BY Aline Reynolds
A restaurant and clothing store are opening at the South Street Seaport, part of a steady influx of new tenants to the area.
Howard Hughes Corporation, current owner and operator of the district, hopes to enhance the district for both locals and foreigners, according to senior general manager Michael Piazzola. “Our goal is to create an environment that’ll be embraced by our neighbors who are New Yorkers, as well as by people who visit the Seaport,” he said.
Soul Daddy opened on May 2 at three locations nationwide, including a 90-seat venue at 189 Front St. Owner and manager Jamawn Woods is the winner of a 10-week show that aired on NBC’s “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” featuring eminent restaurateur Bobby Flay, Steve Ells, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Chipotle, Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone and renowned executive chef and restaurateur Lorena Garcia.
Woods, from Detroit, Mich., is still in disbelief that he won the competition. “I’m feeling great – it’s like scoring a touchdown times a hundred,” said the 32-year-old entrepreneur.
Appearing on national television alone, he said, was a big deal. “You get a little bit nervous when you’re pitching yourself to four millionaires,” he said. “But whether I won or lost, the experience of working with [the cast] and being around them every day is something that I’ll never forget.” He said he learned some important lessons while on the show — for example, when it comes to food, attention to detail is crucial, since one minor mishap can ruin a customer’s entire dining experience.
Woods is making his first trip to the Big Apple later this week. “I look forward to seeing the reaction to the restaurant and jigging with people,” he said.
He has modified the traditional soul food menu by making it healthy. The restaurant serves baked chicken, for instance, instead of fried chicken and substitutes wild rice, sweet potato and other wholesome dishes for greasy sides. Soul Daddy also serves pull pork sandwiches, ribs and other barbeque entrees priced between $5 and $12.
“I think the world likes soul food, but the problem is it can be so unhealthy, that people can be scared and back away from it,” said Woods. “That’s why I want to put a twist on it, so people can feel like they can eat it all the time.”
At age 15, Woods took an instant liking to cooking, making homemade candy with his dad and concocting his famous gumbo soup for family and friends – a dish he prepared on the NBC show, along with fried chicken and collard greens.
Superdry, a clothing outlet favored by teens and young adults, will be opening its second New York City shop at 22 Fulton St. in late June. The brand is worn by such celebrities as Bradley Cooper, Josh Duhamel and A.J. Grenier. Prices range from $30 for a T-shirt to $90 for a pair of jeans.
The Seaport was “the top of our short list” of urban destinations, according to Michael Martins, Superdry’s chief executive officer. The company, he said, intends to capitalize on the recent rejuvenation of the Seaport’s retail strip.
“What we love about the Seaport is it’s a very healthy mix of domestic visitors and international tourists,” said Martins. “We want to be a part of the revitalization of the district.”
“Abercrombie [and Fitch] J Crew, Coach and Anne Taylor, [which have stores at the South Street Seaport,] are successful… Tenants that want to be affiliated with that handful of tenants, are calling us and would like to be here,” said Piazzola. Signing a lease with Superdry, he noted, is “integral to improving the tenancy of the area.”
The district has made a considerable comeback in recent months – its 300,000 square feet of retail, Piazzola noted, is now 95 percent occupied and is capturing the attention of more and more tenants by the day.
The goal he said, “isn’t necessarily a question of filling that last five percent. It’s about re-merchandising the asset to better serve the community.”