By now you have most likely heard of Housing Works, the largest community-based AIDS service organization in the U.S. (where there is currently a waiting list for volunteers!). While there are many facets of the organization, their Bookstore Cafe has set a high standard in the booking department, boasting a calendar jam-packed with diverse, must-see events. Susie Luppert, who started out as a volunteer and is now the Executive Director, has had no small part in making the Cafe a hotbed of activity. Coming up next month, Björk and the Dirty Projectors will play an intimate show in the space, and the Cafe is currently auctioning off some front row/center tickets. We recently checked in with Susie, who told a little more about the organization, and of course her dream line-up at the Crosby Street outpost.
What is your day-to-day like? It is different every day. Meetings with potential artists, events planners, and organizations about doing events at the store, working on budgets, and managing the multiple departments under me including the bookstore itself, the online sales division, the cafe at the bookstore, and two satellite cafes at NYU.
How has the organization been doing during the tough economic times This is a very challenging time for all organizations, including Housing Works. We are working on earning as much money as possible through our thrift stores and our health care facilities and scaling back wherever we can. At times like this, thrift stores tend fare better because people are shopping more frugally. That gives us a slight advantage over other retail stores.
What would you like to see happening at Housing Works in a year from now? I'd like to see Housing Works get as lean as possible so we can focus our efforts on providing the best services possible for homeless New Yorkers living with AIDS/HIV. I think we can accomplish that by having our businesses do what we do best: Sell merchandise and host great events.
There seem to be a lot of amazing events on the calendar lately, have you been involved in putting those together? With so many other performance spaces closing over the past year, we've made a real effort to fill that void. We have an amazing board of directors and events manager, who I work closely with to curate all of the events at the store. I've also been more active in the lineup lately simply because I like to be able to see things on the stage that I would go to like our Moth storytelling competitions, our bluegrass music nights, and our new weekly comedy series.
If you could have any event at Housing Works involving any dream lineup in the world, what/who would it be? Sleater Kinney reuniting and playing our Live From Home concert series. Hosted by Sarah Vowell.
Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge last summer there was suddenly a huge party in the middle. Cupcakes appeared, a band started playing. There were party hats and people dressed up. And, of course, I ran into an old friend I hadn't seen in a while. Turns out it was some sort of anniversary on the bridge. The best part was that the tourists wouldn't take the cupcakes. I think they thought they were laced with acid.
Which New Yorker do you most admire? I'm going obvious here with Woody Allen. I just love that guy.
Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? Make it more affordable. I've seen so many people I love leave here because they just couldn't pay the rent. Such a loss of great artists and people in general.
Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? When I realize I haven't had a moment to myself in months (or years). That I'm never actually alone. It's comforting and completely drives me crazy at the same time.
Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? Serving Winona Ryder coffee and cookies at the bookstore. I was really star struck.
What's your current soundtrack to the city? The National's "Fake Empire"
Best cheap eat in the city. Lahore. Right next door to the bookstore.