A small crowd stood outside the former Mott’s Market building (233 12th St. SE) Thursday evening, the fading evening illuminated by spotlights. People joked as they drank small glasses of champagne, laughing in light cast by the open door.
It felt like the party associated with the opening of a new film. But this group was celebrating a closing.
Most of the crowd was made up of the new owners of Mott’s Market. The occasion? They officially closed the sale of the building the morning of Thursday, Oct. 6.
That’s right, the neighbors behind the effort to save the neighborhood store have officially Saved Mott’s Market.
“Thank you very very much to everybody who has stepped up to make this possible,” said Michael Skinner, the President of Mott’s Market Neighborhood LLC, in a very short speech that night. “Today is really the beginning of what I hope is many decades of partnership [and] making this thing into a market we can all be proud of. “
Then the community standing together outside their new market rose a toast “to the next hundred years.”
Until it closed in March of this year, there had probably been a store on the site for more than 100 years. Purpose-built in 1916 as a store and second-floor home for Samuel Gotkin, the building appears to have housed a corner store ever since.
The effort to save the store kicked off on Walter Street. Neighbors immediately banded together in an effort to purchase the building. The group was only days away from making an offer on the 3,313 square foot, two-floor building when it was sold April 25 for $1.25 million.
But by June, it was re-listed for $100,000 more. When they heard they had a second chance, they immediately remobilized, holding meetings and beginning the formation of the Mott’s Neighborhood Market, LLC that will function as ownership. They worked to make their offer, which was accepted in September.
But they say the closing they finally were able to celebrate Oct. 6 is just a prelude to the work needed before the community’s convenient store reopens for another century.
Christine Campbell is the vice-president of the new market LLC. She said keeping a market on the corner is part of her legacy. Campbell’s family has a long history on the block; her grandmother bought a home on Walter Street in 1928 and her family has been there ever since. Campbell purchased the house from her father nearly twenty years ago.
“This store, in one form or another, has always been here,” Campbell said. She has memories of college July 4th barbecues, of purchasing beverages at Mott’s Market to enjoy with the fireworks “back when you could still drink on the Mall.”
”You could come here and be able to get anything, from candy and all the regular stuff, but if you needed something special, you could come for it here.” That included staples such as bread and rice, but also more important touches. When her father was dating his current wife, whom Campbell describes as a lady of class, he entertained her over wine and cheese purchased from Mott’s. Obviously it met their needs, Campbell said; her father and his wife have now been married 19 years.
Meanwhile Paxton Styles came all the way from Cheverly, MD, bringing his 3-year-old daughter Simone along to mark the occasion. Styles and his wife, Sarah, were living on 11th Street SE just behind the store when they started their family and still miss and love the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
He said they decided to invest in Mott’s Market as a way to remain part of the community. “We loved living here so much, when we found this opportunity to maintain that connection to Capitol Hill, we wanted to jump on it,” Styles said.
A Community Gathering Place
Steve Langley lives right next door to the market building. When he found out the market was closing, he was sad and shocked. “I grew up in this neighborhood, and it’s been Mott’s Market since I was a child. It’s been in my family and in my neighborhood for generations.”
It was a happy day, he said, when he learned it was being revived. It said he was very excited about the future and the possibilities. “I hope that it remains a community gathering place as it is now,” Langley said as he stood in the middle of the celebration, “for food, family and friends.”
Right now that is the vision for the market, Skinner said. The market is intended to be responsive to neighborhood needs and to play an even greater role in the community.
In visioning sessions, people said they wanted the market to be equitable and “carry things that people actually need.” Others spoke to a desire for grab-and-go items like coffee or sandwiches and a new Amazon delivery site.
Mott’s Neighborhood Market will be in dialogue with the immediate neighbors about how they visualize a renewed market, and Skinner welcomes the input of Hill residents. “Our members are primarily neighbors in the community, so one of our primary goals is making sure we open a market that really serves our community and is able to partner with our neighbors.” The group has already held several vision sessions and expects to continue the dialogue to understand the role the market has played and they way to make it even better.
“I think there’s a chance to make a definite improvement in terms of how does the space look for the neighborhood and for folks walking by,” he said, “and to do that in a way that includes the input of the folks living closest.”
The group purchased the building with the help of real estate agent Todd Bissey. Bissey has offered to donate to the effort to build out the market, committing 3 percent of his commissions for the rest of 2022 and all of 2023. So one way people can support the market is to work with him on buying or selling a home “It’s really incredible,” said Skinner. “Its a tremendous gift to the community.”
Bissey said when he heard there was a neighborhood coalition trying to buy the former Mott’s Market building and save the historic corner store, he wanted to be a part of it.
“I just love how the Capitol Hill community rallies around what matters,” Bissey said. “While the convenience of Mott’s Market matters, what really matters are the relationships that are made when natural connections take place in a central neighborhood gathering place, which conveniently happens to sell wine, cheese and light bulbs.”
Corner stores like Mott’s maintain the fabric of the neighborhood, support small business owners and keep Capitol Hill the charming little village that it is, he added.
You Can Be Part of Mott’s
But in order to actually open a new neighborhood market at the site, the building requires a pretty significant renovation and a new operator. “We’ll need support from the community to raise the capital to do that,” Skinner said.
In the coming weeks the group will seek additional community investors, support from other Hill businesses and donations from the neighborhood. “If we really want a community market, we’ll need a lot of support,” he said. The group will launch an information and capital campaign over the next few months, although you can donate or join in the effort today.
But Thursday night was for celebrating. “This building has been a market for 100 years,” Skinner said, “and it’s taken a bunch of people to be able to keep it a market for the next hundred years. It’s pretty exciting.”
Learn more, get involved or donate to the effort to reopen a market at Mott’s by visiting www.mottsmarket.com