H Street NE is getting a new organic grocery.
Hareg Messert, owner of Chez Hareg Pastries in Edgewood, is making a big expansion into 806 H St NE, where currently a dollar store stands. The Z-Mart will become Chez Hareg Organic Market, Messert confirms.
"H Street corridor doesn't have a grocery," she says. "I'm going to pull all the local farmers together. When you go to H Street, there is nothing there where the neighbors can bring their kids to buy their meat. Everybody says, 'We're waiting for the farmer's market.'"
The 4,000-square-foot space should be open by the middle of April, she says, after a quarter of a million dollars in renovation expenses. The market will carry local produce, eggs, meat and more — many purchased from the same suppliers who serve the local farmer's market, Messert says.
Z-Mart is owned by Messert's brother. "I'm the one who pushed him," she says. "I said, 'This area is changing. Nobody's coming to the dollar store anymore.'" Seeing an opportunity to provide the community with a needed amenity, she began planning the market.
At the same time, Messert is completing renovations on a 5,000-square-foot warehouse at 1228 Mount Olivet Road NE, which will become Messert's production facility. She needs to ramp up because she is soon to begin supplying Costco with her baked goods.
"Right now I'm supplying Whole Foods. Costco is a step up for me," Messert says. "The warehouse I have right now [less than half of the size of the new space] was not going to make it."
The warehouse will be Messert's base of operations where the company will make bread, pastries and Messert's celebrated vegan offerings. Including the cost of new equipment, Messert is spending $450,000 on the remodel. While there won't be a dedicated retail area, customers will be able to call ahead to pick up baked items.
Meanwhile, the retail location on 4th St. NE in Edgewood will change hands. Messert is selling the location to a different pastry chef, though she confirms that the new cafe will continue to carry Chez Hareg-branded items.
"After I finish [the market and warehouse]," she says, "I want to [re]open Chez Hareg Pastry somewhere."
Chez Hareg Organic Grocery will be less than half a mile from the upcoming Giant supermarket, which is scheduled to open in May.
So what? Says Messert: "Giant is Giant, you know."