On My Independence Bloc: I grew up at 30&P in Georgetown

In my blocks of independence… I buy chewing gum… the neighbors help the neighbors… Goodbye to local havens and hello to new owners…

Growing up near 30th and P Street NW, my first taste of independence came with running “errands” around the building. In my kindergarten years, I would venture four-doors all the way to Morgan’s Pharmacy, and Morris always greeted me with a smile as I perused my candy selection at the checkout counter.

Morgan has, and still is, my staple food for all things. My age progression can be seen in my account receipts there – gummy worms to chocolate bars, chocolate bars to razors and shaving cream, shaving cream to special hair oil, and now back to chocolate.

As I’ve gotten older, the drugstore has it, too—and gracefully. New store owner, Sahar Kassem, transformed the corner shop with a new bright green “open” sign, Ring camera system, and streamlined walkways with hardwood floors. She is the young woman with long dark hair and kind eyes who runs the pharmacy in the back.

And still Maurice is there, greeting me with a smile and free Ritter’s Chocolate Marzipan squares.

Once I graduated to my pre-teen years, Sarah’s Market was the next teacher for my independence. I’d take our late lab, Angus, around the corner and up the building until I came to the cream-colored building and tied it at the adjacent fence (more like dropping its tie between the planks). There I walked in, hurried down the cookie aisle to buy Oreos, then a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked relish from the frozen section and a carton of eggs my mom had ordered. I would use the money she gave me, and if I had anything left, I would buy a fancy box of ice cubes and put a few pennies in a “take a penny leave a penny” tray. To this day I still don’t really understand how this system works.

I remember the evolution of that interface. I remember the bars on the door after the storming of the early mid-2000s. I remember when the chime was installed, then the camera. I remember when they added dry cleaning services and when they shortened their store hours. And I remember the yearly changes from produce and snacks, the way they dwindled during Covid, and the way my department store is now a place I only go to pick up paper towels.

The owners of Sarah’s Market, Jerma Hailu and his wife Chucho, have also run 7-Eleven a few blocks away for decades. I can still savor Coca-Cola-flavored frozen drinks in huge cups with neon straws after an afternoon sweating at Rose Park. Having recently closed the store – at what seemed like a day’s notice – they struggled to manage costs at Sarah’s Market, given this sudden loss and the worsening pandemic.

Georgetown resident and interior designer Beth Haig led a group of neighbors to help renovate the store. They contributed new window hardware and panels, oatmeal linen curtains, new interior and exterior paint colors, and new butcher block countertops.

Despite having helpers in the neighborhood, the owners have just announced that Sarah’s Market will be closed by the end of the week.

Today, a decade more than when I first ventured there, I’ve walked the frozen food aisle. I was really pleased to see Ben & Jerry’s signature flavor – Cherry Garcia – as well as a great selection of Jeni’s ice cream. Jerma said that when he called Jenny to notify them of their closure, they sent a generous re-stock. They usually only serve two flavors to Whole Foods and other chains.

I bought a box of canned margaritas, because I can now, and a box of gum on the counter. I spoke to Jerma about the closing.

“I really tried, but it just doesn’t make sense anymore,” he said. “Love this neighborhood. This place is home.”

He showed me a picture of Sarah’s Market in 1915, the year it was founded. He pointed to the steel refrigerator in the back, to the ceiling fans, to all the details that remained.

There was no bowl to leave the pennies behind. I checked Apple Pay and said goodbye to Girma and the place I’m going to call home too.

On the 30th and Q, I expressed my respect and encourage you to do the same.

Tags30 F St. NW7-Eleven Angus the Labrador Ben and Jeribeth Hegsheri Garcia Chucho Hailu COVIDGirma Hailug Growing up in Georgetown Worms Morris Morgan PharmacoPandimoroz ParkSahar KassemSara Market

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