Bluestone Lane has arrived to the New York coffee scene with innovative spaces, a collective café, and even a coffee trike. Founded by former professional Australian Rules Football player Nick Stone and fashion model Alex Knight, the company capitalizes on a diverse set of experiences strengthened by Nick’s background in business. The result beautifully showcases the quality, care, and attention given to the product and brings the Melbourne coffee experience stateside. Here, Nick gives The Angle a closer look at what goes on at Bluestone Lane, and what’s in store for the future.
What separates the Melbourne coffee experience from those in the U.S. and other coffee cultures around the world?
In Melbourne, it’s about far more than the product itself. It’s about complementing premium coffee with a thoughtful and sophisticated food offering, and creating an engaging and personable service experience delivered in an inviting environment. It’s so much more than simply coffee. It’s about developing a place in people’s lives where they can escape and enjoy a friendly and accepting environment that feels like another home.
Why did NYC feel like the right place for Bluestone Lane?
New York is a place with a huge consumption of coffee, and we also thought we could make a difference in how New Yorkers think about their coffee consumption, and make them regard it as more of a coffee experience.
It also coincided with my move to New York for Business School, and it was where my partner’s (Australian model Alexandra Knight) career is based. I chased her to NYC and when I got here, I couldn’t believe how inconsistent the coffee experience was in comparison to that of Australia.
The spaces of both your coffee shops and the collective cafe are beautifully designed. What was the inspiration behind the spaces, and how does that contribute to the experience of both baristas and customers?
They were designed in collaboration with Julia Sullivan from Caswell Design. Julia is an Australian designer living in Denver, so she had a great understanding of what Bluestone Lane is about and the type of environment we wanted to create.
Our big focus for the last three projects has been to create light and open spaces, moving away from the dark, reclaimed look that has been very popular in New York. In particular, for our West Village Collective Cafe and our Bryant Park locations, we were dedicated to leveraging the abundant natural light to produce a relaxed, beachy, and clean look and feel.
In recent years much attention has been placed on coffee itself – organic, fair trade, whole beans, roasting styles, etc. Can you speak to the importance of the beans and why this has become an important topic for coffee makers and consumers?
There has certainly been greater awareness of and demand for high quality beans. Not simply how they taste as part of a coffee beverage, but a greater holistic inquisition into where they came from and under what conditions. All our beans are sourced via wholesalers who have direct trade relationships, which ensures not only that the beans are the finest quality Arabica in the world, but also that the farmers who have grown the cherries received appropriate economic rewards for their skill and quality product.
Social responsibility and being a values-driven company is very important to us, and where and how we source our beans falls within this umbrella of integrity and corporate responsibility.
What was the transition like from coffee shop to also having a full service restaurant with the Collective Cafe?
It was quite a natural extension, as we have substantial food offerings at all our coffee shop locations. You can have Avocado Smash and Jaffles made to order, or pastries, slices, and breads. However, Collective Cafe has significantly expanded on that idea.
It’s certainly more challenging to run a full service restaurant given the variety of skills required, number of staff, suppliers, and other constituent relationships; however, it also provides a wonderful forum to create something really signature and unique that drives brand awareness.
It has been a wonderful experience so far and we will continue to open larger-scale cafe concepts over the coming years in New York and abroad.
How much consideration did you give to coffee when designing the food menu?
To be perfectly honest, not a tremendous amount because coffee is our anchor and the most important product. We see the food complementing the coffee, although the flavor profile stands on it’s own, whether you’re drinking coffee or not. The menu was inspired by what we like to eat as customers and that resulted in sophisticated, healthy, and wholesome offerings.
The coffee trike! How’d you come up with the idea?
We found the trike through research and had it custom made in the UK. Then, we shipped it to New York for our collaboration with Marc Jacobs as part of New York Fashion Week last year. It’s an amazing asset and incredibly eco-friendly and efficient. However, it’s a very heavy bike and definitely requires strong legs to get around (especially if the water tank is full)!
Any future projects, either already in the works or existing only as a dream?
We have two additional stores that will be open within six months: one in the Upper East Side near Central Park and the other in Brooklyn. We also have a range of proposals we are working on from ranging from stores to collaborations – lots of exciting things to come!