Jenny Oh and her husband David have sold the Capitol Supreme Market (501 Fourth St. SE), which sits at the corner of 4th and E Streets SE and at the edge of Marion Park. After twelve years, Thursday, Oct. 11 was their last day behind the counter. The two will retire to their home in Virginia.
“I love this neighborhood,” Jenny said, as she sat surrounded by flowering plants for sale on a wooden bench outside her store. “Everybody is so kind, and peaceful. They respect each other.”
David agrees. “This is the best neighborhood that we’ve ever been in,” he said.
After spending two weeks in training, brother and sister Jason and Kelly Kim will take over the neighborhood bodega. That is a lot more experience than she and David had when they first started, Jenny says.
David and Jenny Oh immigrated from Korea twelve years ago. She was a nutritionist; he worked at Hyundai as an engineer. They bought the store in 2006.
“It was our first experience with owning a business,” she said. “We didn’t know exactly what a grocery store is, and which items I had to order. I missed lots of items. So, the neighbors came with empty packages and cans to say, ‘you must have this one!’”
Jenny said that neighbors were determined that the market would succeed, providing her with tips on how to build a business and even business magazines. “They recommended lots of things –maybe too many things,” she says, laughing. She said they accepted many of the ideas, and they also felt easily accepted as part of the neighborhood.
Lots of Memories
But what has really made the store, she said, are the people. “So many memories,” she said, gazing out over Marion Park. “Some customers feel like my family, because they come here every day. Do you see your family once a day? Your mom?”
She has seen so much of that family grow up over the years, she adds. Jenny and David have watched hundreds of children grow up. Three schools lie within a few blocks of the store: Brent Elementary, Capitol Hill Day School and St. Peter’s. Jenny said they first see the students when they enter preK-3, and then daily until they leave the schools after grade eight.
“Then, several years later, they come as adults [to visit],” she said. “Just for the memories.”
She said they receive holiday cards from customers all over the world, and that she intends to keep in touch with many of them.
Neighbors said they were sorry to see them go. “I’m sad and I’m happy,” said Officer Paul Szala, who learned of their departure when he made his usual stop at the store on the Oh’s last day as owners. He said he was happy they could enjoy their retirement, but he would miss them.
Writing on social media, Karen Palkevich Szala agreed.
“They are the nicest people,” she wrote. “What a loss to our community.”
Farewell to Friends
A group of neighbors led by Margot Eyring organized an impromptu farewell party the evening of October 10th, surprising Jenny & David Oh with baked goods, ‘thank you’ balloons, flowers and cards. They brought along children, puppies and laughter.
Eyring said that she had met the two on their first day at the shop, and was glad to be with them on the last day. She was so pleased that she would have the chance to say goodbye that she thought she would invite other neighbors to take the opportunity.
“They have always been so friendly and loving and cheered me up –and of course, they always had what I need. I just thought, wouldn’t it be nice for Jenny and David to know how much we appreciate them, and to be able to take a memory with them,” she said.
“We’ve grown to know them as great neighbors and friends,” said Gina Eppolito, who attended the event. “They’ve treated all of us with lots of kindness and generosity.”
Neighbor Carol Anderson said that the group was glad to have an opportunity to say goodbye. “They were so surprised,” she said of Jenny and David, “and we were all so happy we were there.”
Spirit Always Here
Eyring said that Jenny and David had been considering retirement for almost a year, but that Jenny had told her that in selling, they wanted to find the right people for the neighborhood. “I think they have,” she said. “Kelly and Jason have been great.”
“I’m sad they are leaving too,” said Kelly Kim, the new owner. “But you know, they want to retire and make their happy life.” Kim said her brother has always been interested in having his own bodega and they seized the opportunity as soon as they heard the market was for sale.
Kelly and Jason say they are looking forward to becoming part of the neighborhood. They know that their arrival is a change, but the two have no intention of fixing what is not broken. “We’re just going to stick with what they have,” she said. “Their spirit is always here.”
“They helped us weave together a community,” said Eyring. “You could see that when so many people came and expressed their appreciation.”
“You can see how happy they are,” she says, indicating a photo taken at the end of the party, showing Jenny and David Oh at the center of a group of neighbors and friends. All watch as balloons bearing the words ‘thank you’ are released.
All are looking up.