Handmade for each other: Tanglewood Works and the Arts District

A beautiful Bougainvillia inspired French provincial sideboard and side table at Tanglewood Works.

BY HEATHER WRIGHT — A few weeks after opening her Tanglewood Works pop-up store at 5132 Baltimore Avenue for the holiday season, Sue Older-Mondeel knew she was on to something. The pop-up could stay up. Tanglewood Works, recipient of first place honors in the 2016 Washington City Paper’s Readers’ Choice Best of D.C. for Best Handmade Home Decor, moved a step closer to Older-Mondeel’s vision of it becoming a “third place.”

When she owned a cafe in the San Francisco Bay Area, Older-Mondeel thought of her cafe as a “third place” for people: “It’s about having a place to go that’s not home or work.” A self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur,” Older-Mondeel is done with running cafes (“I’ll let Vigilante do that.”) but is dedicated to creating a space that nourishes community: “I still retain that desire to be a hostess for ‘the third place.’” She said her vision is for the Baltimore Avenue store to become such a place.  

Tanglewood Works got its start in 2014 as a place to buy homemade and upcycled furniture and goods — “Where upcycling and art connect.” Their first home was at Community Forklift, on Edmonston’s Tanglewood Drive. Older-Mondeel said she knew that eventually they would outgrow the space.

When asked why she had decided to stay in Hyattsville, Older-Mondeel replied, “Hyattsville rocks!” She added, “Being able to do the pop-up was a glimpse into basically a fabulous retail location. I think my staff was going to have a mutiny if we gave up the space.” She added that her clients seemed to prefer the Hyattsville location “and were thrilled that we were here.”

“It’s part of their walking journey now,” she said. “They’re eating at Franklin’s and then stopping in and they’re grabbing coffee at Vigilante and then they’re stopping back in and then they’re going to look at jewelry [at Fleisher’s Jewelers] across the street and they’re coming back in and then they’re going to 3 Little Birds and coming back in.”

Team Tanglewood sales associate and consigning fiber artist, Jen Athanas, agreed: “Here, the exposure is to so many more people. … This being right in between Vigilante and Franklin’s, this sweet spot has been really great, and we’ve been reaching people that wouldn’t necessarily have gone to the Forklift.”

Older-Mondeel said that one of the most exciting things about deciding to move her whole operation to Hyattsville is that now Tanglewood Works can develop an in-depth and consolidated calendar of events and classes that brings people together to craft, upcycle, and socialize. Older-Mondeel described events geared towards both “the DYI-ers [do-it-yourself-ers] who want to wear their overalls and learn a skill” and those who “want to dabble and play and have a social gathering.” The DIY-ers, for example, might be interested in furniture-painting classes, involving chalk- and clay-based paints. Dabblers might be more interested in “sip-and-dips or dip-and-sips,” where they can drink, eat and complete a smaller-scale project.

Older-Mondeel said she hoped to further support the local arts community by collaborating with other art-related businesses and groups in the area. She described hosting various meetups of artists and crafters, such as the Upcycle Junkie meetups, which took place at Tanglewood’s Edmonston shop. She also mentioned the likelihood of hosting collaborative events.

Older-Mondeel said she wants other crafters and artists to make use of the new Tanglewood Works space to hold their own events. Tanglewood Works is hosting a fundraiser for the Yarnians, a local group of knitters, on Jan. 28. “They’ll host their fundraiser in our space. We don’t take anything out of it. We just want to host it and let people know about it and support a good cause,” she said.

Tanglewood Works got a good start on bringing community together on New Year’s Day, when “third spaces” can be hard to come by. “We were the only store [nearby] open New Year’s Day,” Older-Mondeel said. “People were like, ‘Why are you open?’ and I was like, ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to be closed. … I’m the new kid on the block.’”

And did people come?

“We were packed!”  

Tanglewood Works is located at 5132 Baltimore Avenue. A calendar of upcoming events and classes can be found at: tanglewoodworks.com/events/.