The Visionaries: Martin Abcede

Walk along Mulberry Street in NYC and you might spot a calm, green space in the Nolita bustle—a cozy coffee shop festooned with plants. Aptly named Urban Backyard, it’s the brainchild of Martin Abcede and his wife Cindy Lin-Abcede, who serve sustainability alongside their Colombe Coffee.

The greenery doesn’t just enhance the rustic interior design and provide an escape for frazzled New Yorkers; it’s also the backdrop to the coffee shop’s environmental ethos. You’ll find the expected menu of coffees and teas (the Honey Rose and Lavender Peony is a local favorite), and a seasonal selection of pastries and desserts, but what you won’t find is single-use plastic or unnecessary waste.

Martin visited the ZACHARY PRELL showroom recently to try on some of our collection. We also talked about the challenges of creating a zero-waste business, and how quality fabrics that last can also benefit the environment.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

My wife Cindy and I love traveling, from Tulum in Mexico and the Huangshan mountain range in eastern China, to Bali and Mongolia—our vacations are always adventurous, filled with a lot of food trips and outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and camping. But during our travels we’ve seen negative effects on the environment. We were inspired to open Urban Backyard to promote eco-friendly products and practices to help our own community make better choices.

We’ve never owned a business or coffee shop before, but we wanted to create a space where we could build relationships in our neighborhood, while also helping people reduce waste and find alternatives to single-use plastic products. The combination of my passion for coffee and Cindy’s expertise in tea and food led us to the idea of opening a green lifestyle coffee shop. We left our full-time jobs—me in retail management, Cindy in graphic design—to open Urban Backyard in July 2018.

Martin Abcede wears the ZACHARY PRELL 3-in-1 Oxford jacket in navy, paired with the Aster pant in Dark Stone.
Why did you select your spot in Nolita?

Cindy grew up in the neighborhood on Mulberry & Grand. Her aunt used to own the space we’re currently in—it was a clothing boutique of sorts. When the opportunity came to take over the space, we took it. We feel so lucky to have opened up shop in such a great neighborhood with so much diversity in shops, cafes, and restaurants.

What are the challenges of running a business with a strong eco ethos?

As a business it’s challenging to be completely zero waste and plastic free. But there are eco-friendly alternatives and everything we do is aimed at being good for the environment. Our business cards are made from post-consumer recycled paper, while our to-go cups are made from corn, and we use straws made from hay. We have glass and ceramic cups if you decide to have your drink to stay, and we give a 15% discount to our customers as an incentive to bring their own re-usable cups. We also sell products that are alternatives to single-use plastics, such as bamboo utensils and produce bags. We will also be expanding our more eco-friendly products within the next couple of months.

Such alternatives to single use plastic are important to us to promote and educate. By taking small steps to reduce using to-go cups by bringing your own re-usable cup, ditching plastic bags and using a re-usable tote bag for groceries, or purchasing a bamboo utensil set instead of plastic forks and spoons—these small choices and decisions go a long way to protecting the environment.

You’re wearing our Oxford 3-in-1 jacket and the Aster pant. What do you think?

The Oxford is a great transition piece for the fall season. I’m really happy that all the clothes from ZACHARY PRELL fit perfectly—the Oxford especially has a tailored fit to my body and is very comfortable and lightweight. I like to stick to classic outerwear, and the Oxford is great to dress up and casual down. There’s also a quality to the fabric—these are clothes that will last, which can only be a good thing from an environmental point of view.

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