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Monday, May 07, 2012

Black Supermarket

IMG_6767_2
Walter Jamison of Black Supermarket (910 13th Street) stands in front of his candy selection


For years people had asked me how Black Supermarket got its name. One day in 2010 I asked Walter about it, and got a very interesting story that I used for my Hill Rag column. Does anyone know the answer (NO Google cheating!)?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Walter is the man. I heard that he bought the store 40 years ago or so from a white guy whose name was Mr. Black, hence Black Supermarket.

inked said...

11:54,
Walter bought the store in 1969, but it wasn't from a Mr. Black.

Anonymous said...

It's probably better than Mr. Pink. Easy for you to say, you got a cool sounding name...

Anonymous said...

I hate to play spoiler, but:

Walter's dad spends his last years building his vast estate and lives alone, interacting only with his staff. The butler recounts that Mr. Jamison had said "Black" after his mistress left him, right after seeing a snow globe.

At the estate, Jamison's vast number of belongings are being catalogued, ranging from priceless works of art to worthless furniture. During this time, a Newsreel reporter finds that he is unable to solve the mystery and concludes that "Black" will forever remain an enigma. He theorizes that "Mr. Jamison was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Maybe Black was something he couldn't get, or something he lost." In the end, in blog postings, it is revealed to everyone that Black was the name of the sled from Jamison's childhood – an allusion to the only time in his life when he was truly happy. The sled, thought to be junk, is burned and destroyed in a basement furnace by the estate's departing staff.

A sad story, but that's how the name Black Supermarket came to be. (apologies, I actually did cheat and use Google)

Joe said...

Nobody is trading with anybody! This isn't a goddamn city council meeting!

Anonymous said...

I thought the story was that during the riots the owner of the market put a sign out that said "Black Supermarket" to deter rioters and it stuck. ...but the Citizen Kane story sounds plausible too.

Trinidaddy said...

When he bought it, the previous owner's last name was White and the store was called White Supermarket. He changed it after the riots, since owning a store with that name wasn't a good idea at the time.

inked said...

Trinidaddy comes the closest. Here's what I wrote for the article back in 2010:

"Jamison bought the store June 1, 1969 from a Jewish man named Max White. At that point the store was known as White Market. Jamison changed
it because, as he put it, 'in 1969, Black was the thing.' The riots that ripped huge gashes in portions of the District hadn’t touched the little store, but they were still a recent memory, and the city was
transforming itself."

Trinidaddy said...

Walter is the man!

kskreet said...

Walter is a nice guy, always says Hi when I greet him while he's reading outside his store. what's more, some people would call me white. guess it's time i stepped inside the black supermarket. glad he's kept his business alive, let's give Walter some business!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to know there is a story behind that, I've always wondered why it was called Black Supermarket. I have to be honest though, the name has kept me from ever stopping in there, and almost always gets a reaction from people when I drive them through the neighborhood for the first time. Now that I know the reason for the name, I'll probably go there the next time I need something.

B said...

Nice work, thank you for explaining one of the mysteries behind this store. The other being: how long has the Grand Opening been going on, and when will it end?

Anonymous said...

@anon9:45 Since you're being honest, why would the name "black supermarket" stop you from even stepping inside the store?

Anonymous said...

I had read that the original owner, Mr. White provided quite a good neighborhood selection of fresh vegetables and even butchered some meats in the store. After it changed hands and after the riots, the name change from White's Market to Black Supermarket really made sense. I was a bit put off by the name until I knew the story. We have been stopping in for a while now and always get friendly service.

Anonymous said...

@anon 10:54

I think probably the same reason as the guy above who wrote "I was a bit put off by the name until I knew the story." And probably the same reason that people I take past there all of a sudden are taken aback when they read the name and aren't inclined to immediately go there. And probably the same reason that there is a post asking why the name is Black Supermarket.

Jonathon Mooresville the Fifth said...

As a white male, I had always supposed that I'd have to get a fake ID to enter the Black Market.

My theory is that if that place were called "Indian Market", folks of any race wouldn't feel any hesitation about stopping by.

Anonymous said...

India is a place. And it has a very specific cuisine, so I would think a place called "Indian Market" would have Indian food. Black is not a place so your comparison is a little apples verses oranges.

I'm sure Walter is a nice man, but I would feel as uncomfortable going into a store called White Market (if it was named after a race rather than a person) as I currently feel going to a store called Black Market.

That said, I get why he changed the name. The world has change a lot and so has H st. I wish it were now called "Walter Market" instead.

Anonymous said...

Unless you know the story, being named Black Supermarket does seem a little like having a place in Georgetown named White Bar.

tiffanyc said...

who gives a $hit! if you need something from the store, walk in and get it! it's ridiculous that you let it's name stop you from supporting a local business. but then on the other posts all you hear about is supporting local businesses... we have a fake hotel, fake country club, quite realistic biergarten, a second floor underground ramen shop, but a convenience store with the word 'black' in it gives us pause... and i know EXACTLY how those conversations go when you have to explain to your friends when y'all stumble upon 'black' supermarket.

Anonymous said...

A good name can help you, a bad name can hurt you. That should be obvious. New customers might stop by IN SPITE of this name, but I don't think it's particularly attracting any new customers. And that's okay. He owns his business and should be able to do whatever he wants.

Anonymous said...

It is hardly a supermarket and good food is nowhere to be found there. If you want candy, chips, soda or cigarettes it is the place to go to. The place is pretty empty to be honest so nothing to be too scared or excited about.

perilni preparati said...

I do not think there should be so divided into supermarkets. Anyone can shop from wherever it wants.