Earlier this week, the founders of the Brooklyn Flea announced the opening of the District Flea, a U Street iteration of the NYC's wildly popular outdoor market specializing in homegrown fashion and food from local makers. Starting September 14th, the free District Flea will run for six Saturdays at 945 Florida Avenue NW, in a vacant lot near the 9:30 Club that's part of JBG's Atlantic Plumbing project.
"The excitement in D.C. has really been rewarding since word got out," said Brooklyn Flea co-founder Eric Demby. In fact, Demby revealed he and co-founder Jonathan Butler have already accepted 50 vendors, halfway to their goal of 100 vendors. Aside from a few NYC vendors with personal ties to the area, the vast majority of businesses will be from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. While the District Flea is still looking for vendors, Demby shared a few clothing and furniture dealers whose applications he's received: Gypsy de la Lune, a Washington, D.C.'s vintage clothing vendor housed in a 1974 Shasta travel trailer; Modern 50, a 20th century furniture reseller from Maryland, D.C.'s Speak Vintage; and Baltimore's The Hunting Ground. On the food side, restaurants and artisans like Red Hook Lobster Pound, Dolcezza, DGS Delicatessen, Room 11's bakery, and GrohNola are interested in participating. Note: food trucks won't be part of the equation at the District Flea, and all food will be served in booths.
The market will close for the winter months, and though this is a trial, Demby says they have every intention of reopening next year. "I don't know if it would be March and April, but I fully expect it would be open every week spring 2014," he said.
In addition to the energy of the U Street neighborhood, the founders liked the site's location for a few reasons. "For us, location is not extremely important as long as it's somewhat accessible," Demby said. "I like that it's not that close to Eastern Market. We're not trying to be viewed as diminishing that market."
For a long time, Demby's memory of Washington was limited to covering the 1996 Tibetan Freedom Concert as a journalist and eating Ethiopian food in Adams Morgan. But after more recently visiting D.C., trying new restaurants like American Ice Co., staying in Dupont Circle, and riding the Capital Bikeshare, Demby realized that he had underestimated the city — the same way others had underestimated Brooklyn back when the Brooklyn Flea started in 2008. "I thought, 'Wow, there's an energy that I had no idea existed. There are young people. Those are the things that our market needs to survive.' We sense them all here," he said.
"We hope folks will come and show us what we think is true, that D.C. is ready for a market like this that's open every week," Demby said.
— Adele Chapin