The Hill's biggest small business

Frager’s Hardware on Capitol Hill is like everyone’s favorite grandfather: warm, friendly and wise — the shop is celebrating its 90th birthday this year.

Current owners John Weintraub and Ed Copenhaver took over the business and do everything they can to still give it the family business vibe, said Elizabeth Philbrick, garden co-manager.

Philbrick said Frager’s employees joke that it’s the first monument you see when you hit D.C. from that southeast end of Pennsylvania Ave.

Frager’s is your quintessential neighborhood store. Philbrick said she can’t walk the few blocks from her home without having her name called out by various customers.

When you walk into the shop, the aisles are so narrow that really only one person can walk down them. Philbrick admits the store hasn’t been dusted in the 90 years it’s been in existence. However, the decades of dust only add to the charm of the place.

One of the last few small businesses thriving these days, Frager’s has had its fair share of famous guests, including former President George W. Bush. Whenever he talked about small businesses, he would use Frager’s as an example, Philbrick noted.

“A lot of news stations have done stories with Frager’s as the backdrop,” Philbrick said. “It conveys an everytown feel.”

So, as the weather warms up, Frager’s is a great place to stop for all of your gardening needs. “When people who haven’t gardened or anything come ask me for advice, I say just go for it,” Philbrick said. “Don’t have any hesitation, because with gardening, it takes a lot of practice and patience through trial and error.”

Philbrick stands by her claim that D.C. is a town that gardens together. “I don’t even have a yard, but that hasn’t stopped me,” she said. Instead, Philbrick said she has plants throughout her apartment.

Philbrick also gives advice to customers wishing to go green. She advises them to plant trees near their home to regulate heat and cooling, and Frager’s also sells energy-
saver light bulbs at a low cost.

“The green option is something our customers want and lean towards,” Philbrick said.

In another 10 years, Philbrick said she can see Frager’s still happily serving the community in the way it has for the past 90 years.

“I strongly believe in the quality of people who work here,” Philbrick said. “From the people who greet you in the morning, to the ones who lock the door at night and everyone in between, our staff is good to each other and good to our customers.”