Our old mate, Ronnie Flynn, is doing it pretty rough in New York right now.
From all reports, the city looks like one big San Gennaro festival, with streets blocked off and restaurants trading al fresco in accordance with the indoor dining ban. But there’s limited space on the street, which means fewer butts on seats; plus, the city’s residents have been steadily evacuating since March. So, it’s not a great time to be a New Yorker. Despite all this, Ronnie remains upbeat and is building a strategy that’ll see his downtown bar and restaurant, The Flower Shop, come out stronger on the other side of the murky COVID tunnel. We gave Ronnie a buzz on a balmy evening in the City that Never Sleeps.
How you going, man?
Yeah, I’m not too bad, how are you?
I’m pretty good, how’s New York?
Yeah, it’s pretty weird; it’s flatlined, it’s weird. I’ve never seen this before. I’ve been here for the whole time and seeing the ship sink has been really strange. Like if you flew back here you’d notice it, the energy is so low, everything’s closed, the things that are open are rare. Even the kids in the East Village have rented places upstate and anyone with money is out in the Hamptons, it’s a mix of desperate, desolate and flat—the energy is really flat. It’s changing. I mean, it changes anyway, you go away for 12 months and everything’s different… Winter is going to be gnarly. Winter is going to be really weird. But I think New York will always bounce back, and I think some incredible stuff will come from it; but it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The homeless are out, there’s so many more robberies, shootings, even near my house in Williamsburg there’s like a shooting every night.
Yeah. It’s definitely becoming a little bit sketchier; it’s such a weird vibe. You would be mind-blown. Some people are holding on, and I think a lot of people are like, ‘Ah, it’s alright, fuck everyone, let them leave we’re New York, we’ll just hang,’ and then they realise that there’s nothing to do anyway, and everyone’s actually left. It’s not even like some fun hurricane thing where we’re all in it together sticking it out through a disaster—people are actually fucking gone.
How’s business with The Flower Shop? Have you guys got stuff out on the street or are you closed?
Our permit only gives us 18 seats on the street. We were at a point where we were going to open at half-capacity, but the government pulled that off the table, so The Flower Shop is literally just sitting their lying dormant because to put the 18 seats out the front and sling a couple of margaritas every day just wouldn’t work, it’s cheaper to leave it turned off. So, we’ve just been pushing the merch side of things online, doing little collaborations.
Maybe you could team up with Slow & Low, do a Flower Shop collab. We’ll just put this in the interview and it can be the pitch.
(laughs) Sounds good. I was even thinking of doing a retail side to it and then I realised, again, that no one’s even here, dude (laughs). No one’s shopping. You walk on a street and it’s fucking quiet. But there’s some good stuff that comes out of it for us as a brand, people miss The Flower Shop; we did a barbeque the other day and stuff like that, but the merch side has been really good, I think it’s because people think we’re never coming back (laughs). We’ve done like five times the sales of the whole of last year in the last four months with merch. They’ve just put us in Popeye magazine for one of our t-shirts; the most action we’ve got is all through the merch.
Yeah, and our Instagram went up too, I guess that’s because everyone’s on the internet. But we get messages all the time: ‘We miss you guys’ and ‘When are you back?’
So, maybe Flower Shop becomes a clothing brand?
It’d be a lot easier, but then our little family of hospitality staff wouldn’t have a job anymore, and jobs are rare for these guys at the moment. The other thing is there are other places we can do it, I thought maybe we can do a Flower Shop in Japan. So, I started hitting up a few people that I knew in Tokyo and whatever. The goal right now is to lay low, weather the storm, do some stuff on the side if we can with the brand, with alcohol, with our friends, and then, hopefully, when we come out the other end of it, whenever that is, the people that are left get all the demand, because all of a sudden there’s no other places.
That sounds like a good strategy. Let me ask you this, though: how delicious is Slow & Low?
Slow & Low is yummy (laughs). Seriously, though, I got a box of it delivered to my house the other day and it tasted fucking delicious.
Did they really send you a box?
They did actually send a box of the stuff to my house. Because The Flower Shop is closed, I said just send it to my house and I’ll sample it on behalf of everyone involved at The Flower Shop, and it’s pretty good (laughs).
What’s interesting actually is we’ve all been locked in our apartments, so we’ve gotten to know some of the neighbours quite well, and every now and then you meet people out on the common roof for a few beers and before you know it we’re having these raging building parties with all of our neighbours.
Well, not raging but basically just a bunch of us together who have been quarantining this whole time and having parties within the building. And now everyone’s hanging with each other and looking after each other’s animals and stuff. Anyway, the point is that the guy next door to us is having a birthday and we are going to sponsor it with this box of Slow & Low and The Flower Shop.
Want to help the bar and restaurant industry? Slow & Low is donating all September merch sales proceeds to the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by and for restaurant workers to aid in COVID emergency relief efforts.