Bethesda Community Store, Barbecue Stand Close
Longtime owner Arnie Fainman did not renew lease at historic building this year
The Bethesda Community Store on Old Georgetown Road. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Updated – Tuesday, 9:50 a.m. – The Bethesda Community store deli and its outdoor barbecue stand are shutting down after a 15-year run.
Arnie Fainman, who has run the community store for the past 15 years, was in the process of closing the store and barbecue stand Monday. He said he decided not to renew the store’s lease earlier this year and this past weekend was the store’s last.
“This was just a hard, hard job maintaining the different buildings,” Fainman, 64, said. “I’ve had a good run here the past 15 years.”
Fainman said he’ll take down the large event tent next to the community store over the next few days and move his barbecue trailer off the lot. Fainman has operated the store at the historic site since taking it over just before Sept. 11, 2001. Fainman said he lost business after the terrorist attacks due to new security gates at the National Institutes of Health across the street, which made it more difficult for NIH employees to get to the store.
Sales at the barbecue trailer, which has been pumping out smoke at the corner of Old Georgetown and Greentree roads for the past five years, saved his business in recent years, he said.
Fainman also used the large parking lot at the site to sell Christmas trees during the winter. The deli inside the 350-square-foot store served grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, breakfast items and French fries. Salt River Lobster, a seafood truck that parks at the lot each Friday, plans to continue to come, Fainman said.
The largely undeveloped lot that the store sits on was designated historic by the county in 1986, which prevents it from being developed or significantly altered. Fainman said the lot’s owners may add an addition to the store that’s been approved by the county and renovate it in the future.
Property owner Stan Smith said Tuesday he plans to build the addition that will bump up the store building to about 1,000 square feet and add a basement. Smith, who also owns the local hardware stores Strosniders, said he has hired the real estate firm Streetsense to find a new tenant for the space. He's looking for a tenant that can bring a similar use to the site–such as another community market or coffee shop, but wants to make sure the business is embraced by the community.
Fainman said business had dropped off in the past year, making his decision to close a little easier. He’s also part of an ownership team that’s opening the new sports bar Quincy’s in Bethesda this summer. However, he said he’ll still miss the place.
“When I have nowhere to go in the morning, that’s when it’ll hit me,” Fainman said. “But business has been bad in the past year, I think it’s probably time to let someone else have it.”
The Bethesda Community Store dates to around 1892, according to local historian Jerome Collins, but the actual building that sits on the site was built around 1924. The county’s Historic Preservation Commission designated the site historic because it is one of the few surviving commercial structures from the early 20th century in Bethesda.