Robin Kappy practices her vocation here in her offices at 1123 Broadway. She is a highly skilled and experienced psychotherapist, focusing trainer, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) practitioner, but she has exceptional talent and skills in other areas as well.
An Advocation in the Arts
Robin is also an extremely talented painter. As a testament to that, one of her portraits, entitled “Sunday Afternoon at Salmagundi” was juried into the 41st Annual Exhibition in Painting, Sculpture & Graphics this summer at the prestigious and historic Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village. The exhibition ran from July 15th to August 2nd and was comprised of works from all over the country, allowing well-known and up-and-coming artists to exhibit their work.
The Salmagundi Club was founded in 1871 and is one of the oldest and highest-regarded art organizations in the United States. The club originated as a sketch class in Johnathan Scott Hartley’s studio and was originally known as the Salmagundi Sketch Club. The name is a reference to Washington Irving’s potpourri of wit and wisdom, “The Salmagundi Papers.” . Members are primarily residents of the Tri-State area, but some come from as far away as London, Amsterdam and Lisbon. Over the years, the Salmagundi Club has been the singular gathering place for great artists, such as William Merrit Case, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Ogden Pleisner and more. Honorary members have included the likes of Winston Churchill and Buckminster Fuller.
The contest to be juried into this annual exhibition is incredibly competitive, and we congratulate Robin on having her painting chosen—it’s an amazing achievement.
A Vocation Helping Clients Attend Their Own Emotional Needs to Solve Problems and Conflicts
In her practice here at 1123 Broadway, Robin attends to each of her client’s essential relational needs and experiences. Trained in relational self-psychology, she has been in private practice since 1991 and has added to her skills since then, becoming certified as a trainer by the Focusing Institute in 1998, and by the EMDR International Association in 2001. Her areas of expertise include depression, anxiety, trauma, sleep and creativity, and she has also received training in clinical hypnosis.
Glenn Gissler Design, established in 1987, is an award-winning interior design firm providing exemplary service to a sophisticated and accomplished clientele. Owner Glenn Gissler integrates his training as an architect; a rich knowledge of fine art, design and decorative arts; and an extensive experience to create distinctive residential environments. The firm’s work is regularly featured in magazines, books, and digital platforms.
This month, Glenn Gissler Design is honored to be featured in William Norwich’s new book, Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century, and to have received a nomination for the prestigious Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards. We sat down with Glenn to learn a little bit more about his elegant yet livable style, as well as the design process that makes his work stand out.
At the age of 13, Glenn knew that he wanted to be an interior designer. He went on to study architecture, and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts & Bachelor of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Glenn’s architectural training gives him an edge in the ultra-competitive interior design industry in New York City: He says that it allows him to devise ways to use space most effectively and naturally, while being responsible to history and maintaining integrity in his designs.
When asked to describe his style, Glenn began by insisting that despite his understanding of architecture and design history and his extensive vocabulary in these areas, it is difficult for him to describe his own work. In fact, he says that “style” is not the first thing that comes to mind. In his practice, it’s more about “life-style.” Glenn’s rooms are not showcases, they’re homes, and he believes that his clients are attracted to him for the livability of his designs.
Architecture and Livability
As a child, Glenn remembers looking at books full of pictures of the magnificent mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. He says that for him, they might as well have been palaces in Europe, and he was completely mesmerized. However, he says, “When I finally got to Newport and I went to all of those places, I was as interested in the servants’ quarters as I was in the grand rooms. In some ways, I was more interested because that’s where reality actually occurred and the rest was kind of a stage set.”
Glenn is not a designer that clients turn to for a stage set. “Every building, every home, every apartment has a spirit to it. You walk into a building, and it says something.” Glenn is not one to ignore that message. He believes that designs need to respond to their environment. A Venetian palace or a replica of Philip Johnson’s Glass House might be visually appealing, but when they are constructed without attention to their context, the experience of inhabiting them feels off in some way.
Elegance and livability are guiding principles in Glenn’s design process. Perhaps it is his architecture training, or just the way that his brain is wired, but he is always focused on how to use a space most effectively and naturally. To some extent this may also be because much of his work is in New York City, where he is often designing spaces that need to perform more than one function. He believes that people should be able to use all of the rooms in their homes as a part of the natural course of living their lives. He finds that often times, living rooms and dining rooms are anachronistic. Glenn wants to abandon the feeling of staged rooms, only there for display. When he sees designs that do not take into account how the inhabitants will actually be able to live in them, it baffles him. “In a lot of modern designs, everything is so sleek and bare. I walk in and immediately think, ‘where will these people put their stuff?’ Storage is a key to mental health, and if you don’t have storage, the style of the room doesn’t even matter because you can’t see it.”
Another hallmark of Glenn’s designs is what he identifies as a “half-empty, half-full” approach. “When architects are finished, they don’t want any furniture in the room, they just want pure volume. Many interior decorators, on the other hand, want to have every nook and cranny with something in it. I like to have space for the mind to rest so that the objects in the room actually have an opportunity to breathe and to have greater meaning.”
When Glenn is choosing objects to populate his designs, he makes sure to include a variety from different periods, different cultures, and what he calls “different valuations.” He finds that objects that are visually delightful are more exciting than objects that are simply expensive. Expensive things are not inherently better than inexpensive things and Glenn says that “when they’re together, they are actually in a kind of cultural and historical dialogue that makes each of them more interesting.” A fan of using fashion metaphors, Glenn compares this effect to that of wearing a Hanes t-shirt underneath an Armani suit. It is chic and elegant but more importantly, it is livable.
How Glenn Gissler Design Does It
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Glenn’s practice is that after graduating from RISD, Glenn only spent four years working under other designers before founding his own firm. Not only has he taught himself the ins and outs of the interior design industry over the years, he has also independently developed his unique design process that helps him to achieve the desired results. While his architectural training gave him the solid historical, technical and theoretical basis that is so important to his design process, he has taught himself how to partially shake free from those confines all on his own. “It’s not a theoretical project. You actually have to bring reality into it in order to create something that’s relevant.”
The major key to Glenn’s design process is the relationship that he is able to create with his clients. “I tell my clients that they’re in charge. It’s their place. I don’t live there; I have my own place.” Although he may wrestle with them on certain points because he sees something that he thinks they might not notice, he is focused on making sure that they ultimately know that it is their choice. This means that his clients are involved in the design process every step of the way.
Glenn starts by looking at the floorplan and considering what the apartment can do to accommodate the lifestyle of the tenant. Everything depends on the particulars of the client. Do they have children? Do they entertain often? Do they have tons of books or art? All of these questions help Glenn come up with an idealized floorplan. From there, an artist who Glenn has worked with for years creates perspective drawings so that the client can imagine what the project will look like when it is complete.
Perhaps the most important aspect of these perspective drawings is that they are drafted by hand in pencil. “Today, so many people produce architectural drawings digitally to make it look like they’re real, and I think that’s a bad idea. The reason is, if it’s so real in the drawings, when it’s actually done, you feel like you’ve already seen it and been there. There’s something about our drawings being black and white that allows us to maintain the element of surprise.”
Once the client feels comfortable with the ideal floorplans and the perspective drawings, Glenn starts the process of proposing textiles, light fixtures, art and so on. To sum it up, Glenn says, “We start with the architecture, bring in the personality, add the colors, and make commitments to certain themes – it’s an ongoing process of love.”
Enduring Design for Client Living
Glenn’s ultimate hope is that the finished product is something enduring. He has an appreciation for all of the hard work that his clients do to be able to embark on these projects with him, and he is always conscious to make thoughtful decisions in terms of quality and value. “Some designers do really splashy, trendy projects, and it’s kind of like buying a party dress. Then when you want to wear something else, the party dress is all you have, and you end up feeling overdressed, wishing that you had something a little more understated.” Following his metaphor, Glenn is able to give his clients a closet full of clothes that will last, instead of one fancy ball gown with limited wearing potential.
Speaking of the enduring nature of Glenn’s designs, his work has recently been recognized in two major ways. First, a room that he designed in 1995 is featured in William Norwich’s new book, Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century. Additionally, he was nominated for the prestigious Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards. For Glenn both of these honors came as quite a surprise. Of Interiors, Glenn said that he was unaware that the book was in production, let alone that his project was going to be included. It was only when he was contacted regarding image rights from an on-line magazine reviewing the book that he found out.
The design project was commissioned by the then president of EMI Music Worldwide and his wife. At the time, it was featured on the cover of Interior Design magazine in 1995, along with a six-page spread featuring breathtaking pictures of the whole apartment. The living room, which is the room featured in Norwich’s book, has very grand dimensions: 26 ft. by 26 ft., with 20 ft. high ceilings. Aside from the imposing scale of the room, two key factors guided Glenn’s design process, both of which were specific to his clients’ needs. They loved to travel and needed an interior that would accommodate various cultural artifacts that they had begun to collect in the course of their travels. They also needed an appropriate stage for the frequent entertaining they did with various colleagues in the music industry.
The space was intimidating, but it had character, and Glenn’s clients loved the grandeur of the room. Without taking away from that feeling, Glenn was able to devise a unique furniture plan that optimized the livability of the space. The clients liked clean surfaces, so Glenn’s half-full, half-empty approach was perfect. The furniture had to be strong in order to handle the demands of the room, which allowed for amazing additions such as the ambitious window treatment, which would only be appropriate in a room of this scale. Ultimately, this Upper West Side project perfectly encapsulates the strengths of Glenn’s style and design process. The fact that it has been recognized again, nearly 25 years after its completion is a testament to the timelessness of Glenn’s work.
He does not take the use of that word lightly however. “It’s an enormous compliment to have my work thought of as ‘timeless’. People toss that word around, but for me, it’s less about timelessness and more about being responsible to history; the history of the space I am working in, historical precedent and being cognizant of the time we are living in” Glenn is not interested in novelty that does not stand the test of time, but he doesn’t necessarily believe that timelessness is achievable. “Whatever you build is going to be of the particular time in which it was built.” For Glenn, the most important thing is to maintain an integrity and an appropriateness in relation to the context of the project. This Upper West Side apartment is a clear manifestation of that mission.
Regarding his nomination for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards, Glenn was equally humble. His nomination is all the more impressive because the nomination process is completely anonymous. “It was a huge thrill and a huge honor. It’s great to have business and clients who appreciate what you do, but it’s also deeply satisfying to be recognized by your peers for your work. Just to know that they’re paying attention.”
Although interior design is not the easiest profession in New York City, Glenn has fulfilled the dream he first had when he was 13 years old. “I did it, and I am doing it.” Looking forward, Glenn is more excited than ever about what is to come. He says that the reward for success is the opportunity to work harder. It’s a good news, bad news situation. If you are successful, people expect you to do better, and Glenn is up for the challenge. “At the end of the day, the accolades are fantastic, and being in magazines and books is deeply satisfying, but really it’s all about the next project. What’s the next project? What’s going to be deeply engaging? That’s what I’m always looking for.”
On his tenancy in the Townsend Building, Glenn could not be happier with the collegial feeling. He has many friends in the building and always enjoys seeing what his fellow tenants are up to. He’s been in the neighborhood for more than 25 years, and seeing the changes that have occurred over the years has been greatly inspiring to him. “When I first moved to New York, no one went into Madison Square Park. The neighborhood was just empty. Now there’s a spirit to the neighborhood which is very creative.” The sense of the community in the Townsend building is an added bonus, not to mention the breathtaking architecture. Working in a building with such historical significance is a constant inspiration and reminder of the lasting power of successful design. It keeps Glenn looking toward the future for that next engaging project. “It’s a cool building, and I love it even more because of the incredible stairwell. Overall, I think it’s quite remarkable.”
We think Glenn is quite remarkable, and we congratulate him again on his spectacular career and his achievements this year.
Susan Rudnick has been defined by some degree by growing up in New York City as the daughter of refugee parents escaping from Nazi Germany. The greatest influencing force in her life has always been her relationship with her beloved little sister Edna. Susan is an author, a poet and a practicing psychotherapist. She holds an office in the St. James building along with fellow Psychotherapist, Robin Kappy, where they run Flatiron Psychotherapy Associates.
The story of how Susan got to where she is today is beautifully told in her touching memoir, Edna’s Gift: How My Broken Sister Taught Me To Be Whole, which was released in June of this year. Edna was differently-abled, a term that was unknown during the girls’ childhood. In youth, Edna was aware of her limitations, most likely a result of an injury at birth that affected her motor skills and intellect. However, despite not always being able to keep up with her bright and ambitious older sister, Edna did not fret or let these differences define her. As an adult, Edna was able to lead a relatively normal and independent life, never losing her spirit and passion for life. She was a joyful force in the world, and accepted herself and others as they were, always loving unconditionally. Susan recognized and admired these traits, but struggled to learn acceptance, both in respect to Edna and also to herself.
Susan herself has not gone without trials in life, and she credits Edna’s spirit of unconditional acceptance for helping her through them. At the age of 16, Susan was diagnosed with MRKH, a condition in which a woman is born without a uterus. The condition is extremely rare, and due to a lack of knowledge regarding MRKH, Susan felt defective, marginalized and alone for much of her adult life. To read more about how Susan came to terms with her diagnosis, check out her article, “The Power of a Name: My Secret Life with M.R.K.H,” published this past May in The New York Times.
In addition to her MRKH, Susan has struggled with her desire for motherhood, multiple marriages, the complicated legacy of being a first-generation survivor of parents who fled from the Nazis, and in the end, becoming Edna’s caregiver and advocate. Through all of this, Edna is the one who gave Susan the courage to persevere. Through her remarkable sister, Susan came to understand that joy and wisdom can come from unexpected places. More than that, her relationship with Edna sparked a desire in Susan to become a healer. As a result, she has been practicing psychoanalysis and psychotherapy for over 40 years.
Susan is currently on a very successful book tour for Edna’s Gift, and the memoir has been receiving rave reviews. Emily Perl Kingsley, Emmy-winning writer, says, “Rudnick has walked us through every aspect of growing up with a sibling who has a developmental disability…astonishingly candid…It’s a wonderful book. I read it twice.” NY Times best-selling author, Barbara Graham says, “Rudnick’s lovely and moving memoir of her own journey toward fully embracing Edna – and herself – is a gift to us all.”
Congratulations to Susan on her amazing accomplishments this year, and make sure you pick up a copy of Edna’s Gift to read the full story for yourself.
To find out more about Susan and all of the amazing things she’s up to, visit her website: susanrudnick.com
The Working Assembly is a branding design agency that has built its reputation by taking a personalized, integrated approach to shape ideas into brands for its clients. Utilizing a blend of technologists, designers, and storytellers, the firm has developed a hands-on, iterative working methodology that allows it to effectively address the needs of large national corporations as well as local startups in today’s collaborative, fast-paced environment.
The firm specializes in expressing brand in key inflection points, helping major brands like Google and Sotheby’s take the next step in their evolution or realize a total reinvention. The Working Assembly’s larger corporate projects allows it to give back to the community through two innovative programs: Local Works—to help startups and preserve the socio-economic fabric of New York and 24 Hour Assembly—to help minority businesses present themselves more successfully.
Company partners Jolene Delisle and Lawrence O’Toole recently sat down with us to talk about the beginnings of The Working Assembly, some of its recent campaigns, and its unique, streamlined approach that has brought the firm and its clients such success.
Kew: Can you tell us a little about the beginnings of The Working Assembly—how and why you started the company?
Lawrence: It started out with just the two of us, pretty small, kind of cautiously, because we were doing it independently at the same time we had our full-time jobs.
Jolene: Both of our backgrounds are in creative: I worked in advertising, and Lawrence worked in branding and design. At first, we started consulting with startups on a part-time basis, and about four years ago, we transitioned to become a full-time agency.
Kew: What makes the Working Assembly unique compared to other branding agencies?
Jolene: I would say it’s two things: We have a diverse background in both advertising and communications, as well as branding and design; and we have a comprehensive definition of branding. Today, consumers are much more savvy, so companies have to be more conscious of how their brands, as expressed in design and content, impact their company at every inflection point with their audiences.
Lawrence: We understand that, and our skills allow us to apply the brand practically. We consult on the conceptual strategy, and then, we go all the way through to actual production work — video, print campaigns, and more.
Kew: You both have been in and around this industry for a while now. Can you talk about how the industry has changed over time, especially in light of the Internet, social media, etc.?
Jolene: Our current assignments are not like traditional branding work, or what it might have looked like ten years ago. It’s actually expressing the brand in paid social posts or a cool email campaign. These days, it is important that no product or facet of the company speaks only for itself but also reflects the corporate brand message. That’s where our strength lies.
We are able to identify a “voice”/”personality” for a brand and communicate it from the point where it touches the customer up to the corporate level.
Lawrence: Today, people want transparency—to see how the sub-brand interacts with the overall organization and its social contract. We look at the brand holistically and help our clients make a consistent emotional connection with their audiences. We make it possible for people to see through the brand’s product and services to the corporate brand—to understand that the values of these products and services are values of the corporate brand and are shared by all aspects of the corporation.
Kew: Could you talk about one of your favorite projects to give us an idea of what your campaign work is like?
Jolene: One of our favorite clients is Zola, a wedding registry startup. When we started working with the company over two years ago, it was really just focused on being a wedding registry, but it has since expanded into websites, invitations, planning and more. It’s been really exciting to see Zola scale up, and our work with the company has evolved as a result. Initially, we were just helping with brand guidelines—the company’s “look” and “feel,” but since then, we’ve done three ad campaigns for Zola. We’ve helped with events and activations, creating subway ads, and designing its look book, direct mail pieces and so on. What’s been exciting with Zola is that we’ve been able to flex our muscles and demonstrate all the things that we can do with a client.
Kew: The Mass Mutual and Guardian projects are impressive. Can you tell us how you succeeded with these large companies?
Lawrence: Yes, we also do work for large, long-established firms. It’s natural, because much of our team comes from large agencies dealing with major corporate clients. Two of our most successful client projects involve complete rebranding assignments for national leaders in the insurance industry: Mass Mutual and Guardian Insurance.
Insurance companies are by definition identified with old-fashioned technology, and many people in these firms still view change with a wary eye. As a result, neither Mass Mutual nor Guardian had done this type of rebranding before, but they realized that technology and the way of doing business is changing—global shifts and evolving mindsets are affecting their businesses.
Large creative agencies approaching these large corporate assignments come in and do intermittent big “dog and pony” shows and then disappear for long periods in between— there is limited give and take and projects can drag out. This approach doesn’t fit the way business is done today, and Mass Mutual and Guardian recognized that.
I think we have been successful with our clients because of our size and the fact that we work as a partner. We understand quickly what they want to do and take a collaborative and iterative approach to reach a solution faster, while meeting high expectations for conceptual and practical rigor. These large insurance firms, are wedded to tradition and immutability, and the fact that they have trusted us, I believe shows the power of our working methodology.
Kew:What is the extent of your involvement with these companies?
With Guardian, it started as a high-level experimental/conceptual phase to see what we might do. Then from this high-level thinking we brought it down to the level of implementation, working like an in-house asset. If a client has no internal resources, we complete the implementation, but regardless, there is usually so much work to be done on a major rebrand that clients welcome the additional support we can provide to their in-house service groups. We are available to be involved to whatever extent the client is willing, and because our staff has experience in a broad range of applications, advertising to packaging and everything in between, we can handle virtually every client need.
Kew: Tell us about your innovative initiatives outside your primary business.
Jolene: New York City’s many unique small companies are part of what makes this place so interesting. We know how hard it is to have a small business in New York, so last year, we decided to try to identify small business owners in New York who might need some branding help but might not be able to afford it. These initiatives are twofold: Local Works, which we do pro bono, for small firms challenged in their marketplace and 24 Hour Assembly, which we do for significantly reduced costs for minorities and women.
Kew: How do you manage to do them along with your core work?
Lawrence: We both have created many product, web, and digital application designs—experience that can be used to launch a product very quickly and follow up with reinforcement. While we can’t always do this with our more established, day-to-day clients, we can hyper-focus using special methodologies for these projects.
We basically use a “hackathon” model, which is a sprint-like event in which a number of creatives, designers, writers, and others spend an intense period collaborating to delivering an effective solution. Because our team has substantial experience, we have the tools to produce great results in a concentrated timeframe.
It helps the client obtain something very quickly at reduced cost (perfect for startups who are always looking to have something right away), which they can iterate and use right away. At the same time, it is great for us. It is work we find rewarding and it allows us to keep our skills sharpened for all our clients.
Kew: First, tell us a little about the Local Works initiative.
Jolene: Our idea is to undertake about four pro bono projects per year to help small firms complete. Our first Local Works project is a good example. Tache Artisan Chocolate is a one-woman show—she has a brick and mortar storefront on the Lower East Side. Dylan’s Candy Bar was moving in a couple blocks away, and her biggest issue was how to compete with a heavily branded company. In this case, we developed a brand “look” quickly and provided the basic tools she needed—design elements, packaging, stationery, and a website—so she can maintain a highly professional appearance by applying these tools as the need arises.
Kew: What about 24 Hour Assembly?
Jolene: 24 Hour Assembly is roughly a month-long engagement—focused on minorities and women, who are among the groups most underfunded by venture capitalists. This past year, only 2.2% of the people who got VC funding were women or minorities. We realized that branding can really help passionate female and minority entrepreneurs when it comes to getting initial funding and attention.
One of the initiatives we undertook last year was with Sanzo, an Asian-inspired sparkling water beverage company. We helped Sanzo with its launch, branding, and packaging. Now, the company is doing really well and is selling in Foragers, Momofuku, and several other places. We just wrapped up another 24 Hour Assembly project for Harper Sage, which is a clothing company being started by two women who used to work at J.Crew. The 24 Hour Assembly is an amazing process; we were able to accomplish Harper Sage branding from start to launch in under six weeks.
Kew: You recently moved the company into NoMad. What has made this a positive move for you?
Jolene: I think there are remarkable things happening in NoMad. This area has been wonderful for us, especially because many of our clients are here; there are a lot of terrific startups in the neighborhood.
Since moving here, we have been seeing all of our clients more often. They all want to come to our office. They love it, and it’s easy for everyone to get to.
Also, the light in our office is amazing. Unbeatable. Just the quality of the space—I think it’s actually increased productivity. I sense people are happier to be at work. We just love it.
Kew: What do you hope to accomplish moving forward?
Jolene: I’d say one of our goals is to be a more purposeful company, not necessarily a bigger one. We want to be very purposeful with the clients that we’re working with and the type of work that we’re doing, while making time for projects we really care about.
Lawrence: I think it gets back to why we did this in the first place. In our former jobs, we were doing the kind of work we do now on the side to let off a little steam and remind ourselves why we are designers and communicators in the first place. Now, we do it full time.
We’re constantly checking in with our goals and values: Are we doing cool stuff that’s rewarding for the clients and for us? Are we helping clients make a difference in their industry? It comes down to finding the right type of people to partner with and making sure that we’re doing the best work that we can do.
The Working Assembly 11 West 25th Street, 12th Floor New York, NY 10010 (917) 756-1981
A tenant for more than 12 years, Cindy E. Levitz, L.Ac., Dipl OM, C.SMA, has been in private practice since 1996. She specializes in all types of Acute and Chronic Pain Treatment, Stress and Anxiety Reduction, and Women’s Health Issues.
Priding herself on making a client’s whole system better, she doesn’t simply treat a particular condition but is committed to reading the symptoms so she can diagnose the internal problems they evidence—the internal problems that must be resolved to produce true healing. Then she develops a treatment plan tailored to the client personally.
We sat down with Cindy and we learned a lot about her incredible breadth of knowledge in natural medicine. We think you will be astounded by some of the conditions acupuncture and programs of nutrients and herbs can treat.
An Unexpected Career Dedicated to Using the Best of Eastern and Western Medicine
As a young person, Cindy was interested in Eastern art, culture, and meditation, and as life happens, she became a painter and a dental hygienist. Then, at about 30 years of age, something happened that was to change her life. She began to experience a condition involving episodes of vertigo that occurred without warning and usually lasted twenty minutes to several hours. The suddenness of the attacks of dizziness left her vulnerable on city streets and made her fearful of driving. When Cindy had an onset of the condition, she could only correct it by sleeping for two days. The doctors of Western medicine she sought out for treatment couldn’t be sure of the cause and didn’t have a cure, but categorized it as Meniere’s Syndrome. None of the medications that they prescribed worked for her.
Finally, after five years of suffering, a friend referred her for acupuncture. Within three months of treatment, acupuncture relieved the severe attacks, and she never experienced them again. The effectiveness of the treatment was a revelation. Once cured, she decided to go back to school—weekends and nights—to become an acupuncturist. That road would lead her further not only into acupuncture but also into the world of natural medicine.
Cindy’s journey has been continuing, resulting in an impressive list of credentials. Most notably, she has an M.S. degree in Acupuncture and is a Licensed Acupuncturist in NYS, Nationally Certified in Chinese Herbal Medicine (Dipl. OM) and is one of only a small number of Certified Sports Medicine Acupuncture Specialists (C.SMA). The full list of her impressive credentials can be found here.
The Powers of Acupuncture vs. the Myths
Acupuncture and Eastern medicine are increasingly recognized by an ever broader segment of the public and Western medical doctors as effective, safe, and valid forms of treatment alongside mainstream Western medicine and other alternative therapies. Yet, even today, many hold outdated, preconceived notions of acupuncture without really knowing much about it. Many see it mainly as a “pain reliever,” but speaking to Cindy, we were surprised to find out how extensive its application is and how she uses it to treat a wide range of issues including women’s health, male and female fertility. Yes, fertility.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world —it was first practiced in China more than 3,000 years ago. Basically, the principle of acupuncture is that human beings have a natural flow of energy, or Qi (pronounced “chee”), throughout the body. Good health of body and mind depends on the smooth flow of Qi circulating in energy pathways called meridians. Pain and disease occur when there is imbalance, deficiency, or blockage of the energy.
Acupuncture uses fine, hair-thin filaments at points along these pathways to help unblock and re-balance the body’s natural energy, reestablishing the flow of energy (Qi). It may often appear a bit magical, but the results are emphatically physiological—increasing blood flow and relaxing muscles, resulting in the reduction or elimination of pain and promoting your system’s natural healing abilities.
“I Have a Lot of Acupuncture Babies Running Around Out There.”
What a great legacy! Cindy told us that she has effectively used acupuncture, in combination with nutrients and herbs, to promote fertility in both women and men. Who knew?
In women, she uses acupuncture to: balance hormones; regulate menstrual cycles; adjust irregular periods; encourage better quality egg production; build a proper bed in the uterus; and in general, increase the healthy functioning of the reproductive system to encourage conception, fertilization, and fetus development. Treatments during the pregnancy reduce the fatigue, stress and back pain while promoting a smoother term. Some women come to Cindy before beginning IVF treatment to enhance IVF’s effectiveness or after they have had unsuccessful IVF cycles to maximize their chances of conception.
On the male side of the equation, Cindy told us that about 40% of the problems for couples conceiving is due to the male’s fertility issues. Acupuncture can increase the number and motility of sperm as well as the morphology of the sperm cells themselves.
Acupuncture can also help with the issues around conception and birth, too. In men, it can be used to address erectile dysfunction and libido and, in women, to treat post-partum depression, ease the process and pain during labor, and even correct the position of breech babies.
Women’s Health Issues
Few if any women see our current health system as anything other than a male-dominated, myopically dude industry. As Cindy points out, Western medicine has basically two solutions to the entire range of women’s health issues: hormones or surgery, both immoderate and risky.
In her practice, she has targeted treatments that address: all types of menstrual issues such as cramps before or during menstruation, irregular cycles, PMS, mood swings, morning sickness, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia, pain and heavy bleeding related to fibroids, cervical dysplasia, PCOS, abdominal distention and bloating, and breast tenderness, as well as back pain, fatigue and nausea during pregnancy. She even works with midwives to guide them in acupressure methods to ease delivery.
Treating Pain Issues – from Acute and Chronic Back Pain to Serious Sports Injuries
Perhaps the most common reason people seek acupuncture treatment is for back pain, but it is very effective treatment for all types of pain including neck, shoulder, knee and headache pain – as well as the aching pain of arthritis. Cindy’s approach combines her knowledge and experience of acupuncture and Chinese medicine with biomedical understanding. As an herbalist and nutritional consultant, she may suggest herbal formulas or nutritionals when appropriate.
When it comes to serious pain from a sports injury, Cindy, as a Certified Sports Medicine Acupuncture Specialist (C.SMA), integrates advanced acupuncture techniques, tuina medical massage, Western orthopedic tests, evaluations and myofascial release bodywork skills to heal patients faster, get them back to their activity sooner, and prevent re-injury.
Addressing Stress, the Underappreciated Effects of Digestive Issues and Other Issues
Stress and Anxiety. Cindy uses acupuncture, stress reduction exercises and often herbal formulas and nutritionals to successfully treat: stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, sleeplessness, and irritability. Stress blocks the smooth flow of energy in our systems. When acupuncture opens up those blockages, healthy functioning is restored. One of the things that research has shown is that endorphins, your body’s feel-good bio-chemicals, are released during acupuncture. The effects are cumulative and lasting, which means that acupuncture reduces not only the symptoms of stress, but the stress itself!
Digestive Issues. We are seeing many more auto-immune problems than ever before; and now we understand that good gut health is key to immunity. One reason is that we aren’t getting the nutrients we need to help our mind and body get and stay healthy. In our discussion, Cindy touched on the problems with our food source. “We try to eat healthy, but our food is coming from depleted soil and much is treated with pesticides and highly toxic chemicals, which we are ingesting. Quite simply, the American diet has greatly compromised gut health and immunity.
If your system isn’t strong, because it doesn’t have sufficient resources, it cannot fight all of the foreign invaders or prevent cell necrosis and inflammation. And, if in addition to that, the body is already fighting so many toxic elements from the food chain, the body’s immune system can’t deal with all of this, and is overwhelmed.
With acupuncture, diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications she can treat the whole system – body and mind. Cindy helps guide her patients so they can heal, feel better now, and achieve even greater health as time goes on. Taking just diet as one example: Cindy helps her clients eat better, and recommends specific nutritionals and herbs from an organic farm with replenished soil, thereby supplementing the clients’ diet with nutrients that are missing in our produce. Such steps combined with acupuncture and lifestyle modifications have been highly successful in improving gut health for her clients.
Other Issues. There are many other disorders that Cindy treats, including weight loss and smoking cessation, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory conditions and more serious diseases such as auto-immune problems. You can find a full description of these here.
She even has a certification in acupuncture facial rejuvenation, which is a less costly, safe, comfortable, and a no-risk-of-disfigurement alternative to surgery. The benefits of Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture can be found here.
How Cindy’s Client Base is Evolving
Cindy points out that over the past 10 to 15 years, more people are aware that acupuncture and Chinese medicine are viable options for treatment, and have seen the success of these therapies. “People don’t want to get into the cycle that Western medicine so often starts.” Cindy described the cycle, “You begin to go from one doctor to another. The medications prescribed mainly mask a symptom and often cause side effects leading to other medications. Before long, a person is taking a list of medications—all the time filling the body with toxins. There is also an inclination with many doctors, to perform surgery and other invasive procedures, which can often be avoided. People just don’t want to start down that path. They would rather take steps to prevent problems and try natural approaches first – and that’s great.”
Cindy knows that as we get older, more illnesses can develop. That is why she is happy that she is seeing lots of patients in their 30s, to prevent health problems and treat issues early, before they get on lots of medications. They are more open to acupuncture and natural medicine than many older people are. She loves the opportunity to help them with their immediate problems, and help them live a longer, healthier, and more rewarding life.
A Special Offer in Appreciation of 12 Wonderful Years Here
Cindy told us, “Over the years that I have been a tenant, I have seen so many great changes to the neighborhood. Clients love coming to my office, because they can visit Eataly on the way, go to local restaurants, or sit in the park for a while. I love the building, too – and my fellow tenants, so many of whom have been patients over the past decade.”
And as a sign of her appreciation, Cindy is offering a complimentary consultation to Kew tenants and 10% reduction on the first treatment to tenants and clients referred by tenants.
Cindy E. Levitz Licensed Acupuncturist, PLLC 1123 Broadway at 25th Street, Suite 418 New York, NY 10010 (212) 924-8034
Finery is a great example of the type of innovative, bold, energetic spirit we see in so many Kew tenants.
Growing out of personal need, Finery is the brainchild of Whitney Casey and Brooklyn Decker. Faced with a real issue that they knew affected many women — assembling looks from their closets, they resourcefully found the app technologies to solve the problem. That wasn’t enough for them; they moved on to expand their product offering to allow users of the app to catalog their closet easily, get suggested combinations, and to find new clothes from retailers online to augment what they have.
Recently they gave us an insight into this exciting concept.
We use our smartphones for nearly everything these days—from ordering clothes to ordering takeout; from monitoring our body fat to monitoring our pets when we’re away; from adjusting our thermostats to chasing down little cartoon monsters in Central Park. It seems we should be able to use our phones to organize the messiest space in most people’s homes—the closet.
Now, there’s an app for that—Finery.
“Finery is a digital wardrobe,” explains Whitney Casey, one of the company’s co-founders. “We like to say it’s like your closet in your pocket.”
Create looks and styles from those items based on how others are wearing them;
Fill in styling gaps with recommendations and wish-list picks; and
Connect seamlessly with their favorite online sources to buy those new items.
How this Exciting Business was Born and Evolved
Whitney says the seed idea for the company came out of personal experience. “My best friend Brooklyn Decker and I used to send each other pretty much all of the items in our closets,” she says. “She would take a screenshot of something she just bought, and be like ‘Do you think I should wear this?’ And pretty soon, I started having so many images from her closet and she had so many from mine that we thought, ‘This is so crazy that we don’t have our closets on our phone. How is that possible?’ We both shop mainly online, so we looked into what kind of technologies exist that are not in this space but are used in other spaces.
“At the time, I was using an app called TripIt, which basically organizes all your travel plans in one place using your confirmation e-mails. So, we thought, if that could exist, then something like it could be made for retail.”
“After starting small, Finery evolved quickly over the next few years. “The look of it has completely changed,” Whitney says. “When we first had no money, Brooklyn and I were just drawing it ourselves, and we would have one graphic designer take what we were imagining and make it. After we raised some money, we hired a professional team and we built our team to 19 people. The functionality of the app is a lot better, too. At first, it took eight minutes to upload your closet. And now it takes 30 seconds. I imagine, will be even faster as we scale.”
“One of the greatest advantages of the company’s growth,” Whitney says, “is that we could move Finery out of the coworking space into our own permanent offices as a Kew tenant. “Once you make it out of a coworking space, you feel like a real company,” she says. “You have a real home, this is a real lease. We graduated. When you go to a coworking space, you try to have your brand-new company, but you’re really in their culture. It feels like our culture is here now. That’s what’s so cool about being here. We have our own little mini-fiefdom in here.”
Simplifying the Process of Cataloging Your Closet
While there are other fashion and wardrobe apps out there, Whitney says one of the key differentiators of Finery is the technology they developed to help users populate their digital closet in seconds using e-mail receipts, rather than painstakingly, entering one item at a time.
“It’s great to think of having your closet on your phone,” she says, “but if you have to take a picture of everything in your closet, and then write what it is, and where you got it, and what the price was, and what size it is, it is overwhelming. We knew there had to be a better solution.
Three years ago, we started working on this, and we got a patent on how we actually get the data into your closet via e-receipts and merging your store accounts. You sign up with Finery using whatever e-mail you shop with, and within 15 seconds, everything you’ve ever purchased online from that e-mail address gets populated into your closet. And you can add multiple e-mails.”
Helping You Choose Styles and Suggesting Additions to Better Use What You Have
Whitney points out that Finery not only manages your wardrobe, but it helps you make style choices using the clothes you own—a function that is set to expand greatly in the next few months with a new feature called “Unlimited Styling.”
“We basically took every feature that you would possibly use on a bunch of different products and put them into one,” she says. “So not only do we get all of your items into the digital closet, we also let you style them, and then we style them for you.
“The new product that we’re about to release, which is really cool, is Unlimited Styling. So, if I buy a sweater online, it immediately is put into my closet. I can use our styler to create outfits from it on myself. I can also see how influencers wear the sweater. But with Unlimited Styling, we will take this sweater and put it with all combinations in your closet and with items that you could potentially own or you could buy. It’s really great to be able to see this sweater and have unlimited ideas on how to wear it.”
How does the app “know” how to create styles at this level? Whitney says it’s a combination of human experience and an advanced algorithm.
“For the past three years, we’ve looked at 2.8 million outfits that were made by humans on our platform,” she says. We’ve been basically trying to figure out how you put items together, and what patterns go best together, and essentially, how women decide what to wear. One, we look at the weather. Two, we look at what are we doing that day. Three, we look at comfort. Four, we look at how we’re feeling that day. Figuring all that out at first seems daunting, but we spent all this time gathering that data from women using the platform. So, humans built it, and now an algorithm will take it and scale it.”
An Idea that Women Needed to Conceive and Make Happen
Whitney feels one of the best things about Finery is its universal appeal, especially for women on the go. “A lot of people think apps like this are for really fashionable people, but our drive was to build something that everyone can use,” she says. “Every woman gets dressed, and the average woman will spend eight years of her life shopping, and two years deciding what to wear. Two years! And that’s even if you don’t care that much. If you do care, it’s so much more. Your closet should be on your phone.”
Since the challenge of choosing what to wear is so universal, the question is why no one has utilized technology to solve the problem before now. “It’s most likely because there are hardly any women in tech,” Whitney surmises. “If you are a man in tech, chances are you don’t necessarily really care about your closet. So, it really takes that kind of magical moment where a woman, maybe who isn’t in tech, decides that there is a pain point and a problem that women really need solved, and then finds people who can solve it. And that’s what we did.
After ten years as CEO and Creative Director at Bunny Williams Home, Jennifer Potter and Audrey Margarite decided to take on a new venture in the home décor industry and founded their own company: Fête Home.
Just a few months after their October 2018 launch, we sat down with Jennifer and Audrey to learn more about Fête Home, what makes the company special, and where they hope to see it going moving forward.
You have been in the design and decor industry for a long time now—both of you were at Bunny Williams for at least ten years. What brought you to found your own company, and how has your time at Bunny Williams influenced your work at Fête Home?
Jennifer: Yes, we were there for over a decade. Audrey was Creative Director and I was CEO. We wore two different hats, but we shared a desk all that time. It was a pretty small team, so we did a multitude of things and worked together.
Bunny Williams Home was at a different price point; it was more of a luxury home brand, and we saw some whitespace in the market for really good design at reasonable prices. We have, as have most consumers, been influenced by the direct-to-consumer model.
We have developed relationships with factories and sources for the last decade. We knew that between the business and creative experience we gained, we could build something in the direct-to-consumer arena.
Audrey: We’re both mothers with young children. It is important to us to have nice things in our house, but it can’t be anything too precious. One of the things we really wanted to do was to make items that are dishwasher safe or can go in the laundry. We knew it was possible based on the factories that we worked with. So that was something that we very much wanted to bring to the forefront.
“Fête” means “celebration” in French—could you shed some light on why you chose that name and how it reflects your brand philosophy?
Audrey: Very basically, we feel that your home should bring you joy and there should be a reason to celebrate every day. That’s why we named our company Fête Home: so that people will realize they can invite people over anytime. It doesn’t have to be stressful. You can make every day a little celebration.
What else would you say makes Fête Home special?
Jennifer: We design and produce about 70 percent of the line right now, so you can’t find most of our items anywhere else. That is very important to us. We just resigned from our past jobs in May of last year, so that’s the reason why our line is not 100-percent designed and produced by us. We were trying to catch the holiday season, so there were a few categories that we had to fill in with other vendors that we know and respect.
We sell a lot of fabric by the yard, all of our table linens and textiles for pillows and throws are exclusive patterns to us. We’ve designed and produced those patterns exclusively.
Audrey: We are starting to do more and more custom work, too. For instance, right now we have three tablecloth patterns and two more in the works. If you don’t see a tablecloth that you like or you need one in a different size, we can custom-make one for you from one of the 30 different fabrics we produce. We can also do custom pillows, window treatments and more. You can just reach out to us about your idea, because we love to work on custom projects.
Audrey:: Another thing that makes us special is the frequency with which we’re going to introduce new products. We found the whole industry to be pretty slow. Often, they only introduce products once a year, sometimes twice a year. We want to make Fête Home more akin to fashion, where a new collection comes out seasonally.
Jennifer: Everyone is looking for the newest thing. You might love a brand, but if you keep going back and seeing the same thing, you’re going to lose interest. We want to offer something new with each collection we put out.
Who are you designing for? What is your main demographic?
Jennifer: We launched in October, so we’re still learning. We’ve been in this industry for a long time and that means we have a nice built-in fan base which has been really supportive. We assumed that our primary customer was going to be a woman; that’s proven for the most part to be true. I think the age range can be anywhere from 25 and up and our price points go from $20 up to $300, so it runs the gamut.
I think it often gets intimidating, when people think about accessorizing and styling their home, especially if they don’t have an interior design background. What we’re encouraging is that it doesn’t have to be intimidating. That’s what we’re really aimed towards.
We relate to being mothers and being on the go; not having time for ironing or taking meticulous care of accessories and tabletops. I think that goes for everyone who’s really busy, loves to have people over, and doesn’t want to freak out every time they do it. We also think about making things multi-purpose—items off your bookshelf to put in the middle of the table, versus worrying about fresh-cut flowers, or candles, or that kind of thing. Our target is really the busy person who appreciates being in a happy, fun home.
We’re finding other niches that we didn’t think were going to be part of the model but certainly are easy to do.
For example, we didn’t start Fête thinking of it as a gifts company, but we’re finding more and more that it certainly fills that void.
Also, interior designers have a hard time finding the final layer of a home: accessorizing and styling. They need to find things very quickly that aren’t readily available or everywhere on the market. We can definitely help with that.
And there are the prop stylists. We had a sample sale recently, which Kew helped us promote, and we found that there seem to be a lot of prop stylists in these two buildings, and we can certainly help in that market, too.
What would you say is the most enjoyable or rewarding part of your work and what is most difficult so far?
Jennifer: As I said, we’ve been doing this for a really long time, in terms of designing and producing, so we know what’s involved. We were a small team before, but now we’re a much smaller team—it’s just Audrey and myself. We’re each doing a million different things at any given time. So that’s definitely challenging, but seeing a product come to life is really amazing.
Audrey: Yes, seeing it come to life and then getting feedback from a customer. When somebody sends you a picture of something in her own home and says how much they love it – it makes it all worthwhile.
Have you noticed any trends in the industry? What have you noticed has changed over time, especially in terms of direct-to-consumer and social media developments?
Jennifer: Social media has obviously played an increasingly important role across the board, but especially in such a visual industry. A lot of sources had not been as easily visible because of various trade levels, and now, everyone can see everything. It’s a great thing for both the consumer and designer, because there are just so many options out there. It affects us as well, because the need for photography is so great, and you have to be able to show something in a million different ways. The hunger of the consumer has become a lot more intense.
Audrey: Piggybacking on that thought, I think there is a need to show our customer authenticity. Our customer really wants to see that. You can see we’re two women; we are the company. This is what we live and breathe, and we try to convey that to our customer through Instagram and with behind-the-scenes Instagram Stories. We want people to know who they’re buying from. It’s not the big machine; it’s a small business.
Where do you hope to see Fête Home going in the future?
Jennifer: Well, as Audrey said, we’re putting out several collections a year, so our primary focus is to grow the catalog and offer more and more to our audience. Again, we’re still figuring out exactly who our audience is. But, catalogue expansion is a major focus, and I think our custom business has really great potential, so we really want to grow that.
You mentioned you chose the St. James Building in part because of the design community. Were there other things about the building and the neighborhood that drew you to make this your new office home?
Jennifer: We definitely wanted something central in New York City. We loved the community feel, plus the size of the space was right. Of course, timing and availability were also important.
Audrey: The location is great to get to; it’s really easy. There are tons of designers in these two buildings, and even outside them, there are so many more designers just in the next few blocks, so it’s a real hub.
Fête Home works with designers and offers a trade discount and trade program, but they are also open to the whole community. It’s important to Jennifer and Audrey that you know that they’ll be in the office to help and they will be maintaining inventory in their office, so you can just stop by and pick something up. Fête Home serves regular customers, as well as designers, prop stylists, event planners, and will lend items out for photoshoots. Jennifer and Audrey welcome you to come by!
From its fifth-floor suite at 1133 Broadway, Susan Norget Film Promotion has had a hand in marketing and promoting some of the most notable and important films of our time. In fact, it’s safe to say that America’s familiarity with critically-acclaimed films like Blue Is the Warmest Color, American Honey, Searching for Sugarman, March of the Penguins, Melancholia and a host of others can be attributed—at least in part—to Susan Norget and her team.
Working mainly in the art house, foreign language, and documentary categories, Norget has promoted films for acclaimed documentary filmmakers such as Werner Herzog and Joshua Oppenheimer as well as known narrative writer/directors like Terrence Malick and Lars Von Trier, among many others. She has also seen films she promoted garner nearly two dozen Oscar nominations (winning four), six Golden Globe nominations (winning two), a dozen documentary Emmy nominations and awards, and dozens of film festival awards at Sundance and Cannes. One of her more recent projects, the Japanese film Shoplifters, won the prestigious Palme d’Or in Cannes and has been nominated this year for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Susan didn’t purposefully set out for a career in film promotion, but rather landed there naturally as a result of her strengths and interests.
“I studied film for many years,” she says, “but like a lot of people, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I really love talking about film, I love watching films, I love international film. . . A four-year stint with the Toronto International Film Festival prepared me for my current career track. I was often organizing screenings of the independent filmmakers work and trying to get the word out. And really what I do now isn’t so fundamentally different: it’s really about getting the word out.”
When she first founded Susan Norget Film Promotion as a boutique publicity and marketing agency, she primarily focused her interest on art house and foreign language films, and eventually documentary.
I think there was a period when documentaries were thought of, particularly by the broader public, as sort of “worthy,” like good medicine. They were educational, but they were never thought about as entertainment, being moving, or an emotional experience. A lot of Hollywood films seem cookie cutter, and “well, we’ve seen that story before,” I believe that documentary storytelling can really be some of the very best original storytelling.”
“Documentary has really hit a boom time mostly in the last 10 years,” Susan says. “I worked on a film called March of the Penguins many years ago, which was then a real anomaly in terms of big box office films because big box office and documentary didn’t go together. People like Michael Moore were able to kind of break through. Films came out that started opening people’s eyes a bit more, and in turn, because some of them were box office successes, it also made distributors more open. Some distributors that hadn’t even picked up a documentary film ten years ago suddenly realized there is an audience for them.”
Her Work Today
Nowadays, Susan’s firm handles promotion and publicity for a significant number of films each year, with a team ranging between two and four people, depending on the time of year and the work load.
Susan says. “I’m mostly doing the marketing side for filmmakers who don’t yet have distribution for their films. Once a film is picked up for distribution, then the distributing firm takes over the marketing of the film, whether it be posters, websites or the social media side of things. So, I often come in very early and work closely with filmmakers in terms of positioning the film: thinking about who the potential audience is, how best to get the message across, and what each individual film’s strengths and challenges are. Then, I come up with great stills, posters, websites, broadcast clips, grassroots outreach and other fun marketing ideas—in a nutshell, I establish the profile of the film.”
Susan finds a special satisfaction in helping guide first-time filmmakers through the promotion process. “What’s incredibly gratifying is when you start with a film at its first film festival, whether it’s Sundance, or Cannes, or Toronto. Maybe it’s a first film or it’s just the first time a filmmaker has ever even been to a film festival, and you really feel like you’re helping guide the way. So much of what I’m doing is really familiarizing the filmmakers with the independent film landscape, what they should expect of a film festival, encouraging them to do certain things, to participate in certain things, preparing them for Q & A’s, and for interviews with the press. A lot of it is like coaching.”
Changes in the Industry
Like so many other industries, Susan says the digital age has had a profound effect on the modern film industry, particularly when it comes to streaming media services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
“I would say it’s more challenging than ever for foreign language films at the box office these days,” she says. “I’ve noticed certainly in the last five years that it’s been much tougher. The films that break $1 million, for instance, which is a magic number in the foreign language and international film market, are very rare. It used to happen more often. I think there are a number of reasons, but certainly the fact that we do have so many more choices now, and that people are choosing to see more films at home play into this. That’s something that can be a little frustrating.”
Susan also sees the rise of social media as a mixed bag when it comes to how films are discovered, reviewed and curated today.
“On one hand, I do love the sort of democratization of it,” she says. “So many people have blogs and Twitter accounts, and they just want to express themselves. I love the fact that there’s just so much more dialogue online about film. It changes my approach to marketing because of social media and the idea of influencers. Setting up a social media campaign and working with various digital assets that you premiere at different times—whether it’s a little clip or it’s a trailer—are very important because so many people are on their devices just scrolling around film and entertainment sites.
“At the same time, film criticism as a viable profession is a real question mark these days in terms of a profession in which people can support themselves . . . where there once was a staff of three film writers, now there is maybe only one. This is true for websites, magazines, and papers. It’s obviously even more challenging for print media. They’re downsizing, and with many more films being released,—both in theaters and through streaming—these people are overwhelmed. Also, there’s much more pressure by the publishers or the “money people” in terms of page views. You know, you’re more likely to get a click if it’s a film that’s starring somebody big, or has a trendy topic. I feel economics is playing a larger role— and one outside my control to a large extent.
“That has changed my work in that I know they can only review so many films a week; so the foreign language films or those real special documentaries aren’t being reviewed to the same extent they once were. There’s less room for critical discovery, and, as a filmgoer, that makes me a bit sad. I appreciate the greater diversity of choices, in terms of how you see films, but as someone who deals with the media on a regular basis, it’s that much harder. I love a challenge, but sometimes you feel you’re working hard for diminishing press coverage.”
However, not all the news is bad from Susan’s perspective. “I think it’s wonderful that through digital platforms more people than ever have access to a lot of specialty films,” she says. “So, whether you’re living in Salt Lake City or Cleveland, or somewhere in Alaska, now you can see these films. New Yorkers are spoiled. We can go to the Film Forum, Metrograph, or New York Film Festival—there are so many different film festivals in NYC. However, in the past, if you were living in a smaller city or in an area that didn’t have an ‘art house’ cinema, you were able to see only mainstream films. The fact that many more people can see these films on digital platforms is a wonderful thing.”
Susan has some diverse projects on the horizon. She is about to do an Icelandic comedy in early March. A week after that, she is working on an Iranian film by one of the great international filmmakers, Jafar Panahi. She says, “It’s a really broad cross-section of films that represent foreign language, what you’d call sort of Auteur Cinema, as well as a lot of really great documentaries. One documentary that’s going to be world premiered at Sundance and is coming out at the end of March in theaters is a documentary about Steve Bannon, which we hope people will be talking about.”
“I take on these films because I love them. But it is also incredibly gratifying to know that you first worked with this filmmaker for the world premiere of the film at one of the many festivals, and then a year later, it’s nominated for an Oscar. Whoa! And, you know, there have been a number of awards, a number of film festivals and a theatrical release, and so on in between, and great reviews, standing ovations, and so on. There’s something about being part of that journey that’s incredibly rewarding, and that has happened with any number of films that I’ve been connected to.
Speaking of New York…
In moving from Canada, why did Susan wind up in New York to establish her film promotion firm, as opposed to Los Angeles? For Susan, it has as much to do with the New York vibe as the types of films she gravitates toward.
“It just happened to be a great place for my profession,’ she says. “It also just makes sense for so many reasons, not just because I love the city, but because of the distributors and filmmakers who are based in New York. While there’s certainly an independent community and independent distributors in L.A., there’s much more of an independent film industry here. It also makes much more sense as a sort of through-way for international film and filmmakers, whether it’s just about the distributors or the film festivals that are based here.”
Why set up shop in NoMad—and specifically, why the St. James Building? “I have a lot of clients and friends who work in the neighborhood,” Susan says. “I live in the West Village, so it’s nice that I can often walk to and from work. NoMad has a nice hustle-bustle too and great restaurants nearby. It’s also a nice midpoint between my home in the West Village and a lot of the places I need to go for work, such as the Film Society of Lincoln Center or MoMA, for meetings . . . it’s really well situated.
“As far as the building goes, I looked at a number of other places, but I liked the “vibe” as it were. I liked the fact that it was an older building that had character. The other thing I like about the building, and the neighborhood too, is that it is very ‘New York-y.’ I like the fact that it’s a nice mishmash of people from all different industries, and especially creatives.”
Susan Norget Film Promotion 1133 Broadway, Suite 536 New York, NY 10010 (212) 431-0090
What do Ashton Kutcher, Michael Bloomberg, Maria Bartiromo, Phyllis Diller, Elliot Spitzer, and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin have in common? They’re among the many cultural, business and political heavyweights whose portraits have been captured by virtuosic New York photographer David Lubarsky.
Over a career spanning more than three decades, David has seen and done it all— from portraits of the rich and famous to corporate and architectural photography. His photographs have appeared in such exalted publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Money, Forbes, Business Week, and Barron’s, among others. Today, operating from his studio and office at Suite 1404, 1133 Broadway, David is always in high demand. He says, “Most of my work today is for law and financial services firms. “Executive and environmental portraits, corporate lifestyle images for websites, annual reports, brochures and corporate collateral materials.”
Among the clients for whom David has worked are: Cravath Swaine & Moore, Sidley Austin, Jones Day, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Skadden Arps, Mercedes-Benz, Edelman Worldwide, NYU Langone Medical Center, Museum of Modern Art and New Museum of Contemporary Art. These represent a small fraction of an enormous list that attest to the quality of his work.
How does a seasoned pro like David flourish in the highly competitive photography field when anyone with an iPhone can claim to be a photographer? The answer: thorough preparation, persistence at getting every detail right, innovation and, perhaps most importantly, connecting with people.
Persistence and Innovation
Every photographic situation involves a challenge and some may seem insurmountable–but not for David. The reason is simple: he will not settle for second best no matter what it takes – leaning out over the edge of a building, jerry-rigging equipment, moving furniture or studying light patterns before the shot. His goal is never to just get a shot taken, it is to make each exposure noteworthy and finished to the highest professional standards.
Recently, David has completed several photoshoots for Kew Management, including photos for the company’s website. Richard Falk from Kew who worked with David on these assignments noted, “I have worked with renowned photographers for more than 40 years, and David is the most detailed-oriented photographer I have worked with, and the one with the keenest sense of composition and insight. He’s easy to work with, because he is committed and resourceful.”
Making a Personal Connection
David has a winning personality that puts people at their ease, but with years of experience he also has many ways of making the tensest sitter loosen up.
When David was preparing to photograph former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine for a magazine cover, he had allotted 30 minutes for the shoot. The governor (and former senator) not only arrived late but said gruffly that he’d only sit for five minutes. While powdering Corzine’s face, David said he admired legislation to repeal the death penalty that Corzine had sponsored. The governor immediately changed his tune. “You know about that?” Corzine asked, surprised. “Take as much time as you need!”
Similarly, when David was preparing to shoot a portrait of Robert Klein for A&E Network, the iconic comedian was not entirely enthusiastic. But David knew Klein had grown up in the same Bronx neighborhood as his parents and told the celebrity he had even been to the David Marcus Theater on Jerome Avenue, where Klein spent countless hours as a kid. “He was surprised and thrilled I knew about the old neighborhood theater, and his tone completely changed,” David recalls. “Klein then said, ‘I’m yours!’ The shoot went very well.”
The key is to “do your homework,” David says. “Take the time to find out what makes your subject tick–connect with people as people.” The results are clear in David’s portraits. Subjects look their best: relaxed & engaged.
His Drive has Led to Success in Photography and Life
David’s success is no chance occurrence. His indomitable spirit has resulted in great work for his clients and success for himself.
In the late 1970s, before he had even finished his fine arts degree in photography from the School of Visual Arts, he was taking on freelance assignments photographing works of art for museums and galleries. “As a new freelancer, I could apply my technical and aesthetic skills and still making a living, with the hope that some gallery owner would notice my work.”
Then he received a challenge that would have defeated others. “Within six weeks of opening my first studio, I had a brain hemorrhage. It’s called an AVM, an arteriovenous malformation.” David was one of the first AVM patients to receive microsurgery, and one of the few who actually survived without any lingering problems. But the health crisis forced him out of work for several months. “Fortunately, my clients stayed with me. I still had work when I came back.”
Finding New Business Models to Succeed
More determined than ever, he spent the next two years building up three new portfolios of work: An editorial/portrait/portfolio, an architectural interior/exterior portfolio and a public relations portfolio.
David recognized that by shooting editorial, the photographer owns the copyright for the one-time use in a magazine. Additionally, the subject of a portrait, or their company, often wants to purchase the rights to use the photo elsewhere, which provides an additional source of income for that image.
That’s what happened when David photographed Robert Rubin, then the chairman of Citicorp, for a magazine cover. A year after the shoot, Rubin’s staff wanted to use the image again for the cover of his upcoming book on his earlier time as treasury secretary in the Clinton Administration. By owning the copyright to the image, David could charge a licensing fee for each use. “Controlling the image’s use is a key factor in generating additional exposure & income,” he says. “Artists should never give away their copyrighted work.”
Meanwhile, many of the companies observed how David worked with the executives during the editorial shoots, so he started picking up assignments from them directly. “It was a great business model, and soon enough I had a collection of clients in the law and financial world.
Continuing to Meet Challenges
What bigger challenge has there been to the entire creative world than the digital revolution? It affected all art expression, but perhaps, none more so than photography. On one hand, there was so much new to learn, from the enhanced results produced from digital cameras to the innumerable details of how to size images, store them, send them to clients in online galleries, and alter them post-production. David, with his enthusiasm, sense of wonder and computer savvy, made all of these transitions easily. But the change also had an impact on his bottom line . . . at least temporarily.
David recalls, “When affordable digital cameras hit the market, some of my clients said, ‘Well, you know, we don’t really need your services anymore. We’re just going to hand the point-and-shoot digital camera to our IT guy to get the shots.’” “I said, ‘Please keep in mind that it’s not the camera that makes a good photograph, it’s the creative eye behind the camera.’ Within six months, those same firms came back, saying, ‘You know, you’re right, it’s not the camera.’”
Inspired by NoMad
In 2014, after 31 years at his 20th Street studio, David was forced to move when the building was sold and his rent quadrupled. That led him to the NoMad neighborhood, a move which he says has been both convenient and inspiring.
Madison Square Park has been the Mecca of modern photography. “Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen made those iconic pictures of the Flatiron building at the turn of the 20th Century; Steiglitz also founded the famous 291 Gallery and The Photo-Secession movement, which met in the neighborhood. For me, it’s a meaningful connection and an inspiring place.”
Beyond his commercial photography, David has always pursued his own fine art work.
Among his favorite subjects is his interest in “transit”-themed images. Some of the images from this study are in the permanent collections of the Museum of the City of New York and the New York City Transit Authority. You may have even seen them in subway ads. David’s transit photos also garnered him a one-man show. Awarded by MTA Arts for Transit (now called MTA Arts & Design) the show was entitled “InTransit” @ Grand Central Terminal’s 42nd Street East Passage, July 1992.
Soon after settling into his studio space in 1133, David found a new personal fine-arts project to pursue. “I had this beautiful view of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral from my fifth floor office, so I started shooting images every day–from various angles at different times and seasons, capturing the changes in lighting and weather,” he says. Then, in May 2015, the church was destroyed by fire which David continued to photograph the aftermath. “About a year and a half ago, I moved from the fifth floor to the 14th, on the same side of the building, so now I’m looking down at the church and photographing its reconstruction, a progression I hope to present in a book or show.”
As Always, Looking Forward
I’m incredibly fortunate to have an amazing partner, my wife Sarah, and I have two grown daughters who are gems, both married to artists, too. I continue to be excited by the challenge of my assignments and the thrill of so many new technological advances. It’s been a rewarding career, which I hope to enjoy for a long time to come.
When a project completed by an interior designer still holds up after a quarter of a century, you know you’re looking at a master artisan. Recently, Kew tenant Glenn Gissler was featured on Dering Hall’s website for an interior he did 25 years ago—an interior that looks as fresh and timeless today as when he completed it.
The featured interior was of a home in Westchester County, NY. Gissler successfully combined traditional and modern furnishings with vintage and early American pieces to create a look that is truly timeless. The clients were passionate art collectors, and Gissler interwove this aspect into his design as well, with works by artists such as Richard Serra, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Jean Dubuffet—and even an etching by Matisse.
Gissler, who keeps his offices at 1123 Broadway, holds degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts, and he draws from a diverse palette of inspiration ranging from the vintage to the contemporary—and even exotic—to evoke visual appeal while reflecting his clients’ aesthetic. His architectural background even enables him to design custom furniture pieces for specific projects and functions. His work has also been recognized on a national scale, as he has been named among the “100 Top Designers” in House Beautiful and New York Magazine.
Glenn Gissler is just one of several highly talented designers with offices at 1123 and 1133 Broadway, and the quality of their work has shaped NoMad into a designer destination in recent years.
We congratulate Glenn for his achievements and his recognition by Dering Hall, which is clearly well-deserved.
Anyone who has looked up symptoms online knows how easy it is to be overcome by the abundance of medical information at your fingertips. In fact, many people fall trap to “cyberchondria”, a term recognized in the science and health community, referring to increased anxiety caused by researching symptoms of diseases. K Health founder Allon Bloch characterizes this internet phenomenon as making everyone “two clicks away from cancer.”
K Health believes it has an answer to static symptom checking, with its new K app. K employees a huge database of real clinical data — 20+ years of data across one billion professional health interactions, including physician notes, lab results, treatments, and prescriptions. Using the “People Like Me” approach, it turns this massive amount of information into knowledge that is useful to the user based on their particular health profile. The key to formulating the information for each user is a proprietary methodology incorporating advanced machine learning that formulates the response based on each user’s health profile.
Unique to K among competitors, it can also provide same-day office appointments and remote consultations with physicians. In fact, K is now launching an easy way for its users to connect with a leading network of independent primary care providers throughout New York City. Local users can share their K report in a HIPPA-compliant manner with a provider through the app for a same-day visit or a free remote consultation.
The power of the new app has been recognized by the investment community. Only last month, Kew tenant K Health, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based primary care startup, announced $12.5 million financing from investors including Mangrove Capital Partners, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Primary Ventures Partners, the Box Group, Max Ventures, Bessemer Ventures, and Comcast Ventures.
Bloch makes it clear that K’s results are not designed to replace the advice of medical doctors, and he added that the team is working towards creating ways that prevent the misinterpretation of treatment suggestions.
K Health has already seen improvements in patient outcomes in markets where it has launched. In fact, the success and powerful capabilities of the app have been acknowledged by numerous publications including WSJ, Crain’s NY, Alley Watch, and Venture Beat. We are proud to have K Health as part of the Kew community and look forward to more exciting developments and their continued growth.
The best companies are always on the hunt for brilliant, talented individuals—but when they’re specifically looking for people in the creative space, many of these businesses look to BIANCHI&Co. Centrally located in NoMad at 1123 Broadway, this boutique firm has carved out a niche in the executive search and recruitment industry by connecting growing businesses with the perfectly matched exceptional creative talent they need.
“My job is to help companies evolve,” says Anthony Bianchi, the firm’s founder and CEO. “I’m known in the industry as someone who can effect change through finding the person who is the perfect fit to help take the client to the next level.”
A Newer Company, Backed by a Legacy of Success
While BIANCHI&Co. has existed only since 2015, Anthony himself is no newcomer to the industry. He’s spent more than 20 years focused on professional recruitment in the creative space and was a pioneer in e-commerce and digital marketing sectors. His client list is long and impressive, with names that include AT&T, The Gap, Microsoft, Ralph Lauren, Sephora, MTV, Calvin Klein, Estee Lauder, L’Oréal and others. It comes as no surprise that it has taken very little time for BIANCHI&Co. to build an established clientele.
“My clients are really a mix of a lot of retail brands, a lot of fashion and beauty clients,” says Anthony, “as well as other brands that aren’t retail per se but do value creative. The challenge is to truly understand how to evaluate talent, to match the caliber of someone’s creative work to the aesthetic that is appropriate for each of my clients.”
Forming a Niche Within a Competitive Industry
Specialization has definitely been a key to the firm’s success as BIANCHI has developed a solid reputation for finding creative talent quickly, making them a “go-to” company for specific types of skills. “I’ve been doing this for so long that I have a lot of relationships within the industries in which I work,” says Anthony. “I have a large and strong network of talent that I’ve nurtured over the years. So when we work on something, immediately we have people whom we know could be a perfect fit for our client.
“A lot of companies come to us looking to elevate the level of their creative work,” Anthony continued, “perhaps even to grow a discipline they did not have. One of the things I enjoy the most in my work is partnering with my clients on those kinds of challenges.”
Changing Technologies and the State of the Industry
Over the years, Anthony has seen the digital revolution cause huge changes within his industry, from online job searches/recruitment to the emergence of new types of creative roles. He sees these changes as largely positive, although they have certainly required an ability to adapt and re-think.
“I feel there is a stronger demand for search than ever,” he says. “However, there is a huge shift in the type of talent that companies are looking for. The move toward social media is greatly changing the way my clients engage with their customers. Instagram, especially, is especially where we’re seeing the biggest growth right now. Thus, many of my clients are specifically looking for talent who lean heavily toward social media skills.”
At Home in NoMad
Given the wealth of creative companies in the area, BIANCHI&Co. has found NoMad to be both convenient and strategic as a location for their offices. “My last office was located in a very nice area over in West Chelsea in the art gallery district,” says Anthony, “but it was just a little tougher for people to get over that far during the middle of their day. I like this location because it’s so central that it makes it easier for people to come into my office during their workday.”
Anthony says the overall aesthetic quality of 1123 Broadway is an asset too. “The building presents the firm nicely,” he says. “The fact that it’s a landmark building, that it’s kept up and preserved so well, and there’s so much respect for the history and the original architecture and design of this building, I think is really in line with my brand and the values that are important to me and my clients.”
If you’ve spent any time in public or commercial spaces in New York City, you’ve likely encountered the handiwork of Zero-In without realizing it. From the digital menus at Shake Shack to the interactive directory screens in a myriad of office buildings, the free guest wi-fi that has become standard in so many hotels and retail establishments, and even the directories in the Kew Lobbies—Zero-In has taken a leading role over the past decade in changing the way companies communicate digitally and the way consumers interact with their messages. The Zero-In client list ranges from international brands like Chase, Equinox and Macy’s all the way to the local concept eatery down the street. In many respects, Zero-In is a neighborhood company with a global reach—and as you’ll soon see, it’s a company harboring a deep affinity for NYC in general and NoMad in particular.
We spoke recently with company founder Mitchell Goss about Zero-In’s beginnings, the company’s emergence into the technology sector, and the various ways his business has set its roots deeply into the NoMad community.
Could you begin by telling us a little about Zero-In itself—what you do and what your company is about?
We’re a creative digital agency that focuses on the creation of digital experiences for the real world—basically what people experience when they’re inside retail or public spaces. That includes anything you see, what you hear, and even connected devices. Most of us here in New York are familiar with Times Square or the little displays you’ve seen inside the elevators, or the TV screens inside taxi cabs. We work within that industry—digital displays, interactive screens, iPads, the music you hear in retail spaces, the guest wi-fi that you connect to once you’re inside a store, transit system, or shopping center. It brings together technology from all different perspectives. I work with our clients’ marketing departments to build the experiences that people see and hear, but we’re also an IT services management company as well as an audio-visual house.
You probably have plenty of opportunity to create interactive experiences in this space.
Yes. For example, here at Kew, when you walk inside the Kew Building, one of the first things you see is an interactive directory. It’s a touch screen that you see where you can search for the tenant that you’re looking for. You can type Z-E-R-O, and Zero-In pops up, and you can see what floor we’re on. Very highly functional. Gets you the information you need right away.
But then we also do interactive wayfinding maps for clients like Brookfield Place downtown, where you walk up to a large screen, and if you’re trying to find Paul Smith, for example, it shows where the Paul Smith store is, it draws out the route on the map showing how to get there, and it may pop up promotions or offers. It takes a lot of hardware, software, and engineering and design to centrally manage the content across these types of complex systems
Where does the content come from for these displays? Do you help create the content, do you contract with third parties, or do your clients provide the information?
It’s all of the above. We have an in-house design team that helps our clients create the graphic content — the images, video and motion graphics and imagery that you see on the screens. Our clients can also create their own content and schedule it themselves, or they can send it to us to schedule for them. Typically, it’s a hybrid solution where we’re creating some of the content and scheduling it, and we give our clients the ability to make their own changes.
So what initially got you started in this industry? How did it begin for you?
In the early to mid-2000s when we started, we really went into business to be a media company. The first thing we did was install digital displays in New York City tourist locations. So the first version of the company—you could almost call it Zero-In 1.0—was a media company that installed displays in public places like the Empire State Building, South Street Seaport and ferry terminals. Where the tourists would be standing in line, we put in TVs and ran around selling advertising to all the hotels, Broadway shows, restaurants, museums, and all the other attractions around the city. We called it NYC Tourist TV, and that’s how we got into the business. Then about a decade ago, we got out of selling advertising as a business and really focused on being a technology provider. Now, we provide services to the ad industry, but we don’t sell the advertising ourselves.
What prompted that change for you?
I think, as a younger company, your focus changes sometimes. I think in the later 2000s, we realized that there was a very big opportunity when everything turned into cloud-based software, and everything was managed services. There was a huge demand for entities looking for these types of systems for their own in-house communication with their customers, members, or guests. So we kept getting requests by different verticals and organizations for this type of technology, and we realized that there was a really big opportunity for us to be a leading provider of these services from an agency and consulting perspective rather than just being in the advertising business.
Among your current clients or projects, do you have anything you’re particularly proud of?
We’re fortunate to operate throughout North America, pretty much all 50 states, many Canadian provinces—we have clients from Hawaii to Maine, Alaska and Florida—and now we are working more globally than ever before. But as you know, we’re in the Kew Building, we’re in the Flatiron Building, we’re part of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, we’re part of the NoMad Experience. We’re really proud to be New Yorkers and be part of the community and especially of NoMad and Madison Square Park. We love the fact that we can service New York City clients, and one of the really nice things about being where we are is that it’s almost like a showcase for our work.
So for example, we work with Equinox globally, but their headquarters is right down the street. Crunch gyms is a client that we work a lot with in their gyms throughout North America with interactive screens, and they’re right down the street. We have Shake Shack—as you know, the original Shake Shack is in the park right here, and we do their digital menu boards. We have other clients that are right here on Broadway, like Little Beet and Melt Shop. We’re about to launch a new project with End Pizza — they’re a growing popular brand with customized pizzas. We’re launching a project with Cava Grill in Bryant Park; we work with Raymour and Flannigan uptown; we do a substantial amount of work with Macy’s. The list goes on and on with just New York City-based organizations, and we’re proud to work with all of them.
It feels like you have been able to establish yourself sort of as a neighborhood business as well as an international company.
You know, I truly believe that there’s no place I’d rather have my business in the world than in New York City, and no place in New York City I’d rather be than NoMad.
How long have you been in NoMad?
Five or six years. And it just gets more fun and more exciting all the time. It’s vibrant, you have fantastic restaurants, you have a great network and community of like-minded individuals. I think it depends on the type of business you have, but if you’re media- and tech- related, this is a really fantastic place to be.
For over 120 years the office doors in 1123 and 1133 Broadway have opened to some of the city’s most interesting businesses. That is no less true today, and one of the most interesting is Pryor-Johnson Rare Books in 1123 Broadway.
When you step through the door of 517, you’re in for a wondrous experience: a welcoming space set up as part shop, part library, complete with comfy chairs, elegant antique furnishings and even a liquor cabinet—from which, depending on the time of day, the proprietors may offer a glass of whiskey or brandy.
And of course, there are the shelves and cabinets full of amazing books you won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re one of those people who imagine rare bookstores as dank, dusty places where you’re kindly advised not to touch anything, prepare to have your stereotypes shattered. Shop owner David Johnson and his associate Jonah Rosenberg are congenial hosts who invite guests to come in, sit down, relax, discuss fine works and peruse their collection of treasures—with supervision, but without apprehension. Delicate items are protected by mylar covers, and as Jonah points out, leather-bound books benefit from the oils on clean human hands.
“I think often what happens when people come in,” says Jonah, “is they say, ‘Oh, you know, these books are so lovely, but I’d be afraid to buy them because you can’t read them.’ And I just don’t think that’s true—you just have to reframe what you mean by read them. I have a book that I throw in my tote bag to read on the subway here. Then, there are books that live on my shelf, and I read them when a friend, who’d be interested, comes over; or if I just want to look at something lovely, I’ll pull those down and read them. I don’t think these books are sacred. We keep them behind glass because we have to dust them less. They can be used, and they want to be used.”
If you linger for more than a few minutes, you’re likely to get a tour, at which point Jonah or David (or both) will personally show you a few of the gallery’s most notable treasures—and be advised, their passion is contagious. In the hour or so we spent with them, we were shown (among many other items) first-edition autographed copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace; a first-edition copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, signed both by the author and by his friend Carl Solomon, to whom the poem was dedicated; and a copy of the Tragedies of Seneca, currently the gallery’s oldest book. Most remarkably, as Jonah reads the Latin inscription in the Tragedies of Seneca, it reveals the exact day on which printing was completed: “Printed in Venice in 1505 in the month of September on the seventh day,” says Jonah. “So we can celebrate the book’s birthday.”
David and Jonah point out that rare and old are not the same thing. Many factors may determine the rarity of a book, including its condition, its edition, irregularities, who signed it, who owned it, authentification of its history, and hundreds of other possible variables.
“It doesn’t just mean ‘old books’ because all of our books aren’t old,” says Jonah. “When you’re dealing with old books, the case [for rarity] makes itself. It’s been preserved, it’s original, it’s often in a very nice binding. But for modern books, what makes a book rare? It’s about distinguishing between the content and the individuality of the object, which is sometimes a difficult distinction to draw. But I think once people get it, they really get it. And to be able to hold the book that was in Allen Ginsburg’s hand when he signed it, in Carl Solomon’s hand when he also signed it, and to know that they were maybe together at some point or that this person [who owned the book] knew both of them is just really quite extraordinary.”
Pryor-Johnson’s Journey to 1123
Pryor-Johnson Rare Books essentially began as a personal passion of David Johnson, who emigrated from England in the early 1960s and initially began his career in the States as a telecommunications engineer.
“I started collecting examples of fine printing,” David explains. “I couldn’t afford much, so I started [collecting] printed ephemera, prospectuses for fine press [i.e., advertisements for soon-to-be-published works], and also English gardening books before 1800. It’s a keen hobby of mine, and of course, it escalated and bloomed until it became bibliomania.”
Even though he had been collecting and selling for years, David says he didn’t become a full-time bookseller until 2014, when he was offered space as a tenant in the back room of Crawford Doyle, a bookshop then situated on Madison Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets on the Upper East Side. After operating there for several years, David decided it would be best to move the shop away from street level, to the fifth-floor suite where the shop lives today.
“When we were up at Crawford Doyle, lovely as it was, it was open to the street,” Jonah explains. “We were a block from the Metropolitan Museum, so we got a lot of traffic, but it was generic traffic. [People] wandered around, and there was a sign that said, ‘More books this way,’ and they were going from an ordinary book shop where everything was $10 or $15, and then coming into our bookshop. They’d take a book off the shelf and say, ‘Oh my God, why is this $200?’ We weren’t in our target market. So our day-to-day work, which is cataloguing, was interrupted dozens of times a day. When we decided to move, we wanted to move to a closed space and not street-facing. The benefit of being here is that we have peace and quiet when we want it, but it’s accessible to anyone who wants to visit.”
Rare Books in an Internet World
Today, Pryor-Johnson Rare Books sits in the heart of NoMad, where visitors can drop in whenever the door is open. “Strictly speaking, our hours are by chance and by appointment,” says Jonah. “Even though we’re [usually] here Monday to Saturday, 11 to 6, often we’re off at a preview for an auction or looking at a collection or what have you.”
In an age where technology is changing the way so many industries do business, both David and Jonah admit the rare book business has been affected dramatically. Still, they have found ways to adapt, both to utilize the Internet for selling and to compensate for the challenges it presents.
“We only pretend to be luddites,” Jonah quips. “We sell online, we sell through our own website, we sell through AbeBooks, we have an Instagram. To my mind, the bigger effect is the generational gap of people who have never gotten into a bookshop. I think something David and I see very much eye to eye on is a sort of educational mandate. We need to educate our customer in a way that our predecessors perhaps didn’t have to. We have to explain to people, without judgment or condescension—we have this stuff; let us show you why it’s so cool. As sellers of a distinctly physical object, it’s about making the case to people that this is not equivalent to a PDF of the same thing.”
Pryor-Johnson Rare Books, NoMad and A Gilded Age Building
For David and Jonah, the decision to relocate the shop to NoMad last year was a natural choice for a number of reasons. “We’re surrounded by eight subway lines,” says Jonah. “The thing about this neighborhood is that because it’s younger and more creative than the Upper East Side, this is closer to our target demographic. We have the sort of people who have historically been book buyers. We have architects, psychologists, and writers — people who appreciate the printed matter of their field of interest.”
Aside from business reasons, the pair also acknowledge that moving to 1123 Broadway carries a strong sense of meaning, as much for the literary history of NoMad as for the building itself.
“One of the great private libraries, the Morgan Library, actually sits at the top of NoMad,” says Jonah. “This neighborhood is certainly a literary neighborhood. Lots of books take place here. Here’s a good example.” (He pulls out a book.) “Time and Again by Jack Finney. [The characters] are constantly walking through Madison Square Park, and they walk past our building. They walk past the Flatiron Building, they walk past the brand-new New York Life Building, that sort of thing. So this neighborhood is part of the literary heritage of New York in quite a serious way.
“Maybe it’s even too basic to mention,” he adds, “but when we sell old books, being in an older building, especially one such as this that has such character, you know, mosaic floors, the beautiful marble and cast-iron stairwells. It sort of sets us in context; we make sense in this building.”
Pryor-Johnson Rare Books 1123 Broadway, Suite 517 New York, NY 10010
Independent ad agency Terri & Sandy was founded in 2010 with one goal in mind: To provide a more personable take on the big-agency world. Stepping away from over 20 years of Madison Avenue experience, founders Terri Meyer and Sandy Greenberg have created a company dedicated to hard work and strong client relationships. Their years in the industry have prepped them with big agency rigor, but their approach to clients and staff offers a personal touch. The magenta walls and open floor plan of their NoMad office provide the perfect backdrop to positive company culture and teamwork.
“Clients say that when they walk in, they just think it feels really good in here,” says agency co-founder Terri Meyer. “People really like coming to work.”
The welcoming nature of the company’s image does not distract from their ability to deliver results. Recipient of Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year Award in 2017, Terri & Sandy went from $8 million to $13.6 million in revenue between 2015 and 2016, and about $19 million by the end of 2017. Their clients include names like Gerber, Disney, Peeps, Avon, and People, and their work has been featured on CNN, Conan, The View, Today, Fox News, Access Hollywood, and TBS Funniest Commercials. It is clear that while this woman-owned company keeps a staff of just under 50 employees, the scope of their accomplishments is anything but small.
Having teamed up early in their careers, Meyer and Greenberg had already experienced great success together before opening their own firm. The pair worked at different times with industry giants such as Mars, Kraft, Campbell’s, Nestlé, Oreo and Time, Inc., among others. But gradually they began to feel a lack of compatibility within the walls of the large company where they worked.
“Clients had been telling us for a long time that we should go off on our own,” Meyer says. “We sort of had an agency within an agency. We had our group, we had our businesses, and we had our clients.”
The final push to start their own company came during the recession, when Meyer and Goldberg felt they could no longer do right by their clients in their current situation. “There were so many politics in the big agency world,” says Meyer. “Some creative directors would just kill stuff because they could, not because there was a reason to.”
The result: Terri & Sandy was formed in 2010 on Terri’s living room couch. Since those early beginnings, the company staff has grown by nearly 500%, and eight years later, five of the original seven employees are still with the agency.
“Everybody takes pride in their piece of what they do,” Meyer says. “Cultures are created from the top, and I would have to say we don’t have any politics, which is a miracle.”
The key to Terri & Sandy’s success, Meyer believes, is in the relationships the agency has with clients. “Every client here today, with the exception of one,” she says, “came from a prior relationship. When you have mutual success with people, they know that they will have it again.”
This special relationship differs from big agencies, because Meyer and Greenberg are the final decision makers behind every advertisement the company creates. “One of our promises is when you buy Terri & Sandy, you get Terri & Sandy,” Meyer said. “We laugh because the president of a big agency may come by once a year to grab a ham sandwich at a meeting.”
However, don’t be deceived by the company’s small size; for being a relatively small fish in a huge ad-agency pond, this agency definitely knows how to make waves. Terri & Sandy’s creative teams are behind some of the most heartwarming and effective campaigns on television, radio, social media and print—from putting FreshPet on the map to revitalizing the iconic Gerber baby brand for the Millennial generation. When People magazine — struggling to reconnect with readers in a day of instant online communication — approached them, the team launched a social media campaign that exceeded every benchmark and turned the magazine’s sales around. And last June, when Terri & Sandy were tasked with shaking up Avon’s image, their hugely successful “Boss Life” campaign breathed new life into the brand with its message of women empowerment through entrepreneurship.
With its current clientele, Terri & Sandy chooses to focus only on projects that align with the firm’s collective mission and values. “Clearly everyone wants to make money,” Meyer says, “but it is not the bottom line. We say ‘no’ to things if we do not feel like they are right for us.”
While Terri & Sandy is incredibly busy meeting the needs of high paying clients, it is perhaps most proud of the social work it’s done such as that for “Strands for Trans,” a nonprofit initiative working to provide transgender people with a safe salon to get haircuts. “We met all of these trans people, and their stories were similar,” says Meyer. “There was no safe place to go. They never felt comfortable having anyone touch their hair.”
The agency partnered with JP Gomez of the famous men’s salon Barba to start the nationwide initiative. The campaign began with a video advertisement. “We did a video that was barber shop poles,” Meyer explained, “and it has a track going over it with all of these news stories about how trans people don’t feel comfortable. At the end, we change the colors of the barber shop pole to pink, blue and white – the colors of the trans flag.”
For Pride Week, Terri & Sandy came up with the idea to dye hair with the colors of the trans flag. “We did a video of all the people with their hair dyed to show support,” Meyer said. “Marc Jacobs, the fashion designer, got involved. He came in to get his hair colored, and he did a video. We got so much press.”
Since the campaign, over 150 salons across the nation have signed on to Strands for Trans and have placed a sticker in their window, letting transgender clients know they have found a safe place. “We have five more states to go, and we will have the whole country,” Meyer said. “So many people donated their time, which is the most meaningful thing.”
The Future of Independent Agencies
While Terri & Sandy may be working with a smaller staff than the big firms on Madison Avenue, its successful track record and returning clientele demonstrate that the future of advertising may very well lie within independent agencies.
“I think people are getting sick of being in the big agency world,” Meyer said. “Employees are not treated well, and clients are sick of not getting personal attention. We have pitched against the best agencies in the world and won — sometimes twice.”
Founded in 2003, Open House New York (OHNY) is a nonprofit civic organization dedicated to connecting the public with New York City’s rich architectural heritage through a variety of events and programs. The organization’s biggest annual event, Open House New York Weekend, opens the door for architecture enthusiasts around the world to explore buildings usually closed off to the public. Originally inspired by the very first Open House organization in London, organization founder Scott Lauer began OHNY when he realized how easily Open House Weekend could be replicated in New York. Since then, Open House organizations have spread rapidly through metropolitan cities across the globe. Besides Open House Weekend, OHNY puts on additional programs throughout the year, including educational sessions on urban systems and a city-wide scavenger hunt. The overarching goal of these programs is to educate the public about the importance role architecture and design play in the shaping of a city, and particularly how our relationship to these elements have helped shape NYC into a vibrant place to live, work and learn.
We sat down to talk with Gregory Wessner, the Executive Director of OHNY, about his organization’s programming, the importance of understanding the built city and the future of architecture in NYC.
What did the early days of this organization look like?
I wasn’t here at that time, so I’m speaking second-hand, but the planning for the first Open House Weekend, which was inspired by an event that happens every year in London, took place the summer before 9/11. I think a key point about the development of Open House New York was that the planning really happened in the months and years after September 11th. The first weekend event was in 2003. New York at that time was a city of security and lockdown and very closed off. Open House weekend was a reminder of the value of openness and access and giving the public and New Yorkers access to the city. It was an important event specifically to New York at that time—different than London, which was just celebrating architecture and buildings. For New York, it was a real reminder about the deeper meaning of being in a city.
Was New York picked to be the second city?
It wasn’t picked. In every city that has happened since, it is initiated from within the city. London started the initiative, and there was no intention of it ever going anywhere but London. There was a woman in London that had the idea and started the event, but there was a guy named Scott Lauer who is an American living and working in London that volunteered for Open House London. He moved back to New York in the summer of 2001. He went to a bunch of organizations and said, “There is this great event that happens every year in London, and we should do something like that in New York.” All of those organizations said, “Yes, this is a great event, you should do it.” And so, he started the planning, and that is how it happened. I think once people around the world saw that the idea could happen somewhere else and that the model of a one-weekend-a-year event could be exported, New York became an example of “Oh, we could do that too.”
How does OHNY work with other branches around the world?
Every city is completely independent. There is a shared set of values and we occasionally communicate and trade horror stories and support for one another, but there is no formal relationship.
What does the OHNY staff and board look like today?
Everyone associated with Open House loves New York. There is a real passion for the city. A lot of the people have a background in either architecture or urban studies or some kind of related field. Our staff is small; we are only four people, but we have a board of 22 people. It is a mix of architects and developers and other cultural figures. The board’s role is to provide guidance and long term vision as well as general fundraising and oversight.
Why does OHNY believe it is important for someone not involved with architecture as a career to know about architecture in New York?
We don’t have a choice—we exist in a built city. We live in homes, we go to work in offices or in factories or in schools. Every aspect of our daily life is shaped by the built environment. It is something that none of us can escape. We all share it together. Whether the city functions well or poorly, it’s really the responsibility of all of us to pay attention and advocate for better design and better facilities. The more each of us know about how a city is made, the better off we all are.
Tell us about your recent Urban Systems series of events. How do these help your mission?
I think when people talk about architecture, they think of grand and beautiful buildings. What we are really interested in is looking at architecture in its broadest sense, which is the constructed city. A lot of construction comes from places that support our lives day-to-day, like manufacturing facilities that create jobs or provide products that we use, or our food system. We have to feed 8.5 million, as [well as] millions of people that are visiting on a daily basis. All of that food has to be managed and produced and consumed and distributed. That requires space. The urban systems series is really looking at aspects of the city that may escape our attention because they aren’t the beautiful buildings we think of when we think about Capital A architecture. They are, in many ways, more important. They provide jobs and provide sustenance.
Would you walk us through what we would experience at an OHNY weekend?
Everyone has a different approach to our weekends. Depending on your interests, there really is something for everybody. It really depends on what your individual interests are, and how much stamina you have. You can spend two full days going around all five boroughs and seeing as much as you can handle. Generally, I think what is really wonderful about it is that it gets people out to see parts of the city that they have never seen before.
How do you solicit support?
Like all non-profits, every year is a scrambling to put together our funding from lots of different sources. We have a pretty diverse funding stream that includes public support from the federal, state, and city governments. If you put those three together, that would be our single largest supporter. We do special events and fundraising benefits for which hundreds of New Yorkers buy tickets. This represents another major portion of our funds. There are individuals who love New York and believe in our mission who will support us with private donations.
Is there a favorite part of New York for you?
I don’t know that there is a favorite part. I love those moments of going someplace new and thinking “I can’t believe I am still in New York City”. We did a tour of Dead Horse Bay, which is part of Gateway National Recreation Area. It is a former landfill that is sort of failing. The garbage is spilling out. If you did not pay attention to the garbage that was all over the beach, you might have thought you were on Long Island Sound or in the Hamptons. If you turned around, you saw the skyline in the distance. I love those moments when one can see the contrast between Midtown Manhattan and somewhere else. More conventionally, I love all of New York’s parks: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hudson River Park, Central Park, and Madison Square Park. Having places where you can get a break from street life is really wonderful.
Do you have a favorite building?
I am a huge fan of contemporary architecture. I love all of the new buildings that have been going up. It gives the city energy, and it defines this moment in time so that, 100 years from now, future New Yorkers will look back and remember what we left for them.
What advice would you give to someone interested in architecture?
Come to Open House New York. If you have an interest in architecture, urban planning, urban design, or New York, one of the most important things is getting the experience of architecture. A lot of people will read books and magazines and go to lectures, but architecture is a 3-dimensional art form, and one really needs to experience it.