Inside Lab 1270: Union Market’s hub for small businesses

Lab 1270 is a little bit of everything: it’s part retail, part pop-up, part art gallery and part co-working space. It’s a model that Union Market’s Director of Strategy and Brand Jennifer Maguire Isham calls “retail plus.” (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Caryn Cramer is a textile and interior designer who makes her own fabrics, pillows and other elements of decor. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Each year, Caryn Cramer produces a new textile collection. She designs her line by hand-painting with ink or coffee on paper and then finishes the design digitally. All of her fabrics are printed in the U.S. on Belgian linen. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
The back section of Lab 1270 showcases photography from local artists and an installation from D.C. Public Library’s Fab Lab. It also houses a co-working space with tables, chairs and wi-fi. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Living Threads Co. sells handwoven textiles from women’s cooperatives in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Nepal.   (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Owner Amanda Zehner sells everything from placemats and napkins, to throws and blankets. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
A percentage of the profits at Living Threads Co. directly supports the business’ microcredit and training program. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Stacey Carbone and Sasha West started their company Time Off to sell art and clothing that they were making in their free time. “I think that is a big message of this place, which is you don’t know what you can turn into a business until you do,” Union Market’s Director of Strategy and Brand Jennifer Maguire Isham says. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Niko + Ava is a collection of children’s clothes and accessories, curated from artisans around the world. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
“It’s small designers that aren’t represented here in the U.S.,” says Niko + Ava co-founder Luisa Kerdel Blatnik. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
At Niko + Ava, you’ll find hand-knit sweaters, leather shoes and even matching outfits and accessories for adults. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Craft Kombucha started as a small home-brew business in D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood; this is the company’s first brick and mortar location. Founder Tanya Maynigo-Loucks touts the drink’s health benefits, but isn’t afraid to use her kombucha to make tasty holiday cocktails. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Clothing designer Ron David makes runway-inspired women’s ware at an affordable price tag. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Lisa Shirk sells paper, art and furniture at her Lab 1270 space. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
New York-based Thursday Boot Co. has a presence at Lab 1270. The brand sells modern, yet classic shoes at an affordable price point. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
The Guerilla Vending machine at Lab 1270 has everything from letterpress cards to comical books. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
June 1, 2023 | A focus on shopping and small business success (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — New things are happening at Union Market.

The Northeast D.C. destination is branching away from its focus on food with its most recent concept, Lab 1270, located just across the street from the main 20,000 square-foot market space.

Lab 1270 is a little bit of everything: it’s part retail, part pop-up, part art gallery, and part co-working space. It’s a model that Union Market’s Director of Strategy and Brand Jennifer Maguire Isham calls “retail plus.”

“[It’s] what everyone wants now. You want to have an experience,” Isham says. “The reason you buy things is because you need them, but also because the experience of buying them.”

Visitors at Lab 1270 are definitely in for an experience. At the new concept, one can shop for French-made children’s clothes, pick up a few pieces of exclusive workout gear and buy a D.C.-made letterpress card out of a vending machine — all while sipping on craft kombucha and answering emails or cranking out a business proposal.

Sound quirky? It’s anything but for the vendors who call the new concept home.

Isham says Washington’s emerging market scene is growing, and Lab 1270 is a place where many — from the clothing designer to the business entrepreneur to the artist — can get their start and grow.

“It’s not just about politics anymore in Washington. There are people here making things, creating things, starting small businesses. That’s what’s going to make this city thrive and make this city different,” she says.

EDENS, the developer who owns the 45-acre district at Union Market, opened the main market hall in 2012 to great success. It currently houses more than 40 artisans and averages 15,000 visitors each weekend.

Since 2012, EDENS has added Dolcezza’s gelato factory, the Angelika Pop-Up independent movie theater and Nicholas Stefanelli’s new restaurant Masseria. The development has dabbled in retail before with the popular pop-up Thread, but Lab 1270 is its first permanent retail addition.

“If these small businesses are here to take a risk, so are we,” says Isham, who adds that the space has been busy since it opened on Nov. 14.

However, Isham is cautious to not focus solely on all things shiny and new at the Union Market district. She wants Washingtonians to appreciate and experience the area’s history and the small retailers that have been there for years, such as A Litteri’s.

“There are a lot of things here that have been here forever before the new market came in that we think are great … and everyone should come and see what’s here and in these neighborhoods.”

Lab 1270 is open  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Isham says expect to see classes, small-business meet-ups and events planned for the concept in the near future.

“We’re open to one and all who have an idea for this space,” she adds.

What’s inside Lab 1270? Meet the retailers in the gallery above.

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