Today I sat down with Mike Arnot- the founder, CEO, and brains behind Boarding Pass NYC. In this interview he tells all as I pick his brain for go-to Greenpoint spots, the vision behind our brand new Greenpoint retail store, and his travel bug that started it all.
EG: When did Boarding Pass NYC first land in Greenpoint, Brooklyn?
MA: We’ve been based in Greenpoint since starting the company in 2012. First we were on the 4th floor of 67 West Street, in a super small space the size of my couch. We moved from there to the Pencil Factory, where we were based for a number of years. That was a pretty cool spot. It’s actually an historic Brooklyn landmark, previously the oldest pencil manufacturing company in America, and today home to dozens of creative local individuals and firms. We recently moved again in Greenpoint- this November actually- to 42 West Street.
EG: Very cool, could you tell me a bit about the move last month?
MA: The difference with this new space is that we have a retail store for the first time in Greenpoint, which we’re really happy about. It’s nice to have an outward facing shop, and behind the store we have our office, design studio, and some warehouse space. So far it’s been great having a storefront where we can talk to our neighbors and get customer feedback in Greenpoint. It also allows us to test out new merchandising ideas that we aren’t able to do in our Manhattan store at 230 Mulberry Street.
EG: What’s happening that sets the Greenpoint store apart from your Mulberry Street location?
MA: Well, for one, the storefront is quite neat- from the street it’s pretty visually interesting. There’s a great super-high ceiling in the space. We also feature a photo from our shoot at the TWA flight center at JFK, designed by Eero Saarinen. We were one of the last brands to do a shoot there, so we made that a centerpiece of our Greenpoint store. It takes up a whole wall. We also have a great selection of our products, as well as original vintage airline art from the ‘50s and '60s.
EG: The vintage airline art sounds really interesting. What else can you share about it?
MA: We think it’s pretty cool. They’re not prints- they’re the real deal. They’ve got vibrant colors and are interesting to look at. We see them as a throwback to the time when air travel was luxurious and thrilling. A time when the places you would go would only be part of the journey, and experiencing the mode of travel was as important as experiencing the destination itself. The vintage pieces are an homage to that.
EG: It sounds like travel is really your passion. Has traveling always played a role in your life?
MA: I grew up in a really small town, about 13,000 people, and I wanted to explore the world. I remember asking my mom- I had like $100 in savings when I was twelve years old- I asked her how much it would cost to get a plane ticket to a medium sized city a couple hundred miles away. When she broke the news that it would be closer to $300, I remember thinking that maybe I could buy a bus ticket for $100. I never got to go, but I definitely had the travel bug from a very young age. My family didn’t travel much at all, and when we did it was always by car. It wasn’t until later, when I was a bit older, that I had the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. and Canada.
EG: So, is your love of travel what sparked the idea for Boarding Pass?
MA: Actually, originally we weren’t so travel oriented. My focus was on creating high quality, USA made goods, but it did quickly evolve. One of our very first products was a luggage tag. Seeing your name stamped on a luggage tag is just a great feeling. They’re really hard to make and they’re really personal to the recipient. And I think people love that. The idea soon became, what are the things people need when they travel. For guys, it’s often a shaving kit bag. And most shaving bags suck. A lot of guys just use a plastic bag and that’s not cool, you can’t do that. We started bags shortly after, and the rest is history.
EG: So when you’re not traveling, it seems like Greenpoint is really home base for Boarding Pass. What is the best part of being in the neighborhood?
MA: We’ve always wanted to be in Greenpoint. We saw the neighborhood as vibrant, changing, quite cool and, well, green- as the name Greenpoint suggests. I’ve personally been in Greenpoint and Williamsburg since 2009 and have really enjoyed being involved in the community working with the Greenpoint Youth Soccer League and serving on the board of the Open Space Alliance of North Brooklyn. We also love our neighbors. Our favorite neighbors are Homecoming where we go daily, sometimes hourly, it seems, for coffee and for plants for our store. We go to all of the restaurants in the area, including Little Neck Outpost, Karczma- a great Polish spot with fantastic pirogies, Paulie Gee’s, and of course Brouwerij Lane, which has great beer. We try to support our local businesses because we know that they try to support us.
EG: Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
MA: Well, we’re super excited to have our grand opening this week- Friday December 15th, from 7pm-10pm. We know that a whole bunch of people from the community are going to come check out the new store, meet the faces behind Boarding Pass NYC, and enjoy some “Brooklyn-Manhattan” Cocktails. [RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org].