The crown jewel of Petworth’s Caribbean community
| By Nathan Strauss |
The front wall of Crown Bakery is adorned with what co-owner Jennifer Selman calls the “three firsts.”
That is to say, the first prime minister of Trinidad, Eric Williams; the first African American president, Barack Obama; and the first, and current, female prime minister of Trinidad, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Located in the Petworth neighborhood along Georgia Avenue Northwest, Crown Bakery is considered a community staple. While the business is primarily run by Selman’s brother, who is the head baker, she has an extensive knowledge of its role in the community and where it is headed in the future.
Most of the bakery’s customers — which according to Selman, who is from Trinidad herself, are 95-98 percent Caribbean — come for more than just food, namely the culture in which the establishment is so richly steeped.
Such attachment makes sense, considering the business has been operating in Petworth for more than a decade — though they have only been in their current space, which they now own, for the past three years. Selman is quick to note, however, that while their business does receive some foot traffic from the Petworth community, the bulk of their sales are to the already established Caribbean clientele.
“The community is very supportive,” says Selman, without hesitation, however, “the community is mostly African American. Culturally, we are different.”
Selman also acknowledges that a slow change is taking hold of the Petworth neighborhood. “The neighborhood is building, along Georgia Avenue … we will have a Wal-Mart, shortly,” Selman says. “There’s going to be a lot of traffic…I think that’s a good thing.”
Selman realizes that with the new community, Georgia Avenue’s growth will bring added pressure to advertise her business. “We want all of America to know that we are here. We have to generate the money for that,” she says.
Ultimately, Selman hopes that the heightened traffic along Georgia Avenue will expand the neighborhood’s diversity, making it more like the business district along U Street. Though this may mean that prices along the avenue will rise, Selman hopes to stand firm — even going so far as to suggest that with increased traffic, a second location may become a possibility.
Passion, Preparation, and Presentation—the “three P’s,” as Selman puts it — are likely what will keep the business going, despite a gentrifying community. “This business is made with the three P’s,” Selman says, “for me, that’s life on the whole.”