East Side News – November 2017

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REI Celebrates a Year in NoMa
It’s been one year since REI opened its first flagship store in 15 years, in the structure formerly known as the Uline Arena, and the store celebrated with a birthday-bash day of events. The festivities included sales, speeches, celebrations, dancing, and cake.

The day began with the annual lightly-used, returned-gear sale that REI has held since its early days to avoid adding waste to landfills. Then came a birthday celebration, where General Manager Becky Smith cut the cake with an ice axe, the first item of high-quality gear that was purchased from overseas by the 23 members of the original co-op in 1938.

The last event of the day was Dirt Prom, when participants dress up in prom attire and biking accoutrement and celebrate the end of mountain biking season. The flagship hosted a mini fat-bike race (inside the store), with the band JoGo up on the second level, food from Swizzler, and craft beer from Ballast Point Brewing Company. All proceeds from the beer sales went to MORE: Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, the local chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association.

The store has been a retail anchor in the area, bringing an estimated 256,000 visitors in the last year, with over 6,000 having taken a class or attending an event. “We’ve had numerous customers come into our building and comment on what they remembered – the circus, a concert, watching the Ice Capades,” Smith explains about moving into the neighborhood. “We love those memories from our customers.”

REI has embraced its new home and neighbors. Since opening, it has partnered with Atlas Brew and DC Brau to create its first-ever beer. More than 35 local groups and community partners have held meetings or events in the space.

The last farmers’ market of the year for MVT. Photo: Taylor Barden Golden

Marking the End of Farmers’ Market Season
Mount Vernon Triangle celebrated the end of the farmers’ market season with Fall Fun Day. Now known as the center of events for the neighbors of MVT, Milian Park hosted a bounce house, music, and pumpkin and face painting for a park filled with costumed kids and quite a few costumed dogs.

This was the first year in the market’s new location, originally at Fifth and K streets NW. The change in location, along with the rapid increase of housing developments nearby, has caused both sales and customer counts to double. Additionally, the market saw a 400-percent higher response for SNAP/WIC/SFMNP food benefit distribution, filling a great need for the rapidly growing community.

“While we’ve yet to receive all the financial data from this year’s market season, early indications suggest that our relocated and expanded FRESHFARM Mount Vernon Triangle Market produced strong results for our vendors while delivering the greater breadth, quality and variety of products that customers indicated they preferred through feedback provided in our annual perception survey,” says Kenyattah Robinson, president and CEO of the MVT Community Improvement District (CID).

The market is managed by the nonprofit FRESHFARM Market, which promotes and operates producer-only farmers’ markets and improves food access and equity. FRESHFARM Market, responding to a recent neighborhood perception survey in which participants stated they wanted greater quality and variety of products, began sourcing individual farmers who produce their own specialized products, including meat, at various price points. They are looking to increase the number of participating farmers and producers.

Explains Robinson, “We are beyond thrilled with the success that we were able to achieve on behalf of our customers, residents, businesses, farmers, producers, and sponsors in just one year, and are equally excited about realizing even greater accomplishments in the years ahead.”

FFDC’s “womyn-only” launch party. Photo: Taylor Barden Golden

Union Social Space Gets Female Touch
A new shopping experience designed with women in mind has opened in the old Union Social space. Where there once stood masculine, kitschy DC transportation accoutrements, one will now find female-themed artwork, healing colors, and a vegan cafe. Femme Fatale DC (FFDC) has chosen NoMa as its second popup location, giving local women-owned businesses space to sell their wares. Throughout the run, FFDC will feature work from fashion designers, visual artists, ceramists, jewelry designers, boutiques, vegan chefs, health and wellness curators, and more.

This is FFDC’s second popup space. What started as women-only events evolved into a collective that focuses on women’s need for safe spaces of self-expression. The events were the brainchild of Yasmin Radbod, a local emcee who was frustrated with the sexist interactions she experienced in the music industry.

She began to throw women-only parties, which evolved into fashion shows featuring local female designers. “Eventually I thought, what if we had our own space. What would that look like? I knew that manifesting our own space was not only possible but also needed in the community,” explains Radbod.

The NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) pursued FFDC to open a space in the neighborhood. The large, usually vacant space sits at the intersection of New York Avenue and Florida Avenue. Although car traffic often hits the point of unbearable chaos, the foot traffic is not at the level of NoMa’s main drags of First Street and M Street.

Union Social’s Reece Garner blamed the restaurant’s lack of staying power on the neighborhood. The space has become almost symbolic for NoMa, at least for those who only drive through and must sit through many lights at that intersection. The BID was happy to have a vibrant business occupy the space.

Radbod is thrilled with the neighborhood. “Getting to know the community, canvassing with food samples and flyers – it has been a real pleasure to meet people of all different backgrounds who have welcomed FFDC into the local community and [have] been returning customers! Since day one we have had regulars, which is the best feeling and lets you know as a business that you are doing something right.”

The marketplace will be open through Christmas Eve.

 

Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs, and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.