In the midst of the holiday shopping frenzy, one of the District of Columbia’s most storied thoroughfares, Minnesota Avenue, received a special designation from Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Mayor Muriel Bowser (inset) enjoyed a crab cake sandwich at the MLK Deli on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast D.C. to celebrate the family-owned delicatessen during Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25. (Photos by Shantella Y. Sherman)

On Nov. 25, Bowser (D) held a daylong celebration of Small Business Saturday, a day following the Thanksgiving holiday that is dedicated to shopping at local small businesses. The celebration was kicked-off with the mayor declaring Minnesota Avenue as the newest corridor in the D.C. Main Streets program, an initiative that promotes the revitalization of traditional business districts in the city by expanding opportunities for more D.C. entrepreneurs and residents to exchange goods and services.  According to dc.gov, the D.C. Main Streets program has created 2,000 jobs in the last two years.

“Today, and all year, we celebrate the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy,” the mayor said. “These businesses drive economic development and create pathways to the middle class by employing D.C. residents, and we are proud to support our local businesses.”

Minnesota Avenue is a north-south corridor that goes into Northeast and Southeast Washington. It crosses Benning Road, East Capitol Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and ends in Southeast at Good Hope Road and on Sheriff Road, NE.

“Ninety-nine percent of all employable businesses are small businesses and 95 percent of those businesses have fewer than 10 employees,” Cable Green, owner of Eclectic Cafe, said. “Corporations employ 38 percent of all American workers while 53 percent of Americans work for small businesses.”

Throughout the day, the mayor traveled to other wards in the city to highlight the contributions of small businesses.

For those seeking healthy food options, The MLK (Martin Luther King) Deli has proven to be a beacon of hope within a Southeast neighborhood sandwiched amid carry-outs, liquor stores, and corner stores. Its reputation for the best crab cakes and desserts in the city continues to create traffic nightmares for Metro bus drivers and parents picking up children from the Democracy Prep Charter school.

That reputation also caught the attention of Bowser, who dropped in the family-owned business on Nov. 25. “It is important for people in the District to support their corridors, Bowser said.  “We expanded this last year because we want folks to support their local businesses so that they will be here and we can have filled storefronts and different options when people go in. We want people to walk and have every option in Ward 8 that they have in Ward 2 and the MLK Deli is a big part of that.”

Tyrone White Jr., owner of the MLK Deli, said that Bower’s support, along with that of the city, has helped reinvigorate interests in their food beyond the immediate neighborhood – particularly among young people searching for healthy food options.

The D.C. Main Streets program was created in 2002 under the mayoral administration of Anthony Williams and is designed to expand D.C.’s innovation economy and serve as a national model for inclusion and diversity. Minnesota Avenue is the second street in Ward 7 to be added to the program. Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave., N.E. was the first.

D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) is pleased about the Minnesota Avenue designation. “This will revitalize the corridor and small businesses will benefit from the designation,” Gray said. “There will be additional storefront investments and this will spur the building of the street car to the Benning Road station.”

On Nov. 29, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue also pushed forward two bills, the “East End Commercial Real Property Tax Rate Reduction Amendment Act of 2017,” which would lower the commercial property tax rate from $1.64 to $0.85 per hundred dollars of assessed value and the “East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Tax Exemption Act of 2017,” which would provide a 30-year tax relief for new grocery stores located in Wards 7 and 8. Both bills are scheduled to have a first vote before the full Council on Dec. 5.

“This legislation will provide the spark that is needed to jump-start small business development in our neighborhood commercial corridors,” Gray said in a statement.