Over the weekend I spoke with the owner of 8th&H Furniture & Mattress which formerly occupied the now vacant space next to the Rite Aid on the south west corner of 8th & H (the previous tenant was an athletic shoe store). He told me he had to close the store due largely to harassment of customers and employees by people who loitered on the sidewalks and steps outside the store and all around the general area between the X2 bus stop and the stop for the 90/92 buses. To clarify one point below: the business was an LLC, but Mr. Ayubi, his wife, and his father personally guaranteed the lease (these days it is common for a landlord to require such a personal guarantee). I wanted to share his note in case any of you would like to offer your impressions of 8th & H, or share your stories of the intersection/people sitting on the steps/loitering in area surrounding the store. Frankly, I think a good broader discussion of issues in that immediate area is overdue. Please share in the comments. Those wishing to assist Mr. Ayubi can also email him directly at jacobayubi[at]yahoo.com. The following is his story:
In August 2013 when I opened up my store on H street with the hopes and dreams that every entrepreneur has. I wanted to be successful, I wanted to give my customers a quality product at a great price and I wanted to be a part of the H Street family. Unfortunately immediately after I opened up I realized that there was a problem. My problem was the 10-20 regular loiterers that hung out directly in front and to the side of my store. There was a lot of drug dealing and drug use. On a daily basis drunk or high people would come into the store and yell at me and my employees. They would threaten us. They would get in our faces. I sent letters to Lt. Godin and commander Hickson at MPD. They were very receptive to my issues but the police department is seriously outnumbered. There was only so much they could do. I begged my landlord to please help me but they did nothing. Often times these intimidating men would sit on along the windows sills running down 8th St or on the two front steps leading to our front doors or sit on the railing along the front or on the handicapped ramp to the store. They would not get out of the way of me or my customers. They made it clear that this was their neighborhood and we weren't welcome. I can tell you countless stories from my seven month pregnant employee being assaulted in the store to my own pregnant wife being intimidated. I opened the store so I could make more money to support my growing family. Just before Christmas 2014 I asked the landlord to terminate my lease. They said that they wanted to work with me but because of the coming holidays they were short staffed and we could reconvene after the holidays.
On January 13, 2014 my wife went into early labor by six weeks. It was a life changing moment. We had our first child, a boy and we named him Benjamin. We call him Benji. With the business costing me about $12,500 out of pocket to run a month it soon became apparent that we couldn't afford daycare and I watched Benji as a stay at home dad and brought him to work with me. The daily barrage of intimidation and not knowing what would happen next really took a toll on all of us but especially my employees. Morale was very low. In November 2014 I finally called it quits. My wife, my father and I personally guaranteed the lease. My wife a fourth grade Fairfax County teacher. My father has worked in conflict zones for pretty much my whole life, I'm 40. My father has been in Afghanistan for the past six years. He turned 65 this past March. He comes home to retire in a couple of months. Right now the landlord is suing us personally for about $100,000. They claim that there are no drug dealers or people under the influence on the corner of H street and 8th street. They claim that men do not sit on my front steps and on the railings and stand along the handicapped ramp or sit along the windows running down 8th street. Also they claim that people do not congregate in front of Rite Aid.
I need help. I'm not asking anyone to make up stories or not tell the truth but I know that there are people who have seen with their own eyes what I'm claiming. If not the abuse that took place inside the store they can probably corroborate my claim that men sit on my front steps. Men sit on the front railings. Men stand in the handicapped ramp. Men sit along the window sills. Men congregate on that corner and they are involved in drug use. Many people in the past told me that they are intimidated by the people that hang out on that corner. I just need some people to corroborate my side of the story. This amount of money that the landlord wants to sue me for will literally ruin me financially for the rest of my life. They will come after my wife. They will come after my dad and his house that he's worked his whole entire life to create. I need help. Can you please help me? Do you know people that would be willing to help me? I have until April 14 to send opposing counsel letters/emails from people that can corroborate my story. I'm available to you via phone, email, text or in person. You may forward this email to anyone that you feel might be able to help. Thank you for reading all of this.
Below I've attached a picture of my wife Meghan, my boy Benji and me.