Marcus Dowling


As much as discussing Washington, DC’s vibrant economy has long been a topic worthy of conversation, it’s in those new to the city building prosperity from said base also investing in DC’s artistic community that also deserves some discussion as a concept. In short, businesses new to DC would do well to pay heed to the Beatles and “give [the arts their] money.”

Here’s some facts about DC right now about top brands in DC culled only from my own neighborhood, but emblematic of trends around the city.

  • Whole Foods is a national supermarket chain based in Austin, Texas.
  • Trader Joe’s is a specialty grocery store chain based in Monrovia, California.
  • Momofuku’s David Chang is from Northern VA, but the restaurant chain’s first success occurred in NYC.
  • Frank and Oak is a men’s clothier from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Filson is a outdoors-geared men’s clothier that originated in Seattle, Washington.
  • Buffalo Exchange is a second-hand re-seller based in Tuscon, Arizona.

Here’s some more facts about Washington, DC’s current economic base.

Good lord, there’s a lot of money in DC these days, and as expected, there’s a rush of businesses willing to come to the city and take advantage of the economic boom in the Nation’s Capital. However, for all of the companies rushing in, there needs to be a note of thought put into the aforementioned sustainability of their business in DC. Yes, while the city is full of money, the number of companies that are likely to be filling our streets with possible “carpetbagger” intentions are likely to grow. One potential way for these outsider companies to excel in a revitalizing Washington, DC may be for them to — as the Beatles sing above — give us, the DC citizens — some of their money and invest in the surging local community.

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Maybe the best example of what one of our city’s new nationalizing tenants could do is mirror the work of Converse’s “Rubber Tracks Studio” program, which emerged from one corporate-funded independent/community music space in Brooklyn to now being a music franchise of the Nike-run shoe brand in 19 different locations throughout the US, South America and Europe. One look at the situations that have befallen Gold Leaf Studios and currently plague the Union Arts space almost create a call for one of DC’s new tenants (which, intriguingly include Converse’s owner Nike right down the street from Union Arts) to take up the fight for arts in a city where they’re undoubtedly attempting to — and in some cases, succeeding at  — turning a profit.

If a company is looking to excel in Washington, DC, the imperative must be greater than using the city’s growing and sustainable economic base as a boon during an era where turning a profit is more difficult than ever before. Washington, DC’s a vibrant community as well from a creative standpoint, everything from graffiti to punk rock, food, clothing, go-go, jazz and more all having an established legacy of excellence in the urreah. Having a vested interest in DC — like 9:30 Club-partnering Detroit-based leather/watch/bike crafting company Shinola — behooves a company in creating roots and an intrinsic spiritual tie with a community that exists far beyond capital growth.

“Money” and “sustainability” are the new hot catchwords in America’s capital city. “Artistic investment” demands consideration, too.

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