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Ariel Arce: “You have to just do it”

If you believe in it, someone else probably does to — an advisor told me this when I was wavering on whether anyone cared for my product. You sometimes see yourself as so alone and singular when you’re an entrepreneur and you get lost thinking, “well no one will probably every buy this, want this, or cares […]

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If you believe in it, someone else probably does to — an advisor told me this when I was wavering on whether anyone cared for my product. You sometimes see yourself as so alone and singular when you’re an entrepreneur and you get lost thinking, “well no one will probably every buy this, want this, or cares about it…” yet the world is so much bigger than ourselves, there are other people out there, just like you, that truly want what you’re selling.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Arce. Ariel Arce (@arcecool) is the 31 year-old New York entrepreneur, also known as the Champagne Empress of Greenwich Village and Nightlife Hitmaker, behind Tokyo Record Bar, Air’s Champagne Parlor, Niche Niche, and Special Club, all of which opened within the past TWO years on MacDougal Street. Ariel’s passions for wine, dinner parties and music shine throughout her spaces. Each has a distinctive identity and offers guests a singular experience yet all share the common philosophy that going out in New York should be more than just picking food from a menu or getting a ticket to a show. It should inspire conviviality, human connection, discovery, and be affordable! A native New York Yorker, Ariel lives in the same apartment where she grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. Her former experiences as a professional actor and competitive gymnast greatly inspired the theatrical elements showcased throughout her venues. Ariel earned her wining and dining stripes at The Office in Chicago, a speakeasy below the renowned Aviary restaurant, and at Pops for Champagne, the “oldest family-operated Champagne bar in America,” before heading back home to New York to serve as wine director for Birds & Bubbles and later Riddling Widow. She is considered a thought leader in the wine industry and a tastemaker in the New York dining and entertainment scenes. She is due to publish a book on Champagne in 2020 among other projects that will soon be announced.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Ariel! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am one of those people who thinks a mile a minute. Growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, I was always surrounded by art, food and music. My parents were both photographers and they loved entertaining, so they were throwing dinner parties all the time. They both taught me to dream big — when I was younger, this started out with professional acting and gymnastics. I realized that life wasn’t for me after college, so I got a job bartending and fell in love with the industry, the people, the culture. I eventually moved to Chicago to get my foot in the door and landed at The Office. I immediately fell in love with the world of Champagne, which inspired my first spot, Air’s Champagne Parlor. From there I just had all these ideas for how I wanted to change the way people were dining out in New York- the NYC I had grown up with felt gone, less personal and less authentic. I wanted to bring a bit more neighborhood charm and theatrics to dining. My spaces have been a combination of my dreams and my experiences, and I think that’s what makes them unique.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

My venues are here to make you feel something — to put you out of your comfort zone but in a comfortable setting, which, in New York City, is becoming increasingly more outlandish. I want people to realize that in a city that can feel isolating, many people are actually feeling the same things as you, and maybe if I’m lucky, you will find one of those people sitting next to you at Niche Niche or Tokyo Record Bar, or any of our venues really. I wanted to break the traditional restaurant mold by creating spaces that people could come to to lay back, have a nice meal, learn a few things about what they’re drinking, make some friends, and just have a good time, always in an unpretentious and affordable way. We have now become the go-to date destinations in NYC, ha!

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My parents have been an undeniable force in my life for as long as I can remember. They taught me the importance of community from a young age, as I would watch our neighbors and friends come by for a drink, that would turn into a few bottles of wine and a terrific meal. I am trying to bring that familiar feeling of a cozy living room to my restaurants, which I think many people in this city miss. They always taught me the more the merrier — in fact I modeled the kitchen at Niche Niche after the kitchen in my childhood home; I would sit on the counter listening and observing my parents and their friends. Those evenings with my family, in that kitchen, shaped me and my career.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

You have to just do it — a piece of advice from a PR woman who I was actually trying to hire. I was explaining all these ideas I had, and she said “you just have to do it”… and once you’ve done it, you don’t have to convince anyone anymore.

Always be kind — the wise words of my mother. She instilled that in me when I was a child. It’s actually one of the hardest to really follow, but a good thing to measure yourself against.

If you believe in it, someone else probably does to — an advisor told me this when I was wavering on whether anyone cared for my product. You sometimes see yourself as so alone and singular when you’re an entrepreneur and you get lost thinking, “well no one will probably every buy this, want this, or cares about it…” yet the world is so much bigger than ourselves, there are other people out there, just like you, that truly want what you’re selling.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m going to keep doing what I do. Bring cool experiences to life, connect people — whether that’s through food, music, art or wine — and hope people embrace the experiences, partake and take something away from each place.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse — I think this book teaches everyone a different lesson, but for me, I needed to learn patience, to not be in such a rush.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I really think compassion is the thing that we need to spend more time working on. My only real stress in life is communication, which when it’s not done properly can lead to frustration, anxiety… you name it. If we can talk to each other with more compassion and understanding, I believe we could create a more inspired world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m too young to know and impart life lessons. What I can say is taking time to know yourself is very important. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t really love others.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

All venues have their own Instagram accounts: @airschampagne, @tokyorecordbar, @nichenichenyc and @specialclubnyc.

Niche Niche and Special Club’s accounts are particularly important because they are the premier spot to find out who is hosting or performing that upcoming month. Performance calendars debut every two weeks for Special Club, and every month for Niche Niche.

Plus my personal jam @arcecool, where I share a lot of that info as well and my daily shenanigans, if you’re into that.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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