Don’t Be Fooled by the Name
Chevy Chase is a quiet, secluded neighborhood; a sort of suburb within the city limits. It’s home to over 19,500 residents with the majority of the population being young adults ages 22-40 years old. A very large portion of the population is White, about 75 percent, leaving only about 8 percent Hispanic, 7 percent black, and a very small portion of Asian, mixed or other.
The population varies throughout the neighborhood. For more details on the population density of Chevy Chase click here.
Being a more affluent neighborhood, the median annual income for Chevy Chase residents is $131,000. The leading occupations held by Chevy Chase residents include jobs in business, legal, and management; over 80 percent have earned a higher degree after graduating from high school.
If you were to take a casual stroll through the neighborhood, it would immediately become apparent
through the size and structure of the houses built that those who live there are living on the higher end of the class spectrum. This updated classy look reflects the culture of the people who inhabit them: their education status, careers, spending habits.
That being said, it should not come as a big surprise that the culture of those living in Chevy Chase revolves around being well educated and well-informed; the people of the neighborhood come from backgrounds that have taught them the importance of reading. This explains why the bookstore was built in this location. According to the Politics and Prose Bookstore website they “selected the neighborhood for its unusual demographic characteristics, and the store and customers are a perfect fit with one another”.
The bookstore’s name, Politics and Prose, can make the store come across as specifically designed for books and products for mainly higher-educated, upper class clientele, and while it does seem its location in an affluent neighborhood backs up this theory, the bookstore stocks a supply of products for a variety of customers.
In fact, according to the Politics and Prose Bookstore website, the name of the store had been a main reason many customers were turned away because they had this idea that the place would only provide products for higher class, higher educated customers: “The P&P name worked against Carla and Barbara in the beginning, since customers thought the store specialized—that it didn’t include cooking and children, poetry and travel”.
This idea of a place being specific to a group of people is much like what Tim Cresswell discusses in his work Defining Place in which he explains how people view certain places in connection with groups of people and their cultures. Often times viewing certain places with this linkage “leads to reactionary and exclusionary xenophobia, racism, and bigotry” (Cresswell 11). Eventually people of the neighborhood and surrounding areas came to realize the bookstore attempts to cater to a variety of customer demographics. This can be seen not only through the bookstore, but through other businesses nearby as well.
In the map below there are a few locations of specific businesses discussed next in this blog pinpointed. The red pinpoint is the location of Besta Pizza restaurant, the blue pinpoint is the location of Terasol Bistro and Artisan Gallery, and the green pinpoint is the location of Jake’s American Grille. The orange pinpoint is the location of the Politics and Prose bookstore.
One example of a business nearby looking to serve a wide range of customer demographics is Besta Pizza, a pizza shop located a few stores down from Politics and Prose, which offers “quality”, “fresh” Italian pizza at reasonable prices.
There is also the Terasol Bistro, which offers a fine variety of French cuisine.
Also nearby, for the upper class who enjoy a juicy steak and cocktail along with live entertainment and music, is Jake’s American Grille, which offers a more classy, sophisticated dining experience for the more wealthy residents of Chevy Chase.
While most of the residents currently residing in Chevy Chase are on the more higher educated and wealthier end of the class spectrum, the neighborhood does offer a variety of restaurants and businesses to serve all aspects of the community.
To those of us who have no memories or emotional attachment to the neighborhood of Chevy Chase or the bookstore Politics and Prose, it comes across to us as just landscape: “Landscape is an intensely visual idea. In most definitions of landscape the viewer is outside of it” (Cresswell 10). But to those who live within the neighborhood or have the luxury of being able to purchase a good read from the bookstore Politics and Prose, the area is a “place”: “This is the primary way in which it [landscape] differs from place. Places are very much things to be inside of” (Cresswell 10). The customers of Politics and Prose along with the residents of the Chevy Chase neighborhood all belong to this “place”; they have some sort of connection or attachment to it.
Everyone has a list of “places” that are meaningful to them through which they have had an experience with and created an emotional attachment to. It’s what separates “that bookstore ‘place’ where I bought my child’s first college textbook” from “the bookstore located at 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC”.
Statistics of Chevy Chase, Washington D.C. <http://statisticalatlas.com/neighborhood/District-of-Columbia/Washington/Chevy-Chase/Overview>
Politics and Prose Bookstore site. <http://www.politics-prose.com/our-history>
Google Maps: Chevy Chase, Washington D.C., Politics and Prose Bookstore, Besta Pizza, Terasol Bistro and Artisan Gallery, Jake’s American Grille
Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004.