Union Market opened to much hemming and hawing: in its previous life, the building was home to the DC Farmers’ Market, which sold produce surrounded by stalls of chicken-Chinese-sub carry-outs. But in September 2012, that was transformed into a clean, bright food hall stuffed with vendors hawking locally harvested oysters and $5 cupcakes.
Over the past year and a half, developer EDENS has brought in more than food service, turning Union Market into the kind of trendy, forward-thinking entertainment and lifestyle hub that the DC Farmers’ Market, despite its utility, couldn’t quite become. Dock 5, a glossy warehouse event space on the second floor of the market building, has hosted movie nights, concerts, and Thread, “a curated retail event” that’s a bonanza of up-to-the-minute apparel and lifestyle vendors. The first Thread, in November, drew 5,000 people per day. Its next installment is the weekend of April 4, and EDENS plans to host more Threads at random intervals, throughout the 45 acres that constitute the Union Market district.
EDENS’ president and chief investment officer, Jodie McLean, describes Thread as “celebrating great design and fostering growth among emerging and established entrepreneurs.” The event makes space for fashion, art, beauty, books, and home goods and has, McLean says, “established itself as a platform for progressive retail concepts, independent brands, and progressive designers to come together under one roof.”
Those concepts run the gamut from Sid and Ann Mashburn’s refined preppiness, to local street wear staple DURKL, to Baltimore-based custom chair upholstery shop Third + Grace, to DC institution Politics & Prose—plus over a dozen more jewelry makers, men’s shaving startups, kid’s clothiers, designers, and artists. April’s Thread will have a turducken of a popup in Here + Now, a showcase of six emerging fashion designers, plus book signings and family-oriented events. Green Hat Gin will be on site and, if you get hungry, head downstairs for a snack from any of Union Market’s 30 vendors.(That’s all very progressive indeed for a town so often slammed for its reliance on khaki pants and button-downs.)
McLean says DC’s reputation as fumbling and unstylish needs to be overcome—through Thread, preferably. “We are hoping to build confidence in the consumer that they can express their style individualistically,” she says. “Union Market should be the unity of our individuality.”