blossom with exciting restaurants and stores and groups like FORIA will help get the ball rolling. I’m actually close to RIA than I am to 12th St, so I would like to see more stuff open on RIA, but for now 12th St has more business that I can use.

  6. So much of business success, but especially restaurant success, is determined by housing density. Woodridge does have great housing stock (I live in the northeastern corner) and houses on both sides of RIA have been renovated and welcomed new residents and families, but if you are going to open a restaurant the more access to customers you have, the better chance for the hustle and bustle you are looking for. My walk to RIA (the corner of RIA and Dakota Ave) is easily shorter than my walk to 12th Street, but RIA is less convenient (no metro I can grab there on to the day’s next tour) and RIA is entirely uninviting to foot traffic. FoRIA should keep up the good work but I suspect very little will change along RIA without more convenient transit (streetcar days of past and hopefully future) but at the very least with a few less strip mall liquor stores and a few more trees.

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