Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., has announced plans to open a branch store at The Wharf, a mile-long waterfront development intended to revitalize D.C.’s historic Southwest waterfront. The announcement comes after news broke in May of the store’s plan to open its first independently owned branch store in the city’s Union Market district this fall.
The $2.5 billion Wharf development on the Potomac River will include stores, restaurants, apartments, hotels, offices, and entertainment venues along with public parks, scenic promenades, and piers. Bradley Graham, who co-owns the bookstore with his wife, Lissa Muscatine, said Politics & Prose was approached by one of the developers to open the new location, which will hold its grand opening on October 12 along with the entire complex.
“Politics & Prose is a visionary D.C. institution with international cultural credibility — one that has stood the test of time while playing a central role in our city’s renaissance,” said Monty Hoffman, founder and CEO of developer PN Hoffman, which is collaborating on the project with Madison Marquette, another D.C. developer.
The bookstore’s imminent two-pronged expansion, according to Graham, combines two interests: to serve additional city neighborhoods by taking advantage of recent redevelopment in parts of D.C., and to capitalize on the current strength of local independent bookstores, both in D.C. and in the United States.
“Lissa and I are both very excited about this opportunity for P&P to expand into another increasingly dynamic part of Washington,” Graham told Bookselling This Week. “The southwest neighborhood is experiencing a remarkable new growth and has been woefully lacking in bookstores, so this expansion will allow us to bring books and literary and cultural events to another part of the city.”
The northwest section of the city, where P&P’s 16,000-square-foot main store is located, has traditionally been more built-up and home to higher income residents. However, said Graham, more traditionally lower-income sections of D.C. — the northeast neighborhood, where the Union Market store will be, and the southwestern neighborhood, where The Wharf is — are currently showing tremendous new growth in terms of office and apartment buildings. This investment in these new areas has led to rising real estate prices and attractive new opportunities for retailers.
P&P at The Wharf, which will encompass 2,300 square feet, will carry a wide assortment of books and non-book items and will host regular author events and book signings. Already scheduled to appear this fall are MSNBC host Chris Matthews, London-based writer and editor Malu Halasa, national security affairs specialist Mark Perry, and cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy.
“Both the Union Market and The Wharf stores are going to be small bookstores reflecting the neighborhoods in which they are located,” said Graham, who recently joined the ABA Board. “They are only a fraction of the size of P&P’s main store, but that is not going to keep us from offering a wide variety of book titles and gift items as well as holding some author talks for somewhat smaller audiences.”
The new store in D.C.’s Union Market area comprises 1,000 square feet of space plus another 1,000 square feet, which the store intends to use on weekends and evenings for additional retail and events, while The Wharf will take advantage of additional venues in the form of hotels and auditoriums, where that store will be able to host more author events.
“We gained a lot of experience operating satellite locations in the more than two years that we operated [together with] Busboys and Poets restaurants; at the end we had three of those going,” Graham told Bookselling This Week. “A number of those staff stayed with Busboys & Poets when the collaboration ended in June, but a few staff members came to the main store.”
Graham said he and Muscatine are hoping to fill some of the staff positions at the new stores by drawing on existing staff at the main store, in addition to hiring from outside.