Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tenleytown florist in AU building to close due to rising rent

Residents protest to keep Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers open on Wisconsin Avenue

Tenleytown florist in AU building to close due to rising rent

Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers is near the corner of Van Ness Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

For 32 years, Tenleytown resident Mary Alice Levine has bought gardening supplies at Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers near American University’s Greenberg Theater.

Now, she’s frustrated that the 84-year-old shop is closing.

The store is shutting its doors due to increasing rent and occupancy fees, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Johnson’s D.C. store sits at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, the same building as Medstar Georgetown Pediatrics and UPS. AU is their landlord.

“AU is going to have a black eye for many generations if they succeed in closing Johnson’s,” Levine said.

When Levine heard about the closing, she and Tenleytown residents Judy Chesser and Bill Rice formed the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers. Their goal: meet with President Sylvia Burwell and persuade her to keep Johnson’s open at its D.C. location.

Levine and her committee initially planned to protest outside the University’s annual community town hall Thursday, she said. But after AU postponed the meeting due to cold weather, the group instead demonstrated near the store Sunday, Levine said.

AU employee Chuck Smith contacted the committee to ask for a meeting, university spokesperson Mark Story and Levine said. However, the group could not attend the University’s requested time and later did not agree with AU’s terms for the meeting, she said. Levine has not yet rescheduled.

Johnson’s could not be reached for comment by phone or email in time for publication.

Several possible tenants are now looking at the soon to be vacant space, Story told The Eagle. The University bought the building in 1998 and does not plan to use the space for AU staff. As an institution, the University has been a Johnson’s customer in the past, Story said.

“With a deep understanding of their meaning to the community, American University has worked tirelessly to keep Johnson's as a tenant, particularly over the last three years,” Linda Argo, the University’s assistant vice president for external relations and auxiliary services, said in a statement Thursday. “We have made significant concessions over a long period of time that we would not have made for other commercial tenants.”

Johnson’s said in a statement on Facebook that months of negotiation did not end in a “mutual understanding” with AU.

The company has two other locations in Olney and Kensington, Maryland. It is offering D.C. customers 20 percent off in-store purchases from Jan. 15 through the rest of the year at those locations, according to its Facebook page.

“We respect the Johnson family and their business as well as the service they have provided to the community over the years,” the University said in a statement Sunday.

crozen@theeagleonline.com


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