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Brunch in Harlem … what an alluring concept. I was lucky enough to enjoy the perfect Sunday outing with Angie Hancock, President & Founder of the award-winning marketing solutions company, Experience Harlem.
Ms. Hancock, a CPA and marketing leader with an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, has grown Experience Harlem into one of the leading go to resources commemorating Harlem. Angie has quite an illustrious career – working for Fortune 500 corporations like Ann Taylor Inc. and Mars Inc. Work with national media giants like Essence and EBONY magazine has enabled Angie to make connections and build relationships that have catapulted the guide to its current Harlem mainstay status.
Angie invited NYC Plugged to taste, see, and Experience Harlem’s 2018 Essential Harlem Guide’s favorite summer attractions from 110th to 155th Street selected by friends, followers and readers. We made three stops in Harlem that day and chatted with Angie about the value and beauty of Harlem and what its culture means to the state of NY.
I first sat down with Angie at Melba’s, a quaint and attractive community hot spot serving comfort food. I ordered the Sautéed Shrimp and Grits and Angie had the infamous Chicken and Waffles – we made sure to share! I loved the strawberry whipped butter that accompanied the waffles and the chicken was deliciously crispy. We said a delighted ‘CHEERS’ to Harlem with tasty mimosas and I indulged her with my line of questioning, which can be seen in bold below….
What are three qualities you possess that you believe propelled you to this point?
Perseverance, Tenacity, and Faith in myself
You’ve received a lot of recognition for your work in the Harlem community, what does that mean to you to be recognized by your peers?
Formal recognition is appreciated because being an entrepreneur is a thankless job. I have great clients and peers, but there have been a lot of uphill battles.
What are your thoughts on this concept of it being the … ‘Year of the Female’ and how would you relate this term to your career and the industry right now? What’s your opinion of the climate for female entrepreneurs today?
There are definitely still barriers that women have to face. Being a woman in a male dominated industries is a very tough reality and is still being experienced today. I didn’t necessarily face opposition because I wasn’t from NY or from Harlem … it was more so because I was a black woman. I come from a single parent household where I helped my mom. I made sure I finished school and got really good internships. My strong belief system and faith has brought me through … these are the things I believe in and rely on.
What initially inspired you to create the Essential Harlem Guide?
My first mentor said: “Have patience and faith. Even when your faith wavers, believe.” – and that stuck with me. When I came to NY in 2003, there was hardly any mention of Harlem activity in Time Out or Zagat. I saw a space and opportunity to use my background and experiences to launch Essential Harlem.
With the annual guide and the experiences newsletter, how does your team decide on the hot spots that Harlemnites should visit?
Mostly word of mouth and submissions from our community. Most of the places I am familiar with from personally having experienced them or someone on my staff and also people who I connect with. We also have businesses submit themselves for review, so it is a very collaborative guide and newsletter that gives you a very comprehensive guide to Harlem.
How important is the food and drink culture in the Harlem community?
It is very important, there is so much history and culture in Harlem and it truly doesn’t get enough recognition. Harlem is a part of Manhattan, NY, but rarely is it referenced in this way. Restaurants like Melba’s, Sylvia’s, Wells Club, Harlem Tavern, etc are key hotspots in Harlem where people are able to enjoy great food served by people from their community and most times, owned by people from Harlem.
Angie and I wrapped our amazing brunch and ventured to the next premier Harlem spot, Vinateria, a vibrant restaurant with dishes and cocktails rooted in the rich culinary traditions of Italy and Spain. The décor was very pretty and simple, and most of the furniture and dishes had been locally sourced. We chose the same divine drink from the artisan cocktail and spirits list, The Matador (made with La Pitaya Tequila, Pur Blood Orange, Grapefruit, Mint), and enjoyed our sips before the weekly Harlem block party Sundae Sermon with DJ Stormin’ Norman.
Vinateria is a true gem, it is very chic and has a charming ambience with a phenomenal cocktail and wine list to match. The Italian and Spanish influences are divine, as a Harlemnite how necessary is it to immerse in various cultures – food, drink, entertainment, etc?
I believe it’s what makes Harlem the diverse melting pot it is today. In a 10-block radius you can find Ethiopian, Israeli, Italian, American, Mediterranean and Caribbean food and drink. Harlem allows you to feel at home even if you might be displaced – this town allows you to stay connected to home with comforts like food and drinks, which are important to any culture. Good food and good service are what people return for.
After my insightful afternoon with Angie, I walked through Harlem with a newfound sense of appreciation and admiration, I even began thinking I wanted to move to Harlem.
We walked to Sundae Sermon to meet the critically acclaimed and internationally renowned DJ Stormin’ Norman, who originally hails from East London, UK but is now a resident of Harlem, USA. This year marks the 10 Year Anniversary of Sundae Sermon directed by DJ Stormin’ Norman also known as Norman McHugh. This outdoor celebration unites the community with dance and music appreciation at St. Nicholas Park with a five-hour dance-a-thon with special guests DJ Cosi (the FREEDOM party,) DJ Sabine, and Courtney Roze on Djembe drum, as well as appearances by Harlem’s own Bevy Smith of Sirius Satellite Radio & Page Six TV.
Describe the ways the Harlem community has embraced you, uplifted you, and made you proud?
The city has totally embraced me from the beginning of my career. It has been a combination of timing, luck, and good relationships. These events are important for the community and I am happy that I am able to put on these functions and also give back to the community with the donations we receive.
How did you get involved in music and DJing?
I’ve always had records. Every Saturday and Sunday my parents would play music. When I went off to college one of my friends from high school was going off to the navy and asked me to hold onto his tables, records, and equipment. So one summer, I came home and figured out the technical aspect of how to DJ – I literally taught myself how to DJ. Then I went away to Iona College and noticed the radio didn’t play diverse music. I went up to the station and asked to play, they gave me a spot, and the rest was history.
2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of Sundae Sermon, how did you get this function started?
I moved to Harlem in ’94 and I was DJing on the radio all over Downtown, but quickly realized there wasn’t anything going on Uptown. I would always see people on the train from Harlem leaving all of the Downtown parties. One Sunday afternoon, I was walking and bumped into a stage of African dancers playing music and saw their pure happiness – that’s when I told myself I would do something here. A friend of mine led me to an upper level area, introduced me to the owners and they gave me three dates. It started with 30 people there and it grew over time.
This year is dedicated to women – how would you describe the importance of seeing men in the industry uplift women? How do these free events with good music and good people impact the community?
Our first year was centered on voter’s registration and each date I began dedicating the event to a new cause – small business day, all female DJs, wellness day, etc. My parents would come to every party I put on, no matter what – the strength and beauty of my mom always stayed with me. I knew I wanted to do a tribute to my mom.
I truly had a divine afternoon in Harlem and invite our readers to Experience Harlem and fall in love with this incredible neighborhood! Thank you Angie for introducing us to a few Harlem staples and DJ Norman for a rockin’ end. We appreciate the warmth, support, and excellence on display in Harlem!