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Meet the creative hit-squad that doubles as AP Cafe’s staff

In a city with thousands of coffee shops, lies a living, breathing, creative sanctuary that doubles down as an ill coffee and bites spot. We’ve already put you on game about the story of AP Cafe, but honestly, the cafe is truly an anthology of the creative minds that makes up the staff.

The Troutman St. kickback is home to artists of all forms, who have formed a family and community for the shared love of all things creative and dank ass food.

We chopped it up with some of the AP crew you might see behind the counter, taking your order, or greeting you as you walk in. Peep the stories of the squad and fire flicks taken by our homie, Setor Tsikudo.

”I definitely didn’t expect myself to be working at a cafe, but all the opportunities I’ve been acquiring here have been amazing.”

Israel McCloud has been making music since he was 14 and even though making lattes wasn’t always the plan, the AP Barista and Events Coordinator has been flexing in the New York creative scene ever since walking into AP cafe. Homie just recorded and produced 80% of his last EP.

He found his way to AP from his bloodline.

“My cousin used to paint in the back and he owns this spot. He pretty much flipped it from his studio to this cafe. 5 years later, I moved out here and he pretty much was like ‘Yo you wanna work at my cafe?’ I was super reluctant, but he told me that I could turn this into a platform for all of the creative things I wanted to do and its been working out very well.”

The minimalism provided a sense of comfort, a new home for McCloud to explore the creative bounds in his mind on a daily. AP is all about helping their staff and community showcase their art and hosted McCloud’s first release party in New York.

While mastering his arts, McCloud wants to continue piecing together the network of creatives all around whether it be a poppin’ party or a daily chop up while brewing coffee behind the counter.

“The opportunities that you get here-it’s great. Working here alone, I meet all of these dope people. I wouldn’t know all of the event planners, managers, artists, all of the creative people I know today without working here. This is a sanctuary in a sense, a realm where people can come and work on their thing and feel completely focused. I still come here and work and I feel really at home.”

“I love that I’m able to work here in my neighborhood.”

Stephanie Ferrer has done it all from working in offices to being an EMT, but cooking has been a lifelong passion. She heard about AP from a friend of a friend and has been cheffing it up ever since.

“I’ve just always been a natural cook, I was raised in a family of women chefs so it just came naturally.”

On a typical day, Ferrer comes in at the crack of dawn, puts on some tunes and starts making her signature yellow rice. As a lead cook, AP gives Ferrer the ability to prep meals from scratch and to play in a lab with the freshest and ever-rotating ingredients.

“The seasonality of the ingredients we get, it’s never boring because we have to change it up with the seasons. Everything’s always fresh, crisp, and that I can play with these ingredients to make different things.“

For Ferrer, the vibes and people are what makes AP so genuine and truly a neighborhood gem. Being alongside so many creatives allows for merging energies to build something special.

“It’s a learning experience every day, we have to always be ready to put something new on the table. You can go up to anybody here and ask ‘Hey what do you think we should do with this?’ Brainstorming here is AMAZING. When we sit as a group, there’s so many ideas, such a flow. We can give you a meal, an outfit, a scene, a photographer, music. There’s something here for everybody.”

“I have this mix of hot blood in me”

Half-Mexican, half-Italian, Michele Lorusso kept having dreams of moving to New York so he took a chance and jet-setted to NYC.

”Instead of choosing a life in Mexico or California or as a nomad, I chose to come to the nomad mecca.”

Lorusso is a Barista at AP but also does gallery work at Kurimanzutto New York, not to mention doing his own work as an artist.

“I see myself as a bridge, a bridge connecting Mexico with the U.S. By doing so, I can venture and appropriate the different creative notions and ways both locations and cultures embed into my artistry in order to put them forth and aid the social symbiosis. I’ve experienced one part of the world (southwest) and right now I’m experiencing another (northeast); I want to merge both and become a bridge. I’m a translator, I’m a photographer, I’m a poet; I am nothing in particular, really. I’m also trying to become a curator in the industry. I think I’m in the right place and that dream was the right decision.”

Lorusso was a regular at AP, a creative vessel expressing himself in the signature minimal backdrop until one day he decided to shoot his shot at a collab with the cafe.

“This back area at the café is where I felt more comfortable writing, the walls are empty and that takes away the distraction that maybe other coffee shops or venues have for a proper creative focus. I would come here often and write articles on art and artists. One day I went to Nellie, our manager, an overall entity of love, our mother in a way, our AP mother. I told her that I am an experienced barista and would love to work with her. She was up for the journey.”

Lorusso has been behind the counter and collaborating with the rest of the squad every since. For him, AP is a consistent source of inspiration for everyone that walks in.

“Come in on your worst day or your best day and we will always try to give what we know best to give, which is inspiration.”

Another member of the cooking and baking squad, Essined Perez is a local of Jefferson Street but was raised back and forth from Puerto Rico and The states.

Fellow chef and close friend Stephanie brought Perez to AP which makes sense since they both share a love for making bites.

”I love the environment here. There are times I leave my house just to come here and relax. This is my home away from home… I was nervous, but I felt very welcomed.”

Perez has the hands with sponge cakes when it comes to sweets and loves to make dishes from other cultures.

Nellie has been pushing me to put myself out there more and being here, I am trying to gain more confidence and put stuff out there more. I definitely want to expand my baking skills.”

”We all work as a team, we all help each other and at a lot of jobs you don’t get that. As soon as you walk in you feel the environment. Everybody is chill and always smiling. Even if you come her on a bad day, you’ll feel relieved”

Oh and the Cake Master herself, fully co-signs Stephanie’s cheesecake skills.

What doesn’t Gabriel Tinoco do? The Chicago-bred creative has been in NYC for 2 years and found his way to AP from a quick yelp search.

”When I got here I had about maybe 6 months of money saved up and half of that went to my rent. My little sister came here and of course, I didn’t make her pay for anything, so I shot through that money really quickly. I literally typed in ‘cool cafe that has wifi.”AP was the second listing from my search and I really liked the vibe. I’m very minimal and clean-cut when it comes to design and love airy spaces so I gave it a shot.”

Blown away by the design and energy, Tinoco knew he could help take it to the next level and asked the manager at the time to hop on aboard with his prior experience at cafes.

Fast forward two years later, Tinoco has his hands in creative direction, events, social media and more both in and outside of the cafe.

“Its kinda like what don’t I do, which is the same for a lot of people that work here. They’re all artists in their own right and bring this energy here which is absolutely crazy. Working here and having a space, a creative hub, you kinda just do everything. I do a bunch of stuff which gives me the ability to use what I work on here in my personal work.”

Trust, dude’s personal work is ill. After multiple internships and networking with folk in fashion and advertising, Tinoco has gained a rapport with brands that has led him to live in Paris and working with Collette Fashion House and the Tom Brown Installation. On the day-to-day, between freelancing and building campaigns in Havas Media’s creative department and bouncing ideas off of the AP squad, Tinoco has his hands in all things creative.

“We just all work together for our independence creativity and piggyback off each other for the greater good. I consider these to be my brother and sisters. We’re all super young and POC in a neighborhood that is ever-changing and always has something being torn down and built up.”

If you’ve never walked into AP, FYI…

“You don’t have to be creative. There’s no judgment, just come in as you are and we will embrace and accept.”

Brooklyn boy, Joshua Martinez first pulled up the AP for a homie’s show and found his new home.

“The space is amazing, for some reason it feels like my home. When I first came here, I was so comfortable, I was like ight this my living room bro.”

Like the typical AP member, Martinez has multiple hustles. He has been at AP for about three months as a lead cook while he goes to culinary school.

“Everybody here is talented. I’ve never been in a space where its like ‘holy shit, this person does this and that person does that’.

The cook has also been skateboarding for 12 years and oh yeah, homie takes ill flicks on top of skyscrapers on the daily.

“It’s a mental thing and it’s a lot of defeating the odds.”

Martinez scouts the dopest buildings around the city and finesses his way to the roof whether it be making friends at the elevator or showing his IG to put them on game. For him, AP has given him the opportunity to have a safe place to collaborate with other creatives and venture into new things like curating events.

”The past three months has just been exactly what I need. I got evicted 6 months ago because my landlord was stealing money from me. I spoke to Nellie and she gave me a shot and then I had a show here in September and from there a lot of people hit me up and bought all if my prints. We call it AP Creative but we’re all family and bleed the same, so come through.”

Emmanuel Ortiz is a coffee lover from right up the block on Green Ave. Ortiz found himself depressed from working at this last, non-POC spot so he said eff-it. He quit and dyed his hair and one day, he stumbled upon Nellie getting her hair braided by “Mama” or Bertha as the Bushwick locals know her. He got the scoop on the cafe, got a call from Nellie a couple days later and has been the Floor Manager at AP for about a month now.

”I just love coffee in general.”

Ortiz helps run day-to-day operations and overall just makes sure the team is ight at the cafe. On top of being the in-house coffee expert, you can find him practicing on Fruity Loops daily.

”I’ve been in talks with this group called the NCA (National Coffee Association), who wants to make instructional videos on coffee. When I’m not focused that, it’s all music related.”

Ortiz may be the newest person on the team, but the depths to how driven everyone is has been clear from the jump.

“Everyone here has a passion for something that goes beyond. Everybody is like a local star. People come in and they always recognize each other, I’m always charging someone that I think I shouldn’t haha”

Being around so many creatives has motivated Ortiz to develop a portfolio and finish up a musician he’s been crafting.

“It’s more motivation to finish and show people stuff whereas before I was just too shy or nervous.”

His advice for newcomers?

“Get ready to let the ideas flow”

Miami native, Fernando Ruiz was raised and built his life in Venezuela where he was a pilot. He came back to New York five years ago and recently stumbled upon AP as he was applying for jobs online. After a call from Nellie, he has been a part of the middle of house team at the cafe, serving on the floor, bussing tables and making deliveries.

“The people that I met here are wild in the best way possible you can imagine. It’s like a dream team, you feel each person supporting you. We’re like a real family. When we are here, we don’t feel like we’re working because we are family.”

The family vibes aren’t forced, it comes naturally in AP’s sleek space. Ruiz describes the space as the “perfect environment,” where he can not only express himself but meet new people as well.

Currently, Ruiz is working on reevaluating his pilot license in the U.S. which will be a brolic task, but he’s up for the challenge with the support of his team turned real friends at AP. A place different.

“You don’t feel like you are in New York when you’re here. It feels like an indescribable place. At the end of the day, it’s food for your soul.”

“The synchronicity of everyone is wild”

Last but damn sure not least, we have the AP Mama herself. As every AP homie has a different story, they all have the same love and respect for AP’s Chief Operating Officer, Nellie.

“I had no expectation of any form of recognition when entering this job.”

The 25-year-old Brooklynite was hustling as a Soho-House waitress and consultant for multiple restaurants. She stumbled upon AP’s owners Hugo and Nectic as guests at Soho House one night and found herself coming through the doors as a customer one day after a bike ride.

Walking in, she found herself mystified by a physical creation that she had envisioned and made blueprints of. AP was what Nellie always wanted to be a part of. After chopping it up with the owners, she started as the General Manager of the cafe and just celebrated her one year anniversary.

“My team is incredible and as much as they love me, I love them 10x more. Sometimes I sit on the floor because I love to watch them flow, it’s such a beautiful thing”

The magic of AP and the hub of creativity it draws in feels almost too fly to be real. The passion and finesse of each person was never forced, it came natural.

“All of it is by chance. I feel so incredibly grateful to have the team that I have with the knowledge they’re equipped with, the skills they’re equipped with. It’s so much more than making coffee and food, even though we’re great at that, we bring so much more to the table and you can’t submit a Craigslist ad for that.”

Navigating a business and keeping vibrations at an all-time high has been an adulting experience, to say the least, but Nellie knows that it will put everyone on the team on a platform for success.

“It’s really hard as 25-year-olds to run a business and keep it afloat, you learn as you go in terms of taxes, liability, insurance. You’re doing that so you can fund this platform to do your projects. When the place is flooded, we snake the drain, when the electricity is not working, we’re the ones who have to figure it out or call someone to hire. There’s no adults to come and figure it out for us.”

On paper, the cafe is AP Creative, which will be an investor in everyone’s personal projects.

“Working here is paying dues for your aspirations and once those dreams come to life and you need the funding, we’ll feed you that.”

The creative rat-pack is learning as they go to continue building the creative safe haven for the community. Nellie used the AP stage as her own for the first time on October 14, as she launched a women’s collective, #ApplaudingPower alongside her girl hit-squad.

“There’s an epidemic against black and brown women of sterilizing us. At 19 they tried to take my uterus out and I was like ‘fuck that! I went on this voyage, learning all of this information from hormones to history and kept being told to bring people together and share this information.”

#ApplaudingPower is a space to highlight and build up fellow women creators while learning from each other’s experiences. The AP Mama is destined to grow the space to be a destination for inspiration for all that come it’s way.

“AP can mean anything. It starts with “A Place” and then it is used to define whatever the moment entails.”