BY BRIAN COGNATO ON BEHALF OF THE BATES AREA CIVIC ASSOCIATION
Change has been a recent fact of life in Ward 5, perhaps nowhere more so than among the businesses of Bloomingdale, Eckington and Truxton Circle. Within the past several years, a number of local cafes, restaurants, art studios and more have sprung up.
At the forefront of it all, however, was Windows Café and Market and its owner, Hunegnaw Abeje.
The shop at 101 Rhode Island Avenue NW was called ``Rhode Island Grocery`` when Hunegnaw bought it in 2001. A 2004 remodeling transformed storage space and what had been a church meeting room into ``the first sit-down eatery in the neighborhood in years,`` according to a 2007 Washington Post article.
The name ``Windows`` came from the windows that wrap around the entirety of the building and give it its character.
The café and grocery store remain a neighborhood fixture today, with Hunegnaw at the helm serving breakfast and lunch in the front and offering a mix of groceries, including a wine and craft beer selection, in the back. ``I`m happy when people see the change,`` he says now, ``People appreciate it when they see this kind of change, and that`s been the most rewarding thing.``
Owning his own business has long been Hunegnaw`s dream, something he says he learned from a family of entrepreneurs in his native Ethiopia. The journey took him to Addis Ababa, the capital, then to Italy and Canada before landing him in Washington. He held jobs waiting tables, in sales and even as a car dealer. Through it all, ``the dream was always to be my own owner, my own boss,`` he says.
According to Hunegnaw, the unique mix of café and grocery at Windows Café and Market came from listening to his customers.
You can stop in during the morning for a coffee and D.C.-themed breakfast sandwich (my favorite is ``The Logan Circle`` – stacks of crispy bacon and cheese on a bagel, for $3.99) and sit in its open, airy main dining room.
Then, swing back in the evening for a Heartland Stickleback white wine from Australia ($15.99) or a six-pack of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale from St. Louis ($12.99), picked from towering shelves that make the market feel like your grandmother`s overstocked pantry.
Looking ahead, Hunegnaw is interested in expanding eventually, but says he still has to work hard just to keep Windows on stable ground. It`s got company now, sharing a corner with Bloomingdale`s first two bars and new businesses opening every week it seems. Windows, though, pre-dates them all, and judging by the bustle there, it isn`t going anywhere.
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Windows Café and Market, 101 RI Ave NW
M-F 10am-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-9pm
(202) 462-6585, windowscafedc.com