One of the things I love about New York is that, no matter the job title or category of work, everyone has the ability to leave their footprint. Yes, if you're an editor you clearly have style but the fashion spotlight is already on you. What about those who fly under the radar? The coffee shop barista, the sales girl at your local boutique - these are the people "on the ground," the ones interacting with "everyday" people on a daily basis and shaping trends.
Meet two such people, Maya and Dean. They're only the coolest kids on the coolest block and I was beyond excited to step into their quaint SoHo restaurant, Jack's Wife Freda, located on the bustling Lafayette Street. This power duo not only offers spectacular people watching (with some of the most fashionable New Yorker's frequenting their spot), but they also deliver one hell of a breakfast/bloody mary combo, with a side of the best service in town. I think Maya, with her fashionable, friendly and unfathomably cool demeanor, is the only one who could get me out of bed at 7am on a Saturday for an #NYCALLED interview. Believe me, it was worth it! Read below for one inspirational and romantic story:Lexi: So tell me about your background and where you're from?
Maya: I was raised in Israel and moved at age 21. While most people at this age buy a ticket to South America, Australia, Thailand, or somewhere along those lines, I moved to New York. I couldn't really afford to travel so I decided on a 3 month ticket to NYC. I've been here 15 years now...
Lexi: Wow... and your husband Dean?
Maya: He left South Africa when he was 18, stopping in a lot of countries on the way to NYC. He's been in America for about 20 years.
Lexi: And, why New York? How did 3 months turn into 15 years?
Maya: At the end of 3 months all of my friends were leaving New York but I felt like I hadn't even gotten started with the city. There is something about experiencing a city by yourself - I really wanted to be alone with all of these people. I just love NYC so much. It's like any relationship, love-hate, but it's made me a very passionate person.
Lexi: Then you and Dean found each other?
Maya: Yes, together our love for the city was stronger than before. We went out at night and visited different restaurants and the feeling we had when we were out, I mean...it doesn't get much better...
Lexi: Where did you guys meet?
Maya: I guess after we had our first baby we decided we needed to grow up. We were very loyal and worked many many years at the same place but the baby made us more ambitious. When he was 5 years old we opened the restaurant, so it was 5 years of letting it sit and looking at spaces, reading books and trying to understand how it would even be possible with no background in being a business owner.
Lexi: Did anyone help you out?
Maya: There were a handful of people who believed in us. It might be cliche to say but it's important to stay around people that make you feel good - make you smile. I spent my 20s trying to figure this out... How do you know who the right people are? Our core community is so important and much of the reason we are where we are.
Lexi: And the fashion community you've attracted? Was it like that from the beginning?
Maya: Certain people came from the beginning - I love fashion but I was unaware of the status of some people. I remember Leandra Medine coming in and, we had no idea who she was....Now she is one of our best friends.Lexi: How long has it been open?
Maya: We opened in January 2012 - exactly 2 and a half years yesterday (the 13th)!
Lexi: Well congrats! That's exciting. Was it hard to spread the word about the opening?
Maya: Before we opened we asked ourselves, "Are people going to come in?" It's kind of like throwing a big party and you don't know if they are going to come. Those were the hardest days...standing in an empty restaurant. A lot of empty restaurants have staff that are so uninterested and low energy. We made sure to fill the restaurant with good energy from the beginning, whether an empty or full room. That's something that is so crucial for us. Even if there are only two people you have to give them a mini party!Lexi: How do you keep that high-energy atmosphere alive?
Maya: Before we opened Dean and I went to restaurants where we felt the way we want our customers to feel, like Cafe Mogador - the owner would always get us a juice and made us feel like we were in a movie, where the characters have that usual place and everyone on the staff knows their names. We want Jack's Wife Freda to feel that way.
Lexi: What's it like starting as a matre d' and now having your own business? How have you changed as a person in that process?
Maya: I think I am the same person - it's just a lot more responsibility. But even when I was a hostess and a coat check I had to accept a lot of responsibility. I tell the waiters who want to be actresses or writers that they always have to give it their all. Otherwise, how are you going to find happiness doing something else? When the dishwasher didn't show up at our old place of work we did the dishes. I did that thinking of the big picture, instead of working with a begrudging attitude. Not having an ego on the job is important. We have a higher and exact demand and expectation of what is right but I think it is all good.
Lexi: And your family? What is it like raising a family in NYC?
Maya: I don't know how to raise them anywhere else - it's great! We live in the neighborhood and the kids come here all the time.
Lexi: You think you will be here forever?
Maya: Yea.. I am not going anywhere. I love this city.
Walk, open yourself to the city, and buy yourself an expensive dress.
When did you first consider yourself a "New Yorker"?
Caught in a summer storm in the East Village, drenched and not panicking. Or maybe when I finally bought myself my first pair of snow boots and puffy coat (10 years after I arrived...haha).
My favorite nights are...Movie night, popcorn, lots of blankies with my kids.
I'm not a tourist but I still... Ask for directions! And I also get excited when I'm in a neighborhood I haven't visited in a while. I actually still get excited on all my favorite streets and hoods.
I never leave the apartment without...My keys (and AMC member card).
When it comes to NYC I hate...Downtown trash smell in the summer.
When it comes to NYC I love...Gotta love it all - like any relationship, with its hardships and all its beauty.
NYC's best secret according to you...Air conditioned movie on a 100 degree hot day.
It's okay to do this alone...Go to the movies! (Or pretty much anything - we are all alone together in the city).
This is how I wind down...Ooo need to revisit that time in my life - these days I just crash (City living).
My favorite NYC street is...West 10th Street.
Last time you were really frustrated with NYC you were thinking...Come on NYC, I gave you everything... Give me a BREAK!
I'll move out of NYC when...The movie houses shut down.
*Follow @jackswifefreda on Instagram and dine with them at 224 Lafayette Street in NY.