New York City is known around the world for its diversity in food, culture, shopping, and recreation. But what truly makes it a standout city are the small businesses that bring its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to life.
We’ve scoured the city to spotlight some of the coolest small businesses founded within the last three years.
From a pencil collector’s paradise to a hip coworking community space to a chromotherapy spa, here are 25 of New York’s coolest new businesses:
App of Joe
What it is: An app for scoring $1 coffee around the city.
Why it’s cool: Frequent visits to your local coffee shop for a $2 or $3 coffee can add up — especially if you’re ditching the commercial chains for indie spots. The folks behind App of Joe, an iOS and Android app that launched in June, offer a membership-free solution: You can order tea and drip coffee for a flat fee of $1 and “fancy drinks” like a latte, macchiato, or cappuccino for $2 from indie coffee shops — currently about 20 — around Manhattan.
What it is: A combination cafe and bookstore that only sells books about food.
Why it’s cool: Inspired by her Sicilian grandparents, Paige Lipari, a former rare-books seller, wanted to open a shop that combined her love of books and food. In fall 2013, she opened Archestratus.
The book selection at Archestratus — named after an ancient Sicilian poet — includes cookbooks as well as fiction and nonfiction books inspired by food. Its cafe offers Sicilian-inspired pastries and dishes like rice balls. Archestratus also holds a number of workshops, cooking classes, and other weekly events.
What it is: A co-living community with full amenities.
Why it’s cool: Common opened its first shared living space — dorm-style living for working adults — in Crown Heights last fall and has since opened two more locations in Brooklyn as well as one in San Francisco. In the past year, the company has received over 5,000 applicants looking for a room in one of its community-minded residencies.
Rent commonly runs upward of $1,500, though that includes all fees and utilities. The houses also come fully furnished and fit anywhere from 19 to 50 people.
But it’s not just about finding a living space — Common encourages its members to build a strong community and get to know their roommates. Each household has member-led events like potlucks, wellness events, and book clubs.
What it is: A make-your-own ice cream shop.
Why it’s cool: Marguerite Loucas came up with the concept of CoolMess after struggling to find something fun to do with her three kids. She wanted something interactive that they wouldn’t get sick of. Already in the restaurant business — her family owns the 70-year-old burger mini-chain Burger Heaven — Loucas opened CoolMess in January 2016.
At the ice cream machine on their table, a customer chooses a liquid ice cream base, then adds toppings — anything from cookie dough to cherries to pound cake — and mixes it all in the machine for eight minutes to produce their concoction. If you’re feeling lazy, you can choose from the shop’s predesigned “Messipes.”
CW Pencil Enterprise
What it is: A carefully curated pencil shop.
Why it’s cool: Established as an online store in late 2014, CW Pencil Enterprise opened a brick-and-mortar shop in 2015 to cater to the quiet but mighty pencil-loving community.
Caroline Weaver — a pencil connoisseur and the shop’s millennial founder — is as invested in the design and functionality of pencils as she is the stories behind them, from the traditional Ticonderogas to replicas of John Steinbeck’s favorite writing utensil.
Dank Banana Bread
What it is: Preservative-free, vegan banana bread.
Why it’s cool: Caitlin Makary started Dank Banana Bread as an accident. As an avid rock climber, Makary would make her own banana bread to bring on climbing trips. Her friends loved the bread, so she decided to start a business.
Dank Banana Bread is made out of a kitchen in Bushwick but is available at a number of coffee shops around the city. To eliminate waste, the company uses bikes to make deliveries, and the banana bread is stored in reusable bakery boxes. It comes in two flavors, original and chocolate, and is made without preservatives — the ingredients are all listed on the company’s site.
What it is: A coworking playground modeled after a hotel lobby.
Why it’s cool: Opened in August 2015, Freehold is a multiuse community space that comprises a restaurant and bar, coffee shop, and workspace that’s a hotspot both day and night.
The space is designed to look and feel like a hotel lobby with couches, tables, a concierge desk, and a bar, but there’s also ample outdoor space, complete with AstroTurf and a ping-pong table.
French Cheese Board
What it is: A cheese concept shop.
Why it’s cool: A cheese-lover’s paradise, French Cheese Board doesn’t only sell cheese — everything in the store is inspired by cheese, from the art to the cookware to the books. The space was engineered by two French designers, Ich&Kar, and is both a boutique and event space.
Customers can stop by to pick up a piece of its rotating selection of French cheeses like Brie or raclette for $8 to $10. It also hosts a number of events, like wine and cheese pairings and Sunday brunches.
What it is: A hot sauce shop with a tasting room.
Why it’s cool: Heatonist founder Noah Chaimberg loves hot sauce so much, he wanted to open a place where people could try it before they buy it. Heatonist was founded in 2013, when Chaimberg would have tastings at local events. He created a web presence, and in April, Heatonist opened its first storefront.
Heatonist offers hot sauces from more than 20 makers in four intensities, ranging from mild to hottest. Those looking for something a little more exotic can find hot sauces in flavors such as pineapple, carrot, and blueberry.
What it is: A spa treatment with benefits that may make you feel “high.”
Why it’s cool: HigherDOSE — DOSE stands for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins — offers an infrared spa treatment that’s described as a workout, facial, acupuncture, and massage all in one.
The offerings include 30- to 60-minute sauna sessions that help burn calories, detoxify, reduce inflammation and pain, and enable antiaging. Some say the combination of these benefits makes them feel “high.”
Each glass-and-wood sauna has six colors of infrared light to choose from — a form of chromotherapy — and a spot for charging your phone and playing music. Individual sessions start at $45.
What it is: An online service that pairs elderly patients with skilled caretakers in the area.
Why it’s cool: The company’s vetted team of caretakers charge $20 to $27 per hour and aim to make patients feel comfortable while enabling them and their families to monitor their health through simple, easy-to-use technology. Hometeam’s streamlined software records and tracks clients’ health plans and mood via iPads, and it enables caretakers to send text and photo updates to family members.
Ice and Vice
What it is: An innovative ice cream shop that’ll introduce you to flavors you didn’t know existed.
Why it’s cool: A playful addition to New York’s dessert scene, Ice and Vice opened its storefront last year after garnering a loyal following as a mobile vendor.
The shop’s rotating seasonal flavors are delicious, if not bizarre, including Rose Jam (crème fraîche and rose-petal jam) and Tico Time (pink guava and chili-lime plantain chip). Even its “basic” flavors are funky, like the Basic B (Mexican vanilla and black lava sea salt) and Tea Dance (Nilgiri tea leaf, lemon charcoal, and salted caramel).
What it is: A spinning class taught in front of an Imax screen.
Why it’s cool: ImaxShift offers 45-minute classes in front of a huge Imax screen. Riders can pedal through space or glide over the Hawaii coastline and feel like they’re truly there. The visuals match the beat of the music, which is played through surround-sound speakers.
The 50-seat studio opened in May 2016, and classes cost $34 each. If a particular musical artist or type of music gets you pumped to work out, ImaxShift also offers themed rides, like the Beyoncé Ride or Music Video Ride.
What it is: David Chang’s first restaurant on Manhattan’s West Side.
Why it’s cool: Momofuku Nishi opened in January, serving up adventurous dishes that take inspiration from both Asian and Italian cuisines. But its buzziest offering is the Impossible Burger, a faux-meat hamburger made of plants that’s distributed by a company called Impossible Foods and available exclusively at Nishi.
Chang also recently launched a Momofuku food delivery app called Ando, named after the man who invented instant ramen noodles.
What it is: An activewear company that strives to be different.
Why it’s cool: Outdoor Voices is doing things — at least that’s what the company’s bright blue baseball caps say.
Founded by Tyler Haney, a former Parsons School of Design student, Outdoor Voices wants its customers to be at ease while working out in its clothes — not like other athletic brands that advertise stronger, better, faster workout performance.
Though Outdoor Voices originally opened in Austin in 2014, the company set up shop in NYC last year. The clothes come in subdued colors like black, gray, and navy, and are meant fit into the wearer’s everyday wardrobe. Outdoor Voices collaborated with the French ready-to-wear brand APC on a collection featured during New York Fashion Week.
What it is: An Airbnb-like app that allows people to rent rooms last-minute.
Why it’s cool: For travelers who find themselves needing to book a room quickly, Overnight’s app aims to help. The app debuted this year in Austin but has since become available in New York and San Francisco. The options range anywhere from a shared accommodation (like a couch or a futon) to a private room to an entire house.
It’s simple to use: A guest finds accommodations based on their location, and once they send a request, the host has 10 minutes to respond — if they don’t, the next available rental is shown. Guests are able to pay within the app, and all of the hosts are verified by Overnight. The rates are pretty cheap, too — private rooms can go for $70 to $80, and houses can go for $150.
What it is: A pin collector’s paradise.
Why it’s cool: Pintrill started as a website in 2014 but opened its first store this spring. Its owner, Jordan Roschwalb, started the business hoping it would be a place for pin collectors to meet and share their enthusiasm about the tiny trinkets.
But these pins at Pintrill aren’t your average brooches. Some are cheeky, like the For Prez pack, an ode to a theoretical Kanye West bid for presidency. Pintrill also collaborated with companies like Shake Shack and Levi’s to create designs. A single pin can cost about $15.
Rialto Jean Project
What it is: A charitable denim brand.
Why it’s cool: Rialto Jean Project’s “Denim Doing Good” platform creates stylish, vintage jeans. The best part? A portion of the sales from the South Street Seaport concept shop — which relocated to New York after it was founded in Los Angeles in 2013 — and other high-end retailers around the city go to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and New York Presbyterian Child Life Services.
What it is: A gift shop featuring items curated from local designers and craftmakers.
Why it’s cool: Jewelry and clothing designer Yuka Anziano opened Saint Seneca because she wanted to shine a light on the talent the Ridgewood area has to offer. The store opened in fall 2015 and derives its name from the two avenues it’s located between.
At Saint Seneca, you can find a gift for just about anyone — babies, parents, friends, or significant others. The boutique has handmade products from over 40 artists that include leather-bound books, pillows, toys, jewelry, and even pet products.
What it is: A startup that partners with “beautifully designed” restaurants to rent their unused space to independent workers.
Why it’s cool: Users can get daytime access to coworking spaces — restaurants that don’t open until the dinner hour — for $95/month or $29 for a one-day pass. Each setup includes Wi-Fi, gourmet coffee, tea, refreshments, and charging stations. Soon those restaurants will offer small eats and a lunch menu.
Ultimately, the startup aims to improve food culture by helping restaurants with high rents and by allowing chefs to innovate and experiment, while also offering freelancers a reprieve from the city’s crowded coffee shops.
Strong Rope Brewery
What it is: A taproom pouring 10 exclusive brews.
Why it’s cool: Strong Rope Brewery owner Jason Sahler started brewing beer 13 years ago just for fun. After he won a home brewing competition in 2011, he decided to open a brewhouse in a former pickle factory in Gowanus.
Strong Rope has 10 beers on tap — eight of which are Sahler’s own concoctions and aren’t available anywhere outside of the taproom. Strong Rope believes it’s important to support the New York community, so the brewery gets all its ingredients from farms and malthouses in the state. Those who want to visit the brewery on a Saturday can do a tour and tasting for $5.
What it is: A laid-back bar, restaurant, and movie theater.
Why it’s cool: Tickets are just $3 for a movie showing at Syndicated, which screens new and old indie hits and cult favorites three times a day.
The space also serves elevated pub fare made with local and seasonal ingredients. Guests can order finger food in the theater or eat in the dining area or bar, which also has two large projectors.
What it is: A private membership community for attending chef-led dinners around the city.
Why it’s cool: For $199 per year, plus discounted meals, members have access to bimonthly, closed-restaurant dinners with a multicourse menu curated and presented by each restaurant’s chef. Members also get benefits and discounts at partner restaurants and select food-related brands.
The Last Word
What it is: A speakeasy hidden behind a hardware store.
Why it’s cool: Don’t be fooled by the entrance to The Last Word. If you can get past the hammers and rakes, you’ll find a 1920s-inspired speakeasy. The bar is filled with antique leather couches and huge red velvet curtains. Though there’s no sign of the bar’s name anywhere on the outside, it’s slyly etched into ice cubes and branded on orange peels.
The Last Word’s drinks menu is split into four sections — House Words, Easy Drinking, Feeling Adventurous, and Know Your Spirits — and offers a bevy of drink options made with gin, bourbon, whiskey, and rum.
What it is: Easy-to-hold crepes.
Why it’s cool: At Tornado Crepe, the French pancakes are served in cone-shaped containers and filled to the brim with sweet or savory fillings. Sweet crepes like The Tornado are filled with ingredients like crushed Oreos and marshmallows, while savory crepes bear names like The Shrimp Avocado or The Sausage.
Owner Mike Zhao puts his own spin on the crepes by including popular Chinese ingredients like sesame and green tea. Tornado Crepe also serves bubble tea, milkshakes, and slushies. For lunch, it offers a crepe and bubble tea for $7.50.
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