Hometown Tourist, Ch 7: Union Market

Since Union Market opened, i’ve been hearing rumblings about it. The buzz i heard came from a very trusted, in-the-know foodie friend. It also came from a bartender in my neighborhood who knows what i like and what i don’t like.

I guess i assumed an ostrich pose and had my head in the sand because i completely missed that Union Market is THE place in DC for foodies, hipsters, parents, basically anyone willing and able to venture to undeveloped parts of Northeast DC.

I was expecting an experience like Eastern Market: local Mom & Pop type food shops, except that Union Market was better designed for an eat-in experience. In my head, i thought it would be like NYC’s Chelsea Market circa 2000-2006. It was not and i left very disappointed.

After visiting, i tweeted that Union Market did not meet my expectations. Not surprisingly, someone replied asking me to email suggestions that would improve the experience for future visitors. Here is what i replied. I’m sharing this because it sums up my disappointment in a way that gives novice visitors a sense of what they are signing up for.

The sign outside an uber-crowded Union Market, luring you in.
The sign outside an uber-crowded Union Market luring you in.

1. Market Union Market as upscale. The place, and almost every pop-up shop in it is expensive: $9 for soup? $14 for honey? I’m okay with paying these prices if you manage my expectations going in. Own what you are – an upscale destination for local, artisanal food.

2. Revamp the floor design. There were lines EVERYWHERE: bathroom, oysters, red apron, etc. Nobody had a clue where they should be. This caused more lines, visitor frustration and stress. It takes time to get to Union Market and clearly visitors are willing to drop cash. Why not make their experience more enjoyable by rethinking the floor design so it allows for an easier flow of traffic?

3. Revamp the seating. Outside of select food shops like Red Apron, there is limited seating at each end of Union Market. I suggest moving these tables and chairs to the middle of the market. People will be more likely to see/use the space. I also think it could help create a better flow of traffic.

4. Update your earned/paid/owned social channels TOGETHER. I checked the Union Market website before going. Nowhere did it say they were hosting DC Scoops. However, i learned after the fact that @UnionMarket had this information up as their Twitter wall paper. While i’m sure this violates somebody’s social media rules, i think it would be smarter to update all of your channels together. Don’t assume people only use Twitter or only check your website.

5. Create/Post a map of Union Market in a visitor friendly location. The one map i saw was located in the corner of Union Market by the restrooms. Since there was a massive line to use to the loo, it was tough to read.

I got the polite but obligatory response from Union Market after sharing my thoughts with them. I’m one person, a newbie blogger, who had a bad experience. I get it, my feedback is really not that relevant to the success of their business. They know people will come back regardless of what i say.

And at some point, i will probably be back too. But until these kinks are worked out, this place is my first official “skip it” in Washington DC. It’s not convenient to access, leaves your wallet incredibly light, your elbows bruised and your stomach empty.

Author: Judi Kennedy

Wanderlust. A professional aunt, fitness enthusiast, dog owner and avid reader the rest of the time.

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