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Wagshal's Deli, A 90-Year-Old D.C. Institution, Looks To Expand

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Wagshal's Deli, A 90-Year-Old D.C. Institution, Looks To Expand
Wagshal's owner Bill Fuchs with his sons Brian and Aaron, both principals of Wagshal's

A popular family-run deli that has been feeding Northwest D.C. residents since 1925 is looking to go into growth mode. 

Wagshal's owner Bill Fuchs announced at Bisnow's D.C. Metro Retail event Wednesday he is preparing to chart a regionwide expansion. The deli and gourmet market has been in its current space at 4855 Massachusetts Ave. NW since 1939 and has slowly expanded its footprint in the nearby area, but Fuchs now wants to grow to new neighborhoods. 

"At Wagshal’s, we’ve tried to control our corner of the world for a number of years," Fuch's said. "Everyone keeps asking 'why haven’t you gone out of your comfort zone?' and I try to tell them that we’re still perfecting our product. But after 94 years, either I have to do something or do nothing, so we’ve decided to move forward into a pretty aggressive growth pattern."

Fuchs has retained Miller Walker Retail Real Estate to help search for new locations. He is also seeking outside investment to help support the growth plan. He does not have a target for how many locations he plans to open, and he has not identified specific neighborhoods he wants to enter, but he said he will seek out the best deals and be judicious about his growth.

"We’ve come up with several different prototypes now that are very solid," Fuchs said. "We dont look at anything that we can't do $1,200/SF [of sales] in, and that’s on the low end. So from our perspective, we’re ready to do that, we’re ready to go out in the marketplace, and we think the Washington metro area is perfect for what we do because we’ve been relevant for all these years."  

Fuchs bought the company in 1990 from Ben Wagshal, longtime owner and son of the founder of Wagshal's. In 1997, Fuchs opened Wagshal's Catering and Bakery Kitchen behind the deli. In 2013, he opened a second deli and market 1 mile away on New Mexico Avenue. In 2015, the company opened Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ in the same Massachusetts Avenue shopping center as its main deli. 

The company now has several divisions beyond the original deli and market, including the barbecue restaurant, a catering service, imports, a butcher shop, a bakery, online ordering and a special Thanksgiving ordering service. Fuchs said the traditional sandwich menu now accounts for just 20% of the company's revenue. He expects landlords and developers will be excited about bringing in Wagshal's because of the large amount of foot traffic it will draw to a property. 

"Our particular growth process, as we see it, is for developers to actually look at us as an amenity," Fuchs said.