When designer Emily Bode and her partner, Aaron Aujla of Green River Project, heard their neighborhood coffee guy was retiring, they were naturally distraught. The Classic Coffee Shop on Hester St. was right next door to the Bode retail store, and around the corner from the couple’s apartment. Open for over 40 years, it was one of those spots that had survived several waves of gentrification and became an institution, with prices that seemed straight out of the George H.W. Bush administration. Also: “The coffee was great,” Aujla says. They went by almost every day. But proprietor Carmen Morales was ready to spend more time with his wife, and the final service was set for Christmas Eve.
So when Morales’s lease came open, Bode and Aujla sensed both a chance to fulfill one of Bode’s longtime dreams, which was to have a tailor shop of her own, and to preserve the spirit of a local institution.
The Bode Tailor Shop, which opened yesterday, is the second outpost in Bode’s growing menswear empire. Customers at the store next door can bring over new purchases for alterations, and owners of Bode’s delicate lace shirts and antique quilted jackets can bring them in for mending. “With the tailor shop, not only can we create a community in and around our store and service that community, but we can also extend our product life cycle to the longest it can be,” says Bode, whose own closet is full of soulful hand-me-down sweaters and jackets that have been lovingly mended rather than discarded.
The space will also serve as a local tailor shop, albeit one run by people who practically have PhDs in antique textile restoration and repair. “I want to be able to use our expertise not only on our own product but also on products we didn’t originally make,” Bode says, whether that’s a 19th-century heirloom quilt that needs mending—the brand has an extensive archive of period-specific fabrics for that very purpose—or a pair of blown-out A.P.C. jeans.
Crucially, the cheap coffee will continue to flow. Morales left Bode and Aujla his diner drip coffee machine, and the shop will serve simple java out of a walk-up-window, just like Morales did. “There’s a need for that type of coffee in the neighborhood,” says Aujla, who designed the space with his interior design firm Green River Project.
As with all Green River and Bode collaborations (Aujla and his creative partner Benjamin Bloomstein also designed brand’s retail store), there’s a heavy dose of autobiography involved, with Aujla looking to his favorite coffee houses and tailor shops in India for inspiration. “The materials were utilitarian, really easy to clean, affordable, but elegant at the same time,” he recalls. So unlike the sumptuously appointed store next door, the materials here are a little humbler: the walls are paneled in tobacco-colored luan, the café countertop is aluminum, the sturdy furniture is vintage, and the original styrofoam paneled ceiling remains. A roster of nostalgic Indian sweets and a tea Aujla’s grandmother used to serve are also set to join the menu.
The tailors sit in the back, next to a velvet-curtained changing area that will be the site of many morning coffee fit pics—and of Bode’s new custom suiting experience. Over the years, Emily has created dozens of wedding suits for friends and customers, and now anyone will be able to book an appointment for bespoke Bode tailoring, which will involve three fittings and exclusive one-off and rare fabric options. Like a Savile Row shop, Bode will hold on to a customer’s patterns so they can easily re-order new coats and trousers.
In a way, it’s a return to Bode’s roots as a purveyor of sublime one-of-one jackets made of rescued ancient textiles—while things have scaled up considerably, when she started the brand four years ago, nearly every piece Bode sold was unique to the wearer. But Bode also sees the tailoring program fitting into the deep tradition of custom clothiers that once populated the Lower East Side. “The history of this neighborhood revolves around the apparel industry and the fabric and textile industry,” she says. “It would be great to be able to bring that tradition back.”
On Thursday, as Bode employees loaded in boxes of magic masala Lays potato chips Aujla found in Jackson Heights, Morales himself stopped by to take a look. His verdict? “Nice, real nice!” Morales declared. “I mean, it’s a totally different thing. Except for this part,” he said, gesturing at the coffee machine. “This part is the same vibe that I had.”