BY PAULA MINAERT — Route 1 Ride, the county bus service that travels one of the area’s main commercial districts, can take you from IKEA in College Park down to the traffic circle in Mount Rainier. It’s free for students and seniors; the rest of us pay $1. It will soon be easy to pick out the three buses that travel the route each weekday, as plans are underway to wrap them in a design from a local artist.
What, we wondered, would riders see as they pass through Hyattsville’s stretch of Route 1?
On the west side, Hyattsville proper begins near Melrose Skate Park (at Charles Armentrout Drive) at the southern end and goes north to about Oliver Street. On the east side, because of the vagaries of the town boundaries, it stops just shy of Madison Street.
Here’s a look at some of the things you’ll see in Hyattsville as you ride the bus. We’ll start at the north end and move south. Be warned, though: New businesses are moving in at a great clip, so you may see something not listed here because it set up shop right around press time.
West side, from 6100 Baltimore Avenue to DeMatha Catholic High School
El Comalito, a pupuseria, is actually right over the line in Riverdale Park but Hyattsvillians probably are familiar with all the restaurants that have occupied the site: Rancho Grande, Little Giant and McDonald’s. Next to it, moving into Hyattsville proper, sits Shagga, an Ethiopian restaurant, which has garnered good reviews in the Washington Post and Washingtonian Magazine.
Then, between Oliver and Oglethorpe streets are Valero’s gas station, a laundromat, a 7-11 and the Oglethorpe Condominiums. Crossing Oglethorpe, you see Labor Ready, at 5814 Baltimore Avenue. You’d only see activity there around 6:30 a.m., when they send temporary workers out on jobs. After that are some businesses that have been there for many years: Enterprise Car Rental, J. Richard Lilly and Associates, Avenue Optic and Malouf Eye Center. Dr. Lilly at 5806 has been at that location for more than 30 years. Then, at Madison Street, you see the new entrance to DeMatha Catholic High School, famed for its music and sports programs.
West side, from 5710 Baltimore Avenue to Jefferson Street
Past DeMatha is a building with a large rounded glass front. It’s the Lustine Center, at 5710; it was an auto showroom built by the Lustine car dealership in 1950. It’s been renovated and repurposed and now houses a gym (for residents of Arts District Hyattsville) and artdc, a gallery that brings in work by artists from all over the area.
After that you’ll see Accelerate, a physical therapy and sports medicine group, and ETTE (Empowerment through Technology & Education, an IT provider. A sign on the next building announces it will house a Nationwide Insurance franchise.
After crossing Longfellow Street, you see a cluster of businesses in buildings EYA built about four years ago. One of the first to open was Café Azul, at 4423 Longfellow. It specializes in Latin American food (though it’s closed for the month of July). Next door is relative newcomer BoostMobile (a cell phone provider) and the Center for Positive Living, which is a therapist’s office. Then comes Artiz 56 Twelve, a hair salon. A vacant storefront is next door.
Two other businesses opened earlier this year. Wet Your Palettes (opened in January) offers one-session painting classes where you bring your own wine and create your version of an iconic painting. Pretty Girl Cupcakery (February) specializes in gourmet cupcakes.
After a vacant lot you see an empty blue building that used to house Alberta’s thrift store; it has a fence around it. A Subway and another business will be moving into the space, said Jim Chandler, the city’s director of Community and Economic Development. The two businesses after that, the Happy Wash car wash and the Tire Place, are both planning improvements, said Chris Giunta, acting director of Code Enforcement.
The four-story building at the corner of Jefferson Street is fancy-looking, with the lower level made of stone and red brick for the rest of it. It is, however, owned by Verizon and has no personnel there, according to Chandler, only equipment.
East side, from Jefferson Street to the bridge to Alternate 1
On the east side is Streetsense’s retail space, The Shoppes at Arts District Hyattsville, at the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Jefferson Street. The latest news there is the opening last month of the Indian restaurant Spice 6. My Eye Dr. is scheduled to move in this summer as well.
The beige stone building that comes next is called the Maryland Building. It used to house the Card Attic and Sports Cards store, now closed, and a tax place business, which is open. The yellow frame building next to it has in it a law office, a Mastertax office, and the Givers of Life Ministries.
Then, if you look down Hamilton Street, you’ll see it runs about a block before it dead ends at the railroad tracks in a cul-de-sac. The businesses there are not readily visible but there are a cluster of car repair shops and some other businesses that appear closed. This area is also the site where the city plans to put in more parking (see story in June issue).
On the other side of Hamilton Street sits a building that has yellow siding on the bottom half, salmon-colored brick on top and a bright orange sticker on the door that reads “Unfit for Human Occupancy.” Guinta said the building belongs to Rev. Kennedy Sandy and is the original location of one of his churches.
“There were electrical and plumbing problems, and issues with occupancy. Its use was for assembly but there were tenants living there.”
Rev. Sandy, who was also involved in real estate, is listed as the defendant in numerous cases in Prince George’s County Circuit Court and Hyattsville District Court for matters ranging from theft to operating as a contractor without a license. Most of the judgments went against him. The last known mention of him, in 2011, lists him running for political office in Liberia.
Then comes Hyattsville Vacuum, which has been there since 1941 and has had only three owners. Currrent owner Ron Rhine still sells vacuum cleaners and hard-to-find parts for them, and offers repair services as well as a large stock of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.
A large mural is painted on the side of this building, depicting some historic places in the city and also two portraits: Christopher Hyatt, for whom the city is named, and MorganWootten, famed basketball coach at DeMatha High School. The mural overlooks a small park, which forms a triangle with the bridge that goes over to Alternate Route 1.
West side, from Jefferson Street to the bridge
On the west side just south of Jefferson Street sits a building that looks like a medieval English castle. Originally built as an armory in 1918, it’s now the home of Crossover Church. Some vacant buildings come next; the old Blue Bird Cab Co. sign still stands over them. They are currently being used by a landscaping company but the property is owned by Haverford Homes, a developer of single family and condominium communities.
An empty building comes next and then the Bed to Go store and the Professional Coffee Shop, which is closing at the end of this month (see story, page 1).
Pike El Chalateco, a restaurant serving Bolivian and Salvadoran food, is in the same building; it moved in last year.
Two churches follow; neither is in use. The first is Pressing Toward the Mark Evangelistic Church, which has rich purple cloths framing the window. The second, a Ghanaian Seventh-Day Adventist Day church, had a stop-work order issued by the county for doing unauthorized work, said Giunta.
Between Hamilton and Gallatin streets sit two former bank buildings. The first is owned by Minority Access, a nonprofit job training center, and it has a 10-year-old brick annex next to it. The other one has pillars and is called the Professional Building. It houses A Tangled Skein Yarn shop, which as well as selling supplies offers classes in knitting and crocheting.
Both sides, from the Bridge to the Justice Center
On the east side after the bridge, after a parking lot, there is a single block of businesses, all contained in the Magruder Flatiron Building. First is Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store, which still has the old Hyattsville Hardware sign on top. In 1992 Franklins was the first in the wave of new businesses that opened on Route 1, starting out as a toy store and deli. It’s now a Hyattsville institution. Owner Mike Franklin says he’s planning to expand the business later this year into the adjoining vacant space, bringing in more toys and more wine and beer.
“We were hanging local art in here years before the concept of Arts District Hyattsville was even born,” he says.
The next storefront is also vacant; after that comes TVs Plus, which opened in June in the old Wells Woodworking shop. Second Genesis, an addiction treatment center, is closed. But FA Braids is open and a new hair place, Majesty, is opening soon.
Railroad Recording Studio at 5103 opened last year, and rents out space for musicians to practice and record. The Basket Gourmet at 5101 opened in 2002; the store offers flowers, gift baskets, balloons, and novelties and collectibles. Then you see a small park and it is here that the road changes its name, from Baltimore Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue.
On the west side, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) building at Gallatin Street (5132) still houses the union offices, plus a lawyer, two tax offices, a towing company and a self-defense school. The orange brick building next to it is for sale. After that is the building that housed the former TESST School of Technology, now closed. Also in the building are the Caribbean restaurant Under the Coconut Tree and, above it, the Authentic Bartending School.. Then come Arrow Bicycle Shop and the Runway Studios (a hair salon). At the intersection with Farragut Street is the 180 Club, serving 12-step recovery groups.
After Farragut Street, you’ll see a large colonial-looking building, red brick with white pillars. Several oversized brightly-colored saxophones, a lawn decoration, sit in the park area next to it. It’s the Prince Georges County Services building, where you’ll find offices for youth and mental health services. After a bus stop and a fountain, you can see two more buildings nearby. One is the District Court building and the other is the county’s District 1 police headquarters.
West side, from 43rd Avenue to the skate park
In this block, called “The Shops at Crittenden Crossing,” you have a mixture of old and new. An awnings store sits back from Route 1, and facing it are a Japanese car repair shop and a bail bonds place. After that is the Zimstone Gallery (4814) and Paw Zen, a pet spa (4812). They’re new. FM Appliances, which is next, has been there a while, but Town and Country Antiques and Fecosasa Consignment are new.
The next building looks like a greenhouse and indeed used to be Marche Florist, which served Hyattsville for many years. It is currently empty and for sale.
After Crittenden Street comes a string of car repair shops and then the Shortcake Bakery, recently opened in the old Rhode Island Reds location at 4700 Rhode Island Avenue.
Rounding out Hyattsville’s Route 1 corridor you’ll see a group of large concrete ramps in elaborate shapes. It’s the new Melrose Skate Park, which M-NCPPC opened in March.