When we sat down to chat with Patrick Janelle and Amy Virginia Buchanan, creators of Spring Street Social Society, we realized what we had in common was a passion for great hospitality. It’s something we talk about at Heyday perhaps as much as exfoliants and extractions.
The generic definition of hospitality is ‘the relationship between a guest and a host.’ To us, it’s about people interacting with people. It’s about making people feel genuinely welcomed and cared for in a new setting. It’s about choreographing and managing someone’s first experience with something. It’s the difference between nice and kind. And as hospitality king, Danny Meyer, of Gramercy Park and Shake Shack fame, so eloquently put it in his book "Setting The Table":
“Hospitality exists when you believe that the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all.”
So, tell us a little about the Spring Street Social Society. What is it and what did you set out to achieve with it? Presently, we are a social club with a membership of 350 members. As we do not have a physical home, we meet regularly, once to twice a month, a curated series of gatherings ranging from cabarets to coursed dinners, speakeasies to salons, and even occasionally taking over a bar or a restaurant. This is not what we set out to do, however. Spring Street Social Society began as a one-time-only NoLita backyard cabaret that received such positive response that we decided to continue putting on shows. The growth has been completely fluid and organic over the past four years, taking on whatever opportunities came our way, fit within our mission, and matched our integrity.
Sounds like you tap a lot of talents to put things together. Who do you collaborate with? An incredible team of artists. We work with calligraphers, chefs, storytellers, musicians, florists, stylists, installation artists, mixologists, sommeliers, dancers, clowns, jugglers, graphic designers, illustrators, and many more. Each event is unique and requires a different team of collaborators. The most exciting part is discovering what’s in store as it develops.
We’re always fascinated by our Heyday members and their stories. Who are your members? They’re the most wonderful spectrum of people from across New York, Los Angeles, and beyond. As we, along with our membership advisory board, comb through the applications, our first question we ask ourselves is “Would I like to sit next to this person for a 2 to 3 hour long dinner?” Members are curious, eager, and adventurous, considering that no one knows what the event (each of which is set in a secret location, revealed the morning of the gathering) will entail until it unfolds. Members are chic and funny, interesting and interested. Most of all, they have a lot to bring to the table, whether it’s their career (tech, finance, editorial, design, media, etc), or one of their many passions.
We talked about hospitality earlier. How do you define it? Creating an environment in which everyone feels welcome, both immediately and throughout the entire experience. Attention to detail, but also an insistence on all elements being well-curated, thoughtful, and serving a purpose for the enhancement of the event.
You’re in the business of making people feel comfortable in unfamiliar spaces. What’s your key to doing that? A major piece is choosing spaces that on their own feel inspirational, which make guests feel special for even getting to enter. We don’t do too much to mask imperfections, but instead work to enhance the character of the space and building upon the magic that’s already there. For example, maybe it’s a raw retail space inside of Penn Station that we have filled with 25 tons of sand, along with palms and twinkling lights. When you enter, you get a drink and a pair of Soludos espadrilles to maneuver the beachy terrain. That way, the wires hanging from the ceiling and the papered windows don’t bother you so much. Instead, they become part of the experience. The feeling of hacking a city.
What’s your most memorably positive hospitality experience? What was so stand-out about it? Amy: Just recently. My mother was in town, so I took her to Untitled, the restaurant at the Whitney. I had emailed earlier to request a table. My mom wanted to take me somewhere special for my birthday, so they knew those things. 1) Mom’s in town from Fargo and 2) We’ve got a birthday on our hands. As soon as we were sat, the general manager showed up with champagne, and I said, “Oh, my mom doesn’t drink.” After that, a beautiful mocktail spritzer showed up, and two more after that. She kept going on and on about how wonderful the service was. How attentive. And I find that to be true of any Danny Meyer restaurant. They pay attention to the individual needs of a table and do their best to accommodate.
Patrick: A couple years ago, during a visit to Istanbul, I was staying at the Edition Hotel. Each day I would return, and all of my things were moved across the room and put away in places were far from where I left them. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I loved it. Instead of the housekeeper merely tidying up and leaving things where they were, he was actually creating order out of my things. I never even spoke to him, and yet he was working hard to group my things together, put my life together in a way that made sense, as if he knew me, instead of just cleaning up and leaving.
What are the top 3 things you always have on hand to host in a pinch? A well-stocked liquor cabinet and wine rack, a great playlist or record collection, and something to nibble on. Amy’s go-to nibble is chips and salsa.
Okay, last one. Help us out – you’re both people about town. What are your go-to picks around New York for (1) a group dinner, (2) a cozy cocktail, and (3) some self-care? Saxon + Parole for dinner, where we love their bottled champagne negroni. A cold weather cozy cocktail at Sel Rrose in Manhattan and Donna in Brooklyn. And for self-care, Spoke & Weal, our favorite hair salon. Hospitality is just as important as a great cut.