New Retail Pop-Up Coming to One of D.C.’s Biggest Food Halls

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL: The team behind The Square plans to launch a series of retailpop-ups starting later this month to give more people a reason to check out the downtown D.C. food hall on the weekends and keep coming back after their initial visits.

The first installment of Shop! The Square, to be held from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. March 23, will offer a nod in part to the upcoming National Cherry Blossom Festival. Vendors include Toimoi, a Northern Virginia bakery weaving Asian-flavored elements like ube, mochi and match with itscroissants and other pastries. There will also be workshops like sewing and candlemaking, along with other interactive programming to encourage people to spend some time at The Square, not just pop in for a bite to eat and then move on.

It’s a collaboration between Tishman Speyer, which owns theInternational Square complex that hosts The Square, food hall operators Richie Brandenburg and Rubén Garcia, and David Ross and his DCBB Productions, which is behind other hospitality-driven events including Eckington Hall.

“When I first met David and we started talking about this, itsounded fantastic,” Brandenburg said.

The 25,000-square-foot food hall, which had been in the works since before the Covid-19 pandemic, opened in September with an initial slate of concepts including Jamón Jamón, Taqueria Xochi and Cashion’s Rendezvous, though Cashion’s closed after a short run. Each of the merchants issupported by a central commissary, and all can tap into a pool of shared expertise from seasoned industry veterans like Brandenburg and Garcia, both of whom trained under José Andrés.

The team behind The Square has grander plans for the spacebeyond what guests saw on opening day. Those include adding additional merchants, including a coffee shop that opens this week, and expanding business hours as more people now working remotely return to offices in downtown D.C.

It’s against that backdrop that Ross first pitched someone from Tishman Speyer about the pop-ups during a holiday food market DCBB put on at Union Station, and talked it over more thoroughly with Brandenburg over lunch. Brandenburg and The Square were getting ready to extend the food hall’s operating hours to Saturdays, and Ross felt a retail pop-up could help drive traffic there and support the food hall’s other programming, including a tiki bar from the former owner of Archipelago.

“There will be vendors selling clothing, antiques, anything that would just make a vibrant shopping experience, and attract people downtown for the retail market, and to stay after that to have some food and drinks,” Ross said. “This is all packaged to help drive energy downtown.”

After the kick-off event later this month, the series willcontinue April 20, May 18, June 15, July 27 and Aug. 24. The Square is located at 1850 K St. NW.

In addition to Toimoi, some of the other vendors are slated toinclude:

  • TéyLam, from husband-and-wife team Afotey andOlamide Odai, who will sell shea butter sourced from Ghana
  • POP!, from Georgetown University student-turned-entrepreneur Anna Shah, who leads a student-run thrift store selling curated, second-hand fashion
  • Mingo by Domingo, a Laurel-based brand founded by Yanju “Domingo” Padonu, which will sell retro-inspired pieces
  • Chippin, an Arlington-based business selling dog food made from locally-sourced ingredients
  • Honeyglow, a College Park-based maker ofbeeswax candles locally sourced from bees

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