With so much focus on tech startups and the newest apps, we sometimes forget that some of the most innovative businesses are the ones that put a new spin on something familiar.
In New York City, companies have taken everything from the gym to restaurants to dry cleaning and reinvented them, building rabid followings and creating amazing products.
We’ve found the 25 most innovative businesses in New York City. Whether they’re startups, brick-and-mortar shops, or pop-up restaurants, these companies are completely revolutionizing their industries.
What it is: A cool new concept for a bar that focuses exclusively on bitters.
Why it's innovative: Amor y Amargo is a bar that brings a new appreciation to bitters. But it's more than just a bar. In addition to the house-made vermouth available on tap, the space includes a retail shop and classroom so that novice bartenders can purchase barware and participate in weekly mixology classes.
What it is: A website that that delivers all the ingredients you need to cook a meal at home.
Why it's innovative: Blue Apron is a a new 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: New York City's only indoor climbing gym.
Why it's innovative: Besides indoor rock climbing, Brooklyn Boulders offers a wide variety of classes, from basic climbing to slacklining (a type of tightrope walking that is popular with climbers). The gym also offers other fitness classes like Pilates and yoga. Climbers can try to scale different courses, including a model of the Brooklyn Bridge or a giant stalactite. Courses change daily to keep things fresh.
What it is: A jewelry website that turns its users into mini entrepreneurs.
Why it's innovative: Chloe + Isabel empowers women to become entrepreneurs by selling and buying jewelry both online and in person. Women who become merchandisers receive a digital workplace where they can create their own online boutique and earn a commission. They receive training, marketing tools, and recommendations to help them build e-boutiques.
What it is: A homemade yogurt shop.
Why it's innovative: Culture is a shop that sells fresh and frozen homemade yogurt, giving yogurt a cult following. It's so good that the authors of Park Slope blog F'd in Park Slope even said they 'wanted to have sex with this yogurt.' The shop strains its product and sells the yogurt on site -- either frozen or fresh. It also features local up-and-coming artists' work on the walls of the shop.
What it is: A 24/7 dry cleaner that has fully automated the dry cleaning process.
Why it's innovative: With DashLocker, you'll never miss your dry cleaning again. Customers drop off clothes in secure lockers at any hour of the day or night. DashLocker then picks up the clothes from the lockers within 24 hours, and returns the cleaned clothing back to the lockers within another 24 hours after that. Clothing dropped off by 10pm will be ready by that time the next day. You can sign up for email or text message notifications.
What it is: An innovative restaurant in Brooklyn that's helping to revitalize the area.
Why it's innovative: Located in the Bed Stuy/Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn, Do or Dine is a restaurant with an unusual and innovative menu. The owners of Do or Dine had no prior cooking experience, yet their unorthodox menu -- think chicken and woffals (organs pumped into a waffle and topped with a Cornish game hen) and foie gras doughnuts -- has gotten rave reviews.
What it is: A website that sells carefully-curated designer pieces and local goods at great prices.
Why it's innovative: Fab.com is an online retailer that emphasises design and unique local goods at great prices. The website features 'daily design inspirations' and killer sales that can save members up to 70 per cent off retail. It raised $40 million in 2011, and sells art, furniture, home decor, paper goods, toys, gadgets, and more.
What it is: A pop-up fitness company that finds unique NYC destinations to work out in.
Why it's innovative: KiwiSweat brings the pop-up shop model to the gym, offering truly unique classes in unusual places. Think yoga underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, or spinning at MoMA. Classes can be one-time events or up to four-week-long sessions. Schedule, location, and details are all kept secret until a few weeks before the event begins. There are no memberships, and every class is treated individually.
What it is: A boutique that sells men's and women's clothing and accessories and is changing the shopping experience.
Why it's innovative: The Little House aims to change the shopping experience. Here, co-founders Savania Davies-Keiller and Joel Alexander Morales showcase their original designs and attempt to make the shopping experience genuinely personal and unique. If you stop by and make a connection, expect an invite to become a member to get early access to collections, bespoke tailoring services, and invites to other events.
What it is: A restaurant with rotating menus and chefs.
Why it's innovative: LTO gives chefs an opportunity to showcase their work and patrons the opportunity to try different cuisines. The restaurant's name reflects the pop-up restaurant's rotating chef culture. LTO features celebrity chefs and obscure culinary names who occupy the kitchen for anywhere from a week to a month.
What it is: A meatball-centric restaurant.
Why it's innovative: The Meatball Shop is responsible for turning meatballs into a trend. Co-owners Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow opened the Meatball Shop as a 'fuss-free' place where people can come and order comfort food exactly the way they like it. Diners tick off the kind of meatball and add-ins they want with the meatballs on dry erase menus and are served delicious, custom meals.
Why it's innovative: The company custom tailors made-to-measure suits for men in New York. Once you're measured, you can either choose to go into the store to build the suit from hundreds of fabrics and cut options, or use an innovative online tool to tweak it to your specifications. They take even more measurements than a typical tailor, making sure the suit is perfect and ready to wear in two weeks.
What it is: An independent movie theatre that offers carefully curated films, food, and drinks.
Why it's innovative: Nitehawk shows both first-run and repertory films, and makes the experience unique by offering table side food and drink service, including handcrafted cocktails and local beer. Nitehawk single-handedly managed to overturn a prohibition era law that prohibited alcohol from being served in movie theatres.
What it is: A hotel and restaurant in the NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) neighbourhood that's playing a key role in revitalizing the area.
Why it's innovative: The innovative restaurant at NoMad has been called best new restaurant in New York. NoMad lets people experience Chef Daniel Humm's food without paying the steeper prices at his flagship 11 Madison Park, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the city. One of the most popular dishes at NoMad is the roast chicken for two stuffed with brioche, foie gras, and truffles.
What it is: A cool upscale Chinese restaurant that serves innovative dishes.
Why it's innovative: Located in the West Village, RedFarm is an upscale Chinese restaurant that presents its dishes in a very whimsical, playful manner. Check out, for example, the Pac-Man ghost dumplings with the sesame seed eyes or the Katz's pastrami egg roll. The restaurant is a collaboration between dim sum master chef Joe Ng, who is Chinese by birth, and restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld, who is Chinese by calling.
What it is: A rice pudding bar with over 20 flavours of pudding.
Why it's innovative: Rice to Riches is a rice pudding bar that serves over 20 flavours of rice pudding, such as coconut coma and espresso with chocolate chip. They don't pretend that their products are healthy or good for you, but instead emphasise that people should be able to indulge on occasion. And their rice pudding is definitely indulgent. Beware your waistline, because they also make overnight deliveries.
What it is: A fitness program that has revolutionised indoor cycling.
Why it's innovative: SoulCycle has managed to build a rabid and evangelical fanbase by offering incredibly intense bike workouts with blaring music, choreography, and inspiration from instructors. It's not just biking; there's dancing and weight lifting as well. The classes sell out in seconds, and the company makes an effort to create a truly immersive and addictive experience.
What it is: A permanent retail shop which completely changes every 4-6 weeks.
Why it's innovative: Story is a store in Chelsea that completely reinvents itself every 4 to 6 weeks. The environment, merchandise, and story behind the store will be completely different. Before they were STORY, they launched in beta as A Startup Store featuring five New York startups -- Artspace, Birchbox, Baublebar, Joor and Quirky -- who wanted to have a storefront presence and create an innovative new way to present and market products.
What it is: New York City's first mobile skateboard shop.
Why it's innovative: Tre Truck is the first mobile skateboard shop in New York. The truck carries over 30 different brands of skateboards, and is staffed by avid skaters who genuinely know about and use the products they sell. From skateboards to board components, protective gear, and even snacks, the truck has everything a skater could want. The truck moves from skate park to skate park all around the city, and you can find them on Facebook or Twitter.
What it is: A shop that sells high-end and animal-friendly fashions.
Why it's innovative: Vaute Couture emphasises fashion, sustainability and ethics. All of the products that designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart creates are completely vegan, using no leather, fur, wool, or animal products of any kind. She uses cutting-edge fabrics and recyclable fibres to create winter coats that are just as warm as their animal product-using counterparts, along with a variety of other vegan apparel.
What it is: A website that can give anyone the ability to plan events like a pro.
Why it's innovative: Formerly known as InstEvent, VenueBook is a free website that links party planners with their ideal venues. Planning a birthday party? Just tell VenueBook what you're looking for and they will look through their database of bars, restaurants, lofts, and other venues. The service will collect all the necessary information about pricing, packaging and availability for you so you don't have to.
What it is: A designer that sells creative, handcrafted jewelry.
Why it's innovative: Vera Balyura's designs are often nearly sculptures rather than typical jewelry. All of the pieces are handcrafted in New York City and richly detailed. They aren't your typical designs; Verameat features necklaces like a fighting octopus and lion, and multiple pieces involving dinosaurs.
What it is: A modern, budget hotel that's leading the charge for small hotel rooms at a decent price.
Why it's innovative: Yotel is all about maximizing space while retaining comfort. The modern hotel, which offers tiny but moderately-priced pod-like rooms, opened its flagship building in New York in 2011. Yotel also boasts the Yobot: a giant crane that helps guests store their luggage in the communal T-Tech by Tumi Luggage Lounge.