“My dad is the owner. My mom is the… real owner.”
That’s 15-year-old Sabrina Mendoza, discussing the family business while sipping a soda at the bar at Rapture Lounge on 28th Ave in Astoria.
Sabrina, introduced in Episode 1 of one of BizCastr’s debut “reality webseries,” is a prime example of why people love reality shows: Smart, funny, and real, she offers unexpected insights and some of the best “lines” in the show. (My other favorite, regarding her parents: “I love both of them… unconventionally!”)
BizCastr in Astoria
BizCastr, a startup based in NYC, offers a brilliant mash-up of two of popular formats: reality shows and social media. They produce their videos in-house (keeping the usual video production costs down) and make the videos available for social media sharing. It’s a unique hybrid that offers entertaining and informative viewing to reality fans—and customers—while providing a great source of social media “content” for small business owners.
It officially launched June 1, and Astoria features prominently in their growing lineup: You’ll find local scenery in both Love Coach and Armos 8 Renovation, but the biggest valentine to our neighborhood is Night Life: Rapture Lounge. I went over to 28th Ave to find out how it all went down, and got to talk with co-owner Roberto Mendoza, shown below with his direwolf canine companion, Hendrix.
ASM: How did you connect with BizCastr? Did you approach them or did they find you?
RM: They found us! They wanted to film a scene for the Love Coach here and I said, Sure. After that they asked if we wanted to do a series here, about us.
ASM: Was everyone on your end on board with it right away, or did you have to talk anyone into being filmed?
RM: Oh, no, everyone was excited about it. We had to get permission for the customers, but so far everyone we asked has been OK with it.
ASM: Even your daughter? I have a teenager at home and I know they can be unpredictable.
RM: No, no, she’s good with it. She’s a student at Frank Sinatra [School of the Arts], for filmmaking. She doesn’t want to be an actress, though. She’s into writing and directing.
ASM: I get a lot of Astoria-centric news on my Twitter feed, but I didn’t know you were doing this until I came across the BizCastr site for another project. Did you do any kind of promotion about your webseries?
RM: Well, we advertise [on WhyLeaveAstoria.com] and list some of our events there. But no special promotion for this, really. We’re going to have a big party when it’s finished filming, though. Maybe see if we can play it up on the big screen.
[I’ll spare you the Twitter proselytizing I did just then. BizCastr did set up a handle for them—@NightLifeBiz—but it’s got a corporate feel; more promotional than “organic.” (Businesses in Astoria that are most successful on Twitter are those that feel more personal.) I got Roberto to promise—vaguely—that he (might) sign up for Twitter soon. We’ll see!
Rapture also has a great website. In Episode 3, we find out that’s all Gladys’s baby: “Believe me, she’s good,” says Roberto. “She knows how to do everything with the Internet and computers. She’s a genius, I admit it!” Gladys also handles their Facebook fan page (453 likes · 23 talking about this · 2,170 were here). She keeps the patrons up to date with the lounge’s heavy schedule of “Nights” (Karaoke Wednesdays, Comedy Night Sundays, et al), and includes links to the webseries as episodes are aired.]
ASM: So you’ve lived in Astoria for 20 years [Rapture’s been open for eight.] Where are your favorite places around here, when you’re not there? What area do you live in?
RM: I live near the diner on Astoria Blvd, Neptune… by Staples. Let’s see, where I like… I like Tu Casa, on Steinway. Great Peruvian food. For Greek, Taverna Kyclades, on Ditmars.
ASM: Sushi? Mexican?
RM: I like Watawa, that’s also on Ditmars. That’s great sushi. And I really like that taco truck on 30th! [El Rey Del Taco Truck] They have the best tacos… Besides mine!
BEHIND THE SCENES:
••• There was a bit of a buzz on the set the first day, as people tried to figure out where they knew the producer from: It was Dan Shor—Billy the Kid in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. •••
RAPTURE LOUNGE INFO:
34-27 28th Ave
Social profile: On Facebook, Yelp and foursquare
You can watch the webseries at the BizCastr site, below, or on YouTube. Additional video sharing sites will be added later.
BizCastr is the home of “Businesses with Character; Characters with Businesses.” Remember, they’re a startup, so now is a good time to check them out. (I’m thinking it might get progressively more expensive to sign on after they take off.)
I spoke with founder and president Dean Soukeras a few weeks ago and asked him what he thought made the best candidate for a webseries, and the three things that matter most are that you have opinions, an outgoing personality, and a solid social network, already in place. (You know how video and sharing works…)
Personally, I find the chart on their “Want a Show?” tab a little confusing, though I’m sure it makes sense to marketers and/or tech people. If you’re neither of these, but interested in finding out more, you can cut through that and contact a real person:
SO FAR ON NIGHT LIFE: RAPTURE LOUNGE…
Unless noted, all photos are courtesy BizCastr Inc.
Congratulations to everybody who got Yelp’s highest honor—a 5-star review—for the week 6/16 to 6/23.
6/17/12 Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company 36-14 30th Ave
“I feel so fortunate to have this right around the block from my apartment. Occasionally I’ll take the N/Q to work and stop at Brooklyn Bagel for a scooped out whole wheat everything mini bagel with low fat scallion cream cheese. They’ll handle that annoying order of mine as if it’s second-nature. Lovely.”
6/16 Treats and Tips 45-15 34th Ave
“Emily, the groomer, does a magnificent job on her, much better than the groomers at any of the chic pet boutiques I frequented in the city (and at much more reasonable rates).”
6/17 Broadway Animal Clinic 37-03 Broadway
6/17/12 Infinity Spa Salon 31-11 Broadway
“The one-on-one attention I received made me fell like I was in my own personal spa. Btw–the results I am receiving or lack there of (LOL) is amazing. I want to laser my whole body!!”
6/17 Lilac Service Incorporated 31-58 Steinway St
“They took a last minute appointment to help the healing begin, and even gave me a free hot stone treatment, which the masseuse Lily said would loosen my tight lower back.”
6/18 Admiral Lock & Key Company 37-17 Broadway
“Used Admiral when I was unable to open up a Kryptonite U-lock bike lock. Very easy, timely company to work with: called in the morning & left message, they called back & said they could send someone that afternoon. Gentleman showed up, tried to unlock it, wasn’t able to (lock was defective), used some fancy tool to just cut through the metal u-lock portion. Best part: I was able to pay him using my credit card since he had some fancy “Pay-Me” app on his cell phone…even got my receipt emailed to me! Quick. Fast. Effective. I’d definitely use these guys again.”
6/18/12 Café Ole 38-09 36 Ave
“I love this place! Excellent food & beautiful interior. I love the brick walls & wine rack. I took my parents today and we ordered the lunch special: two house salads, chicken soup with Sirloin Steak, Mariscada, and Paella Valenciana. We also ordered Setas Rellenas. The food & service was excellent.”
6/16/12 Studio 34 42-18 34th Ave
“Mela is wonderful for curly hair! She encouraged me to try a slightly different style and it came out beautifully. Thanks Mela! :)”
TWO 5-star reviews 6/19/12 and 6/20/12 Trattoria L’incontro 21-76 31st St
“The shining star at the table was the veal chop stuffed with spinach and gorgonzola with truffle sauce…. O….M….G. I was eating every bite of this with my eyes closed–it was that good. All in all, it was a great experience at Trattoria L’Incontro. It’s going to be tough finding another Italian joint to top this one.”
6/21/12 Sampan Chinese Restaurant 28-48 Steinway
“Sampan is one of the few Chinese restaurants that I will eat at in Astoria because I never get sick after eating their yummy food – so far I’ve tried their spring rolls, plain chicken wings, fried rice, and lo mein. They are also nice on the phone and they always provide fast delivery.”
COMING UP TOMORROW, Monday 6/25: A reality webseries based in Astoria? If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s a valentine to our fair neighborhood. Find out who’s in it, who’s producing it, and how they got together.
Some of you have probably already seen this, but in case you missed it, here’s a very well done video DiWine posted on YouTube in September:
DETAILS: Uploaded: 9/23/11 • Views as of 6/19/12: 8,924 • Narrated by: Joshua Woodie, Bartender
Congratulations to everybody who got Yelp’s highest honor—a 5-star review—for the week 6/9-6/16.
Question: Did you bask quietly in this public confirmation of your awesomeness, or did you do something to celebrate? (Send out a tweet, post a screenshot of it on your FB wall?) I know a lot of business owners grit their teeth and bear it when the rants come in, but I’m really interested to know if and how you celebrate a rave. Please comment below or tweet me @TracyInfield. Thanks!
And now, without further ado, the week’s 5-star reviews:
6/9/12 Ovelia (34-01 30th Ave)
“My girlfriend and I were deciding between Ovelia and Mundo, and the free glass of wine offer with a check in on Yelp is what swayed us to try Ovelia…”
TWO 5-star reviews: 6/11and 6/12/12 Portalia (35-03 Broadway)
“I mean seriously guys, this was the best french toast I ever had and definitely the best I will ever have, and I am pretty sure I have many more years on my lifespan.”
6/12/12 Casa Galicia (37-09 31st Ave)
“Have eaten there several times and love the tapas. Pulpo is fantastic and so is the shrimp and tortilla. Can’t wait to go back.”
6/15/12 Il Bambino (34-08 31st Ave)
“The TRUFFLE EGG SALAD & SPECK CROSTINI at Il Bambino… is like crack on a cracker (crostini). The truffle oil and the speck elevate the mortal egg salad into Herculean egg salad.”
6/14/12 Lincoln Limousine (19-23 Ditmars)
6/13/12 Rocco’s Brick Oven Pizzeria (79-16 21st Ave)
TWO 5-star reviews: 6/13 and 6/15/12 Studio Square (35-33 36th St)
“Love watching the games here, the food and esp the fries are fantastic … just don’t go too late on the weekends cause you may never find a seat :-( gets pretty crowded…”
6/12/12 Sugar Freak (36-18 30th Ave)
6/13/12 Sweet Afton (30-09 34th St)
“I had the mac n cheese w/ bacon. It was deliciously cheesy and comforting. If I had a pillow, I would’ve curled into a fetal position right on the bar after I was done. This is what comfort food is supposed to be like…”
6/12/12 The Noguchi Museum (9-01 33rd Rd)
6/14/12 El Rey Del Taco Truck (33-01 30th Ave)
“What to order? Tacos. Don’t kid yourself, everything else they offer (aside from the Philly) is just a variant of the taco, the taco is done right, and always get salsa verde.”
6/13/12 Infinity Spa Salon (31-11 Broadway)
“The owner explained the procedure in great details (benefits and risks) and let me test it on small area first since I was paranoid… So happy.”
TWO 5-star reviews: 6/10 and 6/14/12 Mundo Café & Restaurant (31-18 Broadway)
“If you’re from another borough or neighborhood, trust me—this place is worth a visit to Astoria. It’s one of the best restaurants Astoria has… Don’t miss an opportunity to dine here.”
This is my third post about Pinterest on Astoria Social Media.
The first asked, Hey, Astoria small business owners, do you think creating a Pinterest presence is worth your time and effort? The second suggested that it probably is, provided you pin smart and have a strategy.
This time, I’m going to stop asking and suggesting, and just show you someone who is not just present on Pinterest, but seriously kicking some Pinterest butt (if a person could be said to be doing that.)
WHO: Mackenzi Farquer, owner of SITE (35-11 34 Ave)
PINTEREST LOCATION: http://pinterest.com/mackenzi/
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS/FOLLOWING: 1332/133
NUMBER OF BOARDS/PINS: 51/1613
ON PINTEREST: “When people look at your boards, they get insights into your business.”
“Wow. That’s an impressive number of followers,” you might be saying (or perhaps you just fainted). In fact, it is a large number—much higher than most local businesses have. But there’s a caveat here: SITE is an online business as well as a bricks-and-mortar one; it makes sense for Mackenzi to spend more time on Pinterest than you might. She’s reaching out to a broad, far-flung contingent of pinners who could conceivably become online customers.
She also has more boards than you might need, but some of them are used for “off-label” purposes. Some boards are for friends and family, for sharing party planning ideas for baby showers and wedding receptions. Others are for suggesting items for her interior design clients. (Sharing and viewing photos on Pinterest = MUCH easier than e-mailing photos.) Or she might pin an item to see what kind of interest it generates, and whether it might work well for SITE.
An important thing to remember when you’re looking at Mackenzi’s boards is this: The things you see are not all her “stuff.” (In other words, the boards are not an online catalog of SITE items.) “You don’t want to pin only your own items,” says Mackenzi. “You want to connect with your community.”
As with all social media, Mackenzi’s theory on Pinterest is this: “If you’re not doing it, you’re doing it wrong.” Take advantage of the fact that Pinterest is free and offers a glimpse into what you and your business are about in a completely different way than Twitter or even Facebook can. Start with just a few boards with themes related to your business, and remember, “The more you use it, the better you get.”
TOP MACKENZI TIP TO PINNING YOUR OWN ITEMS: “When you’re uploading your own photos to Pinterest, remember to give each photo you upload a name.” “$10 Pantone Toothbrush Set” is more descriptive than “IMG_2135.”
ASTORIA SOCIAL MEDIA notes:
Congratulations to Mackenzi on her most recent contribution to Retail Minded Magazine. The article, “What is Pinterest and How Does It Benefit Retailers?” is a great primer and hands-on how-to for beginners. Check it out (order info is in the photo caption, below) or get in touch with her directly to find out more about her Social Media consulting services: firstname.lastname@example.org; 718.626.6030.