The MP Shift Have A New Model For Imagining & Developing Hospitality Spaces

The Cool Kids is a series documenting creative humans shaping present day society with their work and outlook.

AMY MORRIS AND ANNA POLONSKY | THE MP SHIFT | FOUNDERS

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If you spent time in Rockaway Beach last summer you are sure to have seen, The Summer Shift. This space was a celebrated addition to the city summer spot that Amy Morris and Anna Polonsky (founders of The MP Shift) took on to create a one of a kind community gathering space. They call this kind of space "The Third Space" - a space for people to spend time outside of their home or office where they connect naturally.

For The Summer Shift, they transformed an old taco shop into a Latin themed pop-up experience. Their creative brains led the whole process. From concept, to branding, to environment design, to event curation and chef curation. (Note: the weekly chef residencies featured chefs from kitchens like Navy, Colonia Verde, and Morgenstern's.) Doing it all is what makes The MP Shift unique and worth paying attention to. With their new Clinton Hill project, Tilda All Day just competed and now ready to take on Industry City, The MP Shift talked to me about their approach, process, and how they are changing the hospitality model.

What inspired you to establish The MP Shift?

Anna Polonsky: In the past, we have both found that when you ask a chef or restaurant owner to tell you about their brand, it's usually just a seed (Latin food, wine spot) and rarely fully formed. We realized there was a real need for a holistic and rational approach to developing that seed of an idea, as it would impact all aspects of business. Regardless of the client's primary need - interior design, website or marketing strategy we always start with refining their concept and messaging so all else can align. The MP Shift develops that seed into a verbal and visual concept, then designs the brand identity and interiors. Then, it's a lot smoother transition to communicate and activate the space, the story will grow organically and cohesively. 

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How did you make it happen?

Amy Morris: We had a natural chemistry from the start of our friendship but once we started working together it was kismet. We did hesitate at first though, as starting a business with friends is known to be difficult. This opened the conversation and we realized we had the same point of-view and work ethic so we joined forces to create a holistic creative agency, something that doesn't seem to exist.

AP: We share an unspoken understanding on almost everything we do from dealing with clients to our long-term vision which has allowed us to move our business forward rapidly.  

Our first project was intense, it was five days before the winter holidays and we were asked for a concept, floor plan and facade design.  We worked around the clock and then flew off for our holidays but managed to keep the project moving forward with only one email exchange.  Amy was on a remote beach with no connection and I was in a remote mountain village with no connection, after delivering under those circumstances we knew we had something special.

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When did you discover you were onto something?

AM: Daily we have this affirmation.

Tell me about "The Third Space."

AP: The third space is the answer to a more mobile economy and the lack of affordable space in cities. People have become much more mobile and companies understand good work does not need to be done onsite at the office. Meanwhile, apartments are smaller and smaller in big cities, and people generally prefer to step out to work and socialize. The third space, that's not your home and not your office, has become their temple. Be it a coffee shop, a hotel lobby or a more active community space, it has become a staple of our every day life.

Why is "The Third Space" important?

AM: It matters because it is a step towards more fulfilling relationships and community. In cities like NY or London where work takes so much of our life, people have understood they needed a place to relax, catch up and connect with others. The third space can foster ideas and collaborations, you don't go there because of your religion, finances or marital status; a community space that's open to anyone who's open is how we'll all be more creative.

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What is the best part about what you are doing?

AP: Getting to doing it all! Creating a story from A to Z is motivating because this is how we think naturally so now we're able to articulate this process in a creative way, and see the success that comes from thinking holistically.  

What do you discover about yourselves through your work?

AP: As partners we've been lucky to be very much in sync. But of course a work partnership is just like marriage, we learn every day how to voice out our thoughts more clearly, how to let each other be creative without losing focus -- if you break it down, it's all very rational. It's a great learning experience overall and we're not too bad at it so far. The more we work with The MP Shift the more we also see our approach is valid: creativity can be applied with reason and thoughts, and business can be done with fun, and inventively.

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As creative humans, what do you hope to contribute to society?

AM: We hope to push the boundaries of real estate developers, encourage them to introduce new ideas to communities.  Too often they look at the comparables in a neighborhood and then copy the most successful concept.  We want to inspire them to lead with new ideas and inspire creative communities in future development.

AP: In big cities, people are surrounded by large populations and constant stimulation but often feel alone.  We want to create a third space, a space outside of the home or office, where people naturally connect. 

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What are your personal Mantras?

Inhale energy, exhale anxiety. Be yourself, defend your vision, and don't try to please everyone.

Photos used courtesy of The MP Shift
Portrait by Beatriz Da Costa
Photo of Tilda All Day by Josh Dickinson
Photo of The Summer Shift by Oleg March