It started with a broken toe. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. But a broken pinky toe forced Van Ness/Forest Hills resident Evelyn Fox to take two months’ leave from her nursing job, which led to Fox starting her home baking business, Sweet Evelyn.
“[The broken toe] was a real disaster for me,” Fox told Forest Hills Connection in an email. “I never took a break from my job that long!”
But her break from did give her time to consider turning her baking talents into a business, and led her to approach Van Ness Main Street’s interim director, Cherie Lester, at the UDC Van Ness farmers market. Fox couldn’t be on her feet for a nursing shift, but she figured she could fill the hours with some volunteer work for VNMS. That led to more conversations with Lester, who gave her tips on how to market her business and introduced her to the UDC Van Ness farmers market student manager, Jenn Krasilovsky. Fox also researched and applied for a cottage food license through DCRA. She got it at the end of July.
Before long, she was selling her “sweet but not too sweet” treats (per her motto) at Van Ness Main Street’s Barks & Brews festival and the UDC Van Ness farmers market.
Lester sees Fox and entrepreneurs like her as a natural evolution of Van Ness Main Street’s mission: to support and promote local businesses.
“Giving a small, Van Ness-based business like Sweet Evelyn the chance to participate in events such as Barks & Brews and the Van Ness Farmers Market allows her the opportunity to build a following, test the local market, solicit product feedback and build her business – hopefully here in Van Ness,” Lester said.
So when Lester learned that furniture designer, artisan and upholsterer Nicole Crowder lives here in Van Ness, she reached out right away. Within a few days, they had a plan for a one-month pop-up shop in the Van Ness Main Street storefront at 4340 Connecticut Avenue NW.
The Nicole Crowder Upholstery pop-up will be open Thursday through Saturday from October 25th through November 23rd. There’s also a preview party on the evening of Thursday, October 24th (RSVP here), with Sweet Evelyn and a UDC farmers market vendor that has gotten national media and retailer attention: the Frères Branchiaux Candle Co.
Crowder isn’t a stranger to the bricks-and-mortar world. She’s had a work studio on Georgia Avenue that also served as a part-time showroom. But Lester says having a full-fledged pop-up here in Van Ness will give her the chance to expand her offerings by collaborating with other local artists and makers, and bringing in retail lines that complement her furniture designs. Crowder also gets to expand her audience and build a local customer base, and Lester hopes Crowder will someday choose Van Ness as the future home of a furniture, textile and art gallery.
“Pop-ups are a terrific selling – and learning – opportunity for small business start-ups, contributing to smart and realistic growth,” Lester said. “From my perspective, supporting both of these female-owned small businesses is a win-win. We’re highlighting the creative talent here in Van Ness while supporting emerging entrepreneurs, and future small businesses.”