By Sinthu Ramalingam

Andy Stewart stands behind the cash register at Washington Perk, a new downtown store, greeting everyone who walks in with a loud and cheerful “hello!” and a giant grin. Some customers he greets by name, and even teases one of them, Zarmena Woods, about forgetting her water bottle around the store. When the owner of the store, Jayne Johnston walks in, Stewart’s smile widens.

Known as the downtown neighborhood store, Washington Perk sells a variety of items, from its array of candy bars to its gluten-free pastas, its coffee shop, and deli section, providing for people in the nearby hotels who need to pick up a few things for the evening, to people who need to grab lunch, to students who need a study space.

The store opened on May 4th, after the landlord of the building approached John and Jayne Johnston about the available building space on Fourth Street, according to Jayne Johnston. She said the Johnstons own another store in Washington Park and were encouraged to open a branch downtown because of the lack of grocery stores in the downtown Winston-Salem area.

“Downtown is too small for a market chain,” said Johnston, “the landlords sought us out.” According to Johnston, the pricing is fair: “We’re the neighborhood store, and so we don’t want to cheat our neighbors.”

The store is targeted to everyone who goes downtown, from the residents to people who work downtown. Woods, a fitness manager at The Rush, is a frequent visitor to Washington Perk. “I come here three to four times a week because they have everything, and it’s all healthy and affordable, and they’re all friendly and awesome – very helpful,” she said. Although Woods usually just gets her stuff and heads out, she said a lot of her employees use Washington Perk as a hang out space.

The store also serves people who live in the area. Rashaw Temple, a freelance web and graphic designer lives and works in downtown Winston-Salem, gets everything from his groceries to his coffee and snacks from Washington Perk.

“They pretty much have everything that I need here.” Temple also occasionally shops at a nearby CVS, a drugstore which also stocks groceries, and Ronnie’s Country Store on Cherry Street.

Brandi Butler, a student who uses downtown coffee shops as study spaces found Washington Perk for the first time last Sunday. “I usually go to Camino’s, but it was crowded, so I came here. I’m definitely going to start coming here,” she said, taking a few moments away from her books spread out on the table in front of her.

Washington Perk, decorated with paintings – and beer posters in the beer section of the store-, with soft rock playing in the background, caters to all types of people. There is even an artist in residence at the front of the store.

Rose-Lynne Bowman, a school teacher, spends her free time at Washington Perk, painting. “I had fifty-something paintings at my house, but nobody knew I painted.” Johnston and Bowman came up with the idea of Bowman painting at a table at the store. “The opportunity just presented itself. I love the windows and the light is bright; the Perk fits my personality,” said Bowman.


Published September 26, 2013


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