Collaboration and Revitalization in Spring Arts
This week, Craig talks with Antoinette Johnson of Cohere, “a design firm that’s focused on transforming abandoned space or stories into something new again.” They talk about their shared interest in bringing creative people together to try crazy things and hopefully make something beautiful and beneficial to the community in the process. Cohere recently launched The Viaduct as a collaborative meeting place. Follow the Viaduct @ViaductPHL on Instagram.
Collaboration and Revitalization in Spring Arts
Craig Grossman: [00:00:00] In an age of quick and expendable. What if you were to start with history and repurpose what we already have? What if you were to use the forgotten spaces around you and use them as a catalyst of creativity? This is the Spring Arts Podcast with Craig Grossman and that’s our mission.
Craig Grossman: [00:00:47] Hey, hey, this is Craig Grossman. Welcome to Spring Arts, the podcast. I am sitting here with my close friend and tenant, um, and she tells me she’s actually paying rent. Thank you. That is kind of you. It’s Antoinette from Cohere. (Makes Crowd Cheering Noise) The crowd goes wild. So. I’m fortunate to have Antoinette not only, uh, working a couple blocks from my office in spring arts, the hood, by the way, in case I didn’t throw some love to RADIOKISMET.
We’re sitting here in their studio, which is in the heart of spring arts, Philadelphia. Thank you. RADIOKISMET. Yeah. Getting back to it. Okay. So I’m here with Antoinette and, um, She’s got this great business. It’s called Cohere. She’s over here at like 10th and Buttonwood, she’s doing some really amazing things. Antoinette and I have known each other for how many years?
Antoinette Johnson: [00:01:41] I would say six,
Craig Grossman: [00:01:43] That’s it Maybe seven,
Antoinette Johnson: [00:01:45] Six or seven years.
Craig Grossman: [00:01:46] Okay, so we met. back in, in Philly, in, in Midtown Village, when I was doing my thing there, she was doing her thing there. And I don’t know exactly how we became acquainted, but I, I think we both knew that we were sort of kindred spirits and we, we liked each other and we liked where things were maybe going with our, each of our businesses.
And we knew that there were like some commonalities and synergistic qualities. And, um, so we started like chatting and then.
I was looking for space to move out of Old City.
And I helped make an introduction. And before you knew it, you know, she had signed a five year lease at a building,
Antoinette Johnson: [00:02:25] How magical you just turn all your relationships into leases, I think?
Craig Grossman: [00:02:30] Well, it’s not actually about the lease itself. Like I would, you know, w it would have been more important for me to get you into the neighborhood and into my like, sort of like world and figure out how we could work together, just cause I knew you were talented and I liked your, your vibe and energy.
Um, however, like it just usually happens, right? When people enjoy working together. Um, and sharing ideas and, and our sort of mission aligned. Like it just makes sense to be working closer to one another. Right.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:03:00] Totally. I mean, I knew it would be good for my business to collide often with you and the other people in that neighborhood.
And, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that your magic turns into great spaces and great neighborhoods and incredible businesses within those neighborhoods. I would have never been signing a five year lease if I didn’t think that being in Midtown Village would transform my business, which it, which it really did.
Craig Grossman: [00:03:26] Yeah. I mean, I think it provided you with a, um, you know, with a canvas, um, to really take off, by the way, if you haven’t noticed, this is what I’ll say about Antoinette a lot, actually, that you’re like this amazing cheerleader for me in my business. Hopefully I show you the love as well in return. But you know, these, these podcasts, these interviews are not supposed to be about, you know, you shining a light on me, but I’m happy to take that when I can get it.
So thank you. Um, and hopefully that’ll happen a little bit more throughout this, this, uh, this conversation.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:03:56] Totally, but I may stop paying rent if I don’t like the way you edit this podcast. So be careful
Craig Grossman: [00:04:01] We’ll edit it together. How’s that? Okay. I know. Anyway. Okay. Um, Antoinette and I have known each other for six, seven years. We met in Midtown Village.
She had this, like, I’ll describe it as a little bit more of a traditional branding agency. Um, and, um, she’s really evolved, like in a big way over the last six or seven years. So here you are. I’m I’m fast forwarding right now. Okay. Um, just because this week we don’t have like two hours to sit here and schmooze, so I’m fast forwarding and Antoinette has got this business called Cohere.
And so I wanted you to just tell us a little bit about. Like how you would describe the business of Cohere because you know, people will, will put you into a box and describe what your business is. So I’m like, I’m a real estate developer and I don’t feel like that does like what I do justice, you know?
So I like to describe myself as, you know, it’s placemaking and neighborhood revitalization and, you know, paying homage to the history of a building and curating and. You know, finding those, those collision points between different businesses and creating relationships and blah, blah, blah. Right. So what are you doing over at Cohere?
It’s not just branding, right? So what’s, what’s Cohere and what’s the mission and what he actually up to over there.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:05:14] Totally thank you for asking and, and that boxing is a real thing and how we always categorized ourselves in that box before was branding agency. But Cohere, I really centered around my mission and my background is urban planning and placemaking, and I’ve always wanted to see Philadelphia and other cities that were very active in like Baltimore, New York. I want to see them thrive. So revitalization has been our mission. So we articulated that Cohere is a design firm that’s focused on transforming abandoned space or stories into something new again.
So something that’s been underutilized and sits not reaching its full potential can utilize the skills of our team to really bring that back to life. So we’ve done everything from branding and renaming, something to the physical design of it, the signage and way finding the website and the web presence.
And lately we’ve been really a content engine for good storytelling because you can’t build place or a restaurant or a product. Without telling a really good story about it. And I really believe that we’re in the evolution of media and marketing these days, that everybody has access to free channels and has a story to tell.
And if they’re not doing it through multiple mediums, like a podcast, like their blog, like their newsletter, then they’re missing out on the chance to pump out that flywheel of constant. Iteration of his story that’s growing and changing. So Cohere is right now, we’re redefining ourselves away from the branding agency because I, what the hell is branding anymore?
Branding is marketing. Brandy is storytelling. Branding is design. Branding is building. So we’ve been defining ourselves as a content engine and we just relaunched our website and all of our channels to be what we’re calling a storytelling platform, because we ourselves have launched a bunch of things that make people confuse these days.
Like. The viaduct space or, um, a photography studio in our office. Um, also a floral design brand. So as we grow into this umbrella family of brands, people are even more confused.
Yeah, no, I get it. But it’s, um, I think if you can take a step back and you can sort through all that, there’s something very strategic about it. And there’s something that makes sense. If you can compartmentalize all of it, it’s like it’s some like organized chaos.
If you will,
I mean, urban has URBN B H L D N , Anthropologie free people. And they’re all connected by a similar Bohemian feel and approach to retail experiences that then translates itself to online experiences.
Craig Grossman: [00:08:11] Yeah. I think, listen, it’s, it’s this intersection of, like you said, it’s the intersection of design and food and beverage and storytelling, and placemaking like, it, it all makes sense.
It’s all, it’s all integral in, in creating, if you will a brand.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:08:30] And that is the exact definition of Cohere as a verb is to connect those dots where those things that may seem like they don’t relate, overlap on shared goals and shared values.
And it’s why, I mean, we sit here today, full circle because. I understood from the moment I met you, what you were trying to do at Midtown village. And I aligned myself with that so that we could be a branding agency that was helpful for even the building. Help put us in. We branded and attracted ideal tenant it’s too.
So I learned that Coheres ability could take something from $22, a square foot to $32, a square foot in a short amount of time. Therefore, how do we sell that to other likeminded people? And then eventually, pitch Craig Grossman on allowing us to partner with him so that we’re not just a tenant who brings value to a neighborhood, but maybe someday we can participate and put some skin in the game and do it ourselves.
Craig Grossman: [00:09:34] Yeah. Awesome. And you, you certainly are doing just that. So, you know, you mentioned about connectivity and intersection, um, and we’ve talked a lot about, you know, these like small victories along the way, these small wins, but I also want to talk about, cause you’re, you’re also really good at something that I’m, I’m a big fan of and it’s finding out about those collaborations with folks, businesses, other entrepreneurs that are right here in your backyard, right. There’s nothing more, I don’t think impactful than, um, you know, figuring out a way to work with your, your neighbor. Like here we are, you know, building this community. We’re mission aligned. We want to do it in the most authentic fashion.
It’s authentically Philadelphia. Like how do you continue to like see that enhancement, improve working with your local neighbors, uh, synergistic businesses, kindred spirits. Like there’s nothing more. Special I think, than doing just that. So you’ve created quite a few bombs locally. Tell me a little bit about, and then we’re going to get into like the canvas that you’re actually like creating a lot of these interesting intersections on, but you’re, you’re working with quite a few businesses that are here.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:10:43] Yeah, I think the, the collaboration part is key. I, I recall that you really taught me that lesson early on.
You said your branding agency. Great. I already work with other branding agencies like Quaker City Mercantile, and some others. What makes you different and understand that I’m going to work with them all the time. So I’m going to work with you too. Right? What I got out of that was. Don’t compete, collaborate.
And in that collaboration see yourself as someone who can learn from the others and then clearly differentiate yourself. So I never think of an agency or a design group as competition. I always see them as a potential partner. And I think that’s a key mindset shift in the beginning to then open yourself up to like, Anywhere to collaborate.
And you say, you say the word authentic a lot, and I’m going to challenge you. I like to replace it with a new version of that. I’m honest. Because I, I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me with the desire to create a brand out of something that doesn’t exist yet. And they’re like, we want it to be authentic.
And I’m like, well, what does that read? If it doesn’t have any story yet, but honest is, is key. And I think partnerships based on honesty is like the only way some examples of how we’re doing that here locally. I mean, RADIOKISMET is. Really an asset to the neighborhood of spring arts. You know, Christopher Plant here is recording podcasts with people, and I’m so glad that he’s doing it with you, Craig.
And he’s been a great resource for us for like live podcast taping and recording at our space or inviting us into collaborate with people. That he’s working with, but I think all of our clients I’ll explain complicated one. All of our clients, we tend to try to figure out where they overlap with other people.
So the value proposition of Cohere is to help that group align with people that are doing really cool shit and should be doing it together. So for Di Bruno Brothers, for example, we introduced a client of ours Pocono Organics, which is the first regenerative organic farm in the world of its size. It’s so important in terms of what’s happening in agriculture, food organics that they actually attracted Patagonia Provisions as a sponsor. And they launched the first regenerative organic produce at di Bruno brothers because of our ability to help make those things connection. So now we’re telling the story of that produce and Di Bruno shelves. And, uh, Pocono Organics, unique story.
And we brought in some other groups to attract Patagonia, which was, uh, the biggest goal of them all. But I don’t know if the Di Bruno Brothers would have known what regenerative organic produce was, if it weren’t for our introduction. And we’re seeing that as our role now for Philadelphia, which is like, we have a lens of New York, L.A, these primary cities, how do we bring that back constantly to Philadelphia and like, in turn, help, Philadelphia reach a little bit more of its own full potential by being connected to those topics.
Craig Grossman: [00:14:02] Yeah Listen I tell people all the time I mean it’s our it’s it’s one of our obligations It should be at least were deputized to help elevate that platform of Philadelphia. So wherever we can do it whether it’s shining a light on a small business a neighborhood you know bringing an international asset and connecting it to a local business that can elevate their platform Like that’s that’s something that we should be thinking about all the time Um and we should take that job pretty seriously especially the ones that are in the business of really changing the landscape of the city And I would say that you know we certainly are. Tell me this I find this to be interesting as well I don’t know Maybe uh maybe I shouldn’t be that surprises the wrong word Um but so this neighborhood of spring arts I find that um there are quite a few super talented female leaders and not only do I have a few on my staff, which you know well but there’s you, there’s Location 215, there’s Melissa over at Love City, there’s Tess over at Triple Bottom. Why do you think that there’s this like…
Antoinette Johnson: [00:15:13] Because they’re so good looking, come on.
Craig Grossman: [00:15:16] Okay here we go
Antoinette Johnson: [00:15:18] And now we have this like radio-esque voice to put with it, Uh the world.
Craig Grossman: [00:15:24] Well once like I said she’s like one of my greatest cheerleaders. Thank you Antoinette. Okay You were saying?
Antoinette Johnson: [00:15:30] Yeah I think we’re attracted to Spring Arts because of I think the next wave in leadership is feminine leadership And I use that word really intentionally by it’s not women led it’s feminine characteristics of leaders So Eric my partner’s a fantastic example. And I think you are too which is empathetic, listening, compassionate, the ability to compromise, like in the instance of negotiating a lease. You know, leading with okay, we share the same goal rather than talk to my lawyer. That’s feminine leadership. And I think the most powerful organizations and projects, and I think this neighborhood is kind of like a project.
Those will succeed when they attract feminine leaders and I think you intuitively might do that naturally but the Arts and Crafts-Spring Arts model is already doing it to art forward: inviting collaboration, inviting those small experimental wins. You know, this is a little bit of a tangent but I’ll do it. Um, you used to make fun Let me for the small wins experimental thing And now I think you’ve adapted but I saw this great movie the other day that called the Social Dilemma, have you seen it?
Craig Grossman: [00:16:51] Mhmm
Antoinette Johnson: [00:16:51] It’s fantastic. It’s also related to the Big Hack, I think it’s called, and it’s all about like how our happiness right now as human beings is being really dictated by the notifications on your phone and the algorithms that are chasing your cookies and your social media activity and everything you’re doing lying awake at night. That these things are designed to control your human behavior because AI and the objectives of these apps that are really gaming for your attention have done everything they can to get you to look at that app. So that’s why you get the notifications in your phone at the time they think you’re going to wake up. Twitter is feeding you what they think you’re going to look at. And they said that all of the engineers on on those Pinterest, Twitter, I mean it was incredible like the former CEOs of them are talking. Those engineers were rewarded constantly for small wins and experiments. And that’s how they figured out the like button and the notification part of an app and that’s how they figured out how to even follow you as you Google you know um ‘plates’ to keep tracking you and your activity.
So I think that those small wins are important to building anything much bigger than yourself And that is truly welcomed It’s like a canvas here in Spring Arts to do those constant small experiments at truthfully I didn’t get that same landscape in other neighborhoods and all I’m not afraid to mention them old city, Midtown Village, South Phill. I could not get the level of participation that I’m getting right now today, post-pandemic with the women leaders and men leaders in Spring Arts. And that has everything to do with the fact that when I moved here you designated me as queen. (Laughs) No but it does have a lot to do with the way you guys curated us to be here.
Craig Grossman: [00:18:56] Well I I I appreciate that And I think that we both recognize that you know these small wins that we’re referring to It’s like You know I always talk about how I I love the idea of when people are sort of passing through or around or in this neighborhood that they’re seeing something different. There’s something else going on And that’s that that sort of takes us over to curating activation You know what are the businesses doing here that Have people sort of raising their eyebrows like what’s going on
So there’s an interesting piece of land over here in the neighborhood right That’s shaped like a triangle it’s on the corner of 10th and Buttonwood and it used to park about 15 cars Is that the highest and best use for a piece of land I think not going back a few years ago uh arts and crafts had a little bit of a collaboration with The Pennsylvania horticultural society and or Philadelphia horticultural society And we created a pocket park together and there was a little bit of a quote unquote beer garden there and that lasted and it provided activation and there was some curation and suddenly there was something going on on this little in this little corner that Hadn’t seen any activity for a hundred years maybe And that was good And then um after sitting with you and Eric and talking about some of your dreams and ideas and thinking outside the box and by the way I mean I I like to refer to this neighborhood as a little bit of like a laboratory So I like I I always encouraged like think outside the box like the crazier the better you know it’s like I picture Chris over at Roy Pitts with his goggles on and his Bunsen burner And he’s swabbing the inside of my mouth And like six weeks later we’re drinking something like what the hell But he’s you know that’s what they do they he’s making something right?
So you’re a maker. What are you going to make over here So Antoinette and her team decide all right we want that space And they come up with this idea on paper of what they’re going to be going to do with it And then The creative juices start flowing the conversation start happening And before you know it it’s turned into something like completely off the charts that nobody ever imagined It’s called the viaduct I’m going to hand it over to Antoinette so she can describe what’s going on over there and what we can expect to see through the next let’s say two months because this is a spot that you have to come and visit It’s very very cool And I promise you you won’t find it any place else in Philadelphia
Antoinette Johnson: [00:21:30] Yeah I would say it probably be hard pressed to find something like it even in other cities it’s a special a wasteless where you forgot one part of that story which was boom COVID hit and all plans on paper uh were thrown out the window And I think what’s beautiful is we’ve pretty much achieved a lot of what we hoped to achieve in the first place just without the big family style dinners Um we’ve had to adjust How we do things in a good way but yeah the viaduct is that same triangle piece under the second half of the rail park which I think is an exciting part because it represents opportunity You can still yeah Toward underground if you’re brave And it’s a beautiful juxtaposition between that and what’s happening at the viaduct which is really nature driven It’s a beautiful like garden Oasis where we’re constantly planting and replanting and changing out The vibe just some paint and yeah Furniture old furniture but a new vibe um really has transformed them that’s space And I recently I’d say last night Vember launched a sister brand called maiden Creek and maiden Creek stands for Um actually moment with my partner Eric uh in his hometown in Kutztown.
It was a really hot summer and we both had been traveling so much and we were trying to fit in like conference calls and truthfully we were trying to make time to fall in love And we took a walk in his hometown and we came across a little Creek And I was like three minutes to my next conference call and I looked at him and I took his hand and we just jumped right in the freezing cold Creek And time still stood still completely And you could see like even the dragonflies like Flying slower hovering over the beautiful water as it glistened in the sun Maiden Creek is that Creek And also that vibe is that you can find pleasure and rare moments in every day And can you really help hold onto that moment and make it the high moment of your day And I’ve always wanted to do something like that because I I could not stand being behind the computer as often as we were as branders marketers website designers I needed to get back to something analog and I’ve always been a gardener I had four South Philly gardens back in my point breeze days I knew that I would get back to transforming spaces in urban environments with nature as a component So maiden Creek was like the launching pad for that And to Bruno brothers was a beautiful partner of ours that helped us uh transform their floral department and take it over In fact you were there the day I pitched bill on the idea I delivered you guys flowers to take home to your wives
Craig Grossman: [00:24:25] Which by the way they are beautiful Like I mean there are so many things that you’re going to have to find but we’re going to we’re going to provide you with websites and hashtags and ways to follow Antoinette and her different businesses But trust me when I tell you that when you’re looking for A small gift can be a large gift as well But if you want to bring something home to your wife your husband and your partner trust me When I tell you that the arrangements that Antoinette and our team are putting together at maiden Creek are beautiful They are centerpieces that will speak to you They will brighten up your home Um you really got to see what what she has cooking Cause they’re beautiful
Antoinette Johnson: [00:25:02] And truthfully so we’ve been doing twice a week deliveries to de Bruno Since last November we sold out right The first day we did our first delivery We’ve been shocked at the true Reaction to people through these bouquets And it was always our mission to work with local farms And because of COVID it forced us to work with local farms Duke being Kensington and a few others in Jersey And that’s been wonderful A lot of them are actually women growers which was unexpected.
And so we needed space to put those bouquets together The viaduct became a home for us to do these bouquets on a two time per week basis Um and it also became the home that we just kept our inventory So we do build bouquet bars and workshops at the bar and it naturally became a host for other gatherings gatherings that really stood out for purposeful topics and opportunity for smaller brands to launch their things without you know signing a longterm lease For instance We had that The last two weekends is retro rewind project It’s a mobile thrift store Tia’s the owner and her husband Kirk and they go and take this thrift store and they spill it out on the sidewalk And it’s such a vibe They have vinyl playing It’s so cool And we just compliment it with the viaduct and activate it with Sit down drinks or light bites And it’s been a fantastic place to do I think the small experimental version of what you do which is invite like creative minds together to come up with something that is collaborative and fun and interactive and experiential and memorable
Craig Grossman: [00:26:45] I think that’s that’s beautifully said I mean what you’ll find at the viaduct is really a microcosm of what is hopefully going on in spring arts Um it’s this this intersection of all this excitement and it’s this this this uh innovation station if you will you know just below the former Redding railroad line that used to head right over vine street into it what we know is reading terminal market So we’re going to add
Antoinette Johnson: [00:27:11] Yeah I wanted to just say this fall we have exciting programming and we announce all of our events on a monthly basis on the via duct PHL on Instagram And uh some fun things we’re doing in October is Friday through Sunday We’re open one to 7:00 PM Fridays We’re open for people who want to work from home but you know want to spice it up so they can work from the viaduct with free wifi and some incredible nitro ice coffee We Have from this growing small brand that all announced to the world soon delicious stuff And then Friday through Sunday we’re doing like a pumpkin patch very friendly family friendly but highly curated So I like to say like the local version of terrain but it’s not that curated yet but like fairytale pumpkins and the Cinderella pumpkins and fall decor that people would want with you know Fire pits and blankets and some nice hot beverages like mold cider I think we’re going to be the spot if all goes well that people know to go to for events especially but also feeling that seasonal what’s that Dutch word hijab like H Y GGE Hi.
Craig Grossman: [00:28:26] I it’s actually pronounced ‘Hygge’
Antoinette Johnson: [00:28:28] Hygge.
Craig Grossman: [00:28:28] Well there’s a bar, there’s a bar Hygge up on um Fairmount Avenue If I’m not mistaken.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:28:34] Oh yeah you’re right. That’s true, yeah
Craig Grossman: [00:28:35] It’s a brewery.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:28:37] But I want to be that cozy outdoor destination for the fall and winter
Craig Grossman: [00:28:41] Well it’s definitely got that vibe and I love the fact that you know you’re focused on local cause that’s something that you know and when I use the I know you’re you know you’d rather me use the word honest um as opposed to authentic But to me it’s like when we can work with like local purveyors and local providers Um and if we can sort of deliver this like urban farm to table experience like you know you’ve got you’ve got herbs growing in The via.garden over here We’ve got bees making honey You’ve got a dozen chickens One of them is named commander Craig if I’m not mistaken he’s the best looking chicken on the viaduct.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:29:20] He’s also the biggest pain in the ass. Yes, he’s the loudest clucker.
Craig Grossman: [00:29:25] Well every once in a while he wants to be heard Anyway Um but you know there’ll be eggs that are coming from those chickens and maybe they’re going into Eric’s you know salad or and then anyway to me there’s just like you know it’s just layers and layers of texture and flavor and color and…
Antoinette Johnson: [00:29:43] And meaningful relationships with local farmers and local providers to your point we’re working on for the winter market place that showcases all home goods from local makers And you’re right You know last week we did a three course meal with all Lancaster refresh farmers uh organic a celebration of the heirloom tomato We an heirloom tomato new bulky and it was sold out And people got to learn from each other The group that made the plates the ceramic plates the founder of that brand came out along and told them about the process And that’s important these days because everybody’s admitting and trying to find new audiences to and new ways to meet those audiences Um Felton fat that ceramic brand they used to only sell to chefs and restaurant tours for new concepts that were opening And they did very well But now they don’t have any customers because there aren’t any restaurants So people need to know to buy their plates over the ones they would order on CB too and not know who’s making them.
Craig Grossman: [00:30:46] Yup I think it’s a it’s a great story And you’re doing great things here Not only in the neighborhood but for the city of Philadelphia And I love the fact that that were all you know shining a light on this neighborhood So we talked about you we talked about cohere We mentioned Eric a little bit you know he does some cool things and We talked about the Viaduct and all the great things. So one more time let’s just make sure people know because you’ve got this this magical space curated over the next couple of months they’re going to find that by following the Viaduct on
Antoinette Johnson: [00:31:20] Instagram, so it’s ‘ViaductPHL’.
Craig Grossman: [00:31:23] Right You’re also spreading a lot of the interesting interesting things that you’re doing through Cohere’s Instagram?
Antoinette Johnson: [00:31:30] So it’s all intertwined We are announcing as much as we can on the VI whatever’s happening at the Viaduct and ViaductPHL. So every Saturday morning we’re doing yoga and all of the other events we have our announced and Vita Instagram page but then cohere has some virtual content So when COVID first hit we went Oh shit What do we do now How do we serve our community I think that question was so darn important very early on How do we serve the people that matter to us our clients our audience members and right away we came up with let’s do the things that we were planning to do in person but virtually So we did some virtual cooking classes We did virtual exciting Experimental things with people that we know in New York LA and across the globe And we have people tuning in from Bangkok which meant our noon segment was way late night for them.
We had a zero waste one that I think you tuned into her Kelly tuned into and it was like 79 people And we shocked ourselves and we Kept it going So we still have some virtual content going on and we announced that stuff through cohere and then made in Creek has all the floral steps So we do everything from a popup workshop at the Bruno brothers to um you know and Valentine’s day we drove uh Really beautiful Karmann Ghia around the city We gave out free flowers So people were following along to find out where they could find us So it’s complicated but actually we have some people who have showed up to the Vita Like we’ve been following cohere for years We’ve been waiting for you to do something that we could potentially participate in that wasn’t just a brand you are serving but something that was fully your own So thank you Craig for giving us the space
Craig Grossman: [00:33:16] Yeah Well listen thank you But let let’s quickly talk you know you talk about everybody’s sort of working virtually and how they’re following you virtually and your content is disseminated virtually but…
Antoinette Johnson: [00:33:27] Why do we even need to exist in person anymore?
Craig Grossman: [00:33:30] Well I think we we I don’t know I would die I think if I if I couldn’t and I think it’s a good segue into like bringing our people back to the workplace I know I’m dying to like collaborate once again in person with my team I think you are as well Um we certainly know that our people have been able to be successful and proficient and efficient Working virtually but people like you and me that are collaborators and we’ve got that social instinct Um and we know the magic exists when you can sit across the table from somebody and talk it out You know we miss that That’s a big void that that we’re missing
Antoinette Johnson: [00:34:06] Yeah I remember the days when you would never even do conference calls everything was a meeting in person with Greg Grossman And I think that was because a lot of people you were working with were all in walkable distance from you
Craig Grossman: [00:34:19] Well and that’s yeah I mean I love that And that’s what you know that’s why a lot of my you know those relationships like with you why Yeah We’re in personnel right I mean it may have taken me six or seven years to get you to like you know to coerce you into you know
Antoinette Johnson: [00:34:34] I’m so important
Craig Grossman: [00:34:35] Well but at least you know signing a lease up here but now we get to meet in person and it’s just it’s so much more impactful when you you can do that So um what are we gonna do to get everybody back What’s working you know coming back to work on a look like but by the way you know until we do that like you’re forced to figure out what Cohere and the via duct and maiden Creek is doing by following them on Instagram But wouldn’t it be great if you actually worked you know a few blocks from the viaduct or you worked at 12th and market and you could walk spend five minutes and walk through Chinatown up to The Viaduct and see what’s going on and make it more tangy Well because it really is like a fabulous experience that you gotta be able to tell watch it and taste it and feel it to really get
Antoinette Johnson: [00:35:20] Yeah I’ve been wondering why more people aren’t talking about what it looks like to go back to the office It’s not a common conversation on media just yet And I think that’s because we’re You know six months ahead of the bigger conversation which is you know I know Westelm at sea a lot of these big big companies at least in their headquarters in New York are not coming back until there’s a vaccine and Comcast That’s true here There’s a lot of big office Environments that aren’t even having the conversation yet but when they do they’re going to be relying on some of the tips that we’re going to tell them right now which is like talk to your employees about what they want to see when it becomes time to come back And for us we came back.
Truthfully we never left but we had like a two week complete isolation And then we did a rotation where like two people could be in the office at a time And that turned into like six at a time And we were building the viaduct So we didn’t want to stop because it was a nice way to escape what was happening And uh you know there’s like rapid COVID testing I’ve been seeing Um because we’re hosting micro gathering So we’re learning this stuff real time like how people want to eat because family style isn’t a thing anymore.
And for us with the office what we learned the biggest most important thing was for employees was to maintain what they loved about being remote and bringing that back into the culture So allowing them to do remote once a week at and then keeping their random times that they wanted to be able to work out or meditate, meditation is big in our office and people needed these tools more now to deal with the pandemic world And then you know things like the plastic dividers between people and open workspaces your group was great about offering like Contact lists uh faucets and entry points.
We learned that copper is a germ killer There’s a lot of things that were easy to make a change in the way that we work together but there is no replacement for being able to live time talk and Ideate and in the design world see what you’re working on and give you suggestions that are in the form of multiple print pieces and things and objects you need to see in person And I think it’s a privilege to Not have to go back to work because you know everybody from those ceramic studios I mentioned in those grocery stores they’re hustling so hard So I see it as our duty to come back because of safely but we have to be physical because if we allow ourselves to completely lose that analog there’s so many more problems that
Craig Grossman: [00:38:10] Oh yeah for sure Um but I think you’re right I think like having some first of all I think there’s there’s great leadership in bringing your employees to the table and asking them what’s important to them What are they concerned about What do they miss And then I also think that it’s you know it’s it’s important to bring the social component back in and that physical collaboration that we’re all sort of missing And then providing the flexibility that who doesn’t like to have the flexibility you know I mean at the end of the day I mean I don’t know I mean I’m not there on a daily basis with how you run your shop but you know we’re about like getting shit done Right You’ve got work Right So we get it done I I don’t know if I care that much If you know you get it done from 12 to three you know and then you take off because you’ve got something to do That’s fine You’re you’re getting your stuff done You’re figuring out what else you have to do You know you’re organized you’re being respectful You’re communicating like those are more Wharton than just somebody sitting in an office from nine to five or eight to six or whatever whatever that is So having the flexibility providing that flexibility to your people they need to get out and meditate They need to work out They need to take a walk and by all means do it If that provides you with some physical and mental and emotional uh outlets and and the health that we all need So so much today So go for it But um I think you know we’re we’re gonna find out hopefully sooner rather than later what coming back to work looks like And I think having that collaborative communicative approach that I think we certainly have is going to help define that So I think we’re going to wrap things up and of course we’re going to come back and talk about more You have something else to say before I ask you one more question
Antoinette Johnson: [00:39:53] Yeah I’ve never done this before but I’m I’m really firmly believing especially as we put together things like panels and conversations that that The one way conversation is dead now meaning I don’t think people go to an event just to hear the panelists speak I think that there really should be an invitation for like an a conversation And I’m really curious how you could do that in a podcast So I’m I’m just curious For the listener to share and maybe they do So like after we post this and comment or reach out to us I’m curious if the listener could share with us like why are they listening to Craig and myself and what intrigues them about spring arts If they’ve been here what brought them here What would bring them back I don’t think the objective of this podcast is to necessarily talk so much about spring arts but rather the actual methods that got us here successfully And so I’m curious what those things are they interested in Because I think nationally people are already starting to look at spring arts as like the next you know LA arts district or Wynwood Miami in some aspects but it has its unique Characters that make it truly something different such as its proximity to the downtown business example But I’d be really curious to leave the conversation open to listeners and hear from them about some of their questions or input And if you Greg might be able to weave that into your podcasts on the next
Craig Grossman: [00:41:29] Yeah I love that Okay We’re going to make sure we do that We’re going to ask you why you’re listening to us and what’s intriguing about what we’re talking about.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:41:37] Are you afraid you’ll learn no one’s listening?
Craig Grossman: [00:41:40] I already know nobody’s listening I’m not afraid of that They’re going to listen by the way because you’re part of this podcast and not listening to me I’ll tell you that Okay cool That’s a good suggestion And by the way I hope that we’re going to come back and do this again because that’s one of the cool things about when I sit with somebody like Antoinette is there’s there’s always something new Like she hasn’t shared like 90% of what she’s working on Trust me So I know there’s a ton of really exciting ideas behind what she shared with us today. So…
Antoinette Johnson: [00:42:08] One one plug I’ll make is that we’re working with some really cool restaurant tours on what the next virtual restaurant looks like And that is definitely ahead of the curve in the national conversation I’m curious where it’s going to end up ourselves especially in a food town like ours.
Craig Grossman: [00:42:26] I guess that sounds like a you know the ghost kitchen idea or something like that Right Okay Cool All right So we’re psyched We’re when we know we’re getting Antoinette back to talk about that cause that’s that’s definitely sort of cutting edge for food and beverage So let’s think about this here for a second So I asked this question to everybody that participates in this in this podcast What is something That we don’t know about Antoinette that we wouldn’t know about you from following your Instagram feed on cohere or maiden Creek something that’s maybe a little bit unusual that would make us scratch our heads It could be a hobby an interest something you like to do I mean we learned that you jumped into maiden Creek with Eric That’s pretty cool That was a spontaneous I’m assuming by the way you pulled out your phone from your pocket and put it on the dry land before you actually jumped in Yeah Anything that there’s anything out of the ordinary
Antoinette Johnson: [00:43:21] Yeah I haven’t done it yet on this podcast but Chris Plant makes fun of me about my laugh That I’m really loud and boisterous with my head Cocked back crack a laugh And it’s true And I learned through a lot of uh therapy self awareness that I came up with that characteristic almost like a branding characteristic of mine in the second grade when my my I was adopted by my stepfather And went from Mela Volta to Johnson So I was Antoinette Mela Bolton the second grade Now I’m Antoinette Johnson and I developed that loud laugh in the second grade because I think I was really uncomfortable with my identity shift and it was a way to mask that and just I think look at the bright side full circle in this podcast And I didn’t realize that about myself until our mutual friend Chris plant pointed it out enough to make me go Hmm Why do I laugh Like
Craig Grossman: [00:44:24] Oh that’s funny Well you do have a great laugh and it’s um it certainly is Um it’s an honest laugh
Antoinette Johnson: [00:44:31] Oh I like that
Craig Grossman: [00:44:33] All right Cool We see at least I learned something new from from speaking with you today brother by the way I should also just mention to you though I like to use the word authentic when I describe this neighborhood because I think about the authenticity coming from the buildings and the history and the stories that are embedded in these buildings So You know I guess you could call that honesty but that to me is also authentic These are like authentically Alfia buildings and streets here and we’re trying to bring you know today’s makers into this neighborhood and weave them in to create something interesting with that intersection of creativity and innovation and you know bringing bringing cool people that are making cool things and doing cool shit Right So hopefully
Antoinette Johnson: [00:45:16] Yeah and I think what is the next phase of that is telling those stories So those honest stories about what what is happening here at spring arts in this podcast is a great way to do that But I think coheres like Mission that aligns with you Craig is like we really do want to a Bullhorn to that stuff that’s happening here because it really inspires people to do more of it themselves you know last week’s event with everybody and Sheffield like hope was so empowering to have like conversations about race and injustice and the food system all in person And that analog conversation I think will spark some great ideas with some incredible small business and entrepreneur operators So I think that What the next phase of spring arts for you is about telling those honest stories more often as a as a result that helps make more of it
Craig Grossman: [00:46:15] I love that. So I think that’s a great way to sort of finish off here. I want to thank Antoinette for joining us. I want to thank you for your small wins. I want to thank you for being the Bullhorn. I want to thank you for your laugh. I want to thank you for the via duck.
Keep checking her out. Follow her. Trust me. When I tell you she’s a dynamo, stay tuned. Follow her. This is Craig Grossman, spring arts podcast. Coming to you from RADIOKISMET in the heart of spring arts. Take care, everybody. Thanks, Antoinette.
Antoinette Johnson: [00:46:44] I appreciate you having me.
Craig Grossman: The Spring Arts Podcast is hosted by me, Craig Grossman. It is produced by RADIOKISMET and Studio D Podcast Production. You can expect episodes every week, and if you liked the Spring Arts Podcast, the best way to support the show is to give us a review on Apple podcasts and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.