Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sad news: Columbia Heights Coffee has closed

Columbia Heights Breakfast Longtime 11th Street coffee shop Columbia Heights Coffee has closed, according to multiple sources. No one has yet gotten a comment from owners Nadew and Tsege Delnesaw, who have operated the shop since opening it in 2003, back when 11th Street was much different than the one we have today: barely any bars or restaurants (even Wonderland wasn't open then) and much less foot traffic.

I worried that places like the Coupe might affect Columbia Heights Coffee's business, but figured they were different enough, as the Coupe was more like a restaurant. Turns out I was wrong. It's sad to see, I think even with big places like the Coupe (which still has middling reviews) small, neighborhood shops could stay in business.

I wonder if this is something we'll have to get used to? Small, well-liked businesses open and thrive until the area gets more popular and bigger places can come in. Then those big places squeeze out the small ones.

(Then again, since there have been no comments from the owners, something else might have been afoot. Some on PoP speculate about rent increases, which is also a big problem for small businesses in popular areas.)

Columbia Heights Coffee may have been one of the oldest businesses in the area -- most of the other places that used to be there have long since closed and reopened as something else -- like the crummy sandwich shop that Room 11 replaced.

It's too bad to see them go, and I'm going to do my best to keep supporting small businesses in the area. You should too.

Here's a short review I posted in 2008 after my first stop there.

Photo by Mr. T in DC


  1. I think there's a good chance it has to do with a rent hike because of all of the development on 11th Street rather than the opening of Coupe specifically. Comments on other blogs noted that the coffee shop had been open 10 years, so the timing could very well coincide with the end of a lease term.

  2. Also, I'd note that the Coupe is part of a small, local business - it's not a Starbucks. I'm not sure why all the Coupe hate in general. I think many of the early kinks have been resolved and I've found it a pleasant place to spend weekend mornings and to do some work on the weekend (instead of heading into the office).

  3. That's a good point, maybe I am blaming the Coupe too much on this. That said, it's a much bigger coffee shop literally across the street.

  4. Looks like they never did get that expansion... Good work keeping this blog up for so many years.

  5. Andrew - I still am not seeing the connection between the size of the Coupe and the ability of another coffee shop to survive. If the smaller shop served better coffee, locals would go to it rather than Coupe, and it seems that many did based on the middling reviews of the Coupe. If it's about space to camp out or that Coupe could serve people faster, that would mean the smaller coffee shop already was serving people at or near capacity. It's hard to see how Coupe would steal the smaller shop's business other than by serving a product and experience that people prefer. Overall, I think it's a little silly to bemoan another local, small business just because it has a bigger space (which also means higher rent, overhead and risk).

  6. Well, you could make the argument that The Coupe isn't a small local business, since it's part of the group that owns the Diner, Tryst, Open City and so on. That may mean they can get better deals and have more efficiencies than smaller, mom and pop operations like Columbia Heights Coffee.

    Then again we don't know the reason. It might something else entirely.

  7. True. Personally, I'd still call the Tryst group a small, local business as they only have a handful of places, all here. Not sure whether or not they would qualify under the Small Business Administration's definition.

  8. I remember when it was the only coffee shop in that part of Columbia Heights. There are so many more choices now.


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