When I’ve written about the power of the Tribeca brand before—here and here—it was in relation to products called Tribeca. But businesses have been naming themselves after our neighborhood as well. (There’s a fascinating case study for some MBA student who’s dying to work at Landor.) Obviously, many businesses in Tribeca use the name—including one run by a highly charismatic pug owner—but the phenomenon extends far beyond lower Manhattan. Search “Tribeca” in Google Maps and then zoom out and you’ll see what I mean: Tribeca businesses are everywhere from Norway to New Zealand. There’s the Tribeca nightclub in Rochester, N.Y. (with a hot dog cart outside called Tribeca à la Carte; the Tribeca Tavern in Cary, N.C.; Tribeca Night Club & Special Events Center in Lagos, Nigeria (“Preserve your sexy because we are taking Lagos Nightlife to untouched levels!!); Club Tribecca [sic] in Fort Lee, N.J….. Cafés, investment firms, interior designers, salons, boutiques—the breadth is amazing, too. I can’t think of a neighborhood—well, maybe Soho, but the London one confuses matters—with such brand power.
That they exist is interesting, but what I really wanted to know is why the businesses chose Tribeca. Sometimes they explained why on their websites, or the media drew out connotations:
••• TriBeCa Restaurant & Bar in Auckland, New Zealand (The website: “The triangle below Canal St, in downtown New York City is known as TriBeCa to the map makers and is a mecca for the lovers of fine cuisine.”)
••• Tribeca, a bar in Chicago. Metromix Chicago: “Keep an eye on Cy’s in Lakeview, because it’s going through an intriguing transformation as Soiree consultant Jeff Vasilas comes aboard to reconcept the crab house into Tribeca, a late-night seafood lounge and martini bar. It’s named after Tribeca, the downtown NYC neighborhood south of Chinatown, standing for ‘Triangle below Canal.’ But it’s inspired by Tenjune, a NYC nightclub. Which is in the Meatpacking District, not Tribeca. Vasilas is from New Jersey.” [Zing!]
••• Tribeca Bistro and Lounge in St. Louis. St. Louis Today: “This new bar, which opened in October, is using its name to try and generate that loftlike, slightly gritty and slightly sophisticated air of the New York City scene. That’s a tall order, considering you are tucked into a strip mall in Chesterfield Valley. [Snap!] In spite of that obstacle, Tribeca does a nice job generating a laid-back, comfortable feel with a cozy interior, booths with pillowed couches and unobtrusive TVs.”
••• Tribeca NYC Bar & Diner in Jakarta, Indonesia. The website: “Tribeca NYC is the first NY style and pure R&B club in Jakarta. It’s a place that you can be yourself in a warm service oriented environment. The staffs are friendly, personable and efficient with a fresh look, feel and attitude. Indeed, they wear genuine Yankee and Knicks uniforms, as they are supporting actors on this NYC stage. The interior is sophisticated urban, with a lofty feel. When you step into the club, the red bricks, concrete and high ceilings makes you feel like you stepped into a Tribeca/Soho loft. The decorations are limited edition designer toys, which add a sense of humor and fun to the club and diner. There is a beautiful black & white photo of the NYC skyline behind the long bar. The walls are facsimiles of street murals by Jean-Michelle Basquiat for further street creed and NYC vibe.”
••• Tribeca Restaurant in Worcester, Mass.: “Tribeca stands for the Triangle Below Canal Street, a geographic neighborhood in lower Manhattan, New York City. Well known for its eclectic and energetic populus, Tribeca boasts a large number of upscale and diverse restaurant choices.”
I emailed a few to see what they’d have to say.
••• Tim from Tribeca Salon in Aliso Viejo, Calif.: “We chose the name because Tribeca New York is one of our favorite vacation spots. We love the lofts there so our salon is designed to feel like a loft in Tribeca.”
••• Paige Baione of Tribeca Design Studio in Dover, Del., had this explanation: “I am happy to answer your question. In order to do so, I must give a little history of our company. Seven years ago, I became a volunteer set builder by responding to a plea from the pulpit asking ‘anyone who has any artistic abilities’ to please help the small crew finish the sets for our church’s upcoming Easter production. I was between jobs and found it a great opportunity to use my skills and to get to know the creative portion of our rather large congregation. It became the most intense volunteer work I have ever performed as we gladly worked up to 14 hours a day putting the finishing touches on the sets. I then became a regular, working closely with Robin, the artistic director. After several productions Christine, a textile designer by trade, moved to town from North Carolina. She was feeling stifled in her job and was hoping to find a more creative position than designing automotive fabrics. Much like me, she decided to join the set crew as a creative outlet. Long story short, the three of us became the head of the crew and formed a strong bond. We all agreed that the rare combination of 3 exhausted, opinionated women working together 14 hours a day and being able to disagree without being disagreeable was something to be explored and developed. It didn’t take much longer for the idea of a company to come about. We all love interior design and have leanings toward a modern style, something not often seen in the colonial surroundings of historic Dover, Del. We needed a name that clearly identified our style, told a bit of our story, and didn’t limit our future possibilities. Knowing that TriBeCa means ‘Triangle below Canal Street’ we found a humorous relationship to our ‘Trio below the (Delaware) Canal.’ This takes on significant meaning to Delawareans because there is a prevailing idea that nothing current happens below the Delaware Canal since our largest city, Wilmington, is North of the canal. We also know the neighborhood is known for having forward thinking residents who have made great influences on art and design. In a nutshell, Tribeca (we agree that TriBeCa is just too difficult to type!) is the kind of place we wish we lived in and we would like to have a hand in creating here in Delaware. The name has served us well and has accomplished everything we hoped it would—it tells our story, sets us apart stylistically, and has left the door open for many creative services.”
••• Cian Mac Eochaidh of Tribeca Public Relations in Johannesburg, South Africa, also sent an extensive answer: “To be very honest, we called our company Tribeca Public Relations for no particular reason. Back in 2006 when my business partner and I set up the company, we had been hunting around for a nice company name. We went through the dictionary from A-Z, checked out other types of companies world-wide, tried to be clever in coming up with ‘cool’ or ‘clever’ names, tried to think up ‘hip’ names—you name it, we tried everything. My own first child—a son—was born about 5 weeks again—and choosing a name for a child and for your own company are just as hard as each other! I remember, one evening, myself and my wife went for a meal and went to the movies. During the movie, at one stage, the daughter of one of the main characters in the movie, went to University in New York, and got an apartment in Tribeca. The area was mentioned once or twice during the movie, and I just immediately though that it could be a really great name for our company. It wasn’t hip, or trying to be cool, or trying to be clever. It just sounded like a great company name. Corporate enough for our corporate clients and ‘cool-in-a-good-way’ for our non-corporate clients. The name of the movie was In Good Company—with Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson. A really nice movie—I enjoyed it! [Agreed! It was underrated.] Everyone asks what the story is behind our business, of what the connection is with New York—and we just tell them there is no story! We just liked the sound of it!”
I’ve hesitated posting this for a while because I wasn’t sure what the point was. And I’m still not. I suppose I just find it fascinating that the word Tribeca has a global reach—thanks in good part to Robert De Niro, no doubt, and increasingly to Jay-Z—especially when, a few months ago, I met some older Upper East Siders who had never heard of Tribeca. I didn’t even bother trying to explain Hudson Square….