LOCAL PROFILES: David Steingard (Laughing Man) 9.11.17
We here at Life Below Canal would be remiss in diving into a post on September 11th without acknowledging the events of this day 16 years ago. Our thoughts are, as always, with those impacted and we are proud to see how far our community below Canal Street (and throughout New York City) has come since then. It is always important to remember how our community came together 16 years ago to support each other; so, in that spirit we are highlighting a local business below Canal today.
Tell us a bit about Laughing Man...
Laughing Man Coffee was started in 2009 by Hugh Jackman and myself. Hugh had been supporting a development project in Kochere, Ethiopia and my family had been in the coffee business in the early 70's. We had been family friends for a while and when we casually mentioned that were were getting back into coffee Hugh said he wanted to partner up and create a brand about, not only the love of coffee, but the love for coffee farmers as well as a way to give back to them. The Laughing Man name evokes the unity that is created in laughter and joy. The more we realize how connected we are all, the more we will naturally care for each other. Our motto is ALL BE HAPPY! which comes from an ancient sanskrit prayer....May all be happy, May all be free of disease, May all have well being and none suffer misery of any kind.
Why did you choose to open in Battery Park and in Tribeca?
I was born and raised in Tribeca and live there today, with my wife and kids. So I love the area and the history. Duane Street is the most beautiful blocks in the city, it's hard to believe you are in Manhattan. So bringing the coffee, the message and joining and creating a sense of community seemed like a natural fit.
What should locals know about you and the business?
Practically speaking they should know that even if it looks busy (the space is small) the line moves really fast. We pride ourselves on customer service, being fast, friendly and happy. We are a non-attitude zone. Our feeling is we don't want to be the sticking point in your day, those will come. We want to be a positive moment for you. Our signature drink is a Flat White. We were one of (if not the first) to have it in NYC and it's gooooood. We also have a Honey Lavender Latte which people are going crazy for. We like to have fun with the menu and try and raise the quality level. For example our apple cider is pure, natural apple puree and our Clove and our Pumpkin Latte is what happens when a pumpkin latte grows up. We also have a killer new hot chocolate coming up. As far as me, well I love what I do. I work the cafe every morning and really enjoy working with the staff. I love what we stand for and making the customers happy.
How has the neighborhood (Tribeca & Battery Park) impacted the business?
The neighborhood has grown and traffic has grown. We now see many more families, which we cater to very well. The area is as small town as you can get in the city. Everyone knows each other and my baristas become close with our customers. It's pretty funny, when people bring them gifts or invite them to their wedding. Where else do you see that?! We have about 95% regulars that most of the time their drink is already being made when we see them at the door. It's pretty cool to experience that every day.
What makes Laughing Man different?
We don't do anything because that's the way it has been done or just because it is easier. Is it better for the customer? That is the only question. Our giveback to farmers is special, Hugh's involvement is special and the coffee is great. But there is an X factor which you can't quantify, in the same way when you visit a wonder of the world there is a special vibe. I think that is what makes us really different. People can talk about customer service and ALL BE HAPPY etc. but really it has to be in you in some way. And our staff creates that vibe which I think people respond to. Who doesn't want things to be easy, happy and delicious.
What are your plans for Laughing Man in the coming months?
We will be have some great announcements coming up soon. It's hush hush at the moment but they will be cool!
Do you live below Canal Street? What are your favorite spots in the neighborhood (aside from yours!)?
I’ve lived here my whole life. I'm not huge night owl and not that cool, so my favorites should not be taken as gospel. However, I am really liking the Bennet right now, great vibe and nice staff. I always worry something will be pretentious, which I hate, but I think those guys struck a great tone. Can't go wrong with the Odeon, sitting at the bar with steak frites. Cyrk has really great pizza. Puffy's is doing sandwiches that are great. We need an ice cream shop!