STORIES


Meet the Regulars: Richard & Lynne

Irving Farm's John Henry Summerour sat down with Richard Lewis and Lynne Koehler-Lewis, longtime patrons of our 71 Irving Place cafe, to discuss their dual lives as DJs, their Icelandic connection, and their involvement in the incredible Dig Deeper series, a monthly event that brings soul legends back to New York City for an unforgettable celebration of music, dance and life. The next Dig Deeper will go down on Saturday, February 21st, at Brooklyn's Littlefield, featuring Georgia artist Roy Lee Johnson who will be performing in NYC for the first time in 40 years, backed by the Brooklyn Rhythm Band! Get your tickets and dig deep into this 1960s soul experience with Richard and Lynne. They'll see you on the dance floor.
Richard & Lynee - Irving Farm
In my twelve years working the counter at 71 there were plenty of regulars I enjoyed seeing. When I was in the zone on a busy morning shift I could scan a line of customers and catalogue up to thirty approaching orders:
Small black coffee flat top, Skim latte paper cup, Decaf latte cold milk flat top paper bag with handles, Tourist, Tourist, Large hot tea no milk two croissants paper bag no handle, Waiter from next door recently married just got back from honeymoon, Black iced coffee light ice topless...
I would continue adding to this list while reaching behind with my right hand to grab a large cup and begin filling it with hot coffee, punching the current order into the register with my left, grabbing a lid and topping the coffee just before it brimmed, asking a coworker for six specific pastry items, calling to the back for more cups and lids and ice and whole milk, making a mental note that we were about to run out of $1s so I needed to dump the tip jar and make change, tossing beans into the grinder to prep the next brew, the whole time maintaining eye contact with the customer directly in front of me, trying to smile and speak calmly, as though we were the only two people in the room. You could call it a ballet except there's very little grace involved. It's frenetic at best, yielding to utter chaos at the slightest hiccup in rhythm. So much of being a successful barista comes down to rhythm. While I liked plenty of customers, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have favorites. On a crazy Saturday morning with the line stretching out to the sidewalk, I could quickly review the string of waiting faces, lock eyes with Richard and Lynne, and I swear every time I would feel 1% calmer. In the coffee industry, 1% is EPIC. It's the difference between executing a very simple task, like placing a cranberry banana muffin on a plate, and accidentally fumbling the muffin to the floor which triggers the apocalypse. Muffins roll. Coffee overflows. Cupcakes slip from the sugary palms of children. Banshees howl. Glass jugs of milk jump off the counter and shatter, drowning everyone in a river of sticky, sweet calcium. I run to the back of the building and squeeze myself into the darkest, furthest corner, where I hold myself and whisper, "I can't do this anymore," over and over like the prayer of a broken man. Richard and Lynne, with their gentle, calming aura, can prevent this from happening. And they know a thing or two about rhythm.
Irving Farm Coffee
Born and raised in Houston, TX, Richard relocated to NYC from LA in 2005, and this year marks twenty years working as an analyst for a mutual fund company covering the oil and tech industries. Lynne, who is Brooklyn born and bred, decided to walk away from a decade-long career at the Wall Street Journal to study speech pathology at NYU, graduating last year. At this point I should tell you that Richard and Lynne also have alter egos: DJ Honky and Lynne K. Upstanding professionals by day, rump-shaking sorcerers by night, Richard and Lynne had quite different paths to the DJ booth. Richard grew up playing piano and riding in the car with his mother who listened to the Kingston Trio and Broadway show tunes. As a teenager he would scour the record stores for prog rock, developing an early interest in rare recordings and forgotten artists. His first real gig was in Reykjavík, Iceland (cuz you know, that's what you do when you're nervous about doing a good job and need an anonymous, safe space to practice your craft). He flew over with a box of 45s and started inquiring at coffee shops, some of which turned into clubs at night, until he found a promoter who gave him the "warm up" slot at a biker bar from 11pm-12am. That night he played his very best soul records for an audience of two drunks who spent the entire set heckling the American. He figured it couldn't get any worse, so when he returned to LA he started spinning around town and producing mix CDs of his favorite tracks. As a New Yorker, Lynne had the enviable experience of following her brother's recommendation to pay $15 and catch James Brown in concert. She was 15 years old and this was her very first club show. Having just picked up the trumpet, this night wound up being a major cultural turning point as she fell in love with soul and early funk. She attended various soul nights and parties around town, making her own mixtapes and CDs, which eventually caught the ear of a promoter who asked her to spin in between live acts at Brooklyn's Polish National Home/Warsaw in 2001. Bringing a party from a complete standstill to ecstatic mayhem with the drop of one record became her favorite thrill. It's unclear how Lynne would have fared in the Icelandic biker bar, but in 2006 she entered a contest through Icelandair to win a free trip. She wrote an impassioned entry about why Iceland needed soul music and why she was the person to rescue them, and although she didn't win the trip, the experience made for good conversation with the quiet guy standing near the turntables at Rififi's Subway Soul Club in the East Village. The next time they ran into each other at Botanica, Richard gave her some of his mix CDs, and that was that, leading to their eventual nuptials in 2009. Another important connection born out of the Rififi scene was Richard's friendship with Mr. Robinson (also known by day, and probably by his mother, as Michael). They were interested in collaborating on an event as DJs, but New York had no shortage of nights featuring two white guys at a bar spinning obscure record collections. Inspired by concerts that celebrate music heritage, like the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, they began spitballing ideas. What if they could produce live events with legendary soul musicians? Where were their heroes now? Do any of them still play live? Would these artists, many of whom are in their late 70s and early 80s, be willing and able to relearn their old hits, and then travel miles from home for their first NYC gig in over 40 years? DJ Honky and Mr. Robinson had no experience booking shows, but the concept was too thrilling, the mission too important, to not give it a whirl, and thus Dig Deeper came into being.
Their first set of shows was at the Five Spot in Fort Greene, and as their audience grew through grassroots marketing efforts like email blasts, dynamite fliers and word of mouth, the events moved around Brooklyn to venues like Southpaw, the Bell House, and finally their current home at Littlefield, a progressive arts space in a former textile warehouse in Gowanus with walls constructed from recycled rubber tires and chairs made out of repurposed cork. To this day, Dig Deeper is a labor of love. The booking of Paul Sindab is a good case study of how an event generally comes together. In his heyday, Paul Sindab performed with Sammy Davis Jr., Dionne Warwick, Wilson Pickett and Jackie Wilson. The Temptations even served as his opening act once upon a time. When Richard and Michael began looking for him, they knew he was living in Austin, TX, but had no way of contacting him. Richard combed through the White Pages and started making calls, guided by the rule of six degrees of separation, but to no avail. After years of dead ends, a friend who was a fan of the music and loved doing research happened to type "Paul Sindab" into Facebook, and voila! Paul was driving a school bus at the time and hadn't played his classic songs in 45 years. Richard was able to convince him to give it a shot and made a CD of his old recordings so that Paul could learn to sing his entire catalogue all over again. They also discovered—and Paul had to be reminded—that he had recorded under another name, E.J. Rush, so he learned those songs as well. Another friend from the Rififi days, J.B. Flatt, served as the Dig Deeper bandleader and personally transcribed all the charts for horns, rhythm, backing vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, etc. Travel arrangements were made. Tickets were sold. People came, and they danced. They danced hard, and Paul sang harder, and just like that, a moment jumped out of the footnotes of music history to become thrillingly, achingly reborn.

After Superstorm Sandy, they threw a benefit with Rye Coalition and '60s garage group The Sonics for Norton Records, the legendary label that was completely flooded during the storm. Dig Deeper also hosts Jamaican music nights that have drawn fans from the UK, Japan and Puerto Rico. DJ Honky and Lynne K can be found at Union Pool once a month, spinning records before a mass of spinning bodies. And there's more... They chose to completely renovate their apartment and live out of one small bedroom lined with multiple extension cords, where they prepared all their meals in a slow cooker. Dishes were washed in the bathroom sink. They would take pictures of their dinners as a source of encouragement. "Look what we managed to create out of incredibly challenging circumstances!" This spirit infuses everything they do, and it mirrors the lives and journeys of the artists they showcase. Dig Deeper has hosted over 50 musicians since 2008, and each time it's an incredibly emotional experience for all involved. Most of these artists were not fairly compensated when they were recording, and many were left to feel chewed up and discarded by an industry that often prizes youth, units and dollars over longevity and legacy. To be invited to perform again, to be respected and cared for, to be honored for their artistic contributions in their latter years can be a cathartic experience. After suffering a stroke, Marva Whitney traveled to New York with an oxygen tank, and even though she had to remain seated to perform, she absolutely rocked Dig Deeper's New Year's Eve concert. Lou Pride took a break from dialysis to do his show. Jimmy "Preacher" Ellis was almost 80 years old when he participated. It was his very first time playing NYC and he had to be carried onto the stage. Lynne sat in the sound booth with Jimmy's daughter who had never seen her dad perform. Marva and Lou passed away in 2012, and the urgency of this series is not lost on its organizers.

When I ask Richard and Lynne how they manage to juggle full-time day jobs with full-time nights and everything in between, they credit their love of the music and lots of coffee, which they affectionately call "magic juice". Lynne tells me that she started drinking iced coffee with her grandmother when she was 5 years old, and I'm reminded of drinking coffee in my grandmother's kitchen as a kid. I'm reminded of my grandfather playing his prized collection of gospel tapes by the Rangers Quartet. I remember the profound importance of shared experience, sensory connections that carry us deeper into the rhythm of living, of being. I think about that special quality Richard and Lynne possess, their ability to introduce calm into a chaotic environment. And then I realize that what I see in their eyes—what I imagine the Dig Deeper artists see as well—is empathy. To be seen and heard can be simply miraculous in this busy, quick world. And that's what soul and funk is all about. Are you hurting? Is your heart in pain? Do you wanna cry out? Are you happy? Is your heart about to burst? Do you wanna shake and sway and shout? You are seen. You are heard. You are not alone. Let's dance.

 

Join us this Saturday, February 21, at 9pm as we catch some Georgia soul with Roy Lee Johnson, DJ Honky, Mr. Robinson and special guest DJ Brian Poust. It's all going down at Brooklyn's Littlefield. Tickets here!

Meet the Regulars: Trisha Patterson

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

A few times per week we'll see a picture of a customer's morning latte posted to Twitter or Instagram, and it's a nice compliment to know that our coffee is being showcased as an expression of someone's joy or comfort or nostalgia or basic functional coherence. And then there's Trisha Patterson. Director of Local Ad Sales for Fox News Channel, Trisha commutes to work from Larchmont, NY, and she fuels up at the Irving Farm Coffee Grand Central kiosk almost every day, with nearly every visit accompanied by a pic. If latte art could talk, each picture might represent a different facet of her personality: Former dog trainer, craft beer aficionado, sports enthusiast (Yankees, Cubs, Northwestern Wildcats, US Rowing National Team), lover of Megpies lemon tarts, Labrador owner, toddler chaser, angry rock listener (Linkin Park, Queens of the Stone Age, Tool) or self-professed Trekkie. In life, Trisha believes the glass is always half full, and judging from her Twitter feed, every glass is topped with love.

Meet the Regulars: Kenie (and C)

Kenie and Catherine Richards, who began their love affair at Irving Farm.

Kenie and Catherine Richards, who began their love affair at Irving Farm.

We recently learned of an Irving Farm love story from Kenie Richards, who is a regular at our 79th Street cafe and soon relocating to Seattle. We're sad to see her go but we firmly believe, "Once a regular, always a regular." Next time you visit one of our cafes, take a moment to look around and consider that couple chatting in the corner, or those ladies out front standing and crying over their bikes. Something extraordinary could be taking place. Good things happen over coffee...

Occupation: Director, Content Marketing at Teach For America

Hometown: New Port Richey, FL

Other places you think you could live: Seattle—at least I hope I can live there. We’re moving on September 8!

Name of spouse: Catherine Richards —I like to call her C.

Names/breed of "kids": We have two handsome men in our life—our sons, Sir Estherhouse and Kevin Bacon. (Both Boston Terriers. Both dapper in bow ties.)

Favorite/standard drink at Irving Farm: My go-to drink is a simple cup of black coffee—but a drink I like to treat myself to once in a while is a soy latte, either iced or hot (depending on the season).

Item you have to resist (or treat yourself to) at Irving Farm: Biscuits!

Do you brew at home? If so, what device/method do you use? I’m typically a French Press girl, but I’m considering a Kalita Wave Dripper for Sunday mornings. There’s something fun about pour-overs (or maybe that’s just pop coffee culture getting to me).

Favorite non-coffee beverage: Seltzer. (Fun fact: C’s vows included the line, “I promise to always bring you coffee in the morning and seltzer in the evening.”)

What did you do on your first date? We met at Irving Farm on 79th Street for coffee after work—a dinner date would have been too much too soon, but coffee was just right. We hit it off almost immediately, even though I asked C if she was into zombies after she told me that she was wrapping up her PhD in Epidemiology at the time. Her answer was a quick “No,” followed by an awkward silence, in which I was convinced I had blown it.

Tell us your engagement story: C and I are both really into bikes. Because of this, I really wanted to somehow include a bike ride in the proposal, but I also needed to get C to Irving Farm in a way that wasn’t obvious. (We had already asked permission from both sets of our parents to marry each other, so she knew it was coming.) I arranged a dinner with some friends on the UWS, and of course we biked there. On the way home, I steered us past Irving Farm on 79th, then slowed way down. I let C pass me and then called to her saying I had a flat tire. She rode up, looked at me and then at my tires, and realized there wasn’t a flat after all. Once she looked up and saw where we were, she blurted out, “Holy shit, this is happening right now isn’t it!?” I answered yes, started to cry, and pulled out a list of 33 reasons why we were perfect for each other from my pocket. (I had given her a similar list to explain why I loved her earlier in our relationship, and 33 is C’s favorite number.) After we got through the list, I pulled the ring out of my other pocket and asked her if she’d marry me. She said yes and we stood there taking pictures, crying, kissing, and hugging—all while standing over our bikes and wearing helmets. A stranger on the street had seen the whole thing and congratulated us, and it was easily the happiest moment of my life up until the day we got married. 

Engagement Photo

Wedding date/location: We got married on May 24, 2014, at a friend’s weekend house in New Paltz, NY. When we first saw the house we couldn’t believe the view—fields, mountains, and the tower at Mohonk. We fell in love with it and the town of New Paltz, and began spending most weekends there through the winter and spring. Our friends rarely used the house anymore, and we traded house and yard work for weekends upstate.

Tell us about the food: The food was really important to us—we wanted fresh, local food, but also variety and comfort offerings so that everyone had something good to eat no matter their preferences or palate. We ended up with the perfect caterers (Main Course based in New Paltz) who gave us a harvest table full of Hudson Valley cheeses, fruits and veggies, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and stations of food for the main dinner—comfort foods kicked up a notch (grilled cheeses and sliders made in front of you, truffle mac and cheese) and a taco station with fish, chicken, and tofu (also prepared and grilled in front of you). That was all rounded out with a salad table featuring fresh green salads, but also quinoa, beans, etc. For dessert, we did have a wedding cake and cookies, but also invited everyone around a bonfire where we all made s’mores. It was perfect. To this day, our guests tell us it was the best food they’d ever eaten at a wedding. Mission accomplished! 

Meet the Regulars

Photo by Prisca Edwards

Side note: Our wedding favors were bags of coffee—displayed next to a sign that read “Good things happen over coffee”. We also took inspiration from the Irving Farm brand for our wedding colors—we went with white and black for most everything, tossing in a pale yellow and purple (our favorite colors) here and there. I’m detail-oriented like crazy, so I really wanted the coffee that started it all front and center, even if C and I were the only two that knew the significance!

Favorite memory from the honeymoon: We spent two weeks in the Pacific Northwest for our honeymoon with a last stop in Seattle. I had never been there but was pretty blown away by the city almost immediately. It’s gorgeous! On our second day there, Catherine actually interviewed for a job, and when she came back a few hours later I knew the look on her face said that it went well and that she was excited. I asked her, “Are we moving to Seattle?” and she smiled and I knew.

Personality traits necessary for marriage: Courage and patience. There is a James Baldwin quote that comes to mind—“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” So, you’ve got to be willing to go all in, or you’ll never be happy. And the patience part is all about being completely willing to give up selfish habits, and to realize that not everything is on your timing any longer. It’s about staying calm in tough situations even if they lay outside of your comfort zone.

Personal heroes when it comes to successful/inspiring relationships: Edie and Thea come to mind—their story and persistence is inspiring.

Life philosophy in one sentence: Can I borrow a Steve Martin Quote? “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” I don’t borrow this in an arrogant way—rather, I keep it close as a reminder to keep at it (whatever it is), to be persistent, to always keep going. You can’t give up too easily or be swayed by the inevitable roadblocks in life. A line I might add—if you are that good, and you do gain attention, you’ve got to do something good with that attention. Invest it in making a difference.

Love philosophy in one sentence: Be brave. I say this here because that’s what it takes, I think. You’ve got to be brave to be your best for that other person, you’ve got to be brave to keep trying new things together, and you have to be brave every day to love them fully even when it scares you.

Thanks, Kenie! Best of luck to you and Catherine in Seattle; we'll miss you!

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