The New Stand is an Underground Bodega for the Modern Commuter
“Tokyo is an amazing place underground,” George Alan tells me while standing in one of New York’s subterranean subway stations—a place few, if any, people would call “amazing.” Between the rats and the panhandlers and the fact your commute probably is slowly killing you and your soul, there’s little to love about the subway.
Alan is a model-turned-designer who founded the Brooklyn club Output and the artsy Playland Motel in the Rockaways. A few years ago, over a campfire, Alan was discussing New York’s lackluster underground with Lex Kendall, the creative director of Evolve Electric Motorcycles. They got what Alan calls “a bee in our bonnet” and decided to make the city’s underground more charismatic (like Tokyo’s) by rethinking some of the public programming available. The result, The New Stand, opens today.
The New Stand is an underground newsstand, updated for modern commuters. We’re standing in the New Stand in Union Square, which once was “an old newsstand that sold chocolate bars and Snickers and magazines and Snapples, and has done that exact same thing for 30 years,” Alan says. The New Stand team has inked a 10-year lease with the MTA and will soon open at Brookfield Place and at the 57th Street and Lexington Avenue subway stop. It’s stocked with an array of snacks, on-the-go toiletries (including Help Remedies kits, Binchotan charcoal toothbrushes, and Sir Richard’s all-natural condoms), as well as consumer candy like Google Cardboard sets, Closca collapsible bike helmets, and instant Instax cameras. It’s a mix of truly useful and genuinely covetable. As the seasons change, so will the goods. “The whole idea is to have products that are useful,” Kendall says. “Being in service to the commuter is the biggest thing to punch out here.”
Alan and Kendall are two of the four entrepreneurs behind The New Stand. Once they came up with the idea, they took it to Andrew Deitchman, who founded the Mother New York ad shop. He came on as CEO, and brought on David Carson—a designer and the founder of Heavy.com—to run media. Like the newsstands of yore, The New Stand will serve news. But instead of selling Posts and TimeOuts, it will blast easily digestible nuggets of news from an app that will work underground, with or without Wi-Fi. It’ll include daily playlists, reblogged news stories, and photos and videos making the rounds online. Deitchman says the editorial part of The New Stand will be instrumental in stocking the store: by noting what users are paying attention to, The New Stand team can tailor the merchandise to customers’ interests—like a shoppable magazine that you can walk into.
The New Stand guys have investor cash for all this, but they’ve designed an ecosystem that should, if all goes to plan, keep the company healthy. “With ‘Cool Stuff We Found on eBay,’ that’s a partnership with eBay, there’s a wall of stuff that’s curated by great Instagrammers,” Deitchman says. “You can buy that pair of retro sunglasses curated by the Instagrammer. That’s great for them, it’s great for the store, and eBay pays us money to do that. If we do that program for them, it allows us to do another promotion for Sir Richard’s Condoms, or to sell fresh-pressed juice for $7 instead of $10.”
The team is emphatic that The New Stand is designed to evolve; even the display cases and shelves are modular. “We’re going to figure out how to make it become whatever it wants to become,” Alan says. “There’s 150,000 New Yorkers who walk by it everyday. We’ll be bringing things to people during their everyday routine, to inject some newness into their daily grind.”