When the Georgetown Dean & DeLuca closed in August amidst announcements of the high-end food group’s financial woes, it was the end of an era. The upscale purveyor had occupied the historic M Street market hall since 1993. What would replace it?
This year, the ghosts of charcuterie and high-end sea salt that once lived on the market’s shelves will be chased out by local artisanal goods: The site will serve as the first DC location of Artists & Fleas, a New York-based series of makers’ markets—aka 2020 speak for trendy flea markets.
This isn’t another food hall: While the space will have food and drinks available, it will primarily focus on a mix of permanent and rotating partnerships with local creatives selling their wares. The Artists & Fleas group was formed in 2003 by co-founders Ronen Glimer and Amy Abrams in—where else?—the Brooklyn neighborhood Williamsburg. (“I feel like my life is a little bit of a punchline when I tell people, ‘Oh, yeah, I operate a hipster flea market that started in Williamsburg,'” says Glimer.)
Today, the group runs four Artists & Fleas locations: three New York spots in Chelsea, SoHo, and Williamsburg, and one Los Angeles site in Venice. Glimer and Abrams began thinking about expanding to DC a few years ago, when they realized an increasing number of folks coming through New York were talking about the growing creative scene in the District.
It also didn’t hurt that the duo had connections in the area: the real estate company Jamestown, which owns the Georgetown Park strip in which the former Dean & DeLuca space is located, also previously owned Chelsea Market, the site of the Chelsea Artists & Fleas location. (Jamestown sold Chelsea Market to Google in 2018 for $1.77 billion.)
When the Jamestown crew took Glimer and Abrams on a tour of Georgetown Park a few years ago, the duo immediately loved the then-Dean & Deluca for its history and architectural details. “We said half-jokingly, ‘If the market house ever becomes available, give us a call and let us know,'” says Glimer.
That phone call came in July, and it was all systems go from there. “We were seeing a lot of energy going up and down between New York and DC,” he says of the decision to expand, “and it felt fresh and the right time.”
The duo is aiming for a March opening date. Throughout the DC market’s open-floor concept, 15 makers will have permanent residencies, says Glimer, while about 30 will rotate in and out during the weekends. While the artisans haven’t been solidified yet, the goal is for the majority to be Washington-based.
And while the space will retain the same urban feel as its previous tenant, the duo wants to inject fresh life into it, too. “One thing we’re looking to do is take a little bit of a twist on what was there,” says Glimer. “We don’t want people to walk in and feel like they’re walking into a Dean & DeLuca.”
That means some “Insta-friendly moments of engagement and serendipity,” says Glimer, as well as a DJ spinning on the weekends. Toward the back of the building, Artists & Fleas will partner with a yet-to-be-determined DC food-and-beverage provider to run a restaurant and bar, and the spot will have some grab-and-go options available, too.
The market will also host a series of workshops, says Glimer, where folks can sign up for events like DIY workshops or crash courses in entrepreneurialism and branding.
While the DC Artists & Fleas will likely only operate on weekends when it first opens, Glimer hopes it will expand operations to five days a week by summer. And keep your eyes peeled for in-the-works pop-up events leading to the grand opening this spring, he says.
“We’re super stoked to be doing this,” says Glimer of the DC expansion. “It’s an exciting community and great space. We take the approach of having fun and experimenting, and we’re looking forward to [bringing that to DC].”
Artists and Fleas; 3276 M St. NW