New York City import Maman brings its iconic white-and-blue patterned cups to two locations in the District this month. A Georgetown cafe (1353-1355 Wisconsin Avenue NW) opens today, and another in the Union Market district (1300 4th Street NE) is scheduled to arrive next week.
The Southern France-influenced brand is known for its dreamy and floral aesthetic—and a nutty chocolate chip cookie of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” fame.
Since 2014, its married co-founders Benjamin Sormonte and Elisa Marshall have opened nearly 30 cafes, mostly concentrated in the Big Apple, serving coffee and pastries, cocktails, and breakfast and lunch fare like smoked salmon and avocado salads, turkey sandwiches with goat cheese and fig, croque “mamans,” and eggs ratatouille. Maman, which means “mother” in French, premiered locally last summer at Bethesda Row.
“D.C. is where we’re going heavy in terms of growth,” Marshall tells Eater. She says the area was natural for expansion, being just close enough for the NYC-based couple to visit regularly.
Its debut D.C. digs stands in the middle of the city’s oldest neighborhood, a network of historic buildings and longstanding restaurants, coffee shops, and retail. The Northeast location, set to open the week of February 20, comes to a historically industrial part of D.C. that’s undergoing revitalization with the addition of apartment buildings, food halls, and both fast-casual and sit-down eateries.
“It’s fun and challenging to see how we can tell the same brand story in two very different locations,” says Marshall.
Built with Georgetown’s historic bone structure, the space is homey, with multiple seating spaces, including a courtyard out back. A “Study Room” in a street-facing cove is set up as a quiet workspace. It’s exempt from the brand’s usual no-laptop policy, given the shop’s university-adjacent location. Weekday hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (kitchen closes at 4 p.m. daily).
“It’s really got a super cozy warmth to it unlike a lot of our [New York] City locations, which I think really speaks to the heritage and the vibe of Georgetown as well,” says Marshall. “I probably shouldn’t say this in publication, but I think it’s my favorite location in terms of design.”
Maman’s industrial-style setup in Union Market has a polar opposite aesthetic, at least from the exterior.
“To be honest it’s a challenge on my part, from a design perspective, to take a brand that’s all about home and warmth and attention to detail and take it to a space that’s a completely new build,” says Marshall.
A stenciled staircase and floor will help foster a cute-kitschy feel, joined by an indoor pergola covered with florals for a “warm, enchanted, getaway vibe,” she says.
Union Market will act as the commissary kitchen supporting the Bethesda and Georgetown locations as well as its own business. Both locations have sizable event spaces; Georgetown can hold 100 standing and 24 seated guests in the back and courtyard, while Union Market holds 150 with a 40-seat capacity.
For new locations, Maman holds cup design contests, soliciting local art submissions to design limited-edition to-go cups. In D.C., Michael Crossett won with his screen-printed work layering digital images of D.C. landmarks. In addition to adorning cups at Union Market, his prints will be sold out of Georgetown. Marshall says she envisions ongoing contests to support D.C.’s burgeoning arts community.
Georgetown’s location will also sell cafe-themed items from local artists. The store sits in a former Shop Made in DC location (which has since moved down the street). The cafe worked with the local artist purveyor to curate items to sell up front: local honey, croissant-covered dog bandanas, notebooks, and mugs illustrated with the Washington Monument.
“We want to make sure we’re integrating ourselves with the community as well, as much as possible, being a New York brand coming into the city,” she says, acknowledging “it’s a very competitive marketplace and landscape that we’re in.”
Georgetown’s new store sits next to citywide chain Compass Coffee, a few storefronts away from award-winning French bakery Boulangerie Cristophe, and less than two blocks from newly-opened Levantine pastry shop Yellow from the Albi team. Union Market’s is adjacent to two food halls, and neighbors to coffee shops like Somewhere and Blue Bottle.
But Marshall believes there is still a niche to fill. “I want to invite people in to come and stay a while and really enjoy the space, enjoy the customer service,” she says. Plans are already underway to open more Maman locations in the District, she confirms, with multiple new leases in the works.