New Plans Will Bring Frager's Together Again (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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New Plans Will Bring Frager's Together Again

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and every once in a while someone will ask me or one of our reporters, "Hey, whatever happened to so and so, you know, that really interesting person you interviewed back in May or June or whatever?" Well, the truth is, well, we often do stay in touch with a lot of these interviewees. It's actually kind of rare that we get to bring you the second act of their stories. So we are devoting this week's entire program to those second acts with a show we're calling, Follow-ups.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:40
We'll trek back to an endangered marsh on the Potomac River to see how it's fairing now. Brent Steury

MR. BRENT STEURY

00:00:44
Look Dyke Marsh is going to be gone in 30 years unless somebody takes some action.

SHEIR

00:00:48
And we'll check in with mother who shared a very personal tale of losing one of twin sons.

MS. SARAH GRAY

00:00:52
When my son died it was such a sad time that I wanted to give hope to someone during a really bad time in their life.

SHEIR

00:01:03
Plus, we'll follow up with the monks of Virginia's Holy Cross Abbey to see how they're fairing 18 months after we shared their fight for survival.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1

00:01:11
Well, there's plenty of money here to sustain the operation. The thing that's been the challenge is the human capital. And hopefully we've turned the corner or are starting to turn the corner on that as well.

SHEIR

00:01:26
But before we get to all that, back in June we headed to D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood where we met this man.

MR. JOHN WEINTRAUB

00:01:33
Well, it was a normal day at Frager's. And there was our main cashier Melinda and I think a customer tipped her off. They smelled smoke.

SHEIR

00:01:42
John Weintraub is the owner of Frager's, the hardware store on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast that had been serving the Washington area for more than 90 years when a cigarette butt sparked a massive fire that wound up ravaging the place.

WEINTRAUB

00:01:54
And so then we ran around the side to 11th Street, and then I saw the flames -- in the median strip. I just watched it burn.

SHEIR

00:02:02
And as you did so, what was going through your mind, your heart?

WEINTRAUB

00:02:04
I was crying almost.

SHEIR

00:02:05
Six months later though, John Weintraub is finding reasons to smile. He's leased the pad at Eastern Market for his Lawn and Garden operation. He's rented a former auto-body shop at 1323 E Street Southeast for to Frager's Hardware and Rental. The temporary Frager's Paint Store is going strong at 1129 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast. And here…

SHEIR

00:02:26
Can you describe what we see?

SHEIR

00:02:27
…at 1230 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast…

WEINTRAUB

00:02:29
Well, it's pretty barren. It does have some trash that's going to be removed. It's got some concrete places that were foundations, some bricks, a few trees and the backs of other houses.

SHEIR

00:02:42
You don't really see a whole lot now, but John Weintraub says just you wait.

SHEIR

00:02:48
Within a matter of time what are we going to see back here?

WEINTRAUB

00:02:51
Well, we are planning a 5,000 plus square foot temporary warehouse structure.

SHEIR

00:02:57
He and his team are hoping to have the structure up by summer, at which point…

WEINTRAUB

00:03:00
It's going to house all the varied pop-ups that Frager's now has.

SHEIR

00:03:04
At least until the original space is rebuilt. And that's a dream come true for Ricky Silverstein, one of Frager's managers.

SHEIR

00:03:11
So do you have any New Year's resolutions when it comes to you and Frager's?

MR. RICKY SILVERSTEIN

00:03:14
Oh, yeah. One roof.

SHEIR

00:03:16
Ricky says the past few months have been quite the challenge.

SILVERSTEIN

00:03:20
Yeah, multiple locations, different topography, you know, a building with heat and air conditioning. And then the staff that has to work in the elements, and then they come over and see us in the warm, you know, 72 degrees, we feel bad about that.

SHEIR

00:03:35
Plus, says Frager's staffer Kristen Sampson, there continues to be a whole lot of flux among the locations, in terms of which place offers what.

SHEIR

00:03:43
You do have people coming into building thinking that this is where they have to be, but then you tell them no. Actually you need to go to…

MS. KRISTEN SAMPSON

00:03:48
Yeah, you know, it ebbs and flows. So it'll kind of stabilize for a little while and then there'll be another change. The most recent change is that they key machine moved from the pad to 1323 E Street. So if you do want keys cut, it's 1323 E Street.

SHEIR

00:04:03
And speaking of 1323 E Street, when Kristen, Ricky and I swing by on a recent Friday afternoon, the former auto-body shop is bustling.

SHEIR

00:04:10
So they're repairing glass and screens behind there?

SAMPSON

00:04:13
He's cutting glass and screen. He might have been actually vacuuming up the scraps, but we actually do a pretty good glass and screen repair business. Not a lot of places will cut glass and screen to custom fit sizes and stuff.

SHEIR

00:04:24
What's more, says Brenda Robinson, a local property manager and longtime Frager's customer, not a lot of places will sell the items that Frager's does.

SHEIR

00:04:31
Give us an example.

MS. BRENDA ROBINSON

00:04:32
Well, certain types of parts for the water heaters, electrical parts, lots of radiator keys. It's just a lot of things that you can find here.

SHEIR

00:04:42
And if you can't find it here, she says, they'll be happy to order it for you. Yet another reason she's thrilled to have Frager's back after June's fire.

ROBINSON

00:04:50
I guess accidents happen, but it really affected a lot of people. Not only in the area, I mean, just people come from all around, you know, to get things that they need.

SHEIR

00:05:00
And that's a big part of what keeps John Weintraub going. Because he says there have been plenty of ups and downs over these past six months. He had to let about 20 employees go. He's had to rebuild a ton of lost files and data. Not to mention all the different leases he's been juggling with his pop-up stores. Most are for one or two years.

WEINTRAUB

00:05:16
But some of the leases, the people are planning to develop the property, so the future's unknown on those.

SHEIR

00:05:23
And that's especially true for the pad at Eastern Market, which is part of the proposed Hine Junior High School development project.

WEINTRAUB

00:05:29
There is a court case pending, and there's no time frame on that. When that's resolved then they will begin construction in that whole area. So we'll have to leave the pad. And that's one of the…

SHEIR

00:05:41
Will they give you any notice?

WEINTRAUB

00:05:42
They'll give us notice, yes. Part of the deal is we've agreed to be able to leave within two weeks. So yes, that's been a source of anxiety.

SHEIR

00:05:50
But what's been a source of joy, he says, is the generous support he and his staff have been receiving from customers and organizations.

SHEIR

00:05:57
We have the holidays coming up. How are you going to celebrate and look back at the year?

WEINTRAUB

00:06:00
Well, we're having a party. We generally have a Christmas party every year, and the Capitol Hill Community Foundation raised an awful lot of money, and so we're going to be able to defray some of the costs.

SHEIR

00:06:13
Not only that, he says, but he might even be able to hand out some holiday bonuses, making this the most wonderful time of a pretty tough year.

SHEIR

00:06:26
You can see how 1230 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast looks now and how Frager's hopes it'll look in the future on our website, metroconnection.org.
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