Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.


By James Maher

Name: Chris Riffle
Occupation: Musician, Barista
Location: The Bean, 3rd Street and 2nd Avenue
Time: 1 on Tuesday, Jan. 15

I’m from Seattle. I was born in the woods. It sounds nice for my bio because you’re supposed to put something in there that makes you unique. So yes, I was born in a cabin in the woods in one of those hippie parent home birth situations. Then, when my parents divorced when I was two, my dad had a house that he built in Leavenworth, Washington, which is over the mountains, with 10 acres and lots of woods, and there was no electricity there.

For a good four or five years I was living there with him. I moved to Seattle after college, on Capitol Hill and lived there for many years until I moved here in 2007, because my boyfriend, Tim got into Cooper Union as a painter.

I’ve always wanted to be a musician. It’s tough to describe my music style — folk, it’s soft and I play the acoustic guitar. I’ve always loved playing music, although I got distracted in Seattle by a lot of things and working full time. When I first got here, I showed up at the open mic at the Sidewalk Café and the experience was great. It took me about six months to finally get out of my shell and get out my guitar and play. I just didn’t know what to expect.

So then the host booked me a couple shows and I was playing there every month or so. Then this one guy came into the Bean with a guitar on his back and I invited him to a show and he got me a gig at the Living Room. I gave him a demo and he came back and said, "This is great, do you want to make an album? I’m a producer and I would love to put this out." And I was like, "Yes. Yes I would like to make an album. That’s what I want to do." Since then, I’ve made three with him and he’s amazing. I play about once a month now at the Living Room. It’s a great venue, but unfortunately they are moving at the end of January. They are closing that location and looking for a new one due to skyrocketing rent.

This job works really well with music because I will leave for a month to go on tour and then come back to work and it’s no big deal. I can come back and work 45 hours the next week to make money or I can work 30 because I have a show and I’m busy. It’s really nice for that and they’ve been very flexible.

The Starbucks moving into the old Bean location was really interesting. Somebody came in with plans and wanted to look at the building. The manager there was just like, “What? Who are you? Where are you from?” And he was just like, “Oh I’m looking at this for Starbucks.” It was shocking and the landlord hadn’t told us that he was looking to not renew the lease to us. We were working on negotiating the lease and instead of doing it with us they just said nope. We kept trying to make offers.

At first I was really bummed out and then we got the other spot and it worked out better in the long run. Everybody supported us and spoke out about not wanting to go to Starbucks. Now the Bean is drastically more crowded than the Starbucks, which is kind of ugly. And I don’t hate Starbucks, but I definitely try not to go to any of them now, which is funny since I’m from Seattle.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like that guy, he is super friendly!

Anonymous said...

I love Chris and I love The Bean!!!

Marty Wombacher said...

Great photo and profile! Support the Bean and forget Starfucks exists!

Anonymous said...

I love Chris and go to the Bean whenever I am in New YOrk...the best part is going to one of his shows...check him out online...chrisriffle.com...great music!

VH McKenzie said...

Nice to meet you, Chris!

Spike said...

I like the mix of Old and New and In-Between Timers for this series. Good luck with the music Chris.

Anthony D said...

Chris Riffle is the reason many people felt at home and The Bean became a genuine community spot. His personal sense of service, openness, kindness to "strangers"... supports and encourages... life... humanity.... sense of belonging....community.
The forces surrounding us such as the infamous landlord mentioned in this EV Grieve piece care about one thing.... making as much money as they can, and more, by any means, the "What's so special about the East Village" Ben Shaoul and infinite partners and shell names .... who could care less about community except how it profits them, flipping a building after expunging all they can. Our large chain banks (not the small local ones) support this mentality, so he can assert confidently something we're at odds with "This is the American Way." Not. We've been pleading with Council Woman Mendez to help us write legislation that will license and limit chronic bad actor landowners.... not happening at all yet, with city agencies turning the other way, and media keeping the silence. Who has the courage to go against the powers that be? You do, everyday. Keep on.
So thank you for a report on an artist, on those who give respect to others, who value someone's inner and fuller worth, those who represent the best of the fading character of the East Village. We can't thank good people like Chris enough.... Thank you Chris, thank you EV Grieve.... yes, you found someone that makes this place special, still.
ps. Yes, Chris's music is beautiful, like his heart... please give a listen....

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

Next to Kita the Wonderdog, this is my favorite column. The people interviewed are a refreshing escape from the Dudes, Bros and OMG Girls who always manage to woo their way into our conversations, like children seeking negative attention.

It's cool The Bean is so supportive of young artists, whether they work in the shop or paint the murals and make mosaics outside.

Get Paul Kostabi on here. Painting on the streets, missing snakes, retrieving keys with long sticks, blog gold!

Rosemary said...

Aw,

hi Chris!

chris always knows what i get in the morning, medium flavored please !

and he's nice to my pitbull.

see you tomorow chris!

leslie daly said...

Chris rules!

vzabuser said...

the Bean carries a good line of coffee beans too...I will patronize this chain but they are as expensive as coffee gets - matching Starbuck's groundbreaking $15.00 a pound for premium blends.

Anonymous said...

I can't even sit in half the coffee shops I go to cause some of these fuckin people think it's their office.
I appreciate that the Bean has "laptop free" seating now haha but it hasn't helped much. They should take out the outlets, so that you can use your laptop for a little bit but don't sit there for hours, it's so rude.

I like this guy, seems like a true East Village cat.

Goggla said...

Another interesting resident. Thank you!

Shawn G. Chittle said...

"And I don’t hate Starbucks, but I definitely try not to go to any of them now, which is funny since I’m from Seattle."

Not at all Chris. Thanks for not supporting that stupid chain and working at the Bean instead!

Take that, Starbucks!

Anonymous said...

Since I moved out of the 'hood, I miss the bean and Chris. The old location was just around the corner from my place and even at 6:30am, Chris was always so sweet and friendly. I go there every time I'm back in the EV.

Ike said...

I have the honor of employing Chris at The Bean. He is as fine and genuine a person as there is and brightens the day of everyone around him. Great job by EV Grieve of recognizing this truly good human being and heart & soul East Villager.

Anonymous said...

Chris is the perfect example that not every new transplant from America is a dullard/knuckle head. I've had the pleasure of Chris serving me at the Bean, and even though it was only once, I remember him as delightful and positive.
I know all of us old NYers are bummed about the changes. Chris represents hope for the future...

Anonymous said...

What is this place that you all refere to called 'the bean'? Is it like an east village cult?

Anonymous said...

Seems like a nice young person, but for the record The Bean on First Avenue is renting space rom Icon Realty, which is really no different than renting space from Shaoul. Icon Realty is running an illegal hotel at this location, a fact the Bean was well aware of, before they rented the space. Icon Realty is destroying the community by running an illegal hotel on east 10th street ironically just a few doors down from the historic townhouse that Shaoul destroyed, destroying historic townhouses on East 4th street and most recently buying up almost half the buildings on East 9th between 1st and 2nd Avenue where they plan to add penthouses on top with roof decks. I will bet you a cup of coffee they will systematically cleanse the buildings of long-time residents and push out local businesses in the commercial spaces like that little copy shop and the vintage eyeglass store. While I'm no fan of Starbucks, the Bean in my opinion isn't much better.

glamma said...

this is a new school dude with an old school soul. you go chris!
ps - yes. the bean is a magical east village cult.

Anonymous said...

I like the interview he seems like a nice guy, but I don't see how the bean is that different from starbucks it's another neighborhood business catering mostly to young white transplants and I don't feel welcome there because of the prices and the patrons.

Anonymous said...

What wasn't mentioned is Chris's modesty, his quiet calm demeanor.... he's present, meeting you at whatever space you come to.
A shoutout to Ike and Sam for his employ... good for us all. Now let's get some organic fair trade coffee going!
Chris's hardly a flyby implant by EV new standards, now facing a 7/11 influx. He's worked steadily at the Bean since 2007... rare these days. Me, i've been coming to this hood since 1968 Filmore East days.... We like universal souls here, anytime.
Thanks EV Grieve, Chris, Bean.

Anonymous said...

What's not mentioned is that this post garners more comment than any other out and about features, esp. the features of the old-timer ones. Just shows the changing demographics of the East Village. The East Village of today reminds me of the arrogance of the dotcommers of th SIlicon Valley of the late 90's and earrly 2000's. Just hoping that what happened to thm will happen to these Bloomberg's spawns.

Chris may be modest, but The Bean isn't. The Bean is just a whiter and snootier Starbucks. And if the manager does not like you, i.e you do not fit in with the demographics he's trying to serve, he follows you around lik white on rice. Just like the other commenter said, the place leaves me cold. 9th St. Bakery has better personable and warmth atmosphere. Heck, even some of the Starbucks are better than The Bean. At least they leave you alone and serves you without an attitude.