“Put your money where your mouth is.”
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“Just do it.”
For most people, such motivational quotes and clichés push them to meaningless action. They post the phrase on their Facebook, or they tweet how they will soon be making a shift in their career or lifestyle. Their friends click “like” while their followers re-tweet. Life goes on. Nothing changes.
Well, Will Sharp is not like most people.
“If you’re going to open the best ‘blank’ in the world, you’re probably not going to do it in Washington, DC,” said Sharp, founder of the Durkl clothing brand. “I wanted someone to have the mentality that DC has potential. I wanted to show and prove that the reason it’s not being done is because most people don’t see the potential.”
Will Sharp by Brittany Horowitz
Sharp, along with Toki Underground’s Chef Erik Bruner-Yang and Vigilante Coffee’s Chris Vigilante, saw the potential in DC and are bringing an innovative 6,000 square foot space, Maketto, to H Street NE in late 2013. Maketto, which means “flea market” in Japanese, will be a communal space that includes retail from Durkl, food offerings from Bruner-Yang and a coffee bar from Vigilante.
Durkl is Sharp’s first dream turned reality. He slowly started his clothing business in his parents’ basement in Kensington, Maryland. He began with a small collection and gradually added more to his offerings – outerwear, accessories – without sacrificing quality. Now, he lives a bicoastal lifestyle traveling from DC to Los Angeles, growing his brand, and impressively distributing Durkl far beyond the nation’s capital – even in Australia and the United Kingdom. Maketto will be Durkl’s first flagship store.
For Maketto, turning ideas into reality did not happen overnight. With help from the Popularise real estate crowd sourcing website, Sharp and Bruner-Yang were able to join forces to make the collaborative concept possible.
Locals already recognize Bruner-Yang’s talent from his popular Toki Underground restaurant, which is also on H Street NE. Some might find it interesting for Bruner-Yang to open a space down the street from his original restaurant, but it was an obvious decision for the chef.
“I moved to North East DC in 2007 and still live behind Toki. I wouldn’t have opened up this restaurant anywhere except for H Street. It’s where my home is and that’s the same reason why we are doing Maketto on H Street,” explained Bruner-Yang. “This is where I want to be, and I owe a lot of my success to the people around us that got us going. There is a lot of development going on, but we are still keeping our sub-culture.”
Sharp opened the doors to the unfinished space and provided a tour to FamousDC, explaining the layout and their vision. Maketto is designed to be clean, modern and open with indoor and outdoor spaces. Patrons are meant to loiter and flow throughout the environment as they please. “Take what you want to do, and take it anywhere,” explained Sharp.
The space will not feel like a restaurant, a clothing store or a coffee shop, and that is intentional. Grab a coffee, watch the kitchen prepping for dinner, admire the retail and come and go as desired.
A rainy summer and permit delays have slowed down the project’s completion, but Sharp emphasized that rather than cutting corners to meet a particular deadline the team is focusing on working with the best people and doing everything correctly.
Vigilante was added to the powerful team due to his expertise and passion for quality. While living in Hawaii, Vigilante learned about the art of coffee roasting and had his palette trained by a talented local. His skill can now be tasted throughout DC at various farmers markets, including the Glover Park-Burleith Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s and Eastern Market on Sunday’s. Vigilante also has a pop-up coffee shop in Mount Vernon inside the rum bar Hogo. In the spring, Vigilante won the 2013 Washington City Paper Best Pop Up in Washington DC award.
Maketto will be Vigilante’s first flagship location, and they will be taking raw green coffee and roasting it right in front of customers. After seeing the space for the first time it all began to settle in for its owner. “Last year, no one knew who we were. Now, we are working with two established brands,” said Vigilante. “Will and Erik are forward thinkers.”
For the last few months, Maketto has hosted a pop-up at Hanoi House on U Street NW where Bruner-Yang has experimented with recipes and provided those lucky enough to get a reservation with a taste of Maketto’s potential future offerings. The pop-up offers a family style dining experience complete with dim-sum carts and unique cocktails. Some of the offerings included a Cambodian spicy papaya salad, known as Bok Lahong, and a Taiwanese shaved ice dessert.
When Maketto officially opens, Bruner-Yang confirmed that there would be heavy Cambodian and Taiwanese influences on the menu.
The retail component of Maketto will be on the ground level. Sharp envisions Durkl merchandise being exhibited in glass displays and available for purchase at the turn of a key.
“This city has been underserved for a long time now. I wondered if people had taste here, or are people just not serving them? Is this a stop off point for a lot of people? Are we just a stopping point?” explained Sharp. “You can get away with subpar shit in DC. The coffee doesn’t have to be that good. The clothes don’t have to be that good. People just think that’s what you get in Washington.”
By combining DC’s local passionate talent, Sharp aims to make Maketto a space where the community can gather and see what the city is really capable of offering.
“It has to start with local people who care. They’re the people who know the market the best,” said Sharp. “You can see the changes happening in DC. There is so much to be changed, and when it does, it stands out. I like that.”
When Maketto’s doors open later this year, DC will be given an opportunity to truly see how the community has the power to make changes.
Follow the lead of the Maketto creators: Sign out of Facebook, stop tweeting and just do it.