Down the Aisle:Rachel Cope

Co-Owner and Designer at Calico Wallpaper Interview and Images by Aimee Brodeur

One can argue that two of the greatest challenges that one can undertake are parenthood and starting a business. Rachel has managed to take both of them on simultaneously, all the while exhibiting a sense of ease and positivity that no doubt feeds into both her creative vision at Calico Wallpaper and the daily routines that make up her family life. I met up with Rachel and her daughter Willow at Fairway Market in Red Hook, Brooklyn to discuss how these two huge roles have shifted her routines for the better. From team lunches at the Calico office to baking pies Upstate with the family, Rachel has found a way bring out the best in her family life and at work; and not surprisingly, it all somehow comes back to the rituals around cooking and sharing food with others.

How does the process for grocery shopping begin for you? Do you have a list, a typical routine, or a meal in mind; or do you let your creativity and senses take over?  

R: Now that we have Willow we go shopping every morning.  I live right above the market here, so it’s super convenient. When Willow wakes up she has a lot of energy, so we started bringing her down to the grocery store for her to pick out her breakfast.  She loves fruit so she will grab berries or an apple.  My dad also got her into this routine of getting a bagel every morning. She grabs a mini wheat bagel- she loves them- and it’s great for teething.  

So we rarely do a big shopping trip, we kind of grange. We take it day by day. Sometimes on the weekend we will come down and get French toast from the breakfast bar, which was a treat for us that we started making a routine.

Is a trip to the store something you usually try to do as a family?

R: If we both happen to have the time we will go together, but since we work for ourselves we have the luxury of trading off who spends the mornings with Willow and who does the shopping…But we will literally come here every morning.  She is always running around Fairway, and she knows everyone who works here!

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“Through the act of making food together, we started to learn about people’s childhoods, their parents, and the role food played in their lives growing up.”

 

Wow!  I bet a lot of New Yorkers are wondering how you scored such an amazing waterfront spot above Fairway.  It’s pretty dreamy.

R: We have been in this apartment for 7 years- we found it on Craigslist, fell in love with it right away, and have been here ever since. We started Calico out of this space, so it’s a mixture of living and working here. Our team even eats at Fairway, so I think this place is a big part of our lives both personally and professionally.

So who does most of the cooking in your home?  Is it a combined effort or does one of you take more of the lead than the other?

R: Nick is definitely the main cook- he loves it.  He is much more prepared than I am.  I kind of grew up that way, where my father was the main cook in our household, so it’s funny how it kind of worked out that Nick also loves cooking.  I used to cook a lot more. I worked in a bakery in North Carolina where I made French pastries every morning.  I love baking, but since we started the business and then with having Willow, I just haven’t had the time to spend in the kitchen baking.

Where does Nick get his inspiration from?

R:  I think it’s something he grew up with.  Both of his parents are amazing cooks.  I rarely see him looking up recipes, so I think he depends on a knowledge of what he cooked growing up or saw his parents making.  Surprisingly there is a lot of cooking that goes on throughout the day both at our house and at Calico.

Last time we hung out you mentioned starting weekly lunches that members of your team at Calico make each week.  How has that been going and how did it start?

R:  Our friends at the design studio Fort Standard introduced us to weekly team lunches, which are a great way to build synergy with our growing team.  They have really transformed the company.  One great moment in particular was when Willow’s babysitter, who is a talented cook as well, made one of our team lunches.  She just recently started her own company, The Greener Palate, and she created this incredible meal for everyone at the office.  It was a really moving experience, because for her it was an opportunity to share what she does with our team on a whole new level.  It was very empowering for her.  Just through the act of making food together, we started to learn about people’s childhoods, their parents, and the role food played in their lives growing up.  

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“Once we had her, it reminded us of all of these important moments beyond our working lives, and we wanted to get back to that.”

 

What were some of the most surprising changes to your food habits after becoming a mom?

R:  With starting the business and becoming a mother, there was less time to prepare meals and labor over food.  We used to love making fresh pesto together- things like that.  At the same time, we also used to go out to dinner more often.  Now the focus is on finding faster ways to prepare good things.  The weekends have become very important for us as a time to slow down and to get back to those moments of enjoying cooking and eating together as a family.  We just got a new place Upstate, and one thing that I’m excited about is that it will help us get back into the joy and love we have for cooking.  The first thing I want to do when I go back up there is bake a pie.  I have envisioned it for months!

So in a way your place Upstate is kind of a destination that will help you slow down from the day to day life you have in the city. How does cooking and preparing food play into that?

R:  We started noticing how rushed we were all of the time.  Food at one point was such an important part of our life, and we felt as if we were losing some of that with starting the company and having a child.  We were like, “Willow isn’t having that special relationship with her meals and food.”  Some of my favorite memories as a child were having breakfast with my family on the weekend.  Those are really symbolic and important moments in life, and we were losing a lot of that in the rush of the city!  Now we can go up there, slow down, and give her some of those moments to remember.  I don’t think we would have gotten the place up there if we didn’t have Willow.  Once we had her, it reminded us of all of these important moments beyond our working lives, and we wanted to get back to that.

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“You just have to take that as part of the experience of being a parent.  The good and the bad.  Go with it.  You have to reset what your expectations are.  It’s tough, but it’s important to let go of those expectations of how things should be and embrace your new normal.”

 

Are there any meaningful dishes that you continue to make time and time again for your family?

R:  Two things come to mind that are symbolic for me…I worked for 10 years in a chocolate shop in Martha’s Vineyard.  It was such a great job because I am an artist and I love working with my hands.  To this day I love melting down chocolate and making chocolate covered fruits for all of us.  Strawberries, blueberries… it’s a treat that brings me back to that time.  Another one of my dishes that Nick loves is mussels in a white wine sauce- it’s his favorite thing.  He always says, “Rachel this is amazing- why don’t you cook more!?”

Any advice you would give to new moms who also work full time on how to get to the table with your family for a meaningful meal together?

R:  I think you have to set realistic goals.  Also remember that even the disasters and difficulties are part of the experience.  Sometimes you will have everything cooked, and when you’re finally all sitting down together, your kid will hate the food.  You just have to take that as part of the experience of being a parent.  The good and the bad.  Go with it.  You have to reset what your expectations are.  It’s tough, but it’s important to let go of those expectations of how things should be and embrace your new normal.

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Take-aways:

  1. Calico WallpaperCalico Wallpaper
  2. The Greener PalateGreener Palate
  3. Fort StandardFort Standard