The TikTok “vibe checks” of the pop-up centered more upon the 818 merchandise—anything that had to do with Blank Street focused on its atmosphere, not necessarily its coffee.
One attendee captioned their TikTok: “review: i love coffee. i love tequila. but maybe not together? I love you tho kenny.”
She finished: “DONT REGRET SO FUN AND CUTE GO!!”
Another wrote, “waits on line for 2 hours for free tequila and hopes to get free 818 merch.”
Blank Street is an ideal space to hold these influencer pop-ups in part because of its look: nondescript and virtually colorless. Its style takes cues from a broad movement toward a sterile aesthetic in public spaces, one that author Kyle Chayka coined as “AirSpace” in The Verge: “The realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go.” That’s reclaimed wood, exposed lighting fixtures, and highly minimalist furniture, to name a few. And the homogeneity of AirSpace, he argues, lends itself to “frictionless” travel between its occupants, blurring the line marking the end of one locale and the beginning of another.
“Blank Street is the ultimate end point of that aesthetic,” Chayka tells me.
The café can metamorphosize into a vehicle for any branded pop-up. The relationship is symbiotic: With influencers’ brands residing primarily online, Blank Street’s numerous locales across New York, London, Boston, and Washington, DC, provide them with brick-and-mortar outposts in urban centers. In turn, influencers bring high-profile visibility to Blank Street.
According to Blank Street, its partnership with 818 was the first opportunity for many New Yorkers to try 818 firsthand. The two-day pop-up attracted over 2,000 visitors, most of them first-time Blank Street customers.
As sterile as the coffee chain looks, its “aesthetic vernacular,” Mull says, is recognizable to a large swath of coffee consumers, many of whom view Starbucks as an outdated totem of suburbia (although many young people remain Starbucks fans too). “People who are younger and slightly more fashionable, and interested in the Emma Chamberlains of the world and interested in the Kendall Jenners of the world, are sort of a fertile market for their own Starbucks,” Mull says. The chain’s minimal, pastel-hued decor and influencer partnerships make it “recognizable and familiar and reliable for younger women who live in cities and work in office jobs,” she says.