Crystal City shop owners hurt by shutdown

5:41 PM, Oct 7, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Government shutdown day 2

ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9) -- "The halls are empty, the stores are empty," Mary Beth Cox said as she described what Crystal City Shops looked like last week when the government shutdown began.

For 40 years, Cox, of Lorton, has owned Ship's Hatch, a gift store that caters to the military. Located in the Crystal City Shops underground, it was an advantage to be near the Pentagon and other federal workplaces. Not so much anymore.

"This is not a regional mall. There are no big names or deep pockets behind all these little stores down here. So it's a question of...hoping we'll be able to weather the storm," said Cox. 

It's a perfect storm with three hits, starting with BRAC that moved thousands of military workers out of Crystal city, then sequestration's furloughs, and now the shutdown.

"Monday afternoon, there was no one here, said Lainie Demos who, for 28 years, has owned and operated Garden Fantasy, a clothing and accessory shop that sells American-made products at Crystal City Shops.

"It's very hard right now. Because we've had a BRAC move out that moved out 2,200 a year and a half ago. Then we went through sequestration and now the shutdown. It's a little scary right now," said Demos.

"Hopefully they'll realize the impact this is having on everybody in the country and bring these people back to work," said Cox. 

Customers also come from the neighboring hotels in Crystal City.

One of the hottest selling items has been anything with the phrase, "Keep Calm and Carry On," which seem appropriate for today.

The saying "keep calm and carry on" originated in Briton during WWII when it was bombed by Germany in the Blitz.

The two shop owners remember the last government shutdown 17 years ago.  Even though it lasted 21 days, they say this one is worse because of sequestration and BRAC, which moved thousands of employees out of Crystal City.


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