Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Saturdays Surf Shop Soho

Saturdays Surf Shop Coffee Bar
(or A Few Surfers Opened A Coffee Shop in Soho)

Are surfers haters? It's a pretty honest question. A question that has some obvious answers. I guess. Today Antonio and I met Mastic Mike (aka Mike Troast) on Crosby to check out the newest addition to the surfing quasi surfing pseudo surfing constellation of New York: Saturdays Surf Shop. The notion that opening a coffee bar slash surf shop located in the beating heart of fashion and commerce in Soho easily smacks of the sort of wannabe cash-in worst of what surfing has to endure these days. With every third commercial between NFL games starring a big, peeling right hander (flopped left) with a hemorrhoid cream logo spinning out of the pit, surfing has certainly hit its cultural accessibility like never before. So it was with more than a little skepticism that we wrestled ourselves from our hard work, trudging down from our television commercial editing office two blocks away for our afternoon cup.
Oddly, the first thing we heard walking through the door, just over the din of the whirring espresso engine, was someone saying "I'm going out now, I'll let you know how it is."Admittedly, an ok sign. A hipster surf coffee bar selling canvas and leather travel accessories and boasting a stack of fashion magazines on the bench with people hanging around who actually surf. Or at least make it out to the beach on a Wednesday afternoon in New York City. Or at least say they do. We met Josh, one of the owners, and he was helpful in giving us the smallest tour possible. Which was really the only tour the place can hold. A long, slender rectangle starts as a rough hewn coffee bar, opens into a little room with a few trunks, a handful of wetsuits and the aforementioned snappy bags, letting out onto a well-crafted back patio filled with Soho-looking types replete in tight jeans, new shoes, haircuts and see-through blouses. Exactly the sort of set up you'd expect from a Soho coffee bar slash surf shop. And really, that's where the sticky part comes in. It's that gnawing sense of holier-than-thou starting to creep in. It moves up the back of your neck, makes your scalp get all itchy and starts playing evil thoughts on the crusty player piano in the worst parts of your noggin. You start to think words like "poseurs" and "kooks" and "Hollister." It washes over you, scratching at your insides and making you visibly smaller. Because these guys are guys with a clientele. These guys are selling coffee and wetsuits and surfboards to people in Soho.
It just makes you sick.
And that's ridiculous.
The coffee wasn't bad. It isn't the very best in the neighborhood, but it wasn't bad either. I mean, it was pretty good. And once we were in there, we fell directly into the sort of surf small talk you'd hope for when taking a break from the office in the middle of the Manhattan work week. And the benches are comfortable, and there's a nice place to sit out back. Sure, the guy behind the counter sports a presentation style I'd shy away from, but that doesn't mean a thing. He probably thought we looked pretty beat. And there it is. You see someone out in the water having a good time, letting other people have a good time, and you don't know what they're all about. You don't know they opened up a surf coffee bar in Soho. You just know that he didn't snake you on that last wave. Mike pointed out that there would probably be some haters of this sort of place. It's pretty easy to imagine that. But I think he also pointed out that they probably don't work in a dark office a few blocks away, and the opportunity to slip out to a spot that has just enough stoke can do just the trick. Antonio pointed out that if you are going to open a shop in New York, especially this part of New York, you'd better get it right or you're sunk. That's for sure. It's pretty certain there's no way to be a viable business in this neighborhood if your shit doesn't look slick. So the place works. It works here, and that's where it's supposed to work. Anyhow, the little player piano has stopped. There's a new nice place to sit and have a cup of coffee down the street where the vibe is really good.


Noah said...

Good review. I was skeptical of this place but decided to shake off my crumudgeonliness and have a look for myself. And, im glad i did. The coffee was good and it is a great place to share your frustration at being at work during swell events.

timothyliles said...

really nice review.

Mr. Lentini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nice deletion.

rebeccajane said...

What an exceptionally great and thoughtful review!

And it is quite an interesting point - the haters angle. I just reckon that there is so much hype and co-opting of the 'surfing' image that it does breed large helpings of sceptism from people who surf. And anyway, the surfers I know often look least like the commodified image of surfing anyway - they're all gangly limbed, open-minded, small-car driving, hard-working, tea-drinking nerds. (Sorry y'all, but let's face it - you are!)

And that's what I like about this blog and your perspectives - you find surfing in places where people who don't surf wouldn't. And you find it in those places because it means so much to you and is an important part of your life. So when you find people trying to cash in on something you love - something that means something to you - then it niggles. Does that make any sense? I do hope so because I meant it as a MASSIVE compliment.

And thanks again for the great review - it's the first thing that has inspired me in AGES!

(and sorry for the over long comment)