One would not necessarily know from the stripped-down storefront in Chelsea that MatchaBar is a company with some seriously big ambition. Inside, the Manhattan Sideways team observed a steady trickle of customers weave past wood tables and art books to get their matcha fix from Eddie and Manuela at the counter. We followed in suit, and while we waited for our rose latte, Eddie, who had started working with the company a few months prior, told us about his personal matcha obsession:
“In high school a friend introduced me to the drink and I was quickly hooked. I bought at least one cup a day from Starbucks, often more, until I realized I was drinking a sugar blend, not the real thing at all. Wow, there is a big difference. With matcha you get the health benefits of green tea, the energy of coffee, and no jitters or crash because the caffeine is released over an extended period, not all at once.”
The owners, Max and Graham Fortgang, are brothers and New York natives who recently moved to LA. Their first store opened in Williamsburg in 2014, and while that location is now closed, there is one in LA, another in Soho, and the Chelsea shop, which opened in 2015. “Our motto is that good things come to those who hustle, and we’ve made a lot of progress in a short period of time.”
Max and Graham definitely know how to hustle. Max is the head chef, blending matcha into new juice and spice concoctions, while his younger brother heads the business side of the operation. Last year it was revealed that Drake (the hip-hop star) is one of the company’s main investors, and the brand announced a partnership with Whole Foods which will sell MatchaBar bottled drinks across the country.
The brothers take sourcing their product very seriously. Every year, Max and Graham make a pilgrimage to an independent family farm in Nishio, Japan for the matcha spring harvest, where “the stone-ground powder is derived from the topmost leaves of the first harvest of a green tea crop.”
The store is a mosaic in itself. Denes Petoe, CEO, and Graham Barr, president, have laid out their showroom to facilitate the nearly 1, 000 varieties of natural stone, as well as to capture the eye of each customer. Style here is in the eye of the beholder, not in the hands of the retailer.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store, ” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games. Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me. ”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination. ” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues, ” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices. ”
On any given day when passing by, there are legions of young, hopeful actors hanging around outside this building in between classes. Lee Strasberg, known to moviegoers for his role as gangster Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, founded his institute in 1969, almost forty years after he participated in the formation of the Group Theatre (an ensemble of actors that were committed to putting on productions representative of "the life of their times. ") As artistic director of the Institute until his death in 1982, Strasberg continued to train his students through Method Acting - a technique that has been recognized internationally. Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand, and Marlo Thomas are only a few of the actors who were taken under Strasberg's wing and taught to fly. Today, the Institute continues to flourish as it turns out many fine actors both here and at its Hollywood location. For those who would like to watch some of this training in action, there are two theaters (The Marilyn Monroe Theater and the Lee Strasberg Theater) connected to the Institute where students perform.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.