Melissa Manning and Alie Moya are multi-hyphenate entrepreneurs building a space that’s more than a bar. The Gradient, which opened in April, is a space to gather and it will almost certainly put you in a better mood. The staff will take care of you if you’re on a bad date, if it’s your birthday, or if you want to do some yoga followed by a glass of rosé or a mocktail.
Manning and Moya took over the space from Canadian-themed bar Up North and reopened the next day, after a few changes, including painting a wall pink, covering up the maple leaves, and adding some plants. Moya has a green thumb and has never lost a plant. The duo had been looking for a space together for quite some time, almost signing on to convert a loft in Ridgewood. There were plans for a huge color gradient there and they kept the concept for the new space, which was much more turnkey.
The Gradient also signals the space’s inclusivity. Moya saw lots of discrimination working in nightlife, “from places not serving Hennessey to dress codes” and works to create a different enviroment. They also pay their drag queens fairly at events, rather then having them work for tips, a common practice, and respect for artists and performers is paramount.
The Gradient usually opens at noon and welcomes freelancers and remote workers with outlets in the tables, coffee, wifi, and a full vegetarian menu. There are healthy options like a Buddha Bowl with black rice and pickled cauliflower and a shaved brussels sprouts salad with provolone cheese. Both women are vegetarian and were sick of garden salads being the only option when going out to eat.
The menu also includes comfort food and all the dishes are tested on meat eaters. One of the most popular orders so far has been the seitan wings, which come with buffalo or whiskey maple sauce. For a snack, their fries are excellent and the weekend brunch menu includes vegan crab cakes made with hearts of palm, breakfast burritos, and french toast.
For later in the day, the cocktail menu is simple and fresh, you can quickly skim a menu and pick something that sounds good, like the Charles, a gin and soda with ginger, a splash of grapefruit, and mint. Moya used to work at Freehold in Williamsburg and knows about serving lots of people quickly. Happy hour goes till 8 p.m. and there are bottomless brunch drink specials as well. With a smile, the owners tell of their generous shots and buy back program, “if you’re nice, we’ll take care of you.” Since opening, Manning says the patrons are overwhelmingly nice, a product of the culture they’ve created.
Talking to Manning and Moya is like talking to long lost friends, they share details of their personal lives, including the struggles of raising money for a women-owned space (so far none of their investors are white men and they’re looking for more women to support the business’ growth), the struggles of managing multiple businesses, and the ongoing evolution of the space.
They hope to incroporate greenspace into the project and are working on sprucing up the sparse entrance this summer. As Bushwick develops, creating community space is important to them.
Moya’s background is in nightlife and she also runs a nanny agency, giving her management experience. Manning owns a yoga studio and cafe in Ridgewood and also works in real estate. They both joke about being broke from their various business ventures and are mindful of customers’ budgets, “we’re all on a budget.” Their creative partner, Chelsea Levinson, who also runs Knit Wise, helps with programming and is responsible for the gorgeous instagram and visuals.
After a day of coworking or brunch, the Gradient undergoes a shift to party mode. The space hosts events every week, from drag shows to Latin night and the party doesn’t stop. They’re open till 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and people come for a good time. Manning and Moya know they could have opened just as a bar, Moya initially imagined serving chips and vegan hot dogs, but the food program really sets them apart and creates a stronger community space. Manning sees the food as a foundation for creating an environment for the rest of the programming.
Moya first lived in Bushwick after college and frequented the area’s dive bars. She’s grown up in the past decade and wanted to create a place for “Bushwick 2.0, people who may still be broke but like nice things.” She continues, “we still have fun, but it’s about fun and something else.”
Off the Jefferson L
Mon – Thurs: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Friday: 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m.
Sat: 11 a.m. – 4:00 a.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
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Images courtesy of Chelsea Levinson.
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