Artists & Fleas, a New York-based artisan marketplace, is set to open in the historic Georgetown Park building March 2020.
Local vendors and craftspeople will be able to showcase and sell their goods in the building that previously housed gourmet grocer Dean & DeLuca. The location has been unoccupied since Dean & DeLuca closed August 2019.
Artists & Fleas will provide up-and-coming vendors with the chance to participate in a market environment, according to Ronen Glimer, co-founder of Artists & Fleas.
“One of our core beliefs is to really create places of opportunity for fledgling businesses to dip their toe in the water of what traditional retail is,” Glimer said in an interview with The Hoya. “We take our cues from old world markets. We like a little bit of chaos and messiness and scrappiness. It’s not a museum store. It’s not a department store. There’s got to be some freshness and some vibe.”
The Georgetown market will include two categories of vendors, according to Glimer. Some vendors will follow a consistent and traditional retail schedule. A second section of the store will welcome artisans who will sell for a limited period of time, from a weekend to a month.
Those who wish to sell at the new maker marketplace do not necessarily need prior retail experience, according to Glimer.
“We’re constantly a home for people of all backgrounds and experience levels,” Glimer said. “You don’t have to consider yourself a full-time fill-in-the-blank — jewelery maker, silversmith, seamstress, or painter or photographer. We’re a place of opportunity and experimentation and fun.”
The Georgetown neighborhood is the largest outdoor shopping district in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region, with over 450 retailers ranging from national chains to local boutiques and restaurants, according to Jamie Scott, the director of Planning and Economic Development at the Georgetown Business Improvement District.
Artists & Fleas’ leasing of the Georgetown Park building will bolster local vendors and benefit the community, according to Scott.
“These kinds of markets I think provide an opportunity for a lot of local entrepreneurs that they might not always get if they were trying to lease the space directly,” Scott said. “And so I think it’s a really important concept, and it’s important for Georgetown to keep supporting the local economy in that way.”
The arrival of Artists & Fleas comes following an article published by The New York Times that ranked D.C. as its first of 52 locations to visit in 2020. The ranking could bring new energy to Georgetown, according to Glimer.
“I’m really excited to see people come back to rediscover Georgetown. There’s interesting things starting to happen in the indy-food-space, and we’re excited to be a compliment in the quote-unquote indy-retail-space,” Glimer said. “If you look around, there’s not a lot of independent retail around anymore. I think it’s time, and we’re excited to have this opportunity.”
Artists & Fleas was founded in 2003 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and has since expanded to additional locations in the New York City Chelsea and Soho neighborhoods. The organization expanded to the West Coast in 2014, opening a market in Los Angeles.
Artists & Fleas will ideally collaborate with neighborhood artisans to fill the Georgetown park building, according to Rachel Shank, executive director of Georgetown Main Street, a local nonprofit that advocates for more small businesses in the area.
“We hope they work with local makers and consider pop-ups for the local businesses in the community,” Shank wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We’re excited that great space will no longer be vacant.”
Producing and selling work can be daunting, according to Glimer. Artists & Fleas hopes to support their vendors and help them succeed.
“I would just put it out there that for us, as a brand and as a business, we’ve always recognized how challenging and intimidating it can be for someone who makes something to get out there and sell it and to represent it,” Glimer said. “That is an act of bravery, and we feel really strongly about creating a community, giving people an opportunity, where they feel good.”
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