Enica Barnes, owner of Neighors DC, shows off one of the many dresses from Shop Ella James at the Neighbors DC Friday Happy Hour in D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood on Aug. 12. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)
Enica Barnes, owner of Neighors DC, shows off one of the many dresses from Shop Ella James at the Neighbors DC Friday Happy Hour in D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood on Aug. 12. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)

Over the past few weekends, swathes of people walking along M Street in Georgetown have converged on an ever-expanding marketplace that represents the entrepreneurial spirit and ethnic diversity of the D.C. metropolitan area.

At the pop-up known as Neighbors Diverse Community, or Neighbors DC for short, more than a dozen vendors set up shop during the evening hours between Friday and Sunday to sell a variety of goods, some of which they’ve curated from parts of Africa and South America. 

Offerings include candles, coffee, jewelry and other wares.   

While perusing through colorful tents on East Market Lane at Georgetown Park, visitors get to learn about the artisans and the stories behind their unique products. The artisans, small business owners in their own right, also get to tap into a market that’s on a post-COVID rebound.

Kyle Forshay (left), co-owner of Tequeno World with his wife, watches as Enica J. Barmes, owner of Neighbors DC, enjoys guava and cheese tequeños during the Neighbors DC Friday Happy Hour in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood on Aug. 12. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)

“It’s very important for vendors to be in areas like Georgetown and Navy Yard where people are constantly on the go,” said Enica Barnes, an entrepreneur and owner of Neighbors DC.   

Barnes launched Neighbors DC in 2020 during the pandemic. Since its inception, Neighbors DC has participated in the H Street Festival and established partnerships with Roots Public Charter School in Northwest, The Parks at Walter Reed, NoMa Business Improvement District, and Lulemon, among several other entities. 

Barnes’ latest pop-up at East Market Lane represents a collaboration with Georgetown Park.  She said her vendors’ sales have doubled since this arrangement started earlier this year. That’s why the Silver Spring, Maryland, resident continues to encourage vendors to apply for space at Neighbors DC, especially with Fall Fest fast approaching. 

During Fall Fest, Neighbors DC vendors will sell fall-themed items every weekend in the month of October at East Market Lane.

“You see commercial real estate property but much of the culture rooted in the D.C. metropolitan area is by small businesses so vendors have the opportunity to be the central point and really sell their goods,” Barnes said. “Our mission is to bring people back to Georgetown, but more importantly, keeping vibrancy there.” 

Building Bridges

In the post-pandemic world, Georgetown continues to attract people from across the D.C. metropolitan area and around the world with an array of high-end retail stores and restaurants. The area, M Street in particular, also serves as a major commuter artery for buses and cars traveling between the District and Virginia.

Dameece Neal, owner of Synergy And Serenity, assists a customer with a handcrafted candle at the Neighbors DC Friday Happy Hour in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood on Aug. 12. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)

Amid all the foot and vehicular traffic comes many opportunities for sales at Neighbors DC. 

For several weeks, Dameece Neal has traveled from Ward 8 to Georgetown to showcase her collection of crystals, sage, essential oils, candles and jewelry, all of which she has curated under her small business Synergy & Serenity. 

Neal, 24, connected with Barnes at another pop-up and took on what she described as an opportunity to tap into a new market. As Neal sells her wares, customers learn about Synergy & Serenity’s new location along Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle. 

“There are more people [in Georgetown] and the walk scenes exceed any other business district,” Neal said. “Being in this area, the income is a lot higher and there aren’t guaranteed sales but there is more promise. The best part is hearing that this is needed. People are thanking me for doing this and it’s a good reaction from the crowd regardless of the sale.” 

A Learning Moment 

Ashley McPherson said Neighbors DC has provided a platform where she could engage people in discussion about cannabis, which has become less taboo in recent years. 

McPherson, a Northeast resident and owner of McFierce Experience, provides mobile bar services, private mixology classes, bespoke cocktail curation, and event management. She created Lifted Libations, a CBD+ infused handcrafted beverage, while sequestered at home during a pandemic that changed the hospitality industry.

Ashley McPherson, owner, mixologist and experience curator of Proudly Mixin Up, talks to potential customers about Lifted Libations, a THC-infused creation, at Neighbors DC Friday Happy Hour in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood on Aug. 12. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)

Since perfecting her formula, which can be found as mocktails and cocktails, McPherson has made the rounds at several pop-ups, including those organized by Swatchroom, or The Village Cafe, at Union Market, and Euphoria Health and Wellness near Eastern Market. 

In the latest chapter of her entrepreneurial venture, McPherson has found people from various walks of life whom she said have made her trek to Georgetown worthwhile.

“Georgetown is on the other side of town but everyone is happily surprised to find us and taste each of the delicious flavors we offer,” McPherson said. “It’s also a learning moment. We enjoy educating folks on how to properly consume cannabis along with the amazing health benefits of the herb, and the benefits of No-Low ABV cocktails.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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