Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sweetgreen Founders Jonathan Neman and Nate Ru Take Us Inside Their Bachelor Pad

The Washington, D.C.-based salad chain made quite a stir with its debut New York City location last year. Known for mixing sustainable materials and a hefty dose of clean design into their storefronts, it's not surprising that their D.C. abode reflect the same standards of style and substance.
Founded in 2007 by Georgetown students Nate Ru, Jonathan Neman, and Nick Jammet, Sweetgreen set itself apart from the fast casual dining pack by offering more than just thrown-together salads. The trio smartly catered to customers seeking a healthy lifestyle and folded that experience into their love of good design, utilizing sustainable construction methods like reclaimed wood, and great music. In 2010 they even branched out with the Sweetlife Festival, an annual concert with performers ranging from The Strokes, Avicii, and Kendrick Lamar.

Last year they made Sweetgreen made it's Manhattan debut with a restaurant in the rapidly-growing NoMad neighborhood, and its open design and fresh food was literaly and figuratively eaten up by New Yorkers in no time. All this recent growth means little downtime for its founders but when Jonathan Neman and Nate Ru get a good night's sleep it's at the spacious home they share just off D.C.'s U Street corridor, a late night hotspot that's home to lauded music venues like U Street Music Hall and neighborhood institutions like Ben's Chili Bowl. So we asked them to give us a tour of their pad so we could see how sweet it really is.
"We’re big nerds so we don’t have a TV, but we love board games. Some of our favorites are backgammon, Scrabble, and most recently we’ve been playing a lot of Settlers of Catan." — Nate Ru 

"The Gibson SG coincidentally is a type of guitar that Gibson makes, but it's also the abbreviation for Sweetgreen. We got Phoenix to sign this one. Every year we get a guitar, have an artist sign it, do some sort of social media contest, and give it to a fan. When we did it with The Strokes in 2011 and it was time to give it away, we got kinda bummed. We were like: 'Shit, we really want to keep this. This is really cool!' But you know, good karma. We gave it to the fan, but going forward we got two guitars and kept one for ourselves." — Jonathan Neman
"Wood has always been a very natural, clean element we like to use with everything, so we thought it would be cool to make passes for the Sweetlife Festival. Usually you see these like little vinyl passes, so people love them—especially the artists. They're all made from reclaimed wood. What we do is find old barns nearby, so here it’s like in Virginia and we use them in the restaurants, and the passes. We used to make tables out of old bowling lanes. At the New York restaurant, we made tables out of old railroad tracks." — Jonathan Neman
"I have at least 11 leather jackets, it just feels like a second skin. Two of my favorites are BLK DNM and Schott. I call it my 'LJ' collection." — Jonathan Neman
"I'm always kind of living out of a suitcase so I wear the same things every day. I have three pairs of jeans, Acne and A.P.C. I'm an investor in MeUndies, but they're really comfortable. I mix it up with shirts from Our Legacy and Rag and Bone." — Jonathan Neman
"When we moved here I begged my mom for a Persian carpet. My father's from Iran and this one was at my grandmother's house forever. They shipped it over. When we knew Kendrick Lamar was going to play at the Sweetlife Festival, we made these 'Beets Don't Kale My Vibe' T-shirts. He wore it again at the BET Awards." — Jonathan Neman 
"We worked with NIke to just do some Lunar Flyknit IDs similar to these for our store directors. We did 75 shoes and we're giving them out at our holiday party. It’ll be pretty funny, we’re getting a magician to come. What we’re going to do is give everybody these smaller necklaces as a decoy and then at the end of the holiday party a magician is going to come reveal a big thing and all these boxes of Nikes are going to appear." — Nate Ru
"Jon and I didn’t know each other before we went to Georgetown. We actually met in accounting class. After we graduated we were looking for a place. We love this neighborhood because we love 9:30 Club and U street. We were brought it to speak in our old entreprenurial professor's class and he told us he was leasing this house that had been his bachelor pad. So we came over and he made us a good deal, and it’s funny because he was one of the biggest inspirations for the business." — Nate Ru
"Olivia Wolfe was the first creative director of Sweetgreen. In the beginning it was me, Jon, Nick, and Olivia, who helped us with a lot of the design, logos, and branding. I attribute a lot of what we’ve done to her. This is actually spelled out with old drug bags she found on the ground. She was inspired by New York City and she made this print and she turned it into skateboards. Now she runs a shop called American Two Shot." — Nate Ru
"I love any type of puzzle or game. I tore my ACL right when we started the business in 2007. My sister had this Rubik's Cube and I was just determined to figure it out, and I spent 2 or 3 weeks figuring it out. Since then I’ve been kind of obsessed. It’s kind of like a stress reliever for me. This one is the original one I had from back in the day—you can tell because it’s been faded by the sun, and this one I got recently." — Nate Ru
"Nathan Road is on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, which is kind of like its Brooklyn. It's actually the street I’m named after. It’s the street with all the aftermarket electronics and interesting, small shops. It’s one of my dad’s favorite streets in Hong Kong, so he thought it was a good name for me." — Nate Ru
"I’m a big fan of Vans and Converse, but I love the Flyknits. I have mostly West Coast-inspired shoes, but I like to keep it simple." — Nate Ru
"We try to do yoga at least twice a week depending on travel schedules. Jon and I live together and [co-founder] Nick [Jammet] lives across the street. So we wake up, get out of bed, and normally go to Nick’s house. It’s funny because we work together, we hang out together and then we do yoga together." — Nate Ru
Fix Bike

"This is our 'DJ booth' and these are some of our favorite records. Our most played song is Edith Piaf's 'La Vie En Rose,' it's good for a dinner party. We try to do one at least once or twice a month on Sunday, we’ll have some people over and just like break bread and have a good time. The crates once held produce. What’s cool is that's kind of a literal interpretation of Sweetgreen—you know, it’s like the local food plus music in one package.
"We actually moved into this house and ruined the floors pretty quickly. So we had the same guy that builds our stores in D.C. replace the floors with sustainable wood from old barns in Virginia." Fixed
"This checkerboard painting is by my sister Chelsea. She’s the owner of Tappan Collective, which is an art website that connects emerging artists with new collectors. Next to it are pieces by my mom, Sherry Neman. These are good, but her newer pieces are really incredible. This one on the right is one of her early pieces. I see the Buddha in there somewhere, I don't know if anyone else does."

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