Want true insider tips on the best spots to imbibe, dine and
lodge around NYC and beyond? Rachel Harrison and Melanie Weitzner are your
people. The duo turned their passion for high quality hospitality into their
own successful PR agency, repping top shelf clients such as Elyx Vodka, Pernod
Ricard and Paradise Beach Hotel. Read on for their recommendations of the top spots to eat,
drink and stay, as well as how they founded and maintain their busy
What does your company do?
Lion & Lamb Communications is a public relations and marketing agency focusing on all of the wonderful elements of the hospitality industry from hotels and destinations to bars, spirits and restaurants. We also work with many talented designers that are connected to the hospitality industry from interior to lighting designers.
How do you know each other and how did you come to launch the agency in which you’re partners?
RH: We met while working together at Andaz Hotels. I was the in-house Communications Director and Melanie was with the agency that handled the public relations. We immediately gained a strong respect for each other's work ethic, knowledge of the industry and creativity. We had joked for years about starting our own company and then one day we looked at each other, and almost in unison said “Let’s do this.”
What’s been the key to a happy and successful business partnership?
Communication, Communication, Communication. We’ve both let go of all fear of honesty and open communication with each other. If something is bothering us, we immediately start a dialogue and figure out if there is a miscommunication. Perhaps one of us is simply in a bad mood or there is a valid reason for one of us being upset at how something was handled. But – we choose our battles. Something changes in your mind when you know that you will be with someone forever. The little things no longer matter – it’s about the larger picture, respecting the way people choose to work and what works best for them.
Why did you choose to specialize in the hospitality & travel space?
Both of us started in fashion. Melanie at Ralph Lauren and Rachel at TopShop. After leaving our respective fashion jobs, we both ended up in lifestyle boutique public relations agencies where our managers put us on travel, food, design and beverage accounts. We have both fallen in love with all the moving parts of the hospitality industry. It’s constantly evolving - the players change, the trends change - this industry keeps you on your toes.
And – where else would we have the chance to work with some of the worlds most creative minds from architectural designers Roman and Williams, HBA and David Rockwell, to chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Bill Telepan to some of the world's best bartenders such as Naren Young and Joaquin Simo. And of course the opportunities we’ve had to bring in creative partners into our spaces such as artists Bradley Theodore and Mister Cartoon or fashion houses such as Moschino, Lanvin and Balenciaga, to a host of other creative geniuses. It’s always new, and it’s always exciting.
Did you have any mentors or people who inspired you along the way?
RH: I’d have to give credit to Susan Magrino, Michael Doneff and Katie Barr from The Susan Magrino Agency. While it was a very challenging, fast paced place to work – it was one of the best learning experiences of my career. You certainly learn to be great at what you do very quickly. They demanded excellence and I hope I delivered.
I’d also add Melanie Brandman, James LaForce, Louise O’Brien and Pavia Rosati. All have provided incredible counsel to Melanie and I while starting our new company. Pavia said to us at one point “Find your sophomore mentor and then find your senior.” This basically means, find someone who has just started his or her business. Their mistakes are so fresh in their minds that they can help with any of our start up challenges. And the senior is someone who helps you over the next level of hurdles.
MW: Like Rachel, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented, well-respected people in the business but the one constant that I’ve had throughout my career is the support of my family. My father has instilled an incredibly strong work ethic while my mother has always taught me to stay positive – something that is needed everyday in this incredibly fast-paced industry.
What are some of your current projects that you’re excited about?
We just started working with Dante in the West Village. It’s an interesting restaurant because it’s been around since 1915 and has seen musicians, artists and writers walk through its doors. Linden Pride and Naren Young have taken it over and dusted it off a bit while still maintaining the integrity of the original vision – welcoming, elegant Italian hospitality (now with an Australian twist). We’re also excited about a new hotel we’re launching on Nantucket called Greydon House. The owners have such a huge passion for this project - it’s intoxicating. We’re helping with everything from partnerships for uniforms and food & beverage to marketing and communications. It’s exciting to be a part of it.
You rep a lot of alcohol brands and bars…what are a couple of your go-to places for a cocktail?
We were both going to Dante before bringing them on as a client, so that’s continued on a weekly basis. Dante has something they call the Negroni Sessions. Numerous types of negronis to try out. I’ve only made my way through a few because I have my favorites.
Other favorites are: Slowly Shirley or Dear Irving for a sexy 1930’s vibe, Holiday Cocktail Lounge or Extra Fancy for fun and debauchery, The Daily or Saxon & Parole for the two most entertaining bartenders in the world – Masa & Nacho. Pouring Ribbons and Death & Co for high end, intellectual story telling cocktails, The Polo Bar for the popovers, Moscow Mules and people watching, Lady Jay’s or Rocka Rolla in Williamsburg when you want a good beer but don’t want to be seen, Bushwick Country Club and Mother’s Ruin for a pickleback and a fun time, Nomad Bar or the bar at Eleven Madison Park for a little bit of glamour and fantastic service, Soho House’s rooftop – because there’s no better place to go once the weather permits and where we’ve spent our last six summers imbibing.
Any great ‘hidden gem’ bars or restaurants you can share?
Of course! We’re in PR; when we like something we talk about it: PDT is always a good hidden gem where you walk through the phone booth, but our all-time favorite hidden bar and maybe one of our favorite bars in NYC is Attaboy. Attaboy is a little bar on Eldridge with no sign, and no markings. One rings the doorbell and the loveliest of individuals always pokes his / her head out to say hello and to let you know if there’s room. They’re kind enough to usually find us a little nook to enjoy a cocktail or two (or three) in.
And of course, there’s Genuine Liquorette. The genius Eben Freeman just opened this place with AvroKo. It’s pure fun. If you wondered what it was like to drink inside a candy vending machine, this is kind of what it feels like. It’s like an adult, high-end playground. It’s silly, and fabulous.
What are the top travel destinations on your list right now?
We were in Cuba, Cayman Islands, Nevis, Greece, Italy and Mexico last year and that was incredibly exciting. This year, we’re looking forward to some good ‘ol Americana. Nashville is next on the list and then Nantucket, Detroit and Pittsburg. These cities are changing so quickly; we’re looking forward to seeing their evolution.
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