Shopkeepers is a space for just about anything — a home goods store, an art gallery, Vietnamese-focused dining, a family hangout. Seda Nak wouldn’t have it any other way.
“A space like Shopkeepers creates a little bit of a common ground in our city,” says owner Nak, 31, who opened the store (1231 Florida Ave. NE) in January in Washington’s Trinidad area, not far from H Street. It’s the only business on a residential block.
Whether visitors buy something isn’t Nak’s primary goal. It’s okay to walk in, pick up a magazine and relax, says Nak, who wants her place to be “natural, comfortable.”
“Every neighborhood should have [this] kind of shop,” she says. Nak walks to work from her home in the area and often brings her two children. Her husband, D.C. chef and entrepreneur Erik Bruner-Yang, of restaurant Maketto and Honeycomb Grocer, also visits regularly. When she was pregnant, Nak says, she wanted a place to walk to in the neighborhood. Now she welcomes other families and hosts local businesses such as Playwell, which offers prenatal and early-childhood classes. “You can’t always take kids out to a restaurant. But here, let them roam, let them run.”
The shop has two large open levels. The first has sun-drenched brick walls with dark wood shelves displaying office goods, ceramics and coffee makers. Nak labels her wares “elevated essentials,” items that are simultaneously modern and timeless. Clothing from boutique fashion houses such as Black Crane and Hackwith Design hang from black pipes. Bouquets of dried flowers dangle delicately from the top row. Shopkeepers’ lower level is used for events. In July, the space became a temporary theater space, fit with plush seating. In May, it was used to display black-and-white portraits of Filipino children of military fathers, a show sponsored by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
The aroma of fresh coffee wafts throughout Shopkeepers. Coronation Coffee, a pop-up roaster, shares the subway-tiled kitchen with Doi Dua, a Vietnamese food pop-up. Doi Dua owners Anna Vocaturo and Sarah Buioffer a tasting menu at a communal table on Fridays and Saturdays ($65). “We use Vietnamese elements to create our own dishes,” Vocaturo says.
Regular Sean Shahri likes the camaraderie at Shopkeepers. “It’s a neighborhood destination ... where people come together,” he said one recent Sunday.
Adds Nak, “It’s really about living in the moment here.”