a red flower Patrons interview: Mark Connell
owner, botanica bar and father
Meet one of our inspiring
red flower patrons.
visit with and
what’s next for
red flower dad.
Also check out his new restaurant project, Estela.
what sense do you treasure most?
how can i say watching the sun set below the manhattan skyline is better than listening to the intro of the first stone roses album (one of my favorite albums and the best intro ever - i love the build up). or that remembering the smell of my grandmother’s house and all the memories that brings up is more important than the taste of the first tomatoes of the year.
have you ever questioned your own ethics?
almost every day.
when was the last time you took a big risk?
using all our savings to open a coffee shop on 1st avenue. which subsequently failed and we had to sell it. a great lesson in life but it certainly brought humility.
of which do you draw more meaning, fiction or non-fiction?
non-fiction usually, although i did just read for whom the bell tolls, which i can feel is pulling me back towards fiction.
what's the last thing that inspired you: a novel, a song or a painting?
my good friend valerie hammond did a series of drawings based on the poem “who killed cock robin?”, which absolutely blew me away.
what do you trust more, instinct or experience?
much to my wifes chagrin, instinct. she’d rather i thought things through and used experience.
what former vice do you miss the most? and what have you replaced it with?
alcohol/drugs/women - i can’t do one without the other two so, alas, it’s none of them for me. they have now been replaced by my daughter, i can’t get enough of that little shit.
what daily or weekly ritual do you enjoy the most?
i would say something like putting my daughter to bed, but if you were to ask anyone who knows me they would say it would be counting the money at my bar after a busy weekend.
what is one thing you’ll never sacrifice?
principals. when we first took over botanica my wife and i said local, regular customers would be what makes the place and we said we wouldnt close any area of the bar off to them. we’ve probably lost some money by sticking to this principal in particular but i feel we have earned the respect of our clientele and friends. and that is way more important to us.
you often find yourself questioning people’s _________?
judgement when it comes to dating. i get very protective over our female friends and have been known to be less than enthusiastic when being introduced to their latest beaus.
what guides your decision-making?
does this decision need to be made? does it need to be made right now? does it need to be made by me? if the answer to these three questions is yes, then i try to make the decision based on what decision would make people respect me rather than what decision would make them like me. if the answer is no, then i always try to give the people around me the confidence and freedom to make the decision themselves.
do you feel that what you buy with money instigates change?
absolutely not. change comes from within.
do you surround yourself with personal artifacts or keep your space bare?
when i moved to ny 16 years ago i lived in 15 different “accommodations” over the first three years. that taught me to travel light, very light as i schlepped that suitcase from hostel to hostel, sublet to sublet (and i guess the occasional men’s shelter).
how do you continue to seek out new knowledge?
the new yorker is the bartender’s bible. to be a great bartender you need to be able to talk about any and every subject for 15 minutes, and those new yorker articles give me that ability. when the conversation enters the 16th minute i politely excuse myself and go clean some glasses.
what little things do you take pleasure in?
because of my job and living in the east village tenement i very rarely have time to myself. so when those moments arise i savor them as if they were my last.
what do you take pride in?
when i came to new york from scotland i had nothing - no money, no friends, no education, nothing except my wits and my willingness to work long and hard. i now have an amazing wife and child, the best friends anyone could have and i own two businesses. i feel new york helped give me the confidence to become the man i always thought i could be, and i am proud that i came here in the first place and that i stuck it out those first couple of years when the going was tough.
what reminds you of home?
i grew up in a fishing village outside edinburgh and it used to be fulton fish market with the smell of sea water and fresh fish. now that’s gone i just watch braveheart over and over again.
when was the last time you were surprised?
my mum flew over from scotland to surprise me on my 40th birthday in june last year. it was a sweltering day and i was lying around in my apartment just wearing my underwear when she walked in the door. luckily i was wearing something.