Saturday, July 28, 2007

Weekend To-Do List: Plan Party; Brush Up on Local History

Although I’m not in the market for custom-printed keychains, giant pink stuffed bears or bulk quantities of fake dracula teeth, I stopped at Monarch Novelty at 1331 14th Street, NW, this morning to chat with the store's owner, whom I often pass on the street.

If you decide to venture inside and under the 53-year-old painted wooden sign, you may find that Monarch has a decent selection of standard party decorations, like balloons, streamers and signs, along with party handouts, like hats and noisemakers, at prices lower than you are likely to find anywhere else in the city. I asked what they have for Halloween parties, and was shown a gold-fringed “Happy Halloween” banner and bags of small, inexpensive toys to pass out to trick-or-treaters instead of candy. What a great idea.

While most of Monarch’s business comes from bulk sales to churches, law firms and schools, I’m told that they do a fair amount of walk-in retail business. The most popular selling items are large rolls of double-counting tickets, which churches and PTAs use for raffles. They also do custom printing on those goodies you pick up at conferences, like business card holders, pocket calendars and tote bags. One firm had coffee mugs printed with the citation to a case they had just won.
Monarch carries an interesting stock of buttons from the 1960s, which it acquired from A.A.A. Novelties, after that store was demolished to make way for construction of the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Monarch is not a high-tech operation. They still use a rotary telephone. Orders are taken on a pad of carbon paper.
The business is family-run and has been in operation since 1941, when it was in a house on 1st Street, NW. Monarch later moved to 2020 Rhode Island Avenue, NE, before relocating here. It has been at its current location on 14th Street, NW, for 53 years.

Monarch Novelty Company
1331 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-3610
202.462.5533
hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm; Saturday 9am – 1pm

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Construction Update

The first photograph is of the construction pit that flanks the former Paradise Liquors site at 1900 14th Street, NW (the corner of 14th and T Streets, NW) to the north and west. It looks like the construction firm is in the process of laying a foundation. The other photograph is of the storefront that remains intact at the corner for historic preservation reasons. I liked the urban feel to it, from the dirty glass block, the iron bars, the padlock, and the signs plastered over the glass door, which probably was never washed since it was installed. A writer for the Washington Post observed almost two years ago that the at-the-time impending closure of Paradise Liquors was emblematic of the ongoing transformation of the neighborhood.