Jay Zimmeran & Derrek Vernon: Owners of Sekend Sun

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Jay Zimmerman began his hospitality career at the University of Delaware in the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management school. He was recruited by Ian Schrager to manage bars within his hotel group, starting at NYC’s Hudson Hotel and then Miami’s SkyBar in the Shore Club hotel and Miami’s The Florida Room in the Delano Hotel. Zimmerman was then recruited by Andre Balazs to open the Standard New York as its beverage director overseeing The Standard Grill, The Living Room Lounge and the Boom Boom Room. Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield then called and brought Jay in to open The Breslin.

Derrek Vernon began his hospitality career 17 years ago as a busser while attending Hofstra University. Bussing turned into waiting tables and then bartending at a wide variety of restaurants, including Stephanie’s on Newbury in Boston, MA, Club New York at the Hudson Hotel and Tenjune in New York City. Vernon went to open his first bar, GalleryBar located on the Lower East Side of New York City, a bar that became a staple of the neighborhood for eight years. After meeting at The Hudson Bar, Derek Vernon and Jay Zimmerman always knew they worked well together . They started their company Sekend Sun when they decided to create their first bar project, Ba’sik - a popular Williamsburg bar that opened in 2012.

How did you get into the beverage industry?

JZ: I was hired out of college by Ian Shrager to work for his hotel company, which was in the process of becoming Morgans Hotel Group. I started at The Hudson Hotel in Columbus Circle as a bar manager.

DV: When i was 19, my mother lost her job. I wanted to help the family so started looking for job that I could do along with school. A friend of mine worked for a catering company and got me a job there waiting tables and bartending. I liked the hospitality business from day one.

What inspired Sekend Sun and what is your vision for the brand?

JZ: Sekend Sun is the second venture (the first being ba’sik in Williamsburg) that my business partner and I have put together. The energy from both will be somewhat similar. That being said, the inspiration for ba’sik was to open a bar we wanted to go to. For all of our bars, we want to create places that contribute positively to a neighborhood and provide somewhere the good people who live in the neighborhood can go to celebrate, escape, meet, eat, drink, be merry, be pensive….anything (well just short of anything…being violent, rude or just plain jerk-like does not fly there).

DV: To create a unique venue that would fit well in a growing neighborhood. We enjoy the excitement of opening in up-and-coming neighborhoods.

What differentiates Sekend Sun from other bars? What trends are you noticing in the beverage industry and how do you capitalize on them?

JZ: Service! Maybe not in the sense that first comes to your mind, but service is paramount to me. This does not mean white glove servants at your beck and call, but it also doesn’t mean the passive, apathetic experiences which have become too frequent in the cooler areas of New York. Service is a personal thing and everyone that walks through the door should feel taken care of in their own way. It’s a tricky thing to accomplish, but makes for a wonderful environment to work in or visit. 

We build bars in boroughs or neighborhoods that are populated but not overwrought with corporations or the big names (and rents to be honest). I want to be a local for a neighborhood as it comes into its own (whatever lifecycle it is in).

DV: We’re not trying to reinvent the bar just bring it back to what it used to be. A welcoming place with good service and food. I feel some places have forgotten that the customer is paying them. The trend I feel we have capitalized on is that you don't need to go to a speakeasy anymore to have a great cocktail.

What strategic partnerships are you implementing have contributed to your company's success?

JZ: Burning bridges and politics annoy me. So I have always worked to have a good relationship with anyone I come across professionally. This has only recently manifested itself in ways that contributes to my success. And yet I still don’t feel comfortable using those relationships I have built (mostly with liquor companies, taste makers, etc.) to forward myself. It is icing on the cake and usually ends up in people wanting to help me in one way or another. Maybe being worried about taking advantage of relationships is a shortcoming of mine…but I sleep well at night knowing I practice business in a way I am proud of.

DV: The people in the hospitality industries have been very kind to us. We love that they love our bars. We’re looking to seeing them in Astoria - for some of our friends it might be the first time.

Describe an ideal situation to at Sekend Sun?

JZ: If I close my eyes and say the words “ideal situation at Sekend Sun” the scene that comes to mind is one set in the early summer. It’s warm enough that the windows are open and its breezy. The bar is busy, not packed but really busy…and I know every single person there. I am sitting at the end of the bar with my wife enjoying a cold beer…and just then David Bowie pops in for an impromptu acoustic set.

Life Motto?

JZ: If you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly…that or Taste the Rainbow.

DV: Live, love, work, and create

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

JZ: An Italian Submarine sandwich (that sounds ambiguous, but I eat more iterations of that menu item than anything else and more frequently…If need be I will list the greatest places to grab this piece of heaven that I have found on earth) and an ice cold bottle of lager.

DV: Sea bass skewers are my favorite food. For a drink… A Mescal Old Fashion

Role model - business and personal?

JZ: If I had to narrow it down to two (which is massively unfair and incomplete…I initially wrote a list of about 15 people here…Mom/Dad/Wife, you obviously top this list, but I will tell you that in person..)

Personal – Joshua Wagner

Business – Evan Zimmerman

DV: Business, Keith Mcnally

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

JZ: Protect yourself and know that no one will ever care about your business as much as you. This will make for some trying relationships with people who require money for their services, but stay the course…be the person in business you want to be in life. Things tend to work out if you do that.

DV: Pay yourself :)

What literature is on your bed stand?

JZ: I had to write a speech for a wedding recently, so I revisited my favorite book and haven’t finished it yet….Travels with Charlie. Steinbeck.

DV: An awesome book. It’s a kids book but it's about dreaming big, and i read to my son almost every night

Favorite travel destination?

JZ: As of today, Italy. It is my wife’s happy place (which makes me happy) and one doesn’t need to twist my arm terribly hard to have great pasta and wine in  one of the most beautiful places on earth. Also, St. Bartholomew. There is a lot of world to see though….and I am always looking for something even more special. Suggestions welcome.

DV: Anyplace in the Caribbean

Most interesting headline you've read this week?

JZ: It is not a true headline…but every week recently I have been anxiously awaiting hearing John Oliver’s take on current events. It is poignant, funny and informative. It is bad that you asked for a headline and I gave a tv show, isn’t it?

What's next for Sekend Sun and yourself?

JZ: I am just hoping for continued success, happiness and health. As long as I have those things, I don’t feel I need to peek too far around the next corner. Life has a funny way of throwing things at you…trying to prepare for it all has been, in my experience, futile.

DV: For Sekend Sun, I’m looking forward to opening and letting the bar thrive. I also have a project in Denver that I’m working on.