Nº21: John & Fallon The Secret Ingredient: Meet The Seymours pt1.
(set two, family of five)
Photos By Gerardo Mendez
When a young aspiring model from Trinidad came to New York and fell in love with the son of Irish immigrants, it was impossible for them to have known then what they know now – that the spark of their love and dreams would ignite the creation of an empire.
John and Fallon Seymour have lovingly created a beautiful universe of their own, one that has three beautiful daughters, multiple successful brands and thousands of fans orbiting around it.
For those who don't know either of the Seymours, John (@johnseymour_nyc) might appear to be at the forefront of the limelight with his nearly 23K diehard Instagram followers. His social media provides honest anecdotal snapshots of a self-made man, father and husband. He can also be found in magazines or on TV, profiling his career and culinary skill, or photographed alongside his best friend and business partner, Nas (yes, that Nas). On any given day, it'd be easy to cross paths with John at one of his restaurants or coffee shops, or at an exclusive social gathering with his close knit circle of friends and celebrities.
But one would be mistaken to think that this family is dependent upon a patriarch at the helm running the show. Standing beside John since day one with a silent swag in her presence – and always has been – Fallon.
While Fallon may not have the kind the engagement on social media as her other half, she doesn’t want it. Fallon heads up her own successful businesses (Pearl’s Bake & Shark,
@pearls_caribbean and Clyde’s Quality cocktail lounge next door) in addition to co-parenting duties with John, owning her share in one hell of an incredible marriage. While it would be easy to affix the label of “John’s wife” to Fallon, it would serve as a lazy shortcut and a gross injustice to the many facets of a powerful woman in her own right. Within just one conversation with Fallon, it is apparent that she stands on her own as an entrepreneur and visionary.
The success of the Seymours’ brands, both personal and professional, stems from a characteristic rarely seen today in the restaurant industry. It is something that isn't easily defined but is constantly undervalued in an increasingly digital world and often neglected in business: authenticity. From Instagram stories on their feeds, to the old school hip hop jams floating onto Bedford Avenue from Sweet Chick, the powerful duo have remained genuine, sincere and true to who they are, and where they come from.
(One of Two)
A native New Yorker from a working class Irish neighborhood, the former mover, electrician and bartender now boasts of the heavyweight titles as CEO and co-owner of Sweet Chick (@sweetchicklife) and Ludlow Coffee Supply (@ludlowcoffeesupply).
Sweet Chick has carefully curated a lifestyle that spans music, family, fashion and food. The popular chicken & waffles spot has gone beyond just a place to have a meal. Instead, it has developed a culture of its own. The brand boasts of a social media following well over 90K, with 4 locations across 3 boroughs and on the West Coast, with no end in sight.
Leveraging the momentum of Sweet Chick's popularity, John and his team for people to enjoy good company, great music and even better coffee with two locations of Ludlow Coffee Supply.
To get to this level of success, however, was not easy. John had to rely on his humble roots and his family legacy of unmatched working hard. Very hard.
“I was not always as successful as I am now [nor] the great human being that I am now. I was wild when I was young,” John laughs. “But Irish people are very proud people. The thing that I find as an Irish New Yorker as something really important to us was always an emphasis on work ethic.”
Initially, John was unsure of what to do as his career, especially having gone an untraditional route without a college degree to fall back on. But after floating across multiple blue collar jobs, he stumbled into what he loved: building and creating brands.
John’s father, a bartender, used to make burgers for the guys in the neighborhood, which inspired John and Fallon’s first restaurant – a burger joint aptly named “Pops”. But the catalyst for John’s first step into owning a dining establishment was one inspired by not just his roots in the service industry, but ultimately by his best friend.
“I was a bartender but I did not want to get into the restaurant business – that was Fallon’s dream. She was the one who pushed this idea and it just so happened that was one of the only things I knew about. She was the one who encouraged us to make a move,” John reflects on their beginnings.
With Fallon and John spearheading the way, the pair did everything to lay the foundation for Pops, including digging up the floors themselves. After opening, Fallon was then responsible for the menu while John handled the finances. Once Pops opened, it was Fallon who jumped on the line “working and sweating like crazy” if the cook didn’t make it in that day while John managed the front. Over time, Pops became a well-oiled machine, built from the ground up (literally) by the Seymours.
While brainstorming new restaurant concepts for the next venture, John was intrigued by the roots of chicken and waffle restaurants first created in Harlem jazz clubs. Legend has it that a jazz musician told the kitchen one evening during a late show that he could not make up his mind between breakfast or dinner for his meal. The cook then said that they had leftover fried chicken and they had waffles, starting what would later be known as a classic combination. The strange but now beloved combo was then turned into a household name by the west coast’s famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.
John loved the story as a means of bringing people together to converse and enjoy music. Thus, began the foundation of Sweet Chick.
“I didn’t go into [Sweet Chick] expecting anything, but we knew we had a concept that no one was expanding on. We had multiple different flavors, we had the cocktails,” John explains. “We were also readily available for opportunities.”
Perhaps that is what has kept Sweet Chick’s success going, even as more places and more places began to offer chicken & waffles on the east coast. John’s willingness to take risks and go beyond just a place to get a meal laid the seeds for an organic culture to emerge.
“I used to ride around on a bicycle with a boombox with my friends, that’s what we would do growing up everyday,” John notes of the restaurant’s emphasis on hip-hop integrated through not only the ambiance, but through their company mantras. These internal values for Sweet Chick which include Biggie lyrics that can be seen throughout the establishment.
“Biggie has been very inspirational to me, Brooklyn and Sweet Chick. We’re about hospitality. ‘Spread love it’s the Brooklyn’ way is one of our mantras. Another is ‘we took a negative to a positive,’ which to us really applies to how things will inevitably go wrong in the restaurant industry and we all will have bad days – orders will get messed up and shit happens. But it’s about how we change that into possibilities.”
It then only made sense that on Sweet Chick’s one year anniversary, John and the Sweet Chick team strategically built the context to bring the restaurant’s ties between food and music together.
What better way to ring in the a milestone than with a surprise performance from Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon the Chef?
“I made ten phone calls, met his brother, who is a homie to this day and that was the first time he did a live performance. No one was really doing that in a restaurant, and it surprised everyone. I said, “Bring The Chef out from the back!” and everyone was expecting a cook, but it was Raekwon. People were asking: “Did you hear about what happened at Sweet Chick?” From there, we had Slick Rick come in doing Children’s Story with a live band.”
As Sweet Chick continued to gain momentum across both the restaurant and the music space, the brand partnered with FILA to release a sneaker collaboration.
The rest was history.
“[With] building a restaurant culture out of Sweet Chick, I would look around the room and see people of all different colors and backgrounds not from NY and from NY and it was magical,” John says with a proud and nostalgic smile of the milestone achievement. It’s not everyday a brand transcends into a lifestyle, after all.
On Instagram, many fans can follow John’s adventures with his businesses, Fallon and their three girls, Jette, Milann and Berry.
When asked what he’d hope the girls could take away from his mistakes and his success in business, he noted it was key for them to find something they loved – even if that meant they would have to be broke first.
“You have to take chances and risks in life, you can’t just play it safe. I never knew what I wanted to do. I was an electrician, a bartender, lived in halfway houses, [I’ve] been locked up. Anything is possible and you never know what tomorrow is going to offer you but you have to show up for it.”
And John admittedly would not be where he is today without his wife, Fallon.
After the Seymours' joint success in running Pops and after John’s flourishing network of businesses had become strongholds, John consciously made the decision to not to have any part in officially “owning” a portion of Pearl’s financially. And while John did provide some advice to Fallon as she launched Pearl’s, he felt the project was ultimately Fallon’s to bring to life, noting that Fallon “put the hours in” and that Pearl's was “her baby.”
“We have three human babies, but that restaurant is her baby. Some people tell me they love Sweet Chick but that Pearl’s is their spot hands down and I like that,” John says.
Astutely aware that he tends to be more in the limelight or off the tip of everyone’s tongue, John gives ample credit to Fallon for her contributions to their family and empire.
“A lot of men get threatened with strong women. Why wouldn’t I want my wife to be looked at in that light [as a strong woman]? I think she is a huge inspiration. She has a business, she takes care of three children. She’s picking them up from school everyday, I drop them off at school. We trade. We’re partners,” John explains. “We’ve also learned from each other. When we met, we were not the people we are today. We have grown together.”
But what’s next for the man and the man and the family that seems to have it all?
“The way I built the business from day one was that I bring it back to the Biggie mantra of positivity – take a negative into a positive. Anything is possible. We have so many things on the table and if half of them even come true, that would be amazing. I’ve seen crazier things happen,” John says with a laugh. “Find lanes where you don’t see them.”