For all of the restaurants and bars in New York City, finding the right place for a night out can be a bit of a Goldilocks paradox. Some bars are too loud, or too exclusive, or too tame — simply just not right. Five years ago, Ronnie Flynn and Dylan Hales decided to solve that problem. “It's not like we broke the mold and did some crazy new concept,” Flynn says. “The idea was to do somewhere that's still cool, but everyone's welcome. It's open to the general public. You want everyone to feel welcome. We genuinely wanted to hang out there. We wanted our friends to come there.”
With over five years under its belt, the result — the Lower East Side’s The Flower Shop — is just that: a home away from home for everyone from Robert Pattinson to your little brother. Over the last few years, you’ve likely been on at least one second date there, or found yourself playing pool at 1 a.m. A few nights later, the same space might hold a live set by Del Water Gap, as it did in mid-September. The laid-back bar and restaurant has become a sort of catch-all place that still retains the coolness that it did when it opened — a unicorn in the New York nightlife space.
If anyone was going to do it, it was Flynn and Hales. The Australian nightlife vets and longtime friends reconnected in the dining scene in 2014, and since then have completely dominated the booming post-10pm scene that is the Lower East Side. After opening The Flower Shop in 2017, their second venture, Little Ways, a ‘70s-inspired SoHo supper club. From there, they teamed with TAO Hospitality Group on Loosie's, a subterranean nightclub located within the Moxy Lower East Side, followed by Silver Lining, a live music lounge in the same venue, both of which have hosted Met Gala and fashion week after parties (as well as your average Saturday night).
Most recently, the pair took over the rooftop at the Walker Hotel to create The Flower Shop x Walker Hotel — a sort of soft launch for their next venture: bringing The Flower Shop to a city near you. Here, the pair talk about building their empire and making The Flower Shop a household name.
When you guys first opened The Flower Shop, did you have it in your mind that now you'd be overseeing so many properties? Or was it supposed to be a one-off thing that took off?
Dylan Hales: The plan was always to expand on the idea of making a home base. That expansion plan got really, really disabled because of COVID, because we just got so far behind in terms of just everything operationally, and financially, and the whole lot. Then as we were looking to expand The Flower Shop brand which we thought was the perfect time, we found a Little Ways location that we loved. We loved the space, and the potential there, but it was too close to Flower Shop to call it The Flower Shop. That's when we came up with that concept as something to roll out, Who knows what may happen, but the idea right now is not necessarily to keep rolling out the Little Ways brand, although there have been opportunities and offers to do so. But the focus for us really is expanding on that Flower Shop brand.
How do you keep that home-base mentality of a bar thats a special place you go to to feel comfortable and relaxed, while making it even bigger and expanding into other cities?
Hales: Yeah, that's a million dollar question right there.
Ronnie Flynn: When we started The Flower Shop, we were very interested in trying to do something a little bit different. It's not like we broke the mold and did some crazy new concept. But we both came from backgrounds where we worked in different various nightlife, and restaurants, and worked hotels, so we had a pretty good idea of the lay of the land. It felt like The Flower Shop, in conception, was this idea of we can do somewhere that's still cool, but everyone's welcome, as in there's no doorman or list. It's open to the general public. You want everyone to feel welcome. Then I think we've tried to build that sort of small community vibe by collaborating with people in our neighborhood, working with the community immediately around us, being nice guys, and having friends come and do their birthdays and events. We genuinely want to hang out there. We want our friends to come there.
We went into it with this dream of, we're going to make this place feel cool, but everyone's welcome. Then we want to eventually, hopefully, be an institution and be in the same sort of realm as Balthazar, and all these old school places that have been around for a long time. So I think we were trying to be authentic and delicate in that.
Was there ever a moment during COVID, you took a step back from expansion plans and reconsidered?
Flynn: I think it was a matter of let's just keep trying and keep our seat at the table. Let's just try and weather the storm. I don't think anyone was like, "This is what's going to happen, this is what we need to do next." It was sort of like, "Okay, let's just try not to close. Just try and get through this one."
Hales: Funny enough, that's actually how we ended up in the conversations with TAO Hospitality Group about partnering up with Tao and Moxy LES on Silver Linings and Loosie’s. Ronnie and I were just pottering along down the street during COVID and the Moxy LES is like a stone's throw from the Flower Shop. We saw a big sign saying, "Moxy coming soon." So Ronnie and I just sent a text to Noah Tepperberg, the CEO of Tao Group, saying like, "We're super interested in getting involved." That's how that whole opportunity started as well.
When you're building something like Loosie’s up, how much do you take the Moxy brand is as a whole into consideration?
Flynn: Anyone in hospitality in general is up for a challenge. You have to be, otherwise you wouldn't be doing it. So I think the challenge and the intrigue for us, and probably for them as well, was how do we marry these two worlds. Taking all that knowledge and all that experience [we have] and kind of putting it together with a group like that has been really interesting.
What is something you think, or hope, people can recognize as a trademark from one of your properties?
Flynn: Whether people know it or not in the general public, we're Australian. I mean, we've been [in New York] for 15 years plus, each. But it's like I think kind of welcoming, sort of cheeky, don't take things too seriously, have a bit of fun, authentic kind of attitude, hopefully, sort of shine through on everything we touch.
Rooftops have gotten a bad rap over the years and here you guys are making rooftops cool again. So tell me about the partnership with the Walker Hotel in Tribeca and your thoughts on the rooftop discourse?
Hales: First is the neighborhood, for one. The space itself is a very pretty, sort of calming space. It doesn't have DJs, it's not open late, it's really just like an afternoon, sunset, vibe. It's not designed or programmed to be a party. I think that's what the difference is.
Did you view it almost as a smaller trial run of what it would be like to have The Flower Shop in a different location?
Flynn: That’s exactly it. It also comes down to this collaboration thing, which I think fuels our language of how we operate. We did a popup a couple of years ago in Abu Dhabi with a big design expo out there. We've done stuff in Montauk. We want to keep the juices flowing in that sense.
Earlier you mentioned an Austin trip coming up, is that to look for a permanent space?
Is that first city you're looking at for the second standalone?
Flynn: There's a few of them.
In New York, are there certain neighborhoods that you’re targeting?
Hales: We think that the best target areas for The Flower Shop are Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and the West Village. The West Village is particularly hard to get into because it's tightly held. The rents are extremely expensive, and the Flower Shop really requires a certain amount of square footage. For example, we had said years ago that every Flower Shop must be two levels; that may not necessarily be always possible. So for example, a place that was big enough that could have two sort of rooms, two areas that looked and felt different and had a different atmosphere, that would be acceptable as well.
Would you do LA?
Flynn: I've been trying to do LA since the day we opened. We're looking at all the obvious places in general. Nashville, Austin, Florida, California, and then obviously, potentially overseas. We have some opportunities potentially in Sydney and Australia that we've been sort of discussing. We're super down to see how far we can take it.
We keep saying brand, but it's not like we're trying to be some corporate brand. We just went into it with a mindset of let's create something. We wanted it to feel like a little bit like a household name, or thing you've heard about rather than being a venue.
Is there an example of another spot that has done this that you look to?
Flynn: Not really. The great thing about New York hospitality is that everyone's sort of friends. We all are in cahoots, so to say, so we definitely watch other people and respect some of the old school brands. I don't think we're the same sort of style, but you've got places like, let's say Pastis. They're in Miami, they're in LA.
Hales: Sant Ambroeus has got locations all over. It's obviously completely different as well. But it's a good question because there really isn't anything in our little niche which has a bunch of locations countrywide.
Flynn: We watch everyone and everything a little bit. I think we can take other people's formulas or at least learn from them, and then put out our touch on it.
Is there a timeline you have in mind for the expansion?
Hales: The easiest way to put it to, as far as I'd be concerned, is whenever it makes sense in terms of the right timing and the right location. But to answer your question, we don't have a mapped out expansion plan that we're trying to follow.
Flynn: I think that goes back to us trying to stick to being genuine and authentic in our approach to everything. We want to make sure that we're not just doing this to do it. We are trying to find the right space, the right partners, the right neighborhoods. And that obviously takes time.