Master Moments: Nick Stone

I recently connected with the intrepid leader of Bluestone Lane, Nick Stone, to see how one of our most energetic and forward-thinking CEOs would manage the current retail climate.

Of course, if you’ve never been into a Bluestone Lane, you may not understand the level of quality experience you are in for, considering they are operating over 30 cafes coast to coast. Each space is unique to the space and neighborhood it lives in, yet with a particular touchpoint that lets you know exactly where you are and exactly what to expect. The brand colors and light wood surfaces are your first indicator, then the familiar menu of avocado toast, flat white, and the friendly staff are the next. 

Bluestone Lane Cafe in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia and San Francisco

I’ve known Nick for almost five years now, so we just jumped right into it… 

JL – What motivates you right now? 

STONE: What motivates me now is being able to continue to bring Bluestone Lane’s core values to our customers no matter how they connect with us. We have never been product-led, we have always been service-led, and we want to give people a sense of optimism by being open and bring a sense of community and happiness. We only produce premium products, but ultimately, contact with our customers is most important. It’s that 5 minutes or 45 minutes that we get to connect with people and help break their isolation and to see their faces in person and recognize them and give them that level of experience at an affordable price.

JL – I’ve always known Bluestone to be forward-thinking, and now I see you have added these Far UV lights into your stores as a way of adding an extra level of confidence for your customers to feel welcome in a safe environment. 

STONE – That’s right, with tech innovation, our goals fit into three buckets: operational efficiencies, transactional process, and customer insights. This is an operational efficiency as it helps increase health and safety for our staff and customers. It fits into our customer insights in terms of the environment our customers want to visit. 

Bluestone Lane customer app for mobile ordering, loyalty program and contactless payment. BSL has been cashless since 2014

JL – You also were one of the first places I know of that went completely cashless well before the pandemic hit. that must have helped?

STONE – We have been cashless since 2014, and that is what our customers want. They have wanted it like that for years. They pay with cards, Apple pay, Google pay, etc. We do accept cash now as NY has put a law into place; however, only 2% of sales are made with cash company-wide, which is how we know what our customers like. 

Cashless is also good for transparency of tax / remove black market and exploitation of labor from our industry and increase safety of our staff as more than one or two members have been held up in the past.

JL – Since opening in 2013, what did you learn in these years that may have prepared you for this moment? 

STONE – (heavy breath out) Tough question. Respect. Being decisive and making bold decisions to move forward, communicating sincerely and transparently and vulnerably with our stakeholders and team members. Early this year, when COVID really hit, it was a challenging process. It was an existential challenge for our company, and we had to prioritize survival, which led to some very hard decisions that impacted a lot of people’s lives. We tried to be as respectful as possible and be as generous as we could while being economically sensible. We wanted to employ and keep as many people as possible. 

We had grown this company rather quickly, and that experience had us in the kind of shape where we were used to being able to pivot and be agile and resilient. 

Not all Bluestone locations are open currently though many are, and they continue to strive to maintain their standards for excellence. They are also accessible through their website and app. 

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