Experiential, Experimental Concept 31/M Is Retail 2.0
By March 22, 2021 0 553•
When legendary menswear store Brooks Brothers closed last spring — a victim of the pandemic — it left behind empty shelves and denuded mannequins. Now, the formerly forlorn space has been given new life by EastBanc’s Anthony and Philippe Lanier, père et fils, who have recast it as 31/M: a retail laboratory for entrepreneurs wishing to test the viability of their concept stores in one of Washington’s most exclusive shopping districts.
There are currently five retailers on the first floor of the 22,000-square-foot market, which still bears design elements and traces of its former tenant. In the works: a coffee bar and additional pop-up shops on the second floor.
“I couldn’t be in Georgetown if not for this opportunity,” says Sarah Bayot, owner of Kicheko Goods, which offers a curated collection of handcrafted jewelry and select home goods. Bayot, who works out of a design studio in the Brookland Arts Zone, also sells her merchandise online. 31/M, she says, allows her to broaden her reach beyond e-commerce and engage with customers face to face.
Nick Theros, co-founder and CEO of Laiík, would agree. The native Washingtonian, who also has a store in Dupont Circle, is very pleased with the customer support and interest in his distinctive “slow fashion” sandals and shoes. Laiík means “of the people” in Greek. His colorful footwear — designed here and in London but made in Greece — is displayed on bleached stone shelves that create an appealing sense of place.
For Andrew Leddy, proprietor of Ubioubi (“Where, oh where?”), 31/M is his chance to become part of Georgetown’s revitalization — Georgetown 2.0, as he calls it. He specializes in 16th-to-18th-century European frames, mirrors and decorative objets.
Isabel Alexander creates delicate diamond, gold and mixed-metal jewelry that can be combined in unusual and distinctive ways. The Moldovan-born artist, who launched her business last June, designs one-of-a-kind pieces that make the wearer feel confident and unique. 31/M, she says, is a good test of brick-and-mortar potential.
In Flex All Day, former elementary-school teacher and serial entrepreneur Sydney Rosenberg has found her happy place. Her boutique features can’t-miss neon signage and over 25 brands of chic and happening athleisure wear — from patterned socks to leggings — that can take you from the gym to a night out (properly vaccinated and masked, of course). For a store like hers, the dressing rooms are a plus. It’s great, she admits, “just to be around people.”
31/M officially opened on March 17, presumably a lucky day. So far, so good, say the retailers. And foot traffic was encouraging the day we visited. For those who live in or love Georgetown, this retail experiment is worth watching. Fingers crossed, it could be the first step on the road to revival.