Initially founded by Mr. Neil Chatlin in 1934 following the repeal of Prohibition, Chat’s Liquors was one of the first businesses in the District to be granted an alcoholic beverage license. Today, the family-owned retailer remains the oldest on 8th Street Southeast— now commonly referred to as Barracks Row.
“My husband had worked at a liquor store and always wanted his own, so when the opportunity came, we took advantage.” And when Ophelia and the late Burnett Williams Jr. took over the operations of Chat’s Liquors in 1978, their son Burnett “Burnie” Williams III was due in 24 days, and their daughter Opal was just a toddler.
“I was working as a teacher but would come to Chat’s to learn the business after school,” said Ophelia, “and I’m glad I did because in 1983 we opened the flower shop next door.”
With a loan from NCB, the Williams family purchased the neighboring storefront and then set their eyes on Chat’s. “That same year, we had the opportunity to purchase this building, too,” noted Ophelia. “And we thought, ‘How are we going to make two mortgages work with two kids?’ Because of NCB, we were able to make it happen, and the rest is history.”