Founder Fridays: Erik Torkells of Tribeca Citizen

In this edition of Founder Fridays, we’re featuring another entrepreneur whose business is also outside of food and hospitality. Erik Torkells is the founder of Tribeca Citizen, a website dedicated to all the going ons of Tribeca. From politics to restaurants to real estate and everything in between, if it affects the neighborhood, you can find it in the TC. I am tremendously impressed that one man can cover that many different topics so thoroughly.

Having lived and worked in Tribeca for a number of years, I read Erik’s email newsletter religiously but had never met him. Pretty much everyone I know in Tribeca reads the site, and I absolutely confirm the sentiment of the customer in the anecdote that Erik shares below. The site is so, so useful. We crossed paths after I started Good Stock, became customers of each other (Good Stock has advertised in the TC, he orders home delivery), and struck up a friendship along the way. His path of going it alone and starting something new has been so encouraging. Through our conversations, I’ve picked up many tips on writing better emails, targeting customers, working alone, payment processing (yes, these are incredibly interesting conversations), real estate, and more. But these were never meant to be “how to run a business” conversations, so I’m not sure that Erik knows how helpful he’s been to me and Good Stock. Well he’s been wonderful, and I’m lucky to have him as a customer, but more importantly, as a friend. 

Why did you start Tribeca Citizen?

After I quit my job as a magazine editor, I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in magazines, but I didn't know what to do instead. As I spent more time in Tribeca (vs. in Midtown offices), I got curious about all sorts of stuff, and I began to wish there was a website that focused on the local subjects I care about -- restaurants, shops, people, and so on. The idea was to build a group of neighborhood websites, each with its own blogger, but first I needed to see whether readers wanted it (they did), and then whether businesses would advertise (they would). Somehow, seven years have gone by.

What would you have done differently in hindsight?

I probably wouldn't have started a business that doesn't scale, forces me to stay in one neighborhood, and can't survive easily without me (because of a decision I made long ago to write in the first-person, making myself a sort of narrator/character). Whatever, it's been fun.

Tell me about a great customer story or anecdote.

Now and again I get an email like the one I got today. It's from someone I've never met: "You know every once in I while I think to myself -- I wonder if he knows how much we appreciate TC and how valuable it is for all of us downtown? And then I think I will tell him when I run into him... which never happens! So just a note to make you smile on a cloudy, foggy, rainy, muggy, cold and yet strangely warm downtown day!” It never ceases to amaze and delight me -- because working alone is often lonely, and it reminds me that I'm now connected to so many more people than I ever was before. Also, that just doesn't happen when you're working in mainstream media.

What music do you listen to while you work?

I almost always have music on, because it stops my pug, Howard, from barking at sounds from out on the street or in the hall. It's usually jazz from the 50s and 60s, or a long, random playlist of songs I know I'll enjoy without them being a distraction. The last five as I type this: "Devil's Pie" by D'Angelo, "Protection" by Massive Attack, "Lay Myself Down" by Mazzy Star, "Kisses on the Wind" by Neneh Cherry, and "Sixteen, Maybe Less" by Calexico and Iron & Wine.

What is your favorite soup?

Lentil. Is that like saying vanilla is your favorite ice cream flavor? So what. I love it.