Several weeks ago when it closed I wrote a post about the demise of Griffin Market, using it as a general lament about the "greed" of some Georgetown landlords. I based that on what owners Laura and Riccardo Bonino said, that the rent had been raised by 40% and they could not meet that kind of hike. Plus, they said the building needed serious repairs. Today I heard from the family who own the building, Garry, Maggie and Ashley Miller. Ashley wrote the email. I publish it below essentially verbatim, leaving out only some personal details not relevant to the issue. Ashley says it is her second email to me, but I have no recollection of an earlier email and checked my mail archives and found none.
I am happy to share both points of view. If I wrote about the Boninos position, it makes sense to share what the Millers have to say, and I'm glad Ashley reached out to me. My chief issue is that I miss Griffin Market. It was an asset to the village.
Here, from Ashley Miller:
"I believe this is the second email that I am sending regarding your article on the closing of the Griffin Market. I am quite disappointed, as I would assume that a reporter/journalist of your stature would take the time to verify her facts prior to publishing something. I believe you know my parents, as you were at our club in Bermuda writing a very nice article on Coral Beach as well, which is why this makes it even worse for me to be sending this to you.
"My family owns the property at P street and the Griffin Market was my grandfathers first business. I am a six generations Washingtonian and I attended the National Cathedral School. I would be happy to send you a copy of the lease for the Griffin Market, as it’s the same lease that has been in place since 1981 and there was no 40% increase proposed to the Boninos and in actuality, the rent they were paying before they broke the lease, after requesting an extension in writing, is significantly below market.
"I have numerous things that I would have been happy to share, but was never asked. Now there have been multiple article written with inaccurate information and I would have expected a bit more from you.
"I am sorry to see that you simply feel the need to write information and play it off as fact when if you had simply taken the time to get the full and accurate story you would not have lost my respect as well as my family’s and the rest of the DC community that I grew up with.
"This is also the second email that I have sent asking for a response or a call, as I would like to truth to be known and not your version of it."
I replied to the email asking for a little more information about the rent now being sought and other details, such as whether the terms are triple-net.
Ashley's response, in part:
"...we are working with a broker to lease the space and have had a lot of interest and should someone be interested they may contact Papadopoulos Properties, as they are the listing agent. I have spent the better part of 6-8 months working with the historic preservation society and last month finally got approval to replace all of the windows in the building, so we were and will continue to make improvements to the building.
"We are looking to find a great tenant and are open to any lease term, the idea is to get the best tenant for us as well as for the neighborhood. I am also not looking to say anything negative about the Boninos, as that is not the purpose of my email. I feel that the truth will come out about them eventually and I do not need to be the messenger of that information. tWe did not, nor were we able to increase the rent by 40%. I will tell you that the Boninos rent never increased the entire time they were there and I would be happy to provide you the back-story off the record should you want to call me, but again, do not feel the need to say negative things about them, even though that is what they have done to us.
"The same lease has been in place since 1981 and simply assigned and assigned and it actually went through 2018."
I asked what rent they are seeking, and Ashley replied $3500 a month. I asked what rent the Boninos paid, and she said she did not want that figure made public. She also asked that people read this letter in The Georgetowner.
Regardless of sides--and I'm not taking sides here--let's hope new tenants are found soon and that the new tenants restore Griffin to the useful corner market/food store/carry out/quality wine shop most of us came to like and to rely upon. I can't count how many times since it closed that I've wished I could pick up the phone to order dinner from Griffin. Which reminds me: I hope Laura and Riccardo are proceeding toward opening their planned restaurant.