LUMINE UNVEILS NEW UBER DESTINATIONS AT NEWOMAN
(The article was published in the WWD.COM on 6 June,2016)
NEWoMan building Lumine's most recent completed complex at Shinjuku Station Tokyo is manifestation of a years long international research and development initiative. Not just content to meet Japanese consumer’s expectations and needs of world renown savvy and sophistication; Lumine has successfully elevated the concept, shopping as lifestyle experience, by exploring opportunities outside institutional global brands. Discovering a chocolatier from Antwerp Belgium, a coffee brewer from Oakland California, a pizzeria from Los Angeles California, an oyster bar from Singapore and a local café in New York’s west village, Lumine has curated an artisanal grouping of the worlds’ most authentic and innovative food and beverage brands complementing Lumine’s already unique grouping of retail partners. One such find is Rosemary’s, the much frequented west village restaurant, bar and general social destination for many of New York’s discerning consumers, imbibers and networkers.
Carlos Suarez founder of CASA NELA, the rapidly expanding restaurant group currently counting Bobo, Claudette, and the aforementioned Rosemary’s amongst its lineup recently sat down with me to discuss his latest project in Japan along with his beginnings in the restaurant industry. The following is an edit of our conversation on an early spring weekday afternoon at Rosemary’s:
Joshua Safalow: Before we discuss your latest projects please tell me how you started in the restaurant industry and bit more of your own background.
Carlos Suarez: My initial thinking after attending U Penn’s Wharton business school would be that I would work in finance for some years, save money and open a restaurant; but my first job out of school at a hedge fund didn’t last more than one year. I was frustrated with my boss and my boss no doubt equally frustrated with me. I realized soon that the hedge fund culture just did not agree with me.
JS: Better to know early what isn’t working on a personal level when career is concerned, what did you do when you left the finance world?
CS: I had an honest conversation with my Cuban father whose family’s ancestors had a sugar cane plantation founded in 1908 (CASA NELA is named so after Suarez’s Great Grandmother), who reminded me of our family’s history in community building. The family farm was self -sufficient unto itself with its own café, church, hospital and school. He told me, “why not start on your passion now”; “you’ve always enjoyed hosting friends at your home”. I decided then to get a job at a restaurant in New York.
JS: How topically relevant given all the attention Cuba has been getting, without getting off course I would love to know if you are doing anything at the restaurant that speaks to your history? Right, so where did you find your first restaurant work and how did come to open Bobo your first restaurant?
CS: We are working on a Cuban focused concept, but more on that later. My first job was as reservationist at Blue Fin in midtown around 2003-4. It was real machine of an organization, 400 seats, big pre theater push, tons of table turns. It was an intense and eye opening education to the industry. After some time I worked up to Floor Manager learning new skills and making relationships along the way. I began looking for a location for what would become Bobo and after looking for two years; I found a building that at west 10th and 7th avenue used to be John Clancy’s restaurant. When I signed the lease it was juice bar, years before the juice industry had gained any traction. Bobo opened in 2007 just after about a year of renovations, nearly three years after I had begun my search.
JS: Bobo is a romantic and sexy room it has been very consistent for me over the years (laughs). How then did Rosemary’s come about and your roof top farm?
CS: Knowing that was THE corner in neighborhood we undertook one year and a half of renovations to bring forth Rosemary’s, a restaurant we endeavored to cover our mission statement, “all occasions and every occasion”. Opening all the windows along 10th street and Greenwich Ave with glass garage doors created a space that was an immediate focal point in the area. Enhance the premise by allocating a roof top farm, not nearly enough to serve the restaurants’ daily needs but demonstrating the viability of urban agriculture.
JS: Sounds like you really have an ecosystem in mind for your brand. How did Lumine the Japanese real estate company find Rosemary’s?
CS: Lumine was in the midst of building their new building NEWoMan in Tokyo at Shinjuku Station and while at the time unknown to me this new building was to have a roof top farm and we discussed we too have a roof top farm. Whether coincidence or not Lumine had hired a local Japanese agency to scout New York for viable new tenants to their building. Lumine I have come to know is focused on introducing new brands, shops and restaurants to Japan. Our initial meeting with their agency was intriguing, but I knew new for sure I was not going to operate a new Rosemary’s Tokyo location without a local operator. Lumine then introduced CAFÉ Company (acronym: Community Access For Everyone) a local client of Lumine’s currently operating over eighty restaurants of various themes and formats in Japan. Our introduction to this operator and our subsequent meetings went extremely smoothly and we felt confident that we had good partner to launch Rosemary’s Japan.
JS: Urban Agriculture is not just a New York theme, sounds like a great synergy between your projects here and Lumine’s direction in Tokyo. How has the recent been received so far? I realize its only two weeks old or so.
CS: Rosemary’s at NEWoMan building in Shinjuku is on the 6th floor the only tenant on the floor which at first we were a bit nervous about. But, with 70 seats indoors and 30 more on the terrace just facing the roof top farm there has been one and a half hour wait for both lunch and dinner each day since our opening. Each time I have been over since the opening I ask the managers, “can we give these people some drinks while they’re waiting?” Apparently, there are some differences between the two Rosemary; people in New York would never wait that long without a drink or two to bide the time. (Laughs)
JS: Yes I have been to Tokyo and the two cities have really divergent expectations when it comes to managing a wait. (Laughs) Are there any modifications to the menu at Rosemary’s Tokyo?
CS: Not terribly, more seafood naturally given the populace preferences we added a Tuna Crudo and while not seafood the Pork Sausage and Mixed Grill is very popular in these early days of operations. Also dessert is a very strong category, more so than here; that is a bit of a surprise. Our chef has made several trips to Tokyo to train the kitchen there so we expect a fair amount of similarities at the two locations from a meal’s standpoint.
JS: Thank you for your time and see you soon.