Indie in D.C. is a monthly feature on independent makers and retailers throughout the District. Here we talk with Amir Browder, owner of Homme. The Homme kiosk, which sells men’s accessories, is located at National Airport. Browder also has a space at O Street Artist Studios where he sells clothing, hosts events, and features up-and-coming artists.
Homme, 52 O Street Studios, 52 O St. NW, by appointment. Homme kiosk, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Terminal C. Instagram: @homme_dc
You used to have a men’s boutique at the Anacostia Arts Center. Why did you move from that space to O Studios?
I totally loved Anacostia Arts Center, I loved everything about it. Loved the people, I loved the vibe, I loved the incubator aspect of it all. But I thought it was time to move on and be more central so people could see me better.
Why open something in an airport?
I was looking at CBS morning news one day and they were talking about JFK Airport and Newark Airport. They were saying how those places were trying to be cool. The way that they were trying to become cooler was to have these cool chefs. I was like, “I think my stuff is pretty cool. I think I could add something to this.”
I said, “Well, what is it that I could really offer? I’m not going to sell clothes at an airport. That wouldn’t make sense. Oh! I know what I can do. I can offer cool men’s accessories. I want them to be from artists that are in the D.C. area.” I went on Google and called Reagan Airport … I spoke about the concept to the young lady who was here, I told her what we were trying to do … I wasn’t really ready. She was like, “Whenever you are ready, just come back and we’ll see what we can do.”
2015 went by, 2016 went by, and I got an email from Marketplace. They are the ones that pretty much run the kiosks. I got an email from Marketplace and they said that they were having this meeting out at Dulles about kiosks and concessions.
So, I took my Jeep Patriot, which was on its last leg. Oh my gosh. I was also driving Lyft. (I’ll get into that later.) I took my 2009 Jeep Patriot down the Dulles Toll Road—and clunkering all the way down there—and I went to the meeting. I see all these guys there. They are going for like, million dollar contracts. I’m looking, and am like, “I want the smallest thing possible.”
I was introduced to one of the people from Marketplace, Joy. She took me to Dulles. She took me here, and I felt more at home at Reagan. It had a great feel to it, a great vibe.
Now let’s go back, because you said you were also driving Lyft when you were having that meeting with Dulles. How long did you drive with Lyft, and are you still driving?
I’m not driving anymore. I drove Lyft full time pretty much from January of 2016 to July of 2017 when I got the space here. I would do it every day, Monday through Sunday, for about 5 to 6 hours a day. That would enable me to keep my shop running at O Street.
I’m really glad you are talking about this, because sometimes people don’t understand the reality of being an entrepreneur, especially in D.C. It’s not like you open a brick and mortar and say, “Okay, I’m done.” The rent has to be paid. You have to pay for inventory. You were building a dream while you were keeping things going. Not that you needed to be doing anything else, but were you doing anything else?
No. Even with Lyft going on I would still have shows [at O Studios]. From the shows, from the pop ups, I was able to have clients.
I could schedule appointments with my clients and I would send them stuff. That was a source of income also. All of these different types of revenue-based side hustles that were still in line with what I was doing. Even with Lyft I was able to meet people to bring to my store.
A young lady who I met in a Lyft actually was the one who did my displays. I was dropping her off one day over at the Anacostia Arts Center and she was an apprentice to the gentleman right next door to the Arts Center who did neon lights… I said, “You think you can do something cool in my shop for me?” And she said, “Let me see it!”
She came by and the next thing you know she did this amazing installation that has pretty much been my calling card for O Street. Its bright neon that shines from my studio that everyone knows now. Her name is Anahita Bradberry.
I really want to make sure that we are supporting local D.C. talent and nurturing it, and also that there are outlets for them to express their talent here. That’s one of my main goals—to be that platform … I want to be there to help cultivate it and say, “Yo, you can do it. This is your chance. I’m not going to block your creative freedom. Do whatever you want to do in the shop. Do it. I want to support you.” That’s the person I want to be. I want to be able to shine a light on making sure we have more places like that in the D.C. area.