On Pier 57, plenty of young ambition


Pier 57 renamed "Super Pier," located on 15th street and West Side Highway.

Pier 57 renamed “Super Pier,” located on 15th street and West Side Highway.  Photo: Giselle Rosas.

Pop-up shops installed this summer inside recycled shipping containers at Pier 57 will close on October 20, with casualties of the pier’s complete renovation scheduled to start around Thanksgiving. What they don’t know is whether they’ll be invited back to be part of “Super Pier,” as the new venue is called.

While most of the shops have other locations around Manhattan or Brooklyn, some, like the new Cold Process Coffee & Tea, had their first outpost at the pier.

Eric Rhee, 32, who owns Cold Process, worked for a Boston hedge fund and in food-related television in Los Angeles. That was where he got the inspiration for his new line of work. “I met a guy in the food TV business, Greg Lim, and he inspired me to start this cold coffee and tea concept. Building an efficient business model is my nature,” he said.

Rhee took out a business loan to finance his new business, which opened six months ago and, he says, enjoys healthy cash flow, though he won’t name a specific figure. He won a pop-up slot at Pier 57 after making a presentation and explaining how the menu fit the concept of the pier.

Selice Giang, a public relations representative for the developers of the pier, Yung Woo and Associates, said that they were very involved in the selection process. “I think they wanted shops that could bring a variety of different options. Something new and innovative,” she said.

Rhee has several ideas in mind for when the pier closes down. “I’m thinking of either figuring out a distribution, such as bottling up the product, or partnering with someone,” he said, in addition to looking for a lease on the west side of the city. “For now,” he said, “we are focusing on finishing business in 2013 and not so much on 2015,” when the Super Pier opens.

Ariel Rivera, who owns the pop-up La Sonrisa Empanadas, assumes it will be “first come, first serve for leasing spaces” in the new pier, but thinks that the pop-ups may seem more attractive to the developers because they’re familiar with the neighborhood and the customers.

Super Pier developers have transformed the pier by hosting art, fashion and food events, not to mention the pop-up shops themselves. Giang said it was a coincidence that most shops selected for the pier are Brooklyn-based, but added that, “it also speaks of the low barrier of entry in terms of leasing,” because Pier 57 prices are lower than most business real estate property in Chelsea. Whether this bargain will remain post-construction, allowing small businesses a chance to open on the site, is in question.

“I think conversation will continue,” said Rhee. “They will probably want our feedback and we want theirs,” he said.