Is the Triangle ripe for clothing retail?

The owner of regional clothing retailer South Moon Under lives at City Vista and recently reached out to the blog for input on a store location after reading several of our discussions about retail.

South Moon Under began as a surf shop in Ocean City in 1968 and over the years has expanded to more than a dozen locations in the suburbs of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania. Product offerings have evolved from board sheets to a current focus on designer labels in clothing, handbags, decor and jewelry. After a recent successful opening at National Harbor the company is interested in opening a D.C. store but find the rents in the high profile shopping areas of the District prohibitively high.

Rents in the premium locations of Georgetown and F Street are so high that they only can be afforded by the national apparel retailers that you see everywhere. So we are trying to decide if we can come into a more neighborhood type of location and service the locals. Choosing a non prime location goes against all the advice we hear in retail but I personally think it could work.

South Moon Under in Rehobeth

I thought this was an interesting topic as conventional wisdom does suggest it is better for clothing retailers to cluster together with other similar businesses. Consumers typically prefer to be able to comparison shop at different stores during a shopping excursion. However residents in the urban setting do demonstrate strong preferences for patronizing businesses within convenient walking distance. The convenience of not having to get in the car or take a metro ride to Pentagon City may trump the preference of having a great variety of stores.

But that still begs the question of how far off the main shopping district makes sense? Would the Triangle be a viable location for a clothing apparel retailer like South Moon Under?

Would you recommend South Moon Under open in the neighborhood?

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Feel free to respond with your feedback in the comments section to the following questions South Moon Under ownership has about shopping habits in the community:

# Where do you go to shop now? i.e. Pentagon City, Georgetown, F Street etc.
# What stores or catalogues do you like for your clothing?
# Have you heard of South Moon Under before or seen our web site?

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  1. 1

    MandFifth says

    I prefer to walk and shop on F, with Gtown a secondary option. Pentagon City is a pain to get to and frankly, I hate enclosed malls. I’ve been to the SMU store in Reston and like what they offer. Hope they find a location the triangle and open soon!

  2. 2


    We drive to Bethesda now to shop at South Moon Under from time to time. We’d make a special trip to MV Triangle just to go to a location there instead, as it would be so much closer, and would probably shop there more often than to Bethesda.

  3. 3

    CityVistaResident says

    We drive to the SMU store in Clarendon, two or three times a year, and would definitely shop there more if there were a location in the neighborhood. I think a store could do well in on the 6th street/convention center side of the triangle.

  4. 4

    Chris555Mass says

    I LOVE South Moon Under and I would definitely shop there a lot if it were in our neighborhood! I ususally only shop there during the summer at Rehoboth, but when I happen to be in Clarendon I stop in also.

  5. 5

    KimfromtheK says

    When we lived in downtown DC we’d often go to Bethesda to shop at South Moon Under and similar boutique-y stores. What I love, in particular, about this store, is they have great sales, and are moderately-priced, compared with similar boutiques that target a higher price-point. They go with the trend, and also sell some general housewares and gifts like picture frames and candles. When we lived in The K, we always said that a store like SMU was just what the Triangle could use!
    Now that we live in the Harbor East neighborhood of Baltimore, we’re fortunate to have the store a few blocks away, and frequently stop in to browse and shop. In fact, I just bought a pair of boots there this past weekend…when the Baltimore store didn’t have my size in stock they called another location and shipped my size to me (for no charge) from that store.

  6. 6

    Shipsa01 says

    From a business perspective, I think it would be a great location for them. There are a lot of new residential buildings popping up that will soon bring in lots of people ‘of their core type’ – young, professional, well-eduated, stylish people with money in their pockets.

    Walmart will soon be here, the K Street streetscape will (hopefully) soon occur, more buildings and more people will soon live and work here. One day the Blue Line may get separated from the Orange and run a second line into the neighborhood; a lot is happening. It might be a good time to get in early!

  7. 7

    JP says

    I guess whether or not it is a solid proposition depends where in the Triangle SMU could sign a lease. Within the Triangle SMU would need to be near the foot traffic of City Vista. Either in the new 450 K Street apartments, part of 5th & I hotel development, or to replace the Benjamin Moore.

    Outside the Triangle being near the future City Center development or near 7th & H would be the best. But those spots may command the same top shelf rent as F Street. I’d also suggest considering near 14th and U.

  8. 8

    DC Is says

    I moved to City Vista from Reston Town Center area where I used to shop at South Moon Under. Great clothes and affordable jewelry! Would love to have one in the neighborhood, especially for those ocassions where I want something new to wear for a date or last minute event but have limited time to shop and don’t want the cookie cutter mall look.

  9. 9


    Thank you all for your comments so far. Keep them coming and I would like to hear from comments from people who have never heard of us and if they just want a clothing store in the neighborhood or are they happy or prefer to go to F street.

  10. 10

    Julie says

    Not sure if people would come to the neighborhood just for the retail shopping now, but there are so many great restaurants in the area (and more are on the way), that there are bound to be people that would stop in to shop on their way to or from a restaurant. I would LOVE a South Moon Under in this neighborhood and would undoubtedly shop there! Great idea!

  11. 11

    Brad says

    I love SMU. I just shopped in their clearance sale at the Rehoboth store and go to the Reston store.

  12. 12

    Tara says

    Also love South Moon Under, as it’s not a beach trip without stopping in. There are many times that afternoon or evening get-togethers are planned including dining and drinks without a local place to shop. A specific niche store offering clothing, shoes and gift items would work well here in my opinion. I recently asked how close the nearest SMU was to another store associate because I moved over the summer from the Harbor East location and miss being so close to a store.

  13. 13


    I like SMU and their clothing. But I don’t like to drive over to Clarendon all the time to shop. Especially when they’re always out of the smaller sizes for men. So – If they were local (as in around the corner), I’d shop more often at the store. Running to Guess, Banana, Zara, etc. is sometimes too much trouble. However 2 blocks away – no trouble at all.

  14. 14

    Malvika says

    I find good items at South Moon Under. I am also a busy professional who can rarely even make it to Georgetown to shop. I do pretty much all of my shopping online as a result. I would TOTALLY hop over to South Moon Under on the weekends or prior to a night of going out. It would be a life saver. I would be a very loyal customer IF the store had a wide selection, including shoes/undergarments/accessories I like to buy from South Moon Under. That’s one of the things that is annoying about stores that come to DC — they often scale down to the point that there is not a satisfying enough selection.

  15. 15

    Kim says

    Would definitely shop there. Probably exclusively if it was conveniently located in the neighborhood at CityVista!

    Answers to questions:

    1) Almost always the Chinatown/Metro Center area…Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, H&M, Ann Taylor Loft, basically what’s close and convenient.

    2) Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Filene’s, etc.

    3) Yes, I’ve been to the one in VA and love it!

  16. 16

    Vanessa says

    I had never heard of South Moon Under but definitely always looking for new retail places in the neighborhood.

    The 5th K area is convenient although have there been thoughts about being closer over to the convention center to catch some of that foot traffic? I can tell you that during some of those spring conferences you have people just pouring out on the streets and there are so many empty retail places on 7th and 9th i.e beautiful building on the corner of 7th and NY. Would those be of interest?

    I think F street would be another great option and align with better with the existing retail because generally when I shop I do like to hit a bunch of stores close by and so I can find what I need quicker. I would say a few years ago there was more “dead” space down there but now it feels more like a mainstreet with people walking between Chinatown to Metro Center.

    I think aligning with similar retail is something to consider because look at some place like West Elm that I think would have done much better over on 14th Street with the furniture scene. Although, we definitely do our best to support local business!

    PS- I’m not exactly sure what type of shop it is but if dogs are allowed in you might get more foot traffic from people like me! We always take our dog to Ace and can get errands and dog walk done at the same time!

  17. 17

    Samantha says

    # Where do you go to shop now? i.e. Pentagon City, Georgetown, F Street etc.

    I shop on F Street occasionally but since I live in Mt. Vernon Triangle I really go to the stores on 7th Street (Urban Outfitters and Ann Taylor Loft). We are seriously lacking good stores in our area and I think South Moon Under would do fantastic in our neighborhood. I personally love the clothes there and I can tell from a lot of the other people I see walking around that they would like it as well. A great location might even be in the retail portion of the new government building on the corner of 4th and I Street because you will have employees shopping there as well as all the residential buildings surrounding it.

    # What stores or catalogues do you like for your clothing?

    I get a lot of my clothes from Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Gap, and Forever 21.

    # Have you heard of South Moon Under before or seen our web site?

    Yes I have visited the Bethesda store many times (and Rehoboth).

  18. 18

    MC says

    I have never heard of South Moon Under (probably because I avoid driving/venturing far for shopping) but from the comments here it sounds like it is popular and has nice stuff – which leads me to think I would shop there.

    I typically shop within walking distance of the Triangle or on-line (I hate going to malls so avoid it when I can). Within walking that means Macy’s, BR, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft (not usually Urban Outfitters or Forever 21). I order from the same (for petite sizes) and Nordstroms, and sometimes Lord & Taylor.

    I would be thrilled for more options in the neighborhood.

  19. 19

    Dan Maceda says

    I think it would be great to have additional retail and I applaud you for this survey and post. My question is will you follow up by checking to see if Jemal will in fact be willing to lease a property one of the stores on 6th St for instance. If he will and does will you continue the follow up by tracking the DCRA, ANC permitting process? As I’ve posted here before I have heard that Realtors don’t return calls and that even if you get a lease DCRA can take an inordinate amount of time to grant permits.

  20. 20

    Dean says

    I prefer Friendship Heights, its metro accesable, walkable, and not as crowded as Georgetown.

  21. 21


    I love the idea of SMU finding space in MVT. I’m not sure I would trust shoppers to come there. If so I think it has to be in a prominent location – a corner where LOTS of people pass by. Is the City Vista sales office still available or is it already spoken for? I’m concerned that if it isn’t in a very high visibility site it woiuldn’t survive. Would love to have you, though!

  22. 22

    Fug Moon Under says

    Please, God, NO. There need to be FEWER places that sell rompers to grown women, not more.

  23. 23

    Frank says

    Finding a space. One comment mentioned if we would follow up with finding a space and specifically about Jamal (Douglas Properties). As you know they control substantial protions of the commerical market in downtown. We have been in contact and they are always responsive and professional but we haven’t been able to yet come come up with a cost struture for renting space that works for us over on F street, hence the question that started this comment chain. Same commentor asked about working with DC and we do not have experience with this but we are used to meeting codes etc. Having said this we are being told that DC has a reputation of being extremely slow and somewhat unpredictable.

  24. 24

    FourthandEye says

    @Frank – have you looked into 444 K Street NW? Red building roughly across the street from Mandu?

  25. 25

    Frank says

    re 444K Street
    I haven’t. Maybe my memory is wrong but I thought the for lease sign has come down? May not be the same building you are thinking of.

  26. 27

    former city vister says

    I would have loved to have a clothing store when I lived at City Vista. The whole time I lived there I thought the area would be perfect with more retail. I see South Moon Under as the hub store attracting more boutiques to the area. It could be a perfect destination area in the city like 14th st. I find the stores aren’t clustered close enough together on the 14th/U st area so it makes it hard to check everything out on a Sunday. MV could be a perfect Sunday afternoon brunch/lunch and boutique shopping!! SMU open up and you will attract shoppers, plus the large amount of people that live in the area!!