Coffee Talk with Michael Little of Lost Weekend
The first time I stumbled into Lost Weekend, I was on a mission to find good coffee (like most other afternoons). I had returned a week prior from a five week long beach side vacation, and the New York winter was taking a toll. I needed surfboards and sunscreen.
Enter Lost Weekend, my answer to a tropical escape in the heart of the Lower East Side. On this day in March (the first day, as it may be), I sat down with owner Michael Little to chat about how the shop came to be, the "lost weekend," and New York City surf culture.
Name, Location, Occupation
Michael Little; 45 Orchard Street; Owner, Lost Weekend
Tell us the story of Lost Weekend. How did it come to be?
So, I moved to New York from San Francisco and San Francisco has really rich vibrant coffee tradition and they've been by and large--leaps and bounds--ahead of new york. And I was surprised when I came to New York in 2005/2006 that there really was no coffee. There was no artisanship behind coffee at that date.
There was nothing in this neighborhood to speak of. So as soon as Bluebottle opened in Williamsburg, I went to them within weeks and said ‘listen can I use your coffee in the city?’ and they said ‘sure why not.’ We were the first wholesale account in Manhattan. I was like ‘why couldn’t there be good coffee in my neighborhood?’
I wanted to do something that was a way to sort of contribute to my neighborhood. Good coffee deserved to be on the Lower East Side. In my ideal scenario I would set up a shop where I could go get coffee in the morning and then go surf. So three years into it that’s my reality.
What is the "lost weekend?"
Another piece of the story was that before this I taught eighth grade in the South Bronx. That’s ultimately what brought me to New York. And so I was teaching in the South Bronx [during the week], on the weekends I’d go surf and on vacations I’d go to Costa Rica or other places in Central America. I knew as soon as I signed this lease I’m like ‘well there go all my weekends.’
Lost weekend brings together coffee and retail. Why combine the two?
It all started with coffee. As I spent more time in here I brought my surfboards down from my apartment and started to store them. So with a couple of boards here people would come in and say ‘whats this thing you’re doing here.’ We started to build a little community, and the retail all sort of accentuates that. I never wanted to be the coffee shop on Friends where you’d come and sit for eight hours and write your novel. I wanted it to be a place where you come, get coffee, hear something interesting, watch a couple minutes of a surf DVD and then head out and go start your day.
The whole process has been organic at every level. It’s all very pragmatic and organic based on our customers.
Where do you gain inspiration?
The Lower East Side is my community, and I feel, my inspiration.
What’s your order?
I am a coffee black kind of girl [laughs]. I drink drip coffee in the morning--when I come in in the morning we’ll do a lot of tastings. We’re always sort of engineering the beans as they change throughout the day--throughout the temperature--to get the flavor profile we want out of them. I usually stand here in the morning and read the New Yorker with a cup of coffee and then early afternoon I’ll have an Americano.
On New York City surf culture
I think that there’s partially a myth in the sense that nobody comes to New York to surf. You come to New York because it’s the greatest city in the world. You come here for the food and music and the arts--to be in this amazing vibrant city. You don’t come to New York because the waves are great. They’re not most of the time.
How are you getting ready for spring?
I’m pushing spring. If it gets 10 degrees warmer I’m gonna start wearing shorts.
As told to Ellie Eckert on March 1, 2014.