Being a dad in NYC requires passion, innovation… and lots of coffee. Jon Feldman of Stumptown shows us how it’s done.
Fatherhood is not for the faint of heart, especially in New York City. There's no shortage of challenges: small spaces, big expenses and lots of subway stairs, just to name a few. But for those willing to brave the elements to raise a family here, the reward is immeasurable--where better to bring up baby than in a city overflowing with passion and creativity?
Over the next few weeks, we're collaborating with our friends at Bugaboo to showcase some NYC dads who embody that passion and creativity, alongside a stroller that's equally as innovative: the Bugaboo by Diesel. The only thing that could possibly make this stroller cooler is these guys pushing it...with their totally adorable kids inside.
First up: Jon Feldman of Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
If you're a new parent, coffee is probably one of the staples in your diet. And as general manager and director of operations for the eastern region of Stumptown, Jon Feldman just might be fueling your very long days (and nights). A Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who's managed some of NYC's most buzz-worthy restaurants, Jon's now overseeing every world-class bean that makes it into every flavorful cup of Stumptown coffee in New York (and half of the U.S. for that matter), all while raising 8-month-old Eli alongside his wife in South Slope, Brooklyn.
We recently stopped into Stumptown's Red Hook roastery to see the artisanal roasting process firsthand, and chatted with Jon about coffee, fatherhood and the city he calls home.
What do you love about raising kids in NYC?
The variety of places we can see and experience, and also the variety of people Eli can meet. There's something special about raising my kid in NYC...it's a place I dreamed of living my whole life.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was really into cooking and food, but I never thought I'd be into coffee. The one thing I always knew I wanted to do was live in NYC. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, I was obsessed with New York.
How did you end up doing what you're doing?
I went to boarding school in Montana and we did a lot of work around the farm. I helped create an organic garden, and cooked a lot--I was fascinated by ingredients. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be in the food business. I worked my way up in the restaurant world, and then I joined Stumptown four years ago. We have a mission at Stumptown to deliver some of the best coffees in the world, and to create a special experience for our customers at retail and wholesale. There's a lot of ex-restaurant folks like me here, so hospitality is something we all bring to work. There's a real element of family and team, and the culture at Stumptown is the glue to that.
What are some things you hope to teach your little one about your craft?
The biggest thing I want to teach Eli over his lifetime is less about what I do specifically at Stumptown and more about not being afraid to follow you heart. There's a blueprint to being successful: identify what you love, find the people who are doing it the best, and be with them. Absorb and learn.
What surprised you most about becoming a dad?
Before I became a dad, I spent a lot of time thinking about all the what-if's of being a parent. When you think too much about the big picture, it can be paralyzing. I've been surprised by how in-the-moment I feel when I'm with Eli, and how natural fatherhood feels.
How has becoming a dad impacted your work and creativity?
It's mellowed me out, in a funny way. When you have a lot of balls in the air, it's easy to get stressed out. Eli has really helped me not to sweat the small stuff. He makes the small things seem smaller, and he's given us a lot of perspective. Now there's this life that I'm in charge of, so I'm seeing everything through the lens of: Is this really important? Does it really matter? I love my job and my wife is wonderful, but Eli adds so much joy to everything.
What's your best strategy for achieving a family/work balance?
I've had to be very aggressive with regards to finding that balance. As soon as one takes over, it's easy to lose control of the other. I'm lucky to have flexibility at Stumptown if needed, and we're very fortunate to have a great nanny, but truthfully, the balance has all just come naturally, and so far it's all just worked out. My wife, Leslie, and I committed to folding Eli into our world, and it seems to be working. It feels good to me, even though I know that can change day to day.
How has your style changed since becoming a parent?
If I was at all vain, I'm even less so now. My style is still my style, but I put less importance on constantly changing things up or adding things to my wardrobe.
What everyday things have made you realize that being a parent involves bravery?
I think the fact that Leslie and I have decided to live in NYC is pretty brave. It takes bravery to live here! It also takes bravery to trust your gut and run your household the way you want to run it. It's easy to get off track and follow the masses. And it definitely takes bravery to leave Eli every day and go into my own world at work. There's this element of trusting the universe a little bit that has gotten us through this parenting experience so far.
Photography by Justin Borucki.
This post was brought to you by Bugaboo.