Save Simple Bar & Grill: A Proud Georgia Avenue Business!
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Since 2010, Wilfredo Guzman, better known as “Will” by many in the neighborhood, has been arduously working on his vision to help be a part of the revitalization of the 5800 block of Georgia Avenue. Wilfredo is an example of hard work and perseverance.
Will came to the U.S. in 1992. He is originally from Bolivia in South America. As a first-generation immigrant, he has worked hard to reach his goals, support his family, and give back to the city by serving his community. Will is a resident of Ward 4 and an alumnus of Cardozo Senior High School and the Corcoran School of Art. As a longtime resident of Ward 4, he always drove by Georgia Avenue in the Brightwood area and saw many of the abandoned storefronts, because of the riots of the 60s and a wave of economic difficulties the city faced in the 80s and 90s. As an artist, Will saw the potential and possibilities in not only helping revitalize these areas but to be a part of this much-needed and deserved investment into the community.
He worked hard, saved money, and was able to open Graphic Box Custom Design Studio. He was able to begin to create an opportunity not only for his own dreams, but also helped ignite a revitalization to this area. Shortly after, he realized that area residents did not have that many options for places to come and share as a community. He soon opened Simple Bar and Grill to provide local quality services for the Brightwood community.
Graphic Box specializes in murals, graphic design, signage, and custom tattoos; while Simple creates a comfortable family-friendly community space, serves fair priced meals and spirits - and for many has become a ‘home away from home’.
Visit Simple on any given day and you will discover the true diversity of our neighborhood and city – all are welcome and celebrated. Simple has hosted public school teachers gathering to relax after a long week; families celebrating birthdays and anniversaries; nights to celebrate Liberian, Haitian, Latino, and Jamaican heritage; events to support local business; fundraising events for local and international grassroots causes; screening for local films, books, and artists; free sports viewing events; live performances by local and international bands; and local LGBTQIA Pride nights. When you walk in, you see the walls filled with artistic tributes to Mayor Marion Barry, Chuck Brown, and local abolitionary leaders like Aunt Betty, helping inform customers about the history of this city.
Simple and Graphic Box have not only supported the community through services, but also through their philanthropic spirit - by donating food, time, and resources. Examples of some of these activities have been: Brightwood clean-up day, Emery Heights Community Center, Top of the Hill neighborhood party, Police Night Out events, 4D MPD Halloween and 4th of July block parties, participated and sponsored various Ward 4 public school events and fundraisers, even providing sport uniforms for local public school students. Will and his team are a model to follow when it comes to local businesses, ensuring there are deep ties to the community.
In April 2018, Wilfredo found out through word of mouth that his landlord of five years, Michael Heller, planned to sell the property on Georgia Avenue NW – 5822-5824-5828 Georgia Ave NW. This news came as a shock for Wilfredo as he had been in talks for over a year with Mr. Heller to move the Graphic Box shop to the 5824 Georgia Ave storefront, upon completion of a remodel, with a verbal understanding of providing him with a long-term plan of purchasing both premises. Wilfredo was denied the First Right to Purchase the property, nor was he properly notified in writing with sufficient time of the landlord’s intent to sell.
In fact, according to information obtained when NDC’s broker approached the tenant next door to buy him out of his current lease, he specifically told him to not tell Wilfredo of the settlement or of the purchase. Three days later, after several unsuccessful attempts to reach Mr. Heller, he came to inform Wilfredo that he had already signed the contract and the property was under contract. Mr. Heller is under contract to sell the properties between 5822-5824-5828 Georgia Ave NW (settlement date scheduled for 5/18/18) to “5810 Georgia LLC,” owned by Adrian G. Washington, a long-time developer better known as the founder of Neighborhood Development Company. NDC has a long history of development in DC, including luxury development, but also affordable housing. The understanding is that NDC offered Mr. Heller $800,000 over the property price for a total of $1.7M.
Wilfredo, the Simple Bar & Grill staff, and their many supportive customers have decided to act! We are organizing customers and neighbors to demand an end to the reckless displacement of these two local small businesses as well as other local businesses that have fought hard to rebuild our city before large investors with deep pockets come in and exclude longtime residents from their businesses and communities, including others that may not feel comfortable in fighting back against this unfair displacement. Development without gentrification is possible, and it is what is fair.
As this city continues to grow, it is important to make sure that this growth is fair and inclusive of the local community and those of us that believe in keeping our local business protected against these large-scale developers. You may be asking yourself, how can I help? What can I do? Well, you can help us by signing the petition below! Reaching out to Ward 4 and At-Large DC Council members.
We, the undersigned, are concerned Simple’s customers who do not want to see the displacement of a locally owned small business that has strong roots in the community.
We demand: 1. For the intended buyer, Adrian G. Washington to enter into good-faith negotiations with Wilfredo to provide with the financial resources to relocate Simple Bar & Grill and Graphic Box
Today: Wilfredo is counting on you
Wilfredo Guzman needs your help with “Save Simple Bar & Grill: A Proud Georgia Avenue Business!”. Join Wilfredo and 1,364 supporters today.