Jenna Crandall is, along with Lisa Allen, the brains behind the popular chic blog Lunchpails and Lipstick. After moving to Manhattan and having three kids in three years, she’s figured out how to stay stylish while being a mom. As any parent knows, the job can be pretty stressful. And with all the anxiety that kids can bring, fashion shouldn’t be another thing to worry about.
That’s why Jenna started Lunchpails and Lipstick. The blog covers everthing to do with food, fitness, fashion, and travel and packs them into useful bits for moms on the go. From Wednesday’s “Links I Love” to the “Friday 5,” Jenna does the hard work of tracking down good deals and great finds and shares them with the community that she’s created. Part digest, part lookbook, readers never leave without gaining both inspiration and practical advice.
Before starting the blog, Jenna worked as an estethician for 15 years. An eyelash extension specialist, her client list includes high-profile celebrities such as Kristin Chenoweth. That’s not all, however. A devotee to a healthy lifestyle, Jenna became an AFAA-certified pilates instructor after giving birth to her second baby, and she continues to be an avid proponent of Soul Cycle.
One thing that makes Jenna remarkable is the resolve she has to her family. After enduring the divorce of her parents at a young age, she prayed to find the strength to provide for her family in whatever ways she could. Now, she prays everday that she can provide for her children in the same way, and she attributes her childhood situation to her tremendous capacity for hope.
That capacity for hope was put to the test during the birth of Jenna’s third child, Chloe. While Jenna’s first two kids were born without complications, Chloe wasn’t receiving the oxygen she needed in the womb. The doctor gave an ultimatum: Jenna needed to give birth within 24 hours, or Chloe’s life would be put in danger. At 33 weeks, Chloe was born small but perfectly healthy. It’s amazing to see how deep a mother’s love can be, Jenna says. She says that it’s our job to fight for the people that can’t yet fight for themselves.
It’s not difficult to see that, someday, Jenna is going to be a hero to her own kids as well. For now, staying on top of the nuances of fashion and helping other moms with her advice is a super-power of its own.
We caught up with Jenna to ask her more about what it’s like to live a day in her life:
What was the motivation behind launching Lunchpails and Lipstick? How did you come up with the name?
We moved to Manhattan and I had 3 kids in 3 1/2 years. I wanted to work from home while raising them. Lunchpails & Lipstick is my outlet to express myself and share a glimpse into my life. It's a great way to connect with other people in my community and make some extra money.
How do you constantly come up with new content to curate? How do you find inspiration for your next post?
NYC is always giving me new inspiration. I also keep my life very busy on purpose so I can continue to learn and grow as a person.
What is the one item or accessory that you absolutely cannot live without?
Shoes! They always fit and always make me smile.
You are also an esthetician. What’s the single most important advice you can give to men on how to take care of their skin? And for women?
Start taking care of your skin in your 20's! The earlier you start taking care of your skin, the better. You'll create habits that will last a lifetime. And use SPF!! Slather SPF on your kids and teach them how important it is.
One of the most common themes amongst parents shopping for their kids is the issue that their kids will outgrow the clothes quickly. Do you have any tips or recommendations for parents?
When I buy expensive seasonal pieces, I always buy one size up.
All 3 of your kids were born in different cities: Davis in San Francisco, Gwen in Chicago, and Chloe in NYC. Each city must have a special place in your heart. What do you love most about each city?
This is something I treasure so much. We talk about this in my family at least once a week. It gives each of my kids a sense of identity and individuality. San Francisco definitely has a piece of my heart. I became a mother there! You can't beat the weather and all the scenic places to see. Spending time hiking and boating will always be a highlight. Chicago has my favorite zoo and shopping! The people are the most down to earth and god loving people I've ever known. All religions but a true place where people loved God. I spent hours and hours at the Lincoln Park zoo with my kids. NYC gives me life. I was a young mom and pregnant with my third when we moved to Manhattan. This is the city that brings so many ideas and opportunities to grow and start new things. It's a city of discovery. It's fast paced and contagious. I always find myself wanting to do more and see more.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny that, as a whole, Americans are spending too much time attached to their TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones. In 2016, the New York Times reported that the average Facebook user spends about an hour per day on the site. Quartz later found that the average American spends 608 hours on social media and 1,642 hours watching television per year. CNN cited a study that claimed Americans spend nearly 11 hours per day consuming media in front of a screen.
Have you noticed the way technology often increases our level of stress and leaves us feeling drained, sometimes even out of control over our own lives? That’s the basic problem Jon Staff, founder and CEO of Getaway, wants to help people overcome. In an over-connected world, sometimes we need to unplug to regain our humanity. Getaway helps by providing tiny houses in the woods, equipped only with essentials and some dry provisions, for people to book as they would a hotel.
The houses are meant to serve as an escape from technology and a chance to reconnect with the people and things that matter. In fact, Staff’s co-founder Pete Davis once billed it as the “anti-Twitter” in front of major Twitter investor Chris Sacca on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. Sacca, who has also been a decisive investor for Uber and Instagram, then pitched Staff and his partner Pete Davis an offer which valued Getaway at $7 million dollars. They declined. It would have been a better deal for Sacca than what the Getaway’s initial investors received (from whom Getaway had already secured $1.4 million in seed funding), and the partners felt that it wouldn’t have been fair to them.
Staff himself is no stranger to alternative living arrangements. He’s spent summers living on a boat on Lake Superior, lived in the basement of a frozen yogurt shop he opened, set up a makeshift bedroom in an empty office on the third floor of a Harvard library while the yogurt shop was under construction, and traveled the American West in a 26-foot Airstream trailer. So when Staff dreamed of a tiny house in the woods for himself, he thought that other people might want the same thing.
That hunch turned out to be a wild success. On the day Getaway launched, they booked five months’ worth of weekends, sold out 100% of July and August, and nearly completely booked September and October as well. The idea behind the company is that people can click the Getaway button and escape in an instant. Everything is taken care of, and there’s no need to stress about vacation planning. Customers don’t even receive the location of the house until a week before their arrival date.
Getaway now has more than a dozen tiny houses, all under 200 square feet, available within two hours of New York City and Boston and they rent for as little as $89 per night. The team is looking to expand to Los Angeles, Chicago, and DC, to name just a few spots, in the near future. Staff believes that people should spend their money on experiences rather than material things if they want to be truly happy. The Getaway experience is one that we’re all likely in need of.
We found Jon and asked him more about the Getaway philosophy:
What was the motivation behind creating Getaway?
My friend Pete and I just wanted a place to escape – somewhere quiet and without wifi. We discovered tiny houses and thought that if we put one in the woods just outside the city we’d have an easy place to escape. That led us to wonder if others might want the same thing and that curiosity created Getaway.
There’s been a major movement towards simpler living – gutting out the excess and living a more simple, modest lifestyle. The desires of owning a MTV Cribs mega mansion has been replaced by a preference to live in a more humble, unpretentious home. Why do you think that is?
We’ve figured out that spending our time and money on experiences rather than things makes us happier. A new TV starts getting less exciting ten minutes after you take it out of the box but a trip both gives you something to look forward to and remember fondly. I also think we’re on a precipice: we know that we’ve let work and technology take over every minute of every day and we know that that isn’t sustainable and we if we don’t find new ways to find balance we’re in trouble. The answer to that danger is in part just having less: less technology, fewer distractions, fewer things to take care of, fewer things to stress us out.
What separates Getaway from AirBnB?
We’ve designed Getaway to be an end-to-end experience that allows you to easily and affordably escape the city to disconnect and recharge. A big part of that experience is renting a tiny houses in the woods, but it's also everything else that goes with it that we obsess over. We only allow booking on our website and hope it sets to the tone for the journey. We provide a playlist to listen to on the drive. Unlike a hotel or AirBnb, we have a strong view on what Getaway is meant to be for, which I’d summarize as doing nothing. It's about, for at least a night or two, putting work and technology fully aside. It's even about putting traditional leisure aside. Us Type A people have a bad habit of planning out our time off minute-by-minute. So at Getaway we try to get guests to do nothing. If you struggle with doing nothing, we’ve provided some activities we’re okay with you doing: look for the stars, ask deep questions of your travel companions, learn to tie knots. So that's a big part of the experience we provide. It all ends with some tips from us on how to make life back in the city more sane.
What kind of amenities can be found in your Getaway homes? What should we bring, and what can we leave at home?
Our tiny houses are like regular houses, but shrunken and simplified. There’s a small kitchen with a two burner stove. There’s hot and cold running water and a shower. We make the beds up and provide kitchen essentials. There’s firewood for the campfire. The whole idea is that you can click a Getaway button and escape the city in an instant without thinking about anything – we’re trying to give our guests some respite from planning – so we have to provide a little bit of everything to make it super simple.
What is the thought process that goes into designing the cabins? Are each of the cabins unique?
We have a few designs for different use cases, but our architectural goal is that Getaway isn’t about the cabin but about the experience of you and your loved ones in nature. Therefore, we look at the cabin as a piece of hardware that allows you to access nature and one we are always iterating on to make into a better tool to allow you to disconnect and recharge as effectively as possible. We do care a lot about making the house simple (there are no murphy beds or toasters coming out of shoe racks in our tiny houses) and about letting nature in with big windows.
One of the most interesting features about Getaway is that the clients are not told where the cabins are until shortly before the date of arrival. The idea of a spontaneous escape, without having to stress about vacation planning sounds like my kind of vacation. How did you come up with this idea? And have you encountered any issues because of this?
We reveal the basic location, such as “The Catskills” for our New York houses, but wait to give you the exact location until just before you leave because Getaway is about the experience of taking time and space for yourself in nature, not about the particular destination you are going to. This isn’t about going to the Hamptons or Cape Cod, it's about finding some balance in nature. We also think if we give the exact location people will schedule their weekends down to the minute, which is a habit we’re trying to help people break.
Getaway was recently featured on Shark Tank. Can you discuss what you learned from being on the show?
It was sort of funny – on the one hand, it's reality TV which feels a bit silly. On the other hand, you are out there presenting and defending your business in front of five very intense questioners. There’s no training quite like it.
On Shark Tank, you approached the investors with a $10 million valuation for Getaway. Chris Sacca, an extremely well connected billionaire investor, offered $500,000 for a slightly more than 7% stake, valuing your company at $7 million. The offer was turned down. What was your thought process behind the negotiations?
It was pretty simple -- while we would have been excited to work with Chris (and he could have provided a lot of value) his offer didn’t get close to the valuation we knew we could get from other investors.
Shortly after Shark Tank, you received a $15 million strategic growth investment from L Catterton, a major private equity firm. How did you celebrate?
Maybe I am too superstitious, but I don’t believe in celebrating a fund raise until the money is wired. The problem is that it takes so long to get these deals done - between the initial offer and the money getting wired - that by the time you actually get the cash it feels like old news and everyone has already moved on to the next phase of building the company. I think I still have an unopened bottle of champagne in my fridge that I refused to open and then forgot about. I think the right answer is to have mini-celebrations along the way. I’m going to work on that.
You started with one cabin in 2015, and now boast nearly a dozen. With the high demand for Getaway and the new funding round, you seem to be on a roll. What do you think you have done right, and how do you plan to build upon it?
We started with something that we personally wanted to exist in the world, which I think is critically important for motivating oneself, and then once we launched our pilot we listened to our customers intently. Every customer is asked to give feedback and everyone in the company reads every piece of feedback we get. With some money in the bank, we want to make sure we keep building things we want to use and that are responsive to what we hear from customers.
What is your vision for Getaway 5 years / 10 years / 20 years out? How do you plan to scale the business?
We want to provide a cultural counterweight to the collapse of work-life balance in the digital age, and in doing so, allow people to retain a bit of their humanity that is at risk of being lost in our overcommitted and overconnected culture. I believe that project is critical and I hope many organizations will help tackle this problem. We want to do our part by making Getaway accessible to as many people.
Whether you’re skiing down a mountain, commuting to work, or simply enjoying a winter’s day in the outdoors, it’s important to protect yourself from the cold. Staying warm isn’t just a matter of comfort. It’s a matter of safety. But with so many brands and styles, it can be difficult to figure out what the best choice of down jacket might be.
In this guide, we’ll show you what down is and why we use it, what the crucial and often overlooked difference between fill power and fill weight is, how to make sense of warmth-to-weight and down-to-feather ratios, and how to figure out how warm your jacket will be.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t let the cold weather stop you from being warm and comfortable. Use the information below to make the best decision about what kind of down jacket to purchase the next time you need one.
What is down, and why do we use it?
Down comes from the plumage of a bird. The plumage is the soft, fluffy undercoat that lies beneath the tougher feathers at the underbelly. The most common types of down come from ducks and geese. In either case, the more mature the bird is, the larger its plumage tends to be. This results in a greater loft and a higher down fill power rating. We’ll define loft and fill power in a minute. But first, why do we use down at all?
First, let’s look at what insulation does. The purpose of insulation is to trap the heat from your body and to prevent it from escaping into the cold. It’s a principle of thermodynamics that heat will always move from a hotter region to a colder region to achieve equilibrium. In other words, the heat your body produces is always moving out into the air around you. Insulation acts as the barrier between your body and the outside air. It retains the heat and reflects it back to you.
During production, down gets formed into clusters which are then used for items such as jackets, pillows, comforters, sleeping bags, and other such things. Each cluster is made of thousands of tiny fibers criss-crossing in every direction and the air pockets between them. Just like a sponge traps water, these down clusters trap air in a way that heats it up while allowing the material itself to breathe. As Outdoor Gear Lab notes, down fill has a phenomenal “warmth to weight” ratio, and it resists damage incurred from compression (think: stuffing it into your backpack). This is why down is widely considered to be the best insulator known to man. Down jackets can keep you comfortably warm without weighing you down. Scientists can’t even create anything as effective in the laboratory!
There are three things to consider when purchasing a down insulated product: fill power, down weight, and down ratio. We’ll explore each of them below.
What is fill power?
Fill power measures the loft of a down product, which is essentially the quality of the down. Maximum loft occurs when the down clusters are fully expanded. The fill power rating value is calculated by measuring how many cubic inches an ounce of down creates at its maximum loft. A down fill rating of 600, for example, means that one ounce of down can cover 600 cubic inches. The process involves putting the down into a Plexiglas cylinder and slightly compressing it with a weight.
It’s important to note that fill power is measured differently in the United States than it is in Europe due to the different types of cylinders that are used. In the U.S., the cylinder has a diameter of 241 millimeters and weights around 68.3 grams. In Europe, the cylinder is larger at 289 millimeters and weighs more at 94.25 grams.
The fill power rating can range from 300 to 900 and above. The most common down products have a rating of 400 to 500. These are considered to be low quality, however, as they come from immature geese and ducks and therefore are made from smaller down clusters. When purchasing a high quality down fill jacket, you should look for a fill power rating of at least 550. A jacket of this calibur will be both warmer and more comfortable.
What is fill weight?
While fill power is a measure of volume, fill weight is a measure of—you guessed it—weight. Fill power rates quality, and fill weight signals quantity. If a jacket has a down weight of 12 ounces, that means that 12 ounces of down material was used to make it. While many outerwear brands proudly draw attention to their high fill power, they often fail to mention the fill weight. This is extremely important, however, as down weight also plays an equal part in determing the product’s warmth and shouldn’t be overlooked by consumers.
As Down and Feather Company explains, the fill weight is what determines how soft or firm a product is. It is also what determines how well the product compresses. Like we mentioned above, a great feature of down is its ability to be stuffed into a backpack without taking on damage. The heavier a down jacket is, the less it will be able to compress.
What is the down to feather ratio?
The down to feather ratio calculates the percentage of down to the percetange of feathers in the product. The numbers are generally 70/30, 80/20, or 90/10. The first number represents the percentage of down, and the second number representes the percentage of feathers. Generally speaking, a higher first number means a higher quality (and more expensive) product. While down costs more, it is a much better insulator than feathers and thus is preferred in good jackets. A 600 fill power down jacket with an 80/20 down to feather ratio will be warmer than a 600 fill power jacket with a 70/30 ratio.
Why is it that down makes a better insulator than feathers? Recall that the down is plucked from underneath the feathers. Because the feathers are on the outside, they are what allows the goose or duck to float, fly, and stay dry. They are much more firm and have quils that act almost as a stem. Getting poked by one of these hurts! Feathers are ideal for harder and more durable products like seat cushions, but down is better for providing warmth and comfort in jackets, sleepings bags, and duvets.
How warm will my jacket be?
When purchasing a down jacket, should you pay more attention to the fill power or to the down weight? If you’re looking for a jacket to keep you warm, you need to consider both! Here are some examples to help illustrate how fill power and down weight work together:
A jacket with 500 fill power and 10 oz. of down will be warmer than a 800 fill power jacket with 5 oz. of down.
With the down weight and down to feather ratio being equal, an 800 fill power jacket will be warmer than a 500 fill power jacket.
An 800 fill power jacket will require less down than a 500 fill power jacket to provide the same warmth.
It’s easy to see why many brands put so much emphasis on their fill power. An 800 fill power jacket will weigh less than the 500 fill power jacket, while providing the same level of warmth. This is why higher fill power jackets are used by performance athletes such as hikers, climbers, and skiers who seek lightweight jackets that provide mobility and warmth.
Trying to make sense of the relationship among fill power, down weight, and the down to feather ratio can be a little confusing. To make matters easier, many companies use the Clo value. Invented in 1941, Clo measures the insulation value of clothing needed to maintain comfort for a person sitting at rest in room temperature with humidity at less than 50%. That’s just a fancy way of saying that Clo measures how warm an article of clothing is.
The higher the Clo value, the warmer the product is. For example, a jacket with…
…550 fill power with 1 oz. of down has a Clo of approximately 0.7,
…625 fill power with 1 oz. of down has a Clo of approximately 0.92,
…800 fill power with 1 oz. of down has a Clo of approximately 1.68.
For reference, the naked body has a Clo value of zero, and a Clo value of 1 is what a person needs at room temperature. According to Adventure Poet, winter temperatures from -4º to -40º F require a person to wear clothing totalling a Clo value of 4 or greater.
Wes Siler of Outside Magazine says, "Fill power and down weight are like the horsepower and torque for insulation. Numbers don't lie, the higher the fill power, the higher quality the down, and the more compressible it will be. A high fill power combined with a high fill weight is a recipe for maximum warmth. "
Hopefully this guide made it easier for you to make sense of all the numbers you see when purchasing a down jacket. Remember, it’s important to pay attention to all of the aspects that go into making a down product, especially the fill power, down weight, and down to feather ratio. If things get a little complicated, you can feel confident in simply looking for a higher Clo value. And lastly, the way the down is distributed through the jacket, either sewn through or in box baffles, plays a part in whether the warmth of the jacket will be consistent.
It’s important be safe while encountering the cold. Now you’ll be able to informatively choose a high-quality down jacket to protect you from the elements and keep you comfortable longer. Stay warm, and keep adventuring.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but most of the time Timothy Goodman doesn’t need that many to get his point across. A designer by trade, his images often features simple lines woven into letters and shapes with a Sharpie marker, spelling out simple messages that all of us need to hear in a way that few people are able to articulate. His wildly popular 40 Days of Dating explores the fears everyone has surrounding love and relationships. Memories of a Girl I Never Knew forces us to confront and accept our insecurities. Now, 12 Kinds of Kindness seeks to transform the way we empathize with others.
Some people don’t know whether to call him a poet, a storyteller, or a graphic artist, but that’s what makes Goodman’s pieces so compelling. You have to approach design as a practice and not as a profession, he says. That mantra is raw and honest just like he is, and it is embodied in the process he uses to craft works that make people stop and pay attention.
For instance, when is the last time you willingly went to therapy with your significant other—and broadcasted the details to the public? Have you ever switched roles with someone you typically judge negatively? How often do we pass by someone in need without even thinking about it? Goodman’s practice often involves answering hard questions like these. It’s all about finding the voice he needs to connect with people. That’s why he flew to Arizona to meet his biological father for the first time. He once spent nine hours hand-lettering Tupac lyrics around a room. No matter the project, Goodman wants to let people know that they’re not alone in whatever they may be feeling. The bruises and the scars are something to be proud of.
Goodman is no stranger to bruises and scars. He grew up in a low-income home with a single mother and never had a clear direction in life growing up. He has always had a knack for visual creations, though, even before he realized it himself. In high school he would steal hall passes and replicate them in batches. After graduating, he worked with a mentor and father figure who taught him skills like painting and drywalling, as well as what it meant to work hard at something. It was during the evenings that he would take design classes at a community college in Cleveland before transferring to the School of Visual Arts in NYC, the school where he now gives back as a teacher. He’s worked for big names like AirBnB, Apple, J. Crew, and countless others, but he recently decided that he’s happier freelancing and working on his own projects.
Some people might wonder why he would leave a position at a place like Apple to go out on his own in the city. For Goodman, it’s never been about doing what people expect you to do. A role model for every kid who stole hall passes and barely made it out of high school, for every lover who’s felt the pain in being vulnerable, and for every artist wondering where to go next, Goodman reminds us of what’s important. Happiness and success doesn’t come from trying to fit in. Instead, life is so much more fruitful when you focus on discovering who you can be. When you find your voice, a picture doesn’t have to be worth a thousand words. Just a few can change the whole way we look at the world.
You recently ran a social experiment titled “12 kinds of kindness” in NYC. Could you explain a little about the experiment, what you learned, what surprised you, and what we as a society could do better?
It was right after we finished our experiment 40 Days of Dating, that we started asking ourselves a lot of questions. We regretted the way we handled things and felt sorry for the way we treated each other. We kept coming back to one word: empathy. From AA to gambling, to food to work, there are over 200 self-help organizations in the US that employ a 12-step principle for recovery. The value is in the process, so why not try it on our own selfishness? I like what it means to work with my fears and my insecurities. I want to come clean about myself, I want to be as vulnerable as possible, and I want to share that vulnerability with an audience.
Do you have a favorite artist? If so, who and why?
My favorite visual artist is a older NYC-based artist named Red Grooms. His NYC-inspired paintings & small-town story inspired me to move to NYC from my small-town outside of Cleveland. I also love Bob Dylan.
When did you realize that being an artist/designer is what you wanted to be? When did you realize that you were good enough to make a living off it?
I decided to go to the School of Visual Arts in New York City when I was about 23, and I treated it like a job. I paid for it myself by taking out loans and applying for over 50 different scholarships. Before that I was going to a Community College in Cleveland, and I had some very encouraging art teachers. When I graduated SVA in 2007, I started as a junior book jacket designer at Simon & Schuster.
You do a lot of sharpie artwork. Recently, you’ve completely designed over a Ford Focus. Is this type of artwork predetermined, or do you tend to act on instinct? In other words, are your designs organic and spontaneous, or are your steps carefully considered beforehand?
A friend of mine always says “If you want to change your tool then change your look.” Five years ago I made a decision to get my hand in my work more, and it all started when I had the opportunity to do a mural for the Ace Hotel in NYC. I basically locked myself in this hotel room for three days with a Sharpie Paint Marker. Since then I’ve adopted a whimsical hand-lettering & drawing style that I now do for a variety of clients such as Samsung, Google and Target.
When doing commercial work, how do you toe the line between what you want to do as an artist and the message you want to convey, while also keeping to the style and format of what the client wants?
I've always worked to blur the lines between my client work and my personal work because they both inform each other. For example, I started doing a lot writing on Instagram, and I've since done many murals for clients with that writing.
Do you ever experience “writers block” where you run out of creativity? If so, what do you do to find inspiration?
An old teacher of mine used to say, “There is no such thing as creative block. If you’re feeling “blocked” then just turn around and go a different way.”
I’ve read that you are a frequent traveler. Do you have a favorite cold weather destination?
My hometown Cleveland, Ohio every holiday season. Every time I go back home it reminds me of how far I've come and how far I still want to go.
You wrote “Memories of a Girl I Never Knew." What is this about? Does this work belong in the fiction or non-fiction section?
A year and a half ago, I started two different Instagram writing pieces. The first is called “Memories of a Girl I Never Knew." which are longer formed vignettes that I write my thoughts and past mistakes with women and relationships. Each piece is a reflection on dating, relationships, or romantic failures, from Internet-creeping an ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page to Timothy’s childhood obsession with Janet Jackson, to all the firsts that happen over the course of a relationship. So many of our personal experiences and failures are universal. I wanted to share his without crying (or maybe crying a little). It's been amazing to see how much they respond with people.
100 years from now, one of your artworks is being displayed in a museum. Which one would you like it to be and why?
Definitely one of my 'Memories' pieces. Until then you can buy prints on my shop! :)
Some restaurants feature extravagant decorations and bizarre ingredients to attract customers, but celebrity chef Dan Kluger has a different idea of luxury in mind. After years of working with some of the best culinary masters in New York City, he’s decided to take his career to the next level and branch out on his own. His long-awaited new eatery, Loring Place, is located in the heart of Greenwich Village and captures everything there is to love and celebrate about the city. The menu features only the freshest locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, and the atmosphere promotes a cozy and comfortable vibe that feels both like home and the perfect hideout.
You wouldn’t know that Kluger is a celebrity chef just by looking at him. A suburban father of two, he has always kept humility at the center of everything he does, and it’s paying off. Despite not having ever attended culinary school, his attitude and work ethic has allowed him to dominate the art of cooking and rise to the ranks alongside New York City’s top chefs.
Recently, Kluger left a long career working for some of the world’s most renowned restaurant owners to open a venue of his own. His new eatery in Greenwich Village is called Loring Place, but before venturing out on his own, he had acquired an impressive resume under Danny Meyer at Union Square Cafe, Floyd Cardoz at Tabla Restaurant, and Tom Colicchio at The Core Club. In 2008 Kluger joined the team directed by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who later personally selected him to be Executive Chef at the wildly popular ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina.
Kluger’s most prestigious accomplishments include winning the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2011 and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award in 2012, as well as being nominated for the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York City, but it is also important to recognize his tremendous accomplishments in the realm of community service. As a Chef Co-Chair for Cookies for Kids’, Cancer’s annual gala, he was able to help raise over $1.2 million in donations toward childhood cancer research. He also sponsors Edible Schoolyard NYC, a nonprofit which integrates an environmentally-conscious, garden-based food education into the everyday public school curriculum.
The new spot, Loring Place, is named nostalgically after a street where Kluger’s dad would play baseball as a kid. The name reflects the restaurant’s—and its owner’s—style of making basic things beautiful and profound. The Loring Place menu emphasizes seasonal ingredients locally sourced from farmers whom Kluger has personally known for years. The decoration is just as simple, opting for muted colors on wood, brick, and concrete in order for the food and the people to serve as the focal points. Even the dining room tables are made from the building’s old floorboards. Given everyday items, Kluger undoubtedly has a knack for making them memorable.
Some people have wondered why it’s taken Kluger twenty years to open his own restaurant. His answer comes as humble advice: You can’t rush the process and expect to see the payoff instantaneously. You always have to be learning and challenging yourself with skills and ideas that make you uncomfortable. That’s how the best chefs become masters at their craft. The payoff has been twenty years in the making, and it’s finally here.
We joined Dan Kluger at the table to listen to more of his story.
Could you give us a brief introduction about your new restaurant? What sets your restaurant apart?
The restaurant is located in Greenwich Village and the menu is locally sourced, seasonal American cuisine. I don’t know that there is one specific thing that sets us apart from others, but I try to always use the best ingredients from farmers that I have had long relationships with over the years to make great food.
What’s your thought process in determining what goes on the menu and what doesn’t?
Since our menu is seasonal, items that we are able to find fresh at the market or receive from the farms we work with determine a lot of what goes on the menu. From there it’s a lot about cooking from the heart and making food I want to eat. If I don’t like it…it typically doesn’t go on the menu.
Was there a moment you can think of that you consider to be your big break in the culinary world?
To be honest I think it was two fold, one was when I was fortunate enough to meet Danny Meyer while at Syracuse. He offered me an externship in the FOH and I fell in love with the restaurant industry immediately. The other is when we opened ABC Kitchen. I was so fortunate to be cooking the food I wanted to be cooking but more importantly to be able to collaborate with Jean-Georges and his corporate chef Greg Brainin. ABC became an immediate success and that obviously was good for my career.
If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hmmmm that’s really hard, I can’t choose just one. Pizza, Sushi and Dark Chocolate…and not altogether.
Please tell us about some of the charity work that you do.
I am very involved with Cookies for Kids Cancer and I am a Chef Co-Chair of their Annual Chef’s for Kids Cancer event. Its an amazing event with an incredible group of chefs for a very important cause. I am also a big supporter of Edible Schoolyard.
Do you have advice that you would like to offer to up-and-coming chefs?
Its really hard! It's not glamorous, it's tiring and the money sucks, but there is nothing like it. The rush of cooking during service, the ability to create food and experiences, and most importantly to make people happy...it’s all amazing. However, you do have to put in your time and learn. You have to sweat it out with other cooks that are stronger and weaker than you. You need to get your “butt-kicked” as all of these experiences teach you something. Don’t rush it and expect instant gratification….that will come later.
With the popularity of Instagram, you have foodies all over taking photos of their meals - I know some chefs and restaurants would prefer patrons not take out their camera phones and snap photos. Some establishments have a specific no photo policy. How do you feel about this?
I have no issue with it in practice and truthfully, I find it flattering when photos are posted of anything I have cooked. I just wish they did it faster and with less of a production. Sometimes I find people start moving everything on the table around, or get up from the table to get the perfect angle…that’s great, but ultimately the dish is changing while this is happening and in some cases you may be disturbing the table next to you.
What do you eat at home? Describe a typical lunch for your kids.
Dinner is typically something like roasted chicken or pork chops on the grill (even in the winter I’m on the grill) and then some simply cooked vegetables. From there, I will tend to break out some sauces that are on the side for my wife so that the kids food is a little simpler. Their lunch changes a lot and honestly, I am normally out the door by the time so my wife takes on that task…sometimes leftover roasted chicken, lasagna or their favorite….mac and cheese.
You are known for using locally sourced ingredients. Any plans of setting up your own farm?
Someday I hope so. I have been working with some of the farmers that I have good relationships with to try and do more of a partnership where they are guaranteed business and we are guaranteed products grown to our specs. I don’t envy them, it's hard work; so who knows how far we will go with our own farm.
What is your ideal summer dish?
Summer – grilled corn with butter and cherry tomatoes with little chilies and vinegar.
You’ve never attended culinary school. Do you feel this gives you an edge to think outside the box and be more creative?
No not at all. I think I have been very fortunate to have been a fast learner and to have been exposed to the right chefs at the right time in my life. However, had I known this is what I wanted to do, I certainly would have considered going to culinary school.
You seem to be a big fan of 90’s music. Biggie, Jay-Z, R&B, etc.. I heard you were once a DJ. Do you plan on making a comeback?
Ha, yeah I DJ’d in college and a few years after. I think any comebacks I make will be designated to my basement….but than again, I guess if anyone is looking for me to be the chef and the DJ of their party…I could be persuaded.
Do you have a favorite memory of Triple F.A.T. Goose from your childhood days?
I guess just that it reminds me of college (Syracuse) as a lot of my friends had them.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what Dondre Green’s photos represent is an entire history. His images capture not just moments in time, but moments of humanity, connecting casual viewers and imaginative onlookers more deeply to the simplicity of the human experience.
A native of the Bronx, the borough is just as much a part of Green as he is a part of it. He’s lived there for his entire life, and he’s on a mission to give the world a fresh perspective from the inside. That’s why he’s the Founder and Creative Director of the Bronx Narratives, an aesthetic project that seeks to change the vision people have of the borough. The Bronx is more than just crime and Yankee Stadium, Green says. It’s home to a particular kind of beauty and a unique way of life.
In that way, observing Green’s photography is really somewhat of a learning experience. Since most of his images are of people and landscapes from within the Bronx—featured among colors, patterns, and angles as eclectic as the subjects themselves—viewers can appreciate a more intimate look into everyday life in the borough.
But the pictures offer something else, too. They are a reflection of Green himself, and in learning about the Bronx viewers can learn more about the man behind the camera. “My photos are an extension of me,” he said, “the things that I see, experiences that I feel, and the instincts that make me capture them.” Maybe that’s why it’s easy to feel empathy toward the stories Green tells through his art. It’s hard not to admire the love and respect he has for his borough. When you look at his photos, you can feel the humility.
Green doesn’t just want to talk to outsiders about the Bronx, however. He’s just as passionate about reaching out and forming relationships with the people he aims to represent. Using his influence as a popular photographer, he’s currently a mentor with FindSpark, an organization that connects interns and recent graduates with other professionals in New York City. His one tip for being successful in a career? “Remember your purpose and why you do what you do,” he says.
That advice extends to more than just a career. It summarizes his life philosophy. As long as you’re always pursuing what you were made to do, life will work itself out.
We took a moment to listen to Dondre Green’s best stories and anecdotes for young professionals.
1) What does the Bronx mean to you?
The Bronx means home. This is where I’ve resided all of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2) There are pros and cons that come with a neighborhood gentrification. Would you like to see the Bronx gentrified? How do you feel about the Bronx becoming a tourist hotspot?
I have a hard time fathoming people getting kicked out of their own communities and not being able to enjoy certain developments that they may have wanted at one point or another. Gentrification is a double edge sword. I’d love to see continuous development within the Bronx, but not any with ulterior motives. In regards to the Bronx becoming a tourist spot, I think everyone should visit to get the real authentic New York City experience. I feel we have plenty to offer.
3) Most of your photos are of Bronx natives and the landscape. It also seems like you try to tell a story with each photo and find the beauty in the ordinary. Would you agree to this assessment?
I’ve challenged myself to relove my borough two years ago and since then, it may have been one of the best things I’ve ever done. When I take photos, I’m speaking through pixels and I hope whoever is viewing is hearing what’s communicated.
4) As a person who has taught photography to middle school students, what tips would you provide to an aspiring photographer?
Shoot something new everyday. Don’t buy an expensive camera when you begin. Tell YOUR story.
5) You also volunteer as a Find Spark Mentor, helping students and recent college grads with career planning. What advice would you give to the students who don’t know what they should do after graduating?
I always tell my mentees to stay active and be productive. Post-graduating, it’s very easy to fall in a pit without having a routine. Whatever the routine they design is, it should always focus them a few steps closer to where they want to be. Most importantly, I tell them to never get discouraged. Filling out numerous applications and not hearing anything back can be tough, but you miss every shot you don’t take.
6) Some photographers believe Photoshop enhances a photo, while others say that it ruins the natural beauty of a photograph. What are your thoughts on Photoshop and editing photos?
As a Graphic Designer as well, I use Photoshop more so for manipulations in my design work. I don’t like airbrushing images, simply because it isn’t my style. When I edit my photos in Lightroom, I try to keep my edits very minimal.
7) What is your favorite winter activity to do in the Bronx?
This is a good question. I’d say, visiting the Christmas House of the Garabedian Family. This one family over by Pelham Parkway, they do such an incredible job of decorating their house with a massive display of lights out and mannequins out front. Tons of families come out to see it each year and I’d say it’s the best way to get in the holiday spirit.
8) In one of your tweets you wrote “photography always reminds me to let life happen.” Can you elaborate on this?
Sometimes when taking a photo, I have a tough time figuring out what the end result of the image I’m taking is going to look like. And then someone walks by as I’m pondering, and I capture the shot and it’s an even better idea than I was initially thinking. So in that same theory, I try to apply it to life. Things can figure themselves out, when you allow them to.
9) While doing the Bronx Narratives, you must’ve interviewed dozens of Bronxites, hearing their stories, discussing their struggles and hopes. Was there a common theme you found amongst their stories?
From Bronxites, I think a common thread is convenience. They want sustainable jobs, better resources and places for enjoyment and leisure without having to leave their borough. Whenever I speak with people from outside the borough, they all have very unique connections and I find it fascinating to listen.
10) In your bio you mentioned that you enjoy a great conversation. If you could talk to any one person (historical or current), who would it be, and what would you ask?
Will Smith. I don’t think I’d have one particular question, I’d just talk about life and listen mostly.
Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere but thought that it would be unaffordable? Do you dream of taking an African safari, backpacking through European mountains, or simply visiting a different part of the country? The costs of flight tickets, hotel rooms, good food, and tourist attractions can make an adventure seem daunting these days. However, Triphackr founder Clint Johnston doesn’t believe that has to be the case.
Clint is an expert when it comes to “travel hacking.” He’s traveled to over 100 countries, visited almost every MLB stadium, and discovered the world’s best pizza (it’s in NYC, of course)—and he’s done it all while being a full-time student or having a full-time job. Over the past ten years, Clint has discovered the best tips for saving money, upgrading features, and successfully navigating locations all across the world. He shares these tips for free on his website, Triphackr.com, which can help you save hundreds of dollars on all of your future travel plans.
Saving so much money doesn’t have to be a hassle, either. That’s the beauty of Clint’s mission. He claims that everyone can and should fly for free at least once per year, and his tips on Triphackr can help you do that and more. Did you know that you can earn frequent flyer miles without ever stepping onto a plane? Traveling really can be easy.
What makes Clint Johnston interesting isn’t just the fact that he’s traveled the world. Sure, his story about sleeping on a crater rim and watching a volcano explode is pretty interesting, but even he says that traveling isn’t just about laying on the beach or visiting big attractions (though those things are great). What really keeps his passion for adventure alive is connecting people from different cultures.
Clint gets his inspiration from Anthony Bourdain, who looked to experience new places by eating, drinking and interacting with the people who live there. This love for the world’s people was evident in Clint’s trip to Haiti, and it is one reason why he created Run4Haiti, a non-profit organization that donates proceeds from running events directly to a school and orphanage that made an impact on his life when he was there. What is traveling without a love for the people you meet? Opening up to all the world has to offer is what really makes Clint interesting, and he simply wants to share that joy with others.
We caught Clint on the ground and asked him to share his most memorable experiences and best tips for current and future travelers alike.
1. What is one travel hacking tip you would recommend everyone do?
I’d recommend everyone fly for free at least once per year. You don’t have to become a travel hacking expert to enjoy the perks of frequent flying. Earning enough points or miles for 1-2 flights every year takes minimal effort and offers a great reward. Anyone can become a travel hacker no matter how often you travel and you can earn the majority of those miles without ever flying on a plane.
2. You’ve traveled quite extensively and have seen many different cultures. If you could live outside the US, where would you live and why?
My answer to this has evolved over the years. When I was backpacking in college I would’ve said Thailand because of its access to SE Asia and cheap cost of living. However, now I’d probably like to be closer to friends and family so we can visit easily. At this stage in my life, I’d say London because it is a short and direct flight from NYC. It is also a great home base to explore Europe and flying to Africa is much easier. Planning an overland Africa trip is one of my biggest travel goals and it would be a little easier to manage if my flight time was cut in half from the U.S. If you ask me in 10-15 years, I’ll probably say on a beach in the Caribbean somewhere.
3. I have $500 and a week off to travel. Which city offers the most bang for the buck?
Start off by booking a flight with miles or points if you have them. If you don’t have miles to burn, use a tool like Kayak Explore or Skyscanner and search “everywhere” to find the cheapest possible flights from your home airport. Also, following accounts such as The Flight Deal and Secret Flying on Facebook or Twitter is a great way to find ultra-low fares. If you are solely looking for a place to visit, look for a destination where the dollar goes along way. Southeast Asia is one of the cheapest places to visit in the world and once you arrive you will be able to stretch that $500. If you prefer Europe, focus on Eastern Europe where you can really maximize your travel budget.
4. Where is the best place to travel for adventure? And for relaxation?
If you are looking for the adventure of a lifetime but prefer not to rough it, then a safari offers the best of both worlds. Head to a country like Tanzania and book a high-end safari with luxury tents to come home to each night. I’ve experienced both ends of the comfort spectrum in East Africa and they both have something to offer. My favorite combination was actually gorilla tracking in Uganda where I had a comfortable lodge to come home after hiking in the jungle all day, followed by a volcano hike in the DR Congo. We spent the day trekking to the top of an active volcano where we slept at the crater rim and watched the lava explode from the crater below. I like to combine adventure and a few days on relaxation on any trip. This way I don’t burn out and return home feeling refreshed.
5. One of the many issues with traveling across the world is the issue with the changing time zones and the jetlag that comes with it. How do you deal with jetlag?
Jetlag can be a massive challenge to overcome on long-haul flights. I find staying hydrated, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and adjusting my sleep patterns on the flight is a great place to start. Once I land I like hit the ground running. I drop my bags off and set off to the see the city on foot. I even find hitting the gym is a great way to wake up if I land in the morning to beat jetlag.
6. You mentioned that one of your biggest influences is Anthony Bourdain. What have you learned from him? And have you ever considered hosting a travel show?
Anthony Bourdain is the best. He experiences new places through food and people and tends to avoid the most common attractions. He takes us to places we know little about and connects cultures better than anyone else could. He’s inspired me to travel the world and I’ve learned a lot from his early days on No Reservations. I’d love to host a travel show about the adventures of travel hacking by taking people to the lesser-known corners of the world. I started Triphackr with the goal to help people maximize their travel experiences and show them they can achieve the same. Traveling is all about connecting people and cultures, and that is something I would love to share through a travel show.
7. New Yorkers swear that they have the best pizza. As a person who has traveled the world, which place do you think really has the best slice of pizza?
New York City hands down has the best pizza in the world. There is nothing else like it anywhere. Picking a favorite is impossible for me in NYC but no place does it better.
8. How do you deal with the language barrier as you travel abroad? Have you had any issues with things getting lost in translation?
The truth is English is widely spoken throughout many countries and popular destinations around the world. Younger generations are learning it more now than ever and it has become a common language for many nationalities when they travel. Ideally, Americans would learn more than one language but I don’t think it is necessary. I try to learn a few basic phrases for any country I am visiting but it’s not reasonable to become proficient in a new language before visiting a place on vacation. The best we can do is make an effort and locals will respect that. I’ve been in plenty of circumstances (good and bad) where neither party speaks each other's language but in the end hand gestures and even a translation app can convey most messages around the world. Be patient and don’t get frustrated. Remember you’re a guest in their country and do your best to get your message across. Most of the time it will work out just fine and don’t let a language barrier deter you from visiting a new place.
9. When traveling, do you follow a schedule or do you just (excuse the pun) wing it?
I find a healthy balance between planning and winging it is key to an enjoyable trip. The idea of showing up with no plan is great but in reality it is nice to research a few things to do and lodging before you arrive in a new place. Leave room for excursions you learn about on arrival and ask locals for the best places to eat. A nice mix of planning and improvising will create the best type of trip experience.
10. We understand you are on a mission to visit all the MLB ballparks. Each stadium has their own unique features, hidden treasures, food and atmosphere. Which stadium is the best all around?
I am extremely biased here because I was born in Kansas City, grew up in Boston and went to college at Kansas. I will always love going to Royals games and they’ve made some great improvements to the K in Kansas City, which is also a fantastic city that is often overlooked. I also love the classics so Fenway is my all around favorite. I even built a mini replica of Fenway in my backyard as a kid with my friend. It had lights and everything and was home to some great memories growing up. San Francisco is another favorite of mine and I’m not a Giants fan. I prefer the classics and I think some parks are doing too much today which is why Yankees Stadium feels doesn’t even compare to old Yankees Stadium for me. It has been a slow quest to see all 42 stadiums (30 teams plus rebuilt stadiums since I started the quest) but I am hoping to see my final four next year.
11. What is the best meal you’ve ever had in the world. Where and what was it?
I’ve had some delicious meals around the world but the most memorable and tasty was in Carcassonne, France. It was a cold winter night and I arrived in a sleepy town after lengthy delays and almost missing the last bus from Toulouse. I was planning to meet my family for dinner inside the old castle walls of the city but I had no idea where or what the restaurant was called. My mom was supposed to leave me a note on the door of our rental house but it had blown away down the street. Luckily, I was searching for WiFi I could borrow from a neighbor and stumbled across the note with directions to the restaurant. We flagged down a taxi and made it to dinner for the best tasting cassoulet I’ve ever had in my life. That is a meal I will never forget.
In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote that masterpieces “are the outcome of many years of thinking in common… so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” Behind every work of art is an intertwining of the stories of culture, and every final display contains the work of many people. Few people know this better than Blair Voltz Clarke, owner of the Voltz Clarke Gallery in New York City and curator for up-and-coming artists from across the globe. Today, she’s one of the most influential collaborators in the industries of art, fashion, and high-end luxury.
A native of Columbus, Georgia, Clarke began her artistic explorations at an early age. She experimented with many different extracurricular activities throughout her primary school years before going off to study studio painting and art history at the University of Georgia. It was there that she discovered her talent for helping other artists connect with an audience, rather than creating works of her own. In 1999, she moved to New York, and three years later she founded Voltz Clarke LLC to pursue what she loved.
The enterprise found its first success with Kaleidoscope, displaying eccentric contemporary works in an elegantly antique-filled townhouse. Since then, Voltz Clarke has gained a noticeable presence by hosting pop-up exhibits in an eclectic variety of spaces—everywhere from chic boutiques to small apartment-building lofts. In 2015, the business expanded into the flagship Voltz Clarke Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The Gallery isn’t the “traditional white box gallery,” however. Clarke allies with her artists, and it shows. The artists’ loyalty to the gallery and regular partnerships with each other are a testament to Clarke’s knack for bringing people together.
Clarke’s own popularity has come from promoting emerging international artists to curious audiences. The mix of her homely southern upbringing and New York-style sophistication allows her to seek out talent in unexpected places and share it with the rest of the world. She does this through masterful collaboration with creators in the fashion and travel industries, among others. As long as luxury is involved, Clarke has a way of relating it to the art world.
How can artists and curators create works that are relevant yet lasting? How do you know when an artist has what it takes to become successful? Clarke recently spoke with us to reveal more about her gallery and her advice for aspiring artists.
1. How would you describe the artwork found at Voltz Clarke Gallery?
Fresh and eclectic, yet also classic and timeless.
2. You have collections from artists from all over the world. What similarities and differences exist between them?
Texture is a common thread among many of our artists, along with their passion for creating unique works of art. Additionally, the artists all exemplify a dedication to our gallery. Natasha Law, Wonjung Choi, and Sara Genn are artists I’ve literally grown up with over the past 13 years. Their loyalty through various periods of work plus years of partnering together speaks volumes.
3. Because art is subjective, how do you determine if someone has what it takes to succeed? Also, how do you know if an artist’s work is sellable?
This is a profound question as I always encourage clients to buy 'high and low'. Spend 50$ at a flea market on something you love just as you do when you fall for a $12k Yiorgos Kordakis photograph, or a Natasha Law commission portrait ranging $25k plus, or a $100k plus purchase and watching your piece grow in value. One’s trash is someone else’s treasure so whatever the price, enjoy the work, follow the artist’s career and be a part of the cultural conversation! Voltz Clarke gallery exhibits art that is fresh to the market place. Textural works resonate well with our loyal audience. Dedication and passion for the process is necessary for any of our artists to succeed.
4. There are many artists out there struggling to make ends meet, what advice can you give them?
Never give up is the best advice. With any field, be it business, music or fashion, there is steep competition. Artists need to stay true to their style and not be influenced by what is trendy. Shocking art is not necessarily persevering so artists need to listen to their creative voice and what style comes most naturally.
5. Do you have a favorite artist?
All of the Voltz Clarke artists are my family and my favorite. Not in our roster? I love the figurative work of John Currin, Elizabeth Peyton and Raqib Shaw.
6. In one of your interviews you mentioned that Mark Rothko’s “White Center” was one of your favorite pieces of art. Could you explain why this is such a great piece and what makes it so valuable?
I mentioned this piece for the simplicity in abstract subject matter, yet the powerful color palette Rothko uses. His extraordinary brush stokes resemble velvet on the canvas. I also appreciate the “I could have done that” reaction, but when you see the depth in the final composition, the result is mind blowing!
7. It’s been said that the space you use to showcase the artwork is just as interesting as the artwork itself. What goes through your mind when setting up and designing the interior?
At Voltz Clarke, we have always taken the formula of “client assistance” to a new level. We are very happy to meet in client’s homes and help them curate, whether it be their first piece or their 100th, art is like a new child and often needs a manual. For pop ups , we love collaborating with hotels, fashion designers, etc. Each venue presents a new blank template to curate with not only our vision but also the Voltz Clarke artists chosen. Any new space is sacred and we try to thoughtfully execute both design elements and fine art.
8. Is being an artist a natural born gift or something that takes practice?
Just like writer or musician, a successful artist needs both the innate talent dedication and daily practice.
9. What’s your favorite museum and why?
Inside the Majorelle Garden in Morocco is the most enchanting jewel box called the Berber Museum, displaying a collection of Berber objects originating from different regions of Morocco. Also my all time favorite museums our entire family frequents are the Parrish and the Whaler museums in Sag Harbor. Both Cheerlead artists are local to Long Island, resulting in Blockbuster shows like the opening we attended yesterday.
If you could write the description for your dream job, what would it say? Would it include riding on top of a New York City apartment elevator while carrying a 150-inch Robin Rhode piece? How about suspending soy seeds in clear resin to form images? For Clint Downing, events like these are just another day in the office.
In 2008, Clint founded Downing Frames in a one-room studio in Brooklyn after a photographer came to him and said, “I wish you could do this.” “I can do this,” Clint thought to himself, and the rest is history. What is that history, you ask? It includes expanding into a 19,500 square foot facility in Long Island City, making only the highest-quality custom frames, and boasting a client list featuring over 70 prominent artists and galleries.
Before opening his own business, Clint had amassed nearly two decades of experience in framing at Axelle Fine Arts, City Frames, and Baobab Frames. Even in his success, he’s never lost sight of the simple mission that delighted and inspired him in the first place: creating frames that not only protect, but complement objects that people cherish. He’ll make frames for anyone because he cares about everyone. A passion for helping the art world is what keeps him motivated every day. Why else would you ride on top of an elevator?
We met up with Clint to find out more about the inspiration behind his business.
1.There usually comes a time of reflection in a person’s career when they have an “I’ve finally made it” moment. Can you remember the first time this happened to you?
The first time I saw Matthew Barney’s name on my caller ID, I felt pretty special. He is one of my favorite artists, and to work with him was total reassurance I had, in part, made it. Also, seeing our frames on display at the Met for the first time, one of the best-known institutions in NYC and otherwise, was a really exciting moment.
2. After having worked at a highly regarded framing company, what gave you the courage and confidence to go out on your own and start Downing Frames?
Richard, a photographer, needed a job done and my boss at the time was too expensive for his budget. Richard said to me, “I wish you could do this, I really like your work” and I thought, “I can do this,” so I did. One 15-hour day later, I had completed a job on my own. I think many business start in small ways like this.
3. It seems that music has played a very important role in your life. What is the difference of being in that universe versus being in the art universe?
In my personal experience, I have a lot more control in the art universe. Music, inherently, is more of a collaborative experience when you are not a front in a band. Framing is also a collaboration, but I am able to set the standard from one clear vision at Downing Frames. I prefer less cooks in the kitchen when hard decisions need to be made.
4. People in the framing industry could almost be considered the “unsung heroes of the art world.” Do you take pride in knowing that without the products you create, the art being displayed would be taken differently?
I feel as though we get a lot of praise and thank you’s from our clients on all levels. Galleries, artists, and collectors value our work alike. In many ways you are right, though. We are often hidden from the end of the line but I really enjoy our positioning in the industry. It allows us to grow faster and develop exciting ways to help art world. With that said, we will make frames for anyone. I love creating beautiful frames for objects that people cherish.
5. When developing your frames, which type of woods do you prefer to use, and what advantages do these woods bring to your frames?
Maple is what we most commonly use. It has a very tight grain pattern that remains completely smooth during finishing. It also works well with stains and lacquers. We also use walnut, ash, white oak, mahogany, cherry and red oak. All beautiful choices with different, but beautiful grain character and staining ability. All of our wood is sustainably harvested form Canadian forest as well. We try and stay away from popular South American woods for ethical reasons.
6. Downing Frames has quickly gained a reputation for making quality, crafted products. What are some of the most elaborate and detailed projects you have worked on?
Kate Steciw specifically comes to mind regarding elaborate projects. Her work often involves cut-outs and three dimensional surfaces, and the frame is often woven into the concept behind each piece. Observers typically note this when describing her work, so the pressure is on when it comes to Kate! Each piece is a photographic, acrylic, and wooden wall-mounted sculpture. http://higherpictures.com/exhibitions/kate-steciw/ Also, Letha Wilson and I have developed a great relationship working out designs together and integrating metal work into the wooden frames as sculptural elements with her folded photography. I love this work. http://www.lethaprojects.com/
7. It hasn’t been 10 years since Downing Frames was created, and yet you’ve experienced great success and rapid growth in a short period of time. What does the future look like for you and your company, and how do you keep the ball rolling?
We stay fresh by adding more services and digging deeper into our current process. We are excited to be opening a 3000 sq ft photo studio in the fall. In addition to many more services, we are going to continue with our superior customer service. Our client relationships are the most important factor to us.
8. Being in a business that involves a lot of creativity, what are some of the craziest projects and concepts that people have asked you to do?
I was once hired as a consultant to ride on top of an elevator with a 150” Robin Rhodes piece. The piece had to fit through a small space at the apartment and it barely fit. It was pretty nerve racking. Another time, we made very large resin pours with Monsanto soy seeds for Artie Vierkant, and had images behind the corn suspended in layers of resin. http://artievierkant.com/
9. You have the unique ability to have a functional business while still being able to be creative. How much of your job is work and how much of it is fun?
I’m always having fun in some way. I’ve reached the point where I no longer stress about the things I used to stress about. I have an incredibly talented and dedicated group of skilled employees here. They make my life more carefree than when I started. This gives me the freedom to be more creative using all our unique talents and that is very fun for me!
10. You work with many incredible artists who have an extremely large following around the world. Have you ever received business from someone and thought “I can’t believe I’m working with this person?”
David La Chapelle, Hauser & Wirth, and David Zwirner come to mind. Sometimes that feeling also comes from the level of trust and involvement artists and clients give to us. Its a very involved process. In fact, we are adding a client-facing studio to help us work more collaboratively as part of our expansion.
As many of you might know, Iceland’s intensely cold climate is just one of its unique attractions. Over the years, Icelandic culture has also been shaped by its music scene. We have have hundreds of bands playing more varieties of music than there are volcanoes in Iceland! Some artists include Icelandic natives, Bjork, Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men.
Each weekend in the summer is taken to the next level. The sun never sets and the people don’t either. In each little town we have festivals and music, a mixture that never fails! The funny thing about the Icelandic music scene is that it is diverse for a reason. After all, how are you going to impress 330,000 people with the same sound?
We decided to drive north to a place called Reykjastrond, and it is literally at the end of the road. Reykastrond is quite historical, some of the Vikings used to live there when they fought until sundown. This area holds on to a great history and the surroundings are something that you never really get used to.
So the plan was to set up a camp, eat good food, drink a few beers, bathe in the natural geothermal pools and attend “Drangey Music Festival”. This was the second time the festival was held and we are definitely going back next year. The festival gets the name from the island “Drangey,” which is situated around 8 km from land.
Now imagine that you’re standing at the ‘end of the road’ in the most beautiful fjord, filled with islands, fresh air and never ending sunlight. Amazing. We are not even talking about standing on the grass, you are standing inside a hot spring called “Grettislaug” which was named after Grettir the strong, an Icelandic outlaw from the Icelandic Sagas. Legend has it that Grettir lived in Drangey Island with his slave in exile. One night, his slave forgot to watch the fire while Grettir was sleeping, and the fire went out. Grettir got really mad and jumped into the ocean to swim to shore to get more firewood. After Grettir had swum the 8 km long channel to shore he was so cold and tired that he used the pool to relax. Not to mention, he needed to get himself warm after the long swim from Drangey. He spent few hours in the pool and we can certainly see why, it is amazing!
The pool then disappeared around 1930 in a big storm but was rebuilt in 1992 by a local farmer. Taking a bath in this 40°C natural geothermal pool with the view of surrounding fjord and islands is divine, especially after a long night of dancing, singing and partying. You can’t even imagine how good it feels.
If you are looking for a “secret” cool –Icelandic-music-festival out of the radar, this is the one. The crowd is small and friendly, the artists are among the best of Iceland, and you are surrounded by untouched nature. The nights are full of surprises and unforeseen awesomeness. What more could you ask for? See you next year at Drangey Music Festival.
“I’m not into fashion,” says the person the New York Post labeled the most stylish man in hi-tech. With a beard that would make any man jealous, plus one of the most gorgeous collective working spaces in the country, that statement is difficult to believe. Still, Rameet Chawla, founder and CEO of design and development company Fueled (www.fueled.com), claims that it’s all simply an outlet for his expression.
That expression is inclined toward risk, he admits, but it’s paying off. Located inside the famous Prince Building “at the center of the universe”—NYC’s SoHo district, that is—the Fueled space is home to around 30 startups at any given time. And Chawla wants to make one thing clear: Fueled is a collective working space, not an office. It’s a place where people can form invaluable relationships, share and develop big ideas, and learn from one another’s experiences. Besides, what office do you know that has a fresh popcorn machine, ice cream cart, ping pong table, snack bar, no-decaf-allowed coffee bar, and signature “dope chillout couch?” Probably none.
The company itself has grown some notable brands, and some name-recognition of its own. Along with developing apps for Apple, Google, Warby Parker, Harvard Business School, Barney's, and Summit, just to name a few, Fueled recently launched Fueled Ventures to fund additional startups. Some of these startups include, but are definitely not limited to, Makespace, Coinbase, Artsy, Grimlet Media, Jackpocket and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Maybe this comes at no surprise for a man who triple majored in Information Systems, Finance, and International Business at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Chawla actually worked in the finance industry for three years before discovering that it wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. The clarity that come's with knowing what he doesn’t want to do is what has made that degree the most valuable, he said. That experience actually embodies Fueled’s design philosophy: remove the features you don’t need and make a clear path to the heart of the product.
Fueled certainly makes it look like Chawla has now found success, but he insists that he’s still just in the building stage of his career. He cites Aaron Shapiro (HUGE) and Barry Sternlicht (Starwood Capital Group) as two of his biggest influences; he’s looking to join the ranks with some of the best businessmen in history. With aspirations like that, it’s easy to understand why Chawla thinks he hasn’t reached success just yet. “Yet” is always the key word when he describes his dreams, and no one doubts that he’s just begun to express himself.
We sat down with Rameet for a quick Q&A:
Investing in startups is a risky proposition for a lot of people. How have you been able to thrive unlike so many others in this area?
Our investment arm, Fueled Ventures, came into existence about two years ago. A widely held belief is that it takes about 10 years to determine success as an angel. Seeing as I’ve only been in the game two years, I wouldn’t say I’m thriving in this area. It takes a few years to build your investment portfolio, plus a few more for you to tell if the companies are going to succeed. The failures reveal themselves in three years or so. The good ones can take a decade to go public. A lot can happen between now and then. Shall we check back in with me in eight years?!
Have there been any downsides to such success at such an early age?
Success is subjective. I don’t actually feel like I’ve become successful, yet. I’m still inside what I’d consider the “build” phase of my career. Someone else might easily label me as successful because of what I’ve accomplished thus far, but it’s all about perspective. From where I’m standing, I’m looking to people like Aaron Shapiro or Barry Sternlicht. They’re prime examples of American businessmen who have changed the face of their industries. I look to be in their league and I still have a long way to go to get there. From my perspective, success for me has not been captured…yet.
You have degrees in Information Systems, Finance, and International Business. Which of these has benefitted you the most in your professional life?
Definitely finance, but for a reason that might surprise you. Without getting that degree I would have never spent three years working in that field, and subsequently wouldn’t have figured out that it was exactly what I didn’t want to do with my life. It’s a mainstream and highly respected industry; it just wasn’t for me. That sort of clarity at a young age is crucial. That said, it did take three years to arrive at that revelation, but better late than never!
NY Post named you the “most stylish man in hi-tech.” How important is fashion in your life? When did fashion start playing a major role in your life?
It’s funny, I truly wouldn’t classify fashion as something that’s important in my life. I don’t mimic any behaviors I associate with people who are “into fashion.” To be specific, those people know what’s happening in the industry: they follow trends, they know hot designers, they read the magazines, they hit fashion week events. They’re completely keyed into the scene. I don’t do any of that. I get invited to plenty of fashion events, but never make them. I don’t read magazines, blogs or follow any designers on Instagram. So, by all behavioral accounts I’m not into fashion. Instead I consider it simply as an outlet for expression. I’m naturally inclined toward risk, and I take those risks in many areas of my life, including what I wear.
I started really expressing myself and taking those risks in 9th grade. And like all things, my sense of style has evolved over time.
People are fascinated with your beard. You’ve been growing and caring for it for so long that it must seem difficult to imagine your life without it. How long did it take to grow it? How do you maintain it? Do you see yourself shaving it anytime in the future?
It took me about a year and eight months to grow out. I actually do nothing to maintain it, which is funny because people are always sending me beard grooming gifts. I’ll shave it whenever people least expect it, or if I commit a crime that requires I go into hiding, which I could do by simply revealing my face. :)
How do you select the right people for your team? What goes into your hiring process?
It’s about being patient. Sometimes you’ll identify the talent you want, but they’re not ready to make a move. Don't waver. If you know someone is the ideal person for the job, wait. We've held out for over a year for the best employees, and it's always been worth it. If you have the flexibility, continue to pursue them.
When it comes to sourcing talent, we are lucky. Over time, Fueled has become an established brand with name recognition. Consequently, most of our best talent ends up finding us, as opposed to the other way around. We also have refined our vetting process over the years. Each candidate meets several members of our team, which always yields a very comprehensive picture of their strengths, weaknesses and how they’d fit into our company.
In one of your earlier interviews, you mentioned that you say “yes” to pretty much every request and offer, because you never know what may come of it. Does this still apply today? With you being so busy and all, it must be difficult for you to take on so many requests.
I do my best to make it work! This interview would be the prime example of something that is not directly correlated to any line of work I’m doing professionally, but I still agreed to do it. It’s always good to pay it forward.
You were an early investor in Coinbase. Bitcoin looks like it’s here to stay. What do you see for the future of Bitcoins?
Here’s the deal: without a digital currency, computers don't have a pure way of conducting monetary transactions. There are programmatic ways you could build a system that would remove the any user involvement, but it’s not as clean. With a crypto currency you give computers the ability to receive and trigger transactions instantly without human interference, or better yet, following a desired and monitored human interaction.
Ethereum’s use of smart contracts is a great example of this. Smart contracts can interact with each other, and make decisions, including sending Ether to another recipient. In this case, once a contract is created, a computer can execute the steps outlined in the contract independently as long as the network continues to exist. It’s a clean and efficient system. As this becomes the way of the future, every system will end up holding some coin, even if it’s just for the float, in order to participate.
As far as I’m concerned, digital currency is here to stay. Whether that will be Bitcoin, Ether, or something else that remains to be seen, though Bitcoin certainly has a strong foothold in people's minds when thinking about cryptocurrencies.
Most important rule in business?
Start off by doing things that don’t scale.
What’s the next big thing that will shake up the tech industry?
Michael Chernow is truly a man on the move. Whether it’s managing his eateries Seamore’s and The Meatball Shop, growing his WellWell drink brand, or hosting A&E’s hit television series Food Porn, Michael is always up to something big.
Having grown up in the restaurant industry, Michael is no stranger to the fast-paced intensity that life often requires. Starting at the age of 13, he’s climbed to the top of the ranks over the past 22 years. Michael graduated from the French Culinary Institute with honors in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management—and that was after he had already established a loyal following managing the bar at Frank Prisinzano’s notorious flagship restaurant, Frank.
Upon earning his degrees, Michael teamed up with his childhood best friend to open the first The Meatball Shop. The Meatball Shop is now a bit of an empire, boasting a large and successful team, a critically-acclaimed cookbook, and six locations throughout New York City. Having been a bartender himself, Michael gives bartenders at each shop control over a large portion of the menu, leading to one of the more distinguished and unique beverage programs in the city.
The success doesn’t stop there, or anywhere close to it for that matter. The summer of 2015 saw the opening of Michael’s seaside-themed Seamore’s. Serving fresh fish at a casual spot near Chinatown might sound, well, out-of-place, but Michael and his team have created just the type of atmosphere that people are looking for right now. Seamore’s is trendy, it’s healthy, it won’t break the bank, and it’s a great place to hang out. What’s not to love?
Michael’s latest projects include hosting Food Porn and developing WellWell, a drink that helps people “manage the demands of living active, high-intensity lifestyles.” If there’s anyone who needs WellWell, it’s probably Michael. Despite living a lifestyle that sounds like it doesn’t leave time for anything other than work, he makes sure to eat breakfast with his wife and son every morning, and he spends ample time with them near their home in upstate New York on the weekends.
Among the things Michael does for leisure are running—“moving meditation,” as he calls it—and fishing. While he wouldn’t reveal his secret fishing spot, he did say that the secret to his success has been investing everything in his team. Likewise, he said that success in life is a result of treating people with care and kindness, working hard, and constantly learning from everyone you meet. “Treat [your team] like gold,” he told us, “and they will treat you and your guests like platinum.”
That’s what people admire about Michael. Even with his incredibly busy schedule and already immense success, he still makes time for what really matters—bringing joy to the lives of people he loves.
We sat down with Michael to learn more about him.
1. You’ve been quite busy lately with the Meatball Shop, Seamores, your TV show, and I understand you now have a juice brand! How do you manage to juggle everything? How do you find time for yourself to unwind?
It’s definitely not as easy at it looks. I have a great team of people that I work with and communication is key. I wake up every morning to have breakfast with my wife and son before I head to work. Fitness plays a huge part in my life and overall happiness, so I always make time to go to the gym for an hour or two to workout. My schedule is pretty routine Monday-Friday. Once the weekend hits, I pack up the truck and head upstate with my family to relax.
2. Do you like spending time outdoors? If so, what kind of activities do you do?
I love the outdoors. One of my favorite things to do is take a long run, especially when I’m upstate at my home in Columbia County, NY. I consider running like a moving meditation, whether in the city or in the woods. I have also been snowboarding for the last 20 years, this is another passion of mine. And lastly, fishing. The things I do to get a good day of fishing in…
3. Do you have a favorite fishing spot? Do you eat what you catch?
Fishing is, as mentioned above, one of my all time favorite past times. I fish all over, but my favorite spot is...secret. However I will say that it’s VERY close to my house upstate, 3lb-5lb bass on the regular and no one EVER fishes there. It’s a pond tucked away in the woods, only accessible by hiking in. When I fish saltwater I typically eat my catch. Freshwater only sometimes, unless it's trout. But fly fishing is not the style of fishing I typically do...yet.
4. The restaurant business is quite difficult, especially in New York, where everybody is a food critic. What is the secret to your success?
The restaurant business is a grind, there are many people and personalities to manage, many costs to control and very little room for error. I spent most of my life growing up in the world of restaurants and it’s something that I’m truly passionate about. The secret to success in any business, in my opinion, is to invest everything in your team. Your team is what will represent and define a good, bad, terrible or great experience for your guest. Treat em like gold, they will treat you and your guests like platinum.
5. You also have quite an interesting collection of drinks available in the Meatball Shop. Where do you get the inspiration for these concoctions?
This goes back to the team of passionate Ballers at TMS, they get all the credit here. We also work with an amazing beverage director at TMS. From the beginning we wanted to have a unique beverage program. We found out that giving the bartenders creative control of a percentage of the menu was our opportunity to distinguish ourselves is exponential.
6. Are you working on any new dishes in the kitchen?
We are always working on new dishes in the kitchen. But some things we have to keep close to the vest to keep you all guessing...haha.
7. Which do you prefer: eating or cooking?
I rarely cook during the week but on the weekends I like to cook a healthy meal for my family.
8. As a chef you were working behind the scenes in the kitchen, but now you have your own TV show, are the face of your restaurants, gracing magazine covers and have reached celebrity status. What was the transition like going from behind the scenes to being in the spotlight? Which do you prefer - being behind the scenes or being in the spotlight?
Truthfully, I don’t consider myself a chef. I have worked in restaurants my whole life, most of that time in the front of the house, sometimes working in the kitchen, and graduated from culinary school at the top of my class. The title chef is no joke. When one is a chef, they have worked for years in the kitchen, climbing the ladder to get to the top. Cooking is a major passion of mine, but chef I am not. I am a restaurateur with a very strong understanding of both the front and back of the house. That said, put me in the kitchen and I can bang with the best of them. As for working in restaurants, compared to owning them and hosting a show, I love both sides of the street. I have worked very hard for the last 22 years in the restaurant business to get to where I stand today. I cherish every moment and step of the way, I regret nothing and look forward to everyday I wake up with a desire to learn.
9. Do you travel a lot? Favorite place to eat outside the US? Favorite food?
I love to travel, not that easy to do with the workload over the years, but I absolutely love to travel. My favorite place to eat overseas is in Spain, specifically Barcelona. The food there is truly unique and special. My favorite in Barcelona is Cal Pep, could be favorite in the world.
10. You are married to a model, have a kid, run a very successful business and live in the greatest city in the world. Is there anything missing? You have everything - what motivates a man with everything?
Oh man, now I’m totally blushing… I feel incredibly blessed with the life I’ve been given and have been lucky enough to lead for the last 12 years. Hard work and treating people with care and kindness truly pays off. A day does not go by where I’m not learning from my mentors, from my team, from my wife and son. As long as I feel like I am learning, I am excited and motivated.