The Art of Business
Greenwich Village has never been foreign to hip young crowds of artsy caffeine addicts, but the new café that just opened on 96 West Houston Street is offering these folks something they’ve always wanted but until now never had—goats!
Husband and wife team, Anthony and Aurora Mazzei, have harmonized art, coffee, community and just a hint of quirkiness to bring New Yorkers what they hope will become a home away from home. Fair Folks & a Goat café employs what its owners define as “immersive retail;” everything—from the doorknob, to the doormat, to the dishes in the sink behind the black granite espresso bar—is for sale.
Anthony explained, “I was convinced that we were going to open up in the West Village, where everything is ‘The Spotted Pig,’ ‘The White Horse’, ‘The Slaughtered Lamb,’ ‘The Blind Tiger’—I thought, you know, there should be a goat.”
It’s hard to argue with such logic, and the name does make for a foolproof Google search.
“And I’m a Capricorn,” he added, sipping from a mug depicting the astrological sign.
On the night of Nov. 13, a mini chalkboard that read “Welcome King’s College” was propped up in front of the Fair Folks entrance. The café had been transformed into a classroom-style venue designed to host the King’s crowd for coffee, affogatos (espresso-drenched ice cream) and a panel discussion about the “Art of Business,” as Director of Student Events Sarah Doyal so cleverly named the event.
Before the discussion began, 40 or so Kingsians scanned the 800-square-foot space, conversing, observing the artwork and enjoying some affogatos. This very image is what Anthony and Aurora envisioned when they began Fair Folks in 2009.
The couple, at the time a platonic pair of artistically driven young entrepreneurs, started their business by renting out the old ballroom of a townhouse on the Upper East Side, the gradual success of which led to a bed and breakfast venture in New Orleans. Both locations followed the Fair Folks marketing strategies of hospitable retail and making innovation a necessary part of daily business.
The Mazzeis were forced to experiment with different design themes, displaying art that could be described as a quarterly real-life-walk-through magazine featuring ever-changing pieces. The New Orleans location was bigger, posing a greater design challenge (everything in the bed and breakfast—including shower curtains, sheets and silverware—had to be carefully curated), while at the same time offering more financial leeway.
The Greenwich location, which has been open for a month and a half, is the first of its kind, capturing Anthony and Aurora’s vision as a place of culture, art, design, music and literature. Here, there is an open-door policy, where people can come in off the street (like they would any Starbucks) and find themselves immersed in a community-friendly environment. The shop offers no menu, forcing customers to inquire and interact.
Fair Folks looks for long-term relationships in both its customers and its designers. For example, the Mazzeis partnered up with architectural designers from Yale (whom they connected with through an artist in New Orleans) to design the Houston Street venue. The team helped with everything from the installation of floors to the design of the shop’s ceiling and LED lighting system.
During the panel discussion with King’s, Anthony shared his and his wife’s hopes for member growth (Aurora was absent at the event due to illness, but there is a sense of mutual overlap in ideals that is hard to fake). A $25 monthly café membership guarantees customers unlimited coffee beverages, free WiFi, select discounts on art pieces, and invitations to member events like design previews, tastings, classes, art shows and more.
Anthony mentioned the three King’s majors and explains how Fair Folks combines aspects of each one: business, philosophy and the arts. He and Aurora see their café as a type of place that grows customers out of friendships—people tell their friends, who tell more friends. Revenue is thus generated through customer memberships, as well as through daily café foot traffic and art sales in the store and online.
How would one describe Fair Folks to a friend? The words beautiful, imaginative and excellent come to mind. Quoting Aurora, Anthony said, “Objects and experiences are more valuable when shared.”
The Mazzeis’ passion is evident in everything—from their method of selecting art, to the way they conduct business from a relationship basis, to the way they welcome groups like King’s into their shop to hear their mission and method of integrating art, business and authenticity.