Annie grew up in Wagga Wagga, NSW, before moving to Sydney for university where she completed a Bachelor of Management in Leisure at the University of Technology, Sydney. After working in sports media & marketing for five years as a project manager, she made the move to New York in 2012 to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening her own bar/restaurant. After three years managing The Australian NYC, she opened Benson’s NYC, a craft beer bar in the lower east side, in April 2015.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how it led to opening Benson’s.
I have worked in hospitality since I was 14, and always really enjoyed it. The chance to work with new people every day and create an enjoyable experience for them is something I really get a kick out of. My time working in sports media was great, and I enjoyed the challenges and pressure, but I love the immediate (and lasting) impact you get to make on people in hospitality.
My time at The Australian gave me the experience and confidence to seek out the opportunity to open Benson’s, and it’s been so great seeing the support that has followed me from Midtown to the Lower East Side!
Who is behind Benson’s? How did the concept of Benson’s originally come to you?
My friend and fellow Aussie, Dave Peterson, is my partner in the business. Our concept of a craft beer bar was purely a product of the venue itself – we loved the space, the open windows, the brick – and the neighborhood is jammed full of dive bars and cocktail bars. We wanted to give residents here something different: a local spot they could go for a great beer list, great food, a relaxed atmosphere and amazing service.
What can people expect when they visit Benson’s? Is there any Australian influence?
It’s tough to avoid an Aussie influence with both of us behind the bar! We have a laid back atmosphere, and you’re immediately treated like a local as soon as you walk in the door. We’ve got a stellar craft beer list with around 50 options at any given time, and snuck in a couple of Aussie options as well. The food menu has a strong focus on proteins with a whole section dedicated to bacon and jerky, and a range of burgers. We couldn’t help ourselves but include a burger complete with egg, bacon, beetroot & a pineapple salsa – it’s called “The Benson” burger.
How long have you lived in New York and what brought you here?
I’ve been in New York a touch over three years, after an initial visit in 2010. I’ve never given too much thought to moving here – both times I have come here it has been the result of a split second decision as opposed to anything well thought out. I suppose I’ve been good at trusting my instincts, it’s served me well so far.
Where is your favorite place in New York?
Cold Spring, 1hr 15min north of the city. I’m a country girl at heart, so my days off are about getting out of the city. I have a favorite hike that goes right up in the hills and looks out over the Hudson, the town itself if gorgeous as well. There is such beautiful scenery all around the city if you’re willing to travel an hour in any direction.
What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love about it?
Chelsea. I love being in such a central location - close to the Hudson River, West Village, transport – but it still maintains a great community vibe as the residential numbers far outweigh the commercial.
What does a typical day for you look like?
I’m learning to embrace sleeping in when given the opportunity. Alarm clock aside, a typical day starts by checking in on Benson’s and what has come through overnight. A little ‘me’ time for errands, then in to the bar to work on admin for an hour before I become the bartender for the rest of the day or night. On a good day I’ll sneak in a run or get to join my friends for touch footy.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting a business in New York?
Trying to wrap my head around government policies and requirements. Everything that seems like it should be simple ends up needing applications to three different government departments, for three different permits.
What are your plans for Benson’s in the future?
For the immediate future, simply to keep growing the business. We’ve had so much great support and we are excited to keep the ball rolling. We still have a lot to learn from this process and will keep working hard to make it a success.
How can people find out more about Benson’s and stay up to date with your activities?
Email me to join our mailing list! We send monthly updates, including details for our monthly gallery night, brunch deals, upcoming events, promotions and more: firstname.lastname@example.org