Industry Insiders: Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman, Still Smiling

The owners of Noho’s mixed-use hotspot, The Smile, Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman have done their best to turn their joint into the coolest clubhouse in town. Located in a circa-1830’s Bond Street building, the bar effortlessly fuses a rustic cafe and boutique with the basement tattoo parlor of legendary ink artist, Scott Campbell. The pair may also be spotted at the the Jane Hotel Ballroom, which they run after the sun goes down.

How’d you get your start? Carlos Quirarte: I worked for Apple in San Francisco. The office was relocating to Los Angeles. Like any good San Franciscan, I hate LA, so I moved to New York. I knew I wanted to work in fashion, so I started working at a Diesel store. All the sales people there were really talents artists and designers. That’s what I wanted my staff to be like, people who are doing other shit and would be interesting to the people shopping there. Then I started working for a Levis concept store and began throwing parties. We threw events at Joe’s Pub and The Pussycat Lounge. 40 people came to the first one and the next one 400 people came. Then, I stopped to open a showroom. We started producing t-shirt lines. We did that with a lot of small brands. We had Subversive in there, Taavo Somer’s shirts. Then Scott Morrison approached me to work at Ernest Sewn. I wanted to do something different. So we had these events every 45 days and collaborated with other brands. This was how I met Matt. Matt was doing a party at Salon similar to what I had been doing. Salon became Socialista and later would become Café Gitane. Matt Kliegman: I started throwing parties as a sophomore at NYU. It sounded like a great idea because you drink for free. After college, I was working on Wall Street and stopped throwing parties until a friend convinced me to do it again. I met Mike Pappalardo who owned Salon. My friend Jeff and I were having the parties at Salon with Matt Creed as DJ. Matt later became the house DJ at Beatrice. The first party that Carlos, Taavo, Matt Creed and I threw was a Halloween party at the Bowery Hotel.

That was a crazy party. You didn’t really have a doorperson or ropes. MK: We don’t like to use them. Our second Halloween party was on Canal and Broadway in a 14,000 square foot retail space. Essentially we built a Mexican village. After the first party we did together, we realized we collaborated well and started looking for a space together.

What was your inspiration for The Smile? CQ: I always liked the idea of Michael’s uptown. That is what inspired Smile. We wanted a place our friends, who happen to be very interesting people, could come to hang out—even casually network with each other. That’s one of the great things that happens in New York. Also having Scott here is great. We also connected with the heads of companies to have limited edition product made just for us. It’s all contemporary art on the walls.

How did you meet him? CQ: While I was at Earnest Sewn, we did an event with Mother’s Day tattoos and he was involved. We also did that here this year. MK: Scott came here with us before we did anything and saw what it could be. We loved that the building is from the 1830’s.

What were you thinking for the Jane Hotel Ballroom? CQ: For the Jane, we wanted to have a scene with different kinds of people. Lately most places only have one crowd. There are good people from every group that want to have a good time and they all get along. Also, we loved the idea that people can come to the Ballroom to hang, get a room if they’re inspired to do so, then have breakfast at Café Gitane, which will be opening in the Hotel (in October).

How’d you end up partners in the Jane? CQ: We met Sean MacPherson through Serge Becker and Lisa Spellman from 303 Gallery. Sean had the best idea for the space and is known as a great guy in the business. These guys are like a family. Serge Becker, Sean McPherson, Judy Wong (owner of Cafe Cluny). They take care of each other and have become successful without stepping on each other. It’s special to be part of their group.

What music do you listen to? CQ: Queen, The Virgins, Gang Gang Dance. MK: TV on the Radio, Neil Young, The Band.

Where do you go out? MK and CQ: Bowery Hotel lobby, Café Select, Lit, Café Cluny, Vinegar House, Il Buco, Mole, and we used to live at Beatrice.

Something people don’t know about you? CQ:That I own a clarinet and can’t swim. MK: I am not from LA.

Where are you guys tonight? We’re at the Jane seven nights a week.

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