We have a new obsession over on H St. NE — and we don’t just mean our beloved Maketto. There’s a brand new shop in-town, Akae, and it’s the kind of place that makes you want to sit and stay for a little while — impeccably curated new clothes from small designers alongside rad vintage housewares an even utterly charming self-care and childrens sections. Basically, you should go right now. We sent some questions over to Akae co-founders Seda Nak and Aphra Adkins for the scoop on this lovely lil shop.
What is Akae?
SN: Akae is a lifestyle and home goods boutique. That’s what Aphra and I figured is the simplest way to explain it. Really, we are a bit of everything and the store is a reflection of both Aphra and I’s commonalities, such as, motherhood, family, and aesthetic.
AA: Akae is a lifestyle boutique that serves to provide people with high-quality necessities as well as the beautiful and personal odds and ends that make a space a home.
What does the name mean?
AA: Akae means “dwell” in Swahili. When we were discussing names we both felt it was important to use something that represents home and family. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and some of my first words were in Swahili, so it seemed like a good fit.
What made you want to open a shop?
SN: It was actually kind of random, we were introduced by a mutual friend, but we weren’t very close, let alone, potential business partners. When Aphra and her husband decided to take on a lease for their restaurant, they had a second floor they weren’t ready to use. Her and I got to brainstorming on use of the space short-term, and it led into a retail shop. Really, we just talked about a few of our own inspirations and general interests that were very at the time, a big part of our life, like becoming new mothers. It just made sense that we were going to create a space for anyone else who could appreciate what we were offering and our general vision.
AA: It was actually a last minute, incidental addition to the restaurant space that my husband and I were opening. But now I couldn’t be happier that it happened.
Can you tell me a little about your background?
SN: I grew up in the DMV, went to GMU, so I’ve always been local. I thought I would end up living in Cambodia focusing on women’s rights or education development. BUT, here I am with a kid, married to an extremely busy man. I’ve been forced to stop being so impulsive and slow down, create new platforms to continue pursuing my social interests abroad and locally. I hate being committed to just one thing, so having my own business has actually given me the privilege and flexibility to remain active in pursuing more effective and sustainable ways to remain involved with Cambodia’s development.
Why the H Street location?
SN: This opportunity came up because the space was there, it’s normally the opposite for others, spending forever looking for the perfect location for their business. We’re lucky, both of us live and work within walking distance of the shop, so it couldn’t make any more sense.AA: Like I mentioned, it wasn’t a premeditated choice, but its a part of the city that desperately needs more retail; something for people to walk to and enjoy during the day in their own neighborhood.
The shop feels so well-curated — how do you decide what to carry?
SN: Even if we don’t like the same thing, we appreciate each other’s taste. Majority of the time, we are on the same page. Aphra and I wanted the space to feel like home. When people walk in asking if it’s someone’s house, we feel even better about the route we we went with aesthetically.
AA: The only real criteria is that everything be ethically sourced. Some of the items are second-hand but everything else is the result of a direct conversation with the maker. Other than that we just go with our gut, and use the space as a guideline – what do we have room for, how does it fit with everything else in the store. Seda and I have different taste but with an overlap that works well for Akae. Its been a lot of fun.
Tell me about Akae bingo nights!
SN: Who doesn’t love bingo?! Simple game, simple rules, and and when you win, it’s like, the most exciting thing ever. Great for wannabe gamblers like myself. It’s actually really tense and nerve-wracking- I’m saying that and I don’t play, I just call the numbers.
AA: Its a fun way to meet people in the neighborhood and let loose a little. I sound like an old lady! But really – its a good time.
What else are you planning event-wise at Akae?
SN: Since we live in Sally’s Middle Name, Akae is used as their event space, or rather, we live in their event space so they host their own events. On Akae’s end, we have had a few of our own ranging from a maker’s market, highlighting small, local and talented designer/artists, or hosting a photo exhibit for a traveling blogger. We want to be an inviting and nurturing space for other people to share their passions.
AA: There’s always something! This month is going to be fun. We have a Maker Market coming up, Bingo, and a book drive.
What kinds of things (eat, shop, play, drink, etc.) do you like to do in and around DC?
SN: Sit and have coffee with my husband. Sunday’s off with my husband and baby. Literally, that’s my most favorite thing.
AA: I drink a lot of tea and eat a lot of chocolate. I like to cook at home and spend time with my family.
What else should we know?
SN: About myself? I like strangers, but I don’t particularly like people. If that makes sense. Business-wise? Lots more to look forward to!
AA: Hmm. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. But I believe in good intentions and second chances.
Thank you Aphra & Seda!