Photos: Courtesy of Shop Made in DC
Photos: Courtesy of Shop Made in DC

A Day In The Life: Shop Made in DC’s Michael Babin & Stacey Price

Shop Made in DC is truly a one-of-a-kind place – every single product and delicacy sold at this new Dupont area gift store and café is designed, crafted and built right here in the District.

You can grab an incredible cup of coffee while perusing boutique items including furniture, artwork, specialty foods and clothing, and even sample a local chef’s latest creation.

And who better to create this multi-tenant Made in DC concept than Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) Founder Michael Babin and People Make Place Founder Stacey Price? We caught up with these two to ask about the new space – and the copious amounts of coffee and charged cell phones they rely on to manage it all.

On Tap: You both have unique backgrounds: Stacey in building the Made in DC brand and Michael in developing successful restaurant concepts all over the District. How did the two of you come together for this project?
Stacey Price: Somehow, I convinced Michael to be a board member of mine back in 2012 at Think Local First DC. I was really interested at that point in the Made in DC program, where we had just started a membership. We both had these ideas separately, but we would both keep saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a store attached to a café for all of these local makers?” We signed off on all of this on August 1, and we were open by October 20. It was a super-fast ramp up, but we had been talking about different versions of this concept for the last few years.

OT: The DC area has become a really supportive environment for food and retail startups, especially with the rise in food incubators around the District. How does Shop Made in DC fit into this picture?
Michael Babin: Food incubators, like TasteLab and Mess Hall, are different parts of this industry being built in the city that are essential to people with a passion who want to turn that into a business. People who want to [start] these businesses need to have convenient, cost-efficient ways to make their products; that’s number one. Simultaneously, they need sales or they can’t make that happen.

OT: What role do existing relationships across the local community of DC makers play in creating and sustaining a project like this?
SP: Oh, it’s huge! I’ve spent my entire career building this community, so without that network we wouldn’t have been able to pull this together. Golden Triangle called me and asked if I’d meet with a developer to see a space. Next, I called Michael and said, “Hey, remember this thing? You in?” If I didn’t know anything about this makers’ community, I couldn’t even imagine being able to pull together a project like this in a few months.
MB: At NRG, our specific background in the food business has involved launching a lot of different brands and concepts, often times revolving around the vision of a team of chefs or a beverage director. At Shop Made in DC, we are working with entrepreneurs who have their own vision and we are trying to do justice to that in this multidimensional setting and nurture their experience. I think our experience in branding concepts plays well into that.


Stacey’s Work Must-Haves
A playlist
Cup of Small Planes Coffee
Google Calendar and Asana project management software
My locally-made, paper Appointed planner
Apple trio (iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air)


OT: We are starting to see a lot more of this retail/food partnership. Why do you think that is and where do you see it headed in the District?
SP: I think no matter where you are, it all comes down to real estate. It’s expensive and it’s hard, and this project specifically is about low entry to market opportunities. I think collaborative retail is the future […] and the consumer wants experiences.
MB: I think these multi-tenant spaces are really creating a lot of energy in the food and retail scenes right now. Putting them together is sort of natural, and adds a different level to the experience. Being in these spaces, you can go for one reason and then end up doing something else.

OT: What are the Shop Made in DC sellers and makers responsible for?
SP: For retailers, we provide the marketing, point of sale and the space, and they are really just providing us the product and the guarantee of that product being in stock. For the food and beverage side, we aren’t just providing space, but also staffing and a full kitchen. We hold the ABC license and all the legalities of doing food and business in the space, so they really can just come in and within a day or so, be flowing into being a business.


Michael’s Work Must-Haves
Lots of coffee
Car and phone
A notebook and pen
My amazing team
Unreasonable optimism


OT: What impact do you see Shop Made in DC having on local makers and the overall market for these small businesses?
MB: I think the biggest thing that will be exciting over time is we are going to be able to introduce more brands, and I think the presence of the store and the sales we are generating for the makers in the city are going to start changing their business models. They are already getting direct and immediate impact from consumers right now on which of their products move, so that will lead them to start evolving their businesses a lot faster. It will get pretty interesting and fun to see; it already is.

OT: What does a project like this showcase about DC’s burgeoning food/drink and retail communities?
MB: It’s hard for people to find some of the makers we are featuring. Some have been doing really great work for a really long time, and it’s been hard for them to find their customers and for customers to find them or even be aware of them. I think there is a lot more happening in the makers’ scene in DC, whether it’s food or retail goods, than most DC residents are aware of.


Stacey Can’t Live Without
Art
A bathtub
Urban hikes
Chocolate chip cookies
My soul family (mindful, talented people that serve as daily inspiration and support)


OT: Any upcoming plans for the space during the holiday season?
SP: We are launching Made in DC gift bags and boxes with five concepts, and I already see so much potential and opportunity in that. All my work has been on localism and circulating that local dollar, and I’m a nerd when it comes to putting the money back into the makers’ economy. It’s exciting for me when I have these big corporations and offices saying they want to shift their corporate giving to local, and they see us as a conduit to that.

OT: Any plans to expand Shop Made in DC to other locations?
SP: Michael is definitely working on what would it look like if we were in Union Station or the airport. In Dupont, we have this space that is amazing – a high-traffic area – but they weren’t already coming to this space. What are other spaces in the city that we can do pop-ups and get right in front of customers? I think you’ll see us experimenting outside of our brick and mortar space, and grow and scale up to support more makers that way.


Michael Can’t Live Without
Music
Books
Conversation
My wife and kids
Great food and drinks


OT: What are you hoping patrons take away from visiting Shop Made in DC?
MB: We can buy anything online at any time, but these things from local makers are created by hand and they are special because there is a great story behind them. And there is a huge economic virtuous cycle, because when people buy from these local makers, they are supporting their community. We just hope people start understanding that they can make that choice.

Shop Made in DC: 1330 19th St. NW, DC; www.shopmadeindc.com

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Alex Thompson

Alex is a fan of all things food and sports, as well as a writer. By day she is a nonprofit communications manager, and by night she is searching the District for the best cocktails, whiskey selection and cuisine. Check out her blog at hellofoodgirl.com and follow her on twitter at @sportsfoodalex.