By the time the day rolled around to head to Noho and meet with Luke Harwood at his New York coffee spot, I was feeling like a bit of a map reading, subway riding pro. I stomped around the streets of Soho ticking off all the stores I had promised myself I would check out then wandered the couple of blocks north to Bond Street and Happy Bones NYC. I managed to walk past the sandwich board outside twice (duh!) before realising that I needed to walk through a boutique eye-ware store to discover the high ceilings and large, brick clad spot that I was looking for.
Typical of these antipodean endeavours, a talented barista from the homeland was brusquely churning out coffee after coffee. It turns out that Patrick had been making coffees at Luke’s favourite Ponsonby Road café in Auckland and was subsequently head hunted to be part of the stateside adventure. Arriving a little early I had time to take in the space while waiting for Luke. To me it was awesomely “New York-esque”. Industrial, sparsely furnished and a bit of a local’s hideaway. Both tables had people propped around them locked in conversation or their laptops. Two backlit bookshelves held a wide array of edgy design led magazines and books while a large photographic print of two young Maori boys by kiwi expat photographer; Maya Villiger took pride of place behind the counter. There was a small selection of delicious looking pastries and baking in the cabinet and Patrick was just a blur buzzing between coffee machine and the tables.
Luke arrived and we took a seat on a low bench at the back of the room. Totally laid back and friendly as you only hope the kiwis you meet overseas will be, he let me question away.
He is one of the three founding directors of hugely successful NZ fashion label Stolen Girlfriends Club and has put his savvy marketing and branding skills to work with some other prominent kiwi brands. In 2010 Luke and his wife Gabrielle upgraded city size from Auckland to New York and Gabrielle now has a position many fashion hungry designers would kill for at an internationally renowned magazine. Meanwhile, looking to find a local project while still very much on the clock for Stolen Girlfriends Club, Luke struck up a friendship with (AMAZING) artist Jason Woodside and a concept for a small “hole in the wall” selling top notch coffee was born. Something that Americans as a whole are starved of!
As the process of networking for spaces began, they met the owner of Selima Optique on Bond St. who offered them the under-utilised space behind her shop. This was a giant leap in size from their original idea but the surrounding streets filled with creative agencies and studios put them on the doorstep of likeminded customers. The space is now very much used as an out of office meeting spot and general bolt hole for the local creative. The size also allowed them to indulge their passion for art based and alternative publications, again adding to the creative vibe of the place.
When I visited Happy Bones NYC was just 1 month old but all I saw were customers strolling in, ordering their coffees and chatting with Patrick as though this had been their coffee haunt for years. This can all be put down to Luke and Jason recognising the needs of their own kind in the midst of a massive city full of choice. All Kiwis and Aussies adventuring in NYC should be reassured that their flat white withdrawal doesn’t need to be so brutal with Happy Bones now open.
LUKE + NYC 101
Lives : Noho, Manhattan with wife Gabrielle
What he loves the most about NYC:
– the business opportunities
– people are so receptive and positive to new ideas
– the food!
What he miss’s most about NZ:
-ease of being in own country
Favourite NYC haunts:
– Army surplus stores
– Vintage stores
– Takahachi, East Village
– Taking the train upstate to Maine and the Catskills
What I learnt from Luke:
Keep it simple and focus on quality. Create something that you love and like-minded customers will follow.