On a Tuesday morning in early November, The Wing is buzzing with quiet activity: Women type away on their laptops at communal tables in the color-coordinated library, take Skype calls in phone booths charmingly named after fictional characters (you could be Hermione Granger one day and Ramona Quimby the next, depending on your mood), and hold client meetings over cappuccinos at The Perch, the coffee shop inside the bright new women’s social club and co-working space.
The Perch sits right in the heart of this sprawling, highly photogenic communal office, with a lobby and beauty room stocked with luxury skincare products on one side, and a beautiful, sun-filled library on the other. The cafe is outfitted with terrazzo and brass tables and pale pink chairs, and the coffee bar and kitchen are tucked behind a long marble counter, where baristas, mostly young college students, serve espresso drinks and drip coffee from Irving Farm Coffee Roasters.
Liz Dean, the Wing’s regional manager, oversees all things coffee-related and works alongside Hannah Scarritt-Selman, who manages the food and beverage program. Dean began her coffee career more than seven years ago as a barista at Seattle’s Best Coffee in a Borders bookstore, then eventually worked her way up within Irving Farm from barista to their director of retail. In addition to running The Perch’s Soho and Flatiron locations, Dean also serves on the Barista Guild of America‘s Executive Council and as the Vice Chair of the Events Committee.
“When I was hired, I was definitely the only person in the company with a very solid coffee background,” Dean says of her introduction to the Wing. “I remember during my first shadow-shift at the Flatiron space, I realized no one knew how to change the dose on the grinder. So immediately, from day one, I knew we had a lot of work to do.” In addition to coffee, the current menu features simple breakfast, lunch, and snack options such as chia pudding and an array of tartines, as well as cocktails in the evening.
While most of the decisions regarding coffee equipment and cafe layout had already been made when she joined the company, Dean has plenty of big plans for The Perch, which will open two more locations next year. “I think that if people are paying for a membership, then I want them to feel that the quality of what they get here is of the exact same quality as what they might get anywhere else,” she says. “This should exist as a stand-alone coffee shop.”
She and Scarritt-Selman are currently exploring new coffee partners that are either owned by women, led primarily by women, or that support female coffee producers. “In a perfect world, we’d operate as a multi-roaster cafe with a rotating selection of coffees, and in my wildest fantasies, every single coffee we offer would come from a female producer—that’s my dream world,” Dean says. “I’ve worked in the coffee industry long enough now to know that most of the major players in the industry are run by men. The face of the coffee industry in the U.S. is too often a white man, and that has to change. As The Wing expands, we’d love to use our space, our position, and our work to support women in the coffee industry as well.”
The Wing’s Soho location opened in late October, a year after the opening of its original Flatiron space. Its mission is “to create space for women to advance their pursuits and build community together,” so in addition to providing their customers with the highest-quality coffee possible, the ladies behind The Perch have the unique obligation and opportunity of doing so while also uplifting and empowering women.
“So much of The Wing’s vision is related to social justice issues, and there’s such an easy opportunity for coffee to fit into that,” Dean says. The club hosts an array of events and lectures several times a week, and Dean hopes to use this as a platform to educate members about coffee. “I think anyone who works in specialty coffee knows that a lot of people don’t know where their coffee comes from,” she continues. “We could host a coffee cupping, or a brewing class—there are a lot of other opportunities that we haven’t even begun to explore yet.”
The waitlist for a Wing membership currently sits somewhere in the thousands, and regulars at the cafe include politicians, writers, doctors, scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and fashion designers. “We’re surrounded by the coolest, smartest, most amazing women you’ve ever met,” Dean says. “At any given day you could be sitting in the cafe with the powerhouses of leaders of so many different industries, and yet, at the same time, we’re all just women trying to get by, sharing in our collective struggles and issues. I might think, ‘Oh, this woman is so intimidating, smart, and successful,’ but then we might end up having a very casual conversation about like, our periods, or something like that, and I love that.”
The Perch is open to Wing members only. Two more locations will open in Brooklyn and Washington, DC in early 2018.
Joanna Han (@joannakarenina) is a Sprudge.com contributor based in New York City. Read more Joanna Han on Sprudge.