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New York is often called “the city that never sleeps,” and its flourishing small-business scene doesn’t seem to sleep, either. In fact, more and more enterprises are popping up every day, many of which are bringing some unusual concepts to life.
From key-making kiosks to a boozy bakery and a hand-blended parfumerie, we rounded up 28 of the coolest small businesses in the five boroughs.
For this list we focused on businesses that opened within the past five years or so.
Know a cool business we missed? Let us know in the comments.
What it is: A cycling studio with a pool.
Why it's cool: The first of its kind, AQUA uses water as an effective and intense resistance. State-of-the-art cycling bikes immersed in a candlelit pool offer a challenging yet energizing workout for fitness gurus and amateurs alike who are looking to shake up their routines.
What it is: A bar where everything on the menu has bacon in it.
Why it's cool: The geniuses behind BarBacon want to give bacon its deserving place in the spotlight. Try the artisanal bacon tasting menu, the beer & bacon flight, and the bacon bloody mary (made with bacon vodka and garnished with bacon).
What it is: A nano-brewery making unusual beers.
Why it's cool: Named for the power plant between Manhattan and Queens on the East River, Big Alice has no official recipes for its beers. Instead, the Long Island City brewery makes each brew with different ingredients like jackfruit, curry, and horseradish.
Big Alice currently brews in 10-gallon batches, but it recently installed a new five-barrel system, allowing it to brew almost 160 gallons of beer at a time.
What it is: A jewelry company that turns women in developing countries into entrepreneurs.
Why it's cool: The socially conscious jewelry company uses 15% of its proceeds to fuel aspiring female entrepreneurs in developing countries through microloans. Women, particularly widows, in impoverished circumstances receive the loans, which they then use to start enterprises of their own, like fruit stands or beauty parlors to help pull them out of poverty.
What it is: A gourmand's bagelry.
Why it's cool: Black Seed takes one of New York's most beloved establishments -- the bagel shop -- and puts a high-end twist on it. Their Soho shop produces quality, Montreal-style bagels that you can top with shmears like tobiko caviar cream cheese or almond butter, in addition to their beet-cured lox.
Black Seed just recently also started serving bagel breakfast sandwiches with baked eggs, Mile End bacon, and avocado.
What it is: A godsend for lazy chefs.
Why it's cool: Blue Apron uses a recent concept in grocery shopping that delivers all the ingredients you need to cook a meal right to your apartment. Members can sign up for a weekly subscription service and have fresh ingredients delivered (for free!) that will make three meals in just the right proportions. The company also promises that each meal takes 35 minutes or less to prepare.
What it is: An easier way to split the bill.
Why it's cool: How many times have you been out to dinner with friends and then struggled to split your meals on multiple credit cards? Probably pretty often if you live in New York. Cover lets you check in through the app once you arrive at a restaurant and automatically adds a tip, splits the bill, and pays with your on-file credit card. You can pay for a meal with Cover at about 100 restaurants in New York City and San Francisco.
What it is: A boutique, custom ice cream factory.
Why it's cool: Astoria-based Desserts That Matter manufactures small-batch ice cream, gelato, and sorbet in custom flavours for restaurants and other food establishments. Food businesses can work with Desserts That Matter to create five-gallon batches of frozen treats to accompany specific menus or for private events, or order tried-and-true yet unique flavours like cardamom pistachio cheesecake or balsamic panna cotta.
What it is: On-demand, affordable in-home stylists.
Why it's cool: GLAMSQUAD lets you schedule blowouts and hair styling appointments that take place in your own home or office. When you book your appointment, a trained stylist comes to you equipped with all the tools and products needed to give you a great blowout, up-do, or other style.
GLAMSQUAD also books make-up artists to give you a polished look for day or night. Services start at $US50.
What it is: A dating app that matches you only with your friends' friends.
Why it's cool: When you use Hinge, you can say goodbye to sketchy, online setups with complete strangers. Hinge matches you only with people with whom you have Facebook friends in common, so you know someone who can vouch for your potential date. Based in New York, Hinge is also available in D.C., Philly, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and LA. The best part? It's free to use.
What it is: An 'American tasting room.'
Why it's cool: Each night a different chef from a rotating roster of Brooklyn venues comes and cooks up a menu in his or her expertise. Diners at the Williamsburg establishment can expect tasting menus that run the gamut from beer cheese to charcuterie to pork belly cracklins to a variety of bar snacks. The food is expertly paired with wine, beer, and cocktails. But it's not a restaurant, according to owner Bill Reed, so don't go expecting a full meal or you're bound to be disappointed.
What it is: A tech-savvy, key-making kiosk.
Why it's cool: KeyMe is a chain of kiosks that can be found around New York City where key-holders can share and duplicate physical keys based on a digital scan taken and stored in the cloud. Keys can be printed on the spot or printed and shipped to you later. The company raised $US7.8 million in April and plans to expand in more cities around the U.S.
What it is: Outdoor-inspired apparel with complimentary beer, vodka, and music.
Why it's cool: Leisure Life NYC creates a unique retail experience that is geared toward professional men who enjoy a rugged look and lifestyle. Clothing and accessories lean on the vintage side, and they are curated from the Clinton Hill store's own in-house brand products as well as lesser-known progressive brands. The shopping experience comes with complimentary beer or vodka and music by DJs.
What it is: A gender-neutral jewelry shop.
Why it's cool: Miansai, the shop by jewelry designer Michael Saiger, sells his signature leather bracelets as well as a bunch of other unisex accessories. The shop offers leather monogramming and build-your-own wrap bracelet options. Help yourself to some kombucha, on tap at the front of the shop, while you browse.
What it is: An e-marketing company that creates 'magic' emails.
Why it's cool: If Seamless wants to send subscribers a three-day weather forecast -- noting that it will rain on Sunday, for example, making it a good time to order in -- how do they ensure that the email's forecast is location-relevant and up to date before it hits inboxes across the country?
That's where Movable Ink comes in. Emails sent through the next-gen platform can be subtly altered in real time after they have been sent -- making e-marketing faster and smarter than ever before.
Earlier this year, Movable Ink launched agileEmail, which not only allows companies to embed live and personalised content into their emails, Tech Crunch reports, but also helps them to create targeted emails campaigns and analyse the results.
What it is: An online and in-person bespoke suit-builder.
Why it's cool: Once a client has been meticulously measured in stores, he can either complete his custom suit order right there or build it online. The innovative Build A Suit feature takes it step by step, prompting users to choose the cut, select a fabric from hundreds of options, and design everything from the lapel shape to the distancing of the cuff buttons.
The customised garment is ready for pickup in just two weeks.
What it is: A clothing boutique in a truck.
Why it's cool: The successor to the food truck phenomenon has arrived: the fashion truck.
Fashionista Jessie Goldenberg hit the road in 2013, driving a 120-square-foot retrofitted delivery truck named Nomad. It's packed with Goldenberg's handpicked selection of funky and boho-chic women's fashion and locally sourced jewelry.
What it is: A consumer-friendly health insurance company.
Why it's cool: Set on shaking up the healthcare industry, founders Kevin Nazemi, Joshua Kushner, and Mario Schlosser launched Oscar, an alternative insurance company that uses technology to make insurance simple, intuitive, and human.
The site is well designed and easy to navigate, and it tries to one-up traditional companies like Aetna and UnitedHealth by making bill-paying a breeze and allowing members to consult with doctors over the phone at no additional charge.
What it is: A booze-loving bakery.
Brooke Siem and Leslie Feinberg opened New York City's original alcohol-infused cupcake company in 2011, serving mini cupcakes in flavours such as Sangria, Old Fashioned, and Scotch & Cigar (pictured). They 'magically' add the booze afterward so it doesn't bake out.
What it is: A makeup bar perfect for busy, working women.
Why it's cool: The blow-dry bar for the face, Pucker offers professional makeup application without the sales pitch or pressure to buy the makeup. For $US35 to $US50, a team led by renowned market artist Julio Sandino will bring out your inner CoverGirl using Pucker's exclusive signature makeup line.
The bar's lower level has a selfie booth (rigged with good lighting), a private dressing room, and storage lockers to stash your stuff before your big night out.
What it is: A boutique hotel in an old hat factory.
Why it's cool: Barely a year old, the Refinery Hotel was built in a 1912 Neo-Gothic building and has just 197 guest rooms. The hotel lives by its garment district history, with in-room desks designed to look like 1900s sewing machines, and staff members who wear uniforms of chambray shirts and suspenders.
The website boasts that in the days of Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, or Julia Child, 'the Refinery Hotel would be their second home.'
What it is: A walk-in shuffleboard club
Why it's cool: Stepping into the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is like entering a 1950s Floridian resort, complete with teal walls, umbrella drinks, cabanas instead of booths, and rows upon rows of shuffleboard lanes.
Guests can rent courts for $US40 per hour on a first-come, first-served basis.
What it is: A Scandinavian candy shop.
Why it's cool: For many Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian people, candy has a sweet significance. They may have grown up with the tradition of Lördagsgodis, in which they run to the store on Saturday mornings to pick out a sugary indulgence -- considered a highlight of the week.
Sockerbit shoppers can take part, too, by stopping in and choosing from more than 140 types of 'smågodis,' which translates to little candies. Licorice, marshmallows, chocolates, and wrapped candies like Saffranskola and Fazermint are always in stock.
What it is: A new spin on the old-fashioned pharmacy.
Why it's cool: While pharmacies of days gone by sold egg creams and banana splits, Stanley's Pharmacy is one part drug store and one part juice bar. Pharmacist Stanley George's throwback wellness shop can whip up infused teas, herbal remedies, and artisanal sodas made with organic fruits and sugars, all while filling your prescription.
What it is: A pay-what-you-can fitness center.
Why it's cool: Going off the 'Yoga to the People' model of fitness, the folks behind The People's Bootcamp believe you shouldn't have to shell out to shape up. Their drop-in bootcamp classes provide a suggested donation price but suggest more interest in building community than making money.
The weight-free, equipment-free classes will have you panting in minutes. 'Our tribe loses weight, builds lean muscle ...' the website says, 'But the real benefits are below the surface.'
What it is: A florist shop that specialises in 'living sculptures.'
Why it's cool: It started on a whim. Michelle Inciarrano, a lifelong plant lover, persuaded her sceptical poet friend, Katy Maslow, to gather some mosses and repurpose a cruet jar from her kitchen cabinet.
Today, Twig crafts terrariums in all types of glass vessels, such as light bulbs, gumball machines, tiny perfume bottles, and chemistry flasks. Each creation contains something unique, 'a snapshot in miniature of one's daily life or passions' -- whether beachgoer figurines laying out, sheep grazing on rolling hills, or Stormtroopers engaged in battle.
What it is: A hand-blended perfumes and cologne boutique.
Why it's cool: Twisted Lily curates small-batch, artisanal perfumes and colognes that you can't find in big box stores. Its scents range from a fresh coriander-infused perfume from Brooklyn-based D.S. & Durga to the Opus II from French parfumerie Amouage, which, with notes of absinthe and cedarwood, is meant to evoke thoughts of a library.
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