Thursday, April 24, 2008

Harris Teeter is a Grocer

Contrary to most of the over the top praise I heard about Harris Teeter 's new store in Adams Morgan, I was just, well, indifferent about the place after visiting last night. The just-opened store at the corner of 17th Street and Kalorama Rd NW had been in the works for nearly four years. Anticipation and angst over this particular store had built-up and subsided many times over the last few years. Issues over parking, traffic, beer and wine sales, unions and urban planning helped drag the process out for a few years and the delays increased the level of fervor for the opening. Turns out that its just a small, urban grocery. The opening day reminded me a lot of the Super Giant opening at Tivoli Square. There were tons of employees with their happy, helpful hats on, managers at every corner, fully stocked shelves, free samples and cashiers at every register. I hope it lasts.

Don't get me wrong; I think a quality grocery is a great addition to any neighborhood, especially with the explosion of new residential development in that part of Adams Morgan over the last 5 or 6 years. But this Harris Teeter, while new, gleaming and a seeming respite for now, won't end up any more exceptional than any other chain grocery. I think it does add another option for those of us disappointed with Columbia Rd Safeway and the Tivoli Giant.

Harris Teeter does have a store brand that's significantly cheaper than name brand. My bill tonight for 1/3 pound of coffee, half a gallon of OJ and a small package of organic sugar was $7.98. All 3 of my items were HT brand. I used the self checkout lane, which I was happy to see. Other people seemed to have trouble, but since I'd practiced, no big deal!

There were two protesters outside the front doors, explaining some of the negative and controversial aspects of the development. I wrote about some of the controversy earlier this year. Note the photo below of the beer aisle. HT fought and won a tough legal battle to be able to sell alcohol. This is the crux of most of the protests.

I don't mean to be a naysayer, so I'll end with some other aspects I liked: bike rack (only one, but it is inside!), the store includes a pharmacy, all the vegetarian frozen foods are grouped together (nice for vegetarians), heavily discounted store brand, opportunity for more development on the southwestern corner of the lot, extremely walkable/bikeable for thousands of residents.