The name is a nod to a ping pong table that has been a staple there. It also speaks to the cafe’s dual purpose serving coffee and pastries by day and cocktails at night.
“We sort of like the double entendre, because of like a double espresso shot or a double shot of liquor,” says owner Max Zuckerman, who reopened the 5-year-old shop with business partner Ben Heller last weekend.
Since opening Colony Club in 2015, Zuckerma had explained the name was a tribute to his grandparents’ flower shop, Colony Flowers, which was a staple on Georgia Avenue NW in the 1940s. Many businesses on the street were named after the nearby Colony Theatre in that era.
“I thought it would be kind of cool to pay homage to their store and the crazy coincidence many years later their grandson having another business on Georgia Avenue,” Zuckerman says. “Over the years, we would get the occasional question about the name, sometimes people would reach out to me and I would explain the origin of it. I would say 90 percent of the time that was where the conversation would end.”
But back in June, Zuckerman announced Colony Club would jettison its name, citing the word colony’s “negative associations” with colonialism and “in-progress gentrification of the neighborhood.” According to Census data, the low-income population in Park View dropped by 11.4 percent from 2000 to 2016, with a neighborhood of 5,078 people losing 1,062 Black residents over that time.
“We had some conversations with staff members who basically said that they were uncomfortable with the name and also we started to feel like it was unfair to put the burden of explaining the name on staff,” Zuckerman says.
Conversations over the name took place as protesters marched for justice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Across the street from the cafe, hit bagel shop Call Your Mother recently decided to change the original names of its sandwiches because they were co-opting Black culture.
Zuckerman says the move the drop the Colony Club name came from a desire to be more “inclusive.”
“People who we knew as regular customers [were] basically saying, ‘The first two times I walked by the store, I felt uncomfortable and felt excluded,’ which is of course not something you want to hear,” Zuckerman says. “Because we strive in how we run the business and in everything we do to really be the opposite of that. We want to be a welcoming space, we want to be inclusive, we want to treat everyone well. That is when we decided to change the name.”
Naming the cafe Doubles could generate a different type of confusion in a Northwest neighborhood rich with Caribbean carryouts. Doubles is also the name for a Trinidadian street food snack made of fry bread and stewed chickpeas. Zuckerman says the owners were aware of the dish — “We eat our fair share of Caribbean food,” he says — but felt it was appropriate to move ahead with the name change after consulting local members of the Caribbean community in D.C.
“Their feeling was it wasn’t really taking anything away from Caribbean establishments,” Zuckerman says. “Especially once we have a logo and everything that makes it clear what our business is and where that comes from. Nobody seemed to think that it would be much of an issue.”
So far, Zuckerman says customers have been supportive of the new name.
“Most of the customers I talked to were less interested in the name and more interested in just the fact that we were open again,” he says.
An in-development logo for Doubles will be painted outside the shop. The Colony Club name that used to be written in black paint on the front of the building has been painted over for now.
Doubles is now open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu is the same for now with the reopening, serving to-go coffee, pastries, and focaccia.
Doubles will add more food soon, including breakfast sandwiches, using its sister restaurant Sonny’s kitchen. The shared backyard with Sonny’s pizzeria and adjacent bar No Kisses will also eventually be a spot for Doubles to serve alcohol during the day, with the outdoor space transitioning to Sonny’s in the evening.