Yesterday, we gabbed with Super Linda’s Matt Abramcyk about the pressure for restaurants to provide both dinner and a show aspect to the meal. Today, we delve into the world of small-brand artisanal products, get the scoop on his cousins’ sandwich shop, and find out why he has chosen Tribeca to put down his roots.
I think a lot of people are looking to transition to restaurants or want to create a small brand (did you read Artisanal Brooklyn in New York Magazine?). What do you think you brought from finance to the restaurant/club world?
I read that article. . . . I think it’s important to question your assumptions. For the last few hours, before I came to meet you, I spend time with my cousin Michael, and his brother David–he wasn’t there–but they’re about to open up a sandwich shop, and they left great careers; one in real estate, the other an agent for creative arts. Both very smart, both from companies that were very sad to see them go. They want to do what you’re saying–develop a small brand, a new brand that’s artisanal quality, a New York experience. So what I was trying to do with them is work as a sounding board to remind them that these assumptions are not all to a business model. I try to show them what the different restraints are for a food operation. . . . It’s most important to realize what it is you’re trying to do and how it is you’re going to do it.
Do you want to tell me a little bit more about their sandwich shop?
It’s going to be called Central Produce Market. They’re going to serve great coffee; salads and sandwiches; and drinks–coffee. They’re looking to open in October.
I think they’re right [that we need better quality, quick food]. The thing that’s exciting about the artisanal movement to me is not to wax poetic about a piece of cheese for six hours–there’s people that love cheese–but more so, for people who just want to have a good sandwich, that they have the options that used to not be available to them because really smart people were getting jobs working in banks or wherever else they were. Now, really smart people are trying to open up a sandwich shop or a bakery and when that happens I think everybody benefits.
You’ve chosen Tribeca as your stomping grounds. What about Tribeca do you love?
Well, to be honest with you, I love Tribeca and chose Tribeca because I live in Tribeca, and my father is a real estate broker focused on the financial district and Tribeca. So the impetus was that I like the neighborhood. . . . My dad has been a real estate broker here for 35 years, so he was able to help me find the stores that he thought were good. That’s a big part of my success.
Different vibe in Tribeca compared to MePa, Chelsea, East Village, also.
It’s definitely not a nightlife area. It’s more of a daytime area and an early evening area. You know, it’s not like the West Village or the Lower East Side. . . . There are not areas where there are many bars one after the other all competing for people to get really drunk. It’s a more dignified, sexy, elegant crowd. They may not buy as many drinks or want to crazy party, but I like the way they relax.
If you were having a dinner party what five people would you invite?
Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca. No, I wouldn’t invite any of those people. I’d like to invite my wife. And then I’d like to bring President Obama. I’d like to know what he’s thinking about. Maybe Clint Eastwood. I always want to know what he’s thinking about, also. And then I’d invite someone a lot smarter than me who can tell me what they’re all really saying because I can’t really read between the lines.
What’s your next project?
We’re continuing to develop the Smith & Mills concept. We’re making it a little bigger. We’re building it out to be an oyster bar. We have a full seating restaurant overlooking the water with an oyster bar. We’re very excited about the casual part of that business. There is no seafood-type brasserie in Tribeca, and there are not that many restaurants that are seafood and have a view of the water. We’ll have that, and we’ll design something very beautiful and very different as a result.
When are you looking to open?