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With $125M In New Funding, Dental Startup Goes On Retail Lease-Signing Spree in D.C., NYC, Boston

Tend's Grand Central Location in New York City.

Fresh off a $125M funding round, a startup that aims to disrupt the dental industry is taking advantage of the weak retail market and expanding rapidly. 

Tend, first launched in New York in 2019, has signed five retail leases in D.C. for spaces it plans to open this year, Tend co-founder Andy Grover tells Bisnow

Grover said the company has a sixth deal getting set to close in the coming weeks, and it aims to eventually reach up to 15 locations in the D.C. Metro area. The spaces are each about 3K SF, and the company has landed several prime retail locations. 

The first five leases it has closed are at 1441 U St. NW on the U Street Corridor, 1901 L St. NW in the central business district, 250 M St. SE in Capitol Riverfront, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE on Capitol Hill and the Ballston Exchange building in Arlington. The sixth lease that has yet to close is in Downtown D.C., Grover said.

Tend is also preparing to expand from six to 11 locations in New York City by the end of the year, and it has signed two deals in Boston. Grover said the weak retail market during the coronavirus pandemic has enabled it to land tenant-favorable deals. 

"We're certainly unlocking both locations and economics that we wouldn't have been able to unlock a year or two ago," he said. "We're active in the market taking advantage of the current ecosystem and definitely hitting the gas in D.C., New York and Boston."

Dochter & Alexander Retail Advisors principal Dave Dochter, whose team is representing Tend in its D.C. expansion, said the tenant-favorable market has allowed the company to expand quickly across D.C. 

"It’s an opportune time, candidly, to be choosing the neighborhoods where we want to plant a flag, and we've been fortunate to secure the real estate," Dochter said. "Concessions have been up from pre-pandemic, and rents have been suppressed, so Tend is one of the brands that saw a perfect storm for them."

Signage for Tend's space at 1901 L St. NW in Downtown D.C.

Tend raised a $125M Series C funding round last month, just six months after raising a $37M Series B round in October. The company aims to use technology and a hospitality mindset to modernize the dentist's office and make dental appointments a more enjoyable experience. 

"We founded Tend under the general belief that going to the dentist shouldn’t feel like you’re going back in time. Going to the dentist in 2021 feels like it did in 2011, 2001, 1991 or 1981," Grover said. "People don’t like going to the dentist. We use it as euphemism. We thought, 'How do we create a patient experience that flips that on its head and makes people look forward to going to the dentist?'"

The company has drawn more than 20,000 members to its six New York City locations, Grover said. He said it decided to expand to D.C. because the city's demographics fit well with its business model. Five of its first six locations have been in the District, but he said it is also looking at Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland for its next round of deals. 

"At Tend, we love D.C.," Grover said. "It's urban, it's sophisticated. It has our dream clients, our dream patients are in D.C. They’re people who value their time, so if we're delivering on-time appointments, convenient locations in a beautiful setting with a patient-centered experience, I know denizens of D.C. will react really well to that."

Dochter said New York-based retailers expanding to D.C. as their second market has been a common trend for years, and it could help the District's retail market recover from the pandemic. 

"The demographics are consistent with New York, we don't have the same density, but it's a short trip and there's an urban nature to the market that resonates with those brands," Dochter said. "Whether you're a fashion brand in Georgetown or on 14th Street, or a fast-casual operator, you see that quite frequently where New York brands will come to D.C. ... coming out of the pandemic, we're already seeing more of our clients coming out of New York and touring."