Van Ness Opens Alternative Grocery Store

By Sophia Wu

Soapstone Market, a boutique grocery store, opened in the Van Ness neighborhood of Washington, D.C. on November 7. Sleek with silvers and blacks, the modern-looking Soapstone offers a niche of local products and independent brands, which differs from the Giant chain supermarket a few blocks away.

Located beneath the Park Van Ness apartments, Soapstone is a relatively residential option for the people of Van Ness; its tagline is “your neighborhood one-stop-for-everything-shop.” Indeed, Soapstone is more than simply a grocery store. There is a coffee counter, drinks bar, deli, fresh seafood mart, wine section, and café seating area. It may be a stop for everything, but that doesn’t mean Soapstone doesn’t welcome their customers to sit and stay for a while.

“Students come here. They probably will come tonight. They stay here drinking, or get a couple of snacks and go back,” says Dayshawn S., a cashier at Soapstone. University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and Howard University School of Law are located in Van Ness, which is often populated with their students. In addition to food, Soapstone sells composition notebooks — placed on the produce table, conveniently located in front of the main entrance.

Hugh D. and Hugh T. are both young working professionals from Vietnam who are lounging in the café; their finished, crumbed plates sit idly on the table. Van Ness, one of the relatively quieter areas of D.C., does not have many areas for individuals to spend time and congregate in, other than chains such as Starbucks, Potbelly’s, and Subway. “Looks like a cool place, looks hippie, and it’s also close to our apartment,” says Hugh D., who points to the apartment complex next door. “I think it’s like a great mix of grocery store and bar. Everything all in one,” Hugh T. adds.

On this lazy Sunday afternoon, Soapstone is packed with a relatively young crowd who are drinking coffee or gazing at pasta sauces. There are no laptops in sight; people are mainly engrossed in conversations with one another. “People are still checking the place out,” says Justin P., a music student at UDC, who also works at Soapstone. “But so far, I think they like it.” He mentions the popularity of the prepped foods section, in which he and fellow students often will grab a meal from if they are on the go to class.

“It’s in between a grocery store and a health foods store,” Justin mentions. He gestures to the produce, which he says is mostly from Maryland. The set up of Soapstone could arguably encourage healthy-eating. The snacks and dessert aisle is minimized compared to the rest of the store. It is located behind the cashier stand and adjacent to the employees-only back room. The produce table is isolated from the rest of the aisles, front-and-center, and the prepped foods section is filled with mostly greens and grains.

Soapstone’s emphasis on health is one of many reasons it appeals to the people of Van Ness. But mostly, it is a versatile environment that caters to anyone who wants to relax for hours over a drink or have the grab-and-go food experience. Combining healthiness, affordability, convenience, and style, it is no surprise many young D.C. residents are flocking to Soapstone.

Soapstone Market, 4465 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, Saturday-Sunday, 7am-10pm, (202) 750-4100, info@soapstonemarket.com, https://www.soapstonemarket.com/

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