If there were a Multitasking Olympics, Kylie Sachs would be a good bet to bring home the gold. The former Wall Street player now runs three Brooklyn cafés—two outposts of the cozy neighborhood coffee shop Milk Bar and the skylit Brunswick, where banh mi, grilled cheese, and quinoa salads happily mingle on the menu—while raising two young kids, and she still finds time for dead lifts at CrossFit. What Should We Do?! caught up with Sachs (we were winded by the time we did) to chat about her major career change, making Brooklyn her family's home, and what’s in her husband’s secret cocktail.
Photo by Amy Hoppy
What Should We Do?!: In another lifetime, you were a CFO of a tech company—how did you go from there to running Brooklyn cafés?
Kylie Sachs: I had been a CFO for a kind of payment service a couple years after [working] as an investor, and one day about two years ago, my husband came home and said, “Oh, my God. Milk Bar around the corner from us is for sale.” I was like, “Oh, wow, that’s a bummer.” And he said, “Well, we should buy it,” and I said, “No. No. Why would you think we should buy it? That’s crazy.” WSWD: That does sound crazy.
Sachs: He’s one of those idea people who sees an opportunity and thinks: “Sure!” I’m more of a consultant type, where I see an opportunity and find 75 reasons why it won’t work. So I went to my office the next day, walked into my business partner’s office, and said, “I am not really loving this, and things are kind of going awry with this company, and my husband came home with this weird idea, and I’m going to go meet this guy with this café for sale.” And he said, “Oh, great. When is the meeting?” So the three of us—me, my husband, and my business partner—end up meeting this guy the next day, and we closed our tech company on July 10, 2016. And as of July 11, it’s been like getting on a moving train. WSWD: I bet.
Sachs: Yes. We only changed something if it broke—which, by the way, everything broke in the first month. Literally everything broke. WSWD: Oh, man. Did you grow up in New York? You seem to have a New Yorker’s can-do attitude.
Sachs: No, I grew up outside of Washington, D.C., in Maryland. But I knew I wanted to live in New York since I was 5 years old. So as soon as I graduated from college, I was on a train up to New York. I started on Wall Street way back when—at Kidder Peabody that summer.WSWD: And what brought you to Brooklyn?
Sachs: That’s a total cliché. My husband and I got married in 2006 and lived in Manhattan in an illegal sublet. A woman called and told us, “Oh, you know, I’m going to have to raise your rent. Your lease is up and I have to raise it, like, 50 percent.” So we had two months to find an apartment. We really wanted to buy, but Manhattan was not an option. I had left the Wall Street world and jumped into more startup-y situations, so bye-bye to making money. I loved living in Manhattan when we were younger and didn’t have kids, but Brooklyn was just this big sky country when we came over here. I think I had been crunching my shoulders for a decade [while] living in Manhattan. WSWD: In your Twitter bio, you refer to yourself as a “recovering CFO.” I’m wondering how the recovery is going.
Sachs: That’s a good question. You know, it’s funny how we identify with certain kinds of early-career experiences. I thought of myself as a finance person. But I always knew that I would do something small and local. Now I have a better sense for: Wow, if we add Bloody Marys to the menu, it’s not just as simple as, “Yeah, let’s start that this weekend.” We have to add it to the point of sale. Then it's: “Do we have the right glasses? Where are we going to store the glasses? Who’s going to pour the stuff? Do we have the right ice cubes? Do we need a garnish? Who’s going to garnish it?” It’s all those little things that I have a much better appreciation for. It’s been really good for me at that level. I have people—on a day like today, when it’s crazy snowing—who show up at 6:45 a.m. and take pride in what they do. The best part is the staff. I love the customers and interacting with the customers, but I also really love the staff. They are really, really hardworking. The dishwashers just crush it. The cooks crush it. WSWD: Besides the business, you have two young children. And yet you still go to the gym and lift weights. How is that possible? Sachs: I try to go three or four times a week. I can go at the end of the day, which is about 4:30 p.m., when the shops are closing. I know at that point, things aren’t breaking; nothing is catching on fire; nobody has dragged dog poop into the shop. I know I can do my thing for an hour at the gym and switch to a different mind-set. But afterward, I have to go straight from the gym to pick up the kids, and I have to be present. They are at those ages—almost 7 and 10—when they will still talk to me, and so I really want to listen. WSWD: How much do you lift?
Sachs: At one point, and this is probably a year and a half ago, I could squat about 150 pounds. I think my bench press wasn’t that great; it was around 85 pounds. WSWD: That sounds like a lot to us.
Sachs: Oh, it’s fun. You are very present when you are looking at this barbell and you’re going, “I just have to get you off of this floor.” It’s nice to have something that is very simple. There are no complications. Just lift it up. WSWD: After working around food all day, do you still like cooking at home?Sachs: Yes, I cook a lot. My kids joke that I’m Pasta Mommy. It’s not gourmet. I’m the one who will cook the fast things. I’m really good at chicken noodle soup. The easiest thing, though—if I’m ever at a total loss for what to cook the kids—is I’ll boil pasta and cut up some fried eggs to put on top. Parmesan, salt, pepper and you are good. This is super poor man’s carbonara.WSWD: Could you ever imagine leaving New York?
Sachs: We always like to joke that we are 300 square feet away from happiness. We love where we live but, oh, God, I would kill for another room.WSWD: If we could plan your perfect New York City day, what would you do, eat, see, and experience?Sachs: We would force the kids to have a really nice meal, but we would make it breakfast so it wasn’t asking for too much. What is that restaurant at the Gramercy Park Hotel? Maialino? We’d have a nice breakfast there, and then go up to Central Park and do the totally geeky but amazing rowboat thing, which we did last year and it was so much fun. You call ducks and take turns rowing. Then [we'd] probably swing by the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Modern Art and spend some time there. And then we'd end up at JG Melon for burgers and call it a day. Interestingly, that’s all in Manhattan. Hmm.
Kylie Sach’s Faves…in a NY Minute
Manhattan or Brooklyn?
To live, Brooklyn; to play, Manhattan. Slice?We always order from Cataldo’s on Friday nights. It’s darn good New York pizza, and they have a special one with broccoli rabe. Cocktail?My husband makes a cocktail that is going to sound really weird. He muddles jalapeño and cilantro and celery. And I think there’s lime and maybe there’s gin in it. It all ends up tasting so fresh and so good and a little bit spicy. He makes that for us on Friday nights. Central Park or Prospect Park?Oh, this is where I’m going to get myself in trouble. If I had to choose, Central Park. I just love Central Park. It’s so magical. Prospect Park is fun for families. It’s great, but if I have to go on a massive run, I would always rather go to Central Park. I like how it’s more groomed. Some people don’t like that—they like Prospect Park because it’s rougher. Mets or Yankees?
Yankees.WNYC or NY1?
Oh, both. That’s so hard. NY1 in the mornings, and WNYC when we get home for dinner preparation. Bagel?
Bergen Bagels.Broadway or off-Broadway?I need to get to the theater more, but if I have to choose, off-Broadway. I have seen a number of things at the Public, which we've enjoyed. And St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. They do really cool stuff.