filed under People

NEW IN NEW YORK

On the corner of 5th Avenue and 45th Street, our brand-new, multi-level flagship in New York City is a retail concept inspired by our homestate of California’s landscape and the timeless yet ever-changing journey from nature to home. Open to all, the store features footwear, apparel, accessories, and homeware from the brand, plus exclusive items and experiences throughout the year.

Ahead of the holidays, we honor the opening with local stories from our FEEL LOVE campaign, celebrating real-life heroes whose stories inspire us. From Brooklyn to Manhattan to Harlem, meet King’s County Distillery co-founder and distiller Colin Spoelman, ICU nurse Kimberly Llanto, and restaurant owner Melba Wilson.

THE NEUMEL

Native-Kentuckian Colin Spoelman is a trained architect and founder of Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn. When the pandemic hit, he switched over the distillery’s production facilities to make hand sanitizer and distributed 15,000+ bottles throughout the five boroughs to frontline workers and anyone that asked.

Tell us about yourself and how you FEEL these days and why?

I’m Colin Spoelman, co-founder and distiller at Kings County Distillery. With cold weather coming on, I feel pessimistic since we do a lot of our business via our tasting room onsite, but hopefully people will embrace shopping online for whiskey – which is a very new thing since before the pandemic, most shipping was legally prohibited. So, there’s been a big shift in how we do business.

Who or what motivates you to do all you do, especially your public service?

We are distillers first and foremost – not a label or brand. Being a distiller helps us make creative whiskeys from scratch that are singular and distinctive from more commercial products, but it also means we have equipment to make alcohol (ethanol) which can be used as hand sanitizer. Since hospitals and other essential businesses needed sanitizer more than whiskey, it was a pretty easy jump for us to make.

THE NEUMEL

How does it FEEL to know your work we’re recognizing is positively impacting people’s lives?

The outpouring of support was very significant. I believe serving the community is a good business model, one that larger companies have a hard time doing credibly – and that can mean whiskey or all kinds of other things. In addition to making sanitizer, we are also doing virtual tastings to keep people connected while they are staying home.

What do you love most about the holidays?

Indoor trees.

What’s the greatest gift you can give?

Locally-made, independently-owned craft whiskey.

THE FLUFF YEAH

Kimberly Llanto followed her mother into nursing. She started her career in 2019 as an acute surgical nurse, but when the pandemic hit New York, she quickly transitioned to caring for COVID patients. She spent six months as a COVID ICU nurse and began using her social channels to encourage and support nursing students and new nurses during this challenging time.

Tell us about yourself, and how you FEEL these days and why?

I’m a first-generation Asian American registered nurse that worked in a major NYC hospital through the peak of the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit New York City, I was still a new graduate nurse, about eight months into my nursing career. Overall, I’m great most days, but this year has been very devastating—there’s some trauma from seeing so many people die from a disease we’re still trying to figure out. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, so it’s important to prioritize your needs and take moments to engage in self-care. This has become especially evident to me as we continue to adjust to our new normal. While recognizing the fact that we continue to face the pandemic today, I do feel proud to have persevered as a frontliner in its epicenter.

Who or what motivates you to do all you do, especially your public service?

My mother is my main inspiration for pursuing a career in nursing. Seeing her dedication makes me strive for the same excellence. Nursing is my passion, which is what motivates me to work diligently – even during trying times.

THE FLUFF YEAH

How does it FEEL to know your work we’re recognizing is positively impacting people’s lives?

Being on the front lines has been rough, but it’s fulfilling to know that my work has made a difference. As a nurse, it’s my duty to advocate for my patients’ wellbeing, which has been especially crucial these days as so many people have fallen ill with COVID-19.

What do you love most about the holidays?

Spending time with my loved ones!

What’s the greatest gift you can give?

I’m obsessed with my Fluff Yeah Slides and want to gift them to everyone I know, haha! But on a serious note, memories tend to resonate with people more, so I think the most valuable gifts are experiences rather than tangible items. The holidays are considered the season of giving, but I look forward to spending quality time with people who are important to me the most.

THE CLASSIC MINI

As Melba Wilson likes to say, she was “born, bread, and buttered in Harlem.” She’s the owner of Melba’s Restaurant, the president of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, and a board member of the Opportunity Charter School and Harlem Park to Park. To help her community through the pandemic, Melba’s has been providing family-style meals at a discounted rate and set up fundraising efforts to support her staff while restaurants were shuttered.

Tell us about yourself, and how you FEEL these days and why?

There are still plenty of unknowns regarding the pandemic and the second wave; however, I know that we will continue to push forward, and I remain optimistic.

THE BUTTE AND UGG READY-TO-WEAR

Who or what motivates you to do all you do, especially your public service?

I am motivated by my desire to change lives one dish at a time. I believe that we can come together using food as a conduit to bridge racial, ethnic, financial, social, cultural, and religious disparities. My son Salif and my work family are also sources of motivation. Being a provider and leading by example constantly energizes me when I need a boost.

How does it FEEL to know your work we’re recognizing is positively impacting people’s lives?

I am a giver by nature and often prefer to use my gifts to make others happy; however, this does make me smile and confirms that my hard work is not in vain.

SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN & EGGNOG WAFFLES
AT MELBA’S RESTAURANT IN HARLEM

What do you love most about the holidays?

I love the holidays! They bring about an immense amount of comfort and joy. Having an opportunity to reminisce and reflect with family and friends about days past and times to come makes me happy. I also love hearing stories about my family history. Often, these stories are told over dishes which provoke memories. It is such a fun and fond way of storytelling!

What’s the greatest gift you can give?

I believe the greatest gift I can give is my time, especially in 2020. I am blessed to have shared life experiences with my friends, the family I was born with, and the family I gained along the way. There were many along my journey who deposited in me their time and life lessons, and I wish to do the same for my peers and future generations.