05 Aug Love Letter to New York City: P&T Knitwear: Where the past and the future meet in the Lower East Side
LOVE LETTER // NYC
Bradley Tusk's P&T Knitwear: Where the past and the future meet in the Lower East Side
When I was 22 years old, I did a year of Americorps.
I made less than $12,000 for the year. I lived in a laundry room near San Francisco’s Mission District. I taught 8th grade students about storytelling and creative writing.
It was the best year of my life.
One night, late after school, I saw one of my favorite students eating out of the trash. I later learned her family was under water with debt and totally broke. They lived in the projects and the food stamp money ran out weeks ago. It did not seem fair that a 13 year old was sent out to find food from the dumpsters in the Mission District. I knew her mother and she was a hard working single mom with multiple jobs. My heart broke.
Everyone always asks me why I went to law school. That moment is why I went to law school. I wanted to influence policy that would influence peoples’ lives. Perhaps I’d run for office, mayor of NYC, even?
So I went to law school, graduated, and then, thanks to my brother, landed an interview with someone in Mike Bloomberg’s campaign for Mayor. I was offered a job as a field coordinator in Northern Manhattan’s Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods. I recruited and trained hundreds of volunteers over the next several months. I absolutely loved the job, the community, the leadership, the team-building, the excitement.
Mr. Bloomberg was successful in his re-election, and I stayed in the Administration, thanks to a man named Bradley Tusk. I first worked under Bradley when he was Mike Bloomberg’s campaign manager.
I was 26 when I met Bradley, and despite my lack of experience in the professional world, I knew there was something special about this man. He emailed us a report at 5 am, every day. His email was organized, efficient, and inspiring. He commanded respect in our bi-weekly meetings with groups of hundreds of employees. He made us feel seen, appreciated, and valued. I wanted to be this kind of leader when I grew up. I hoped to stay in touch with this man, and all he represented for me at this young and impressionable age.
13 years and many nourishing life experiences later, I sit here writing this letter. I’ve been running my own business for more than 10 years. I’ve worked with many powerful leaders, I’ve seen a lifetime’s worth of things to see, deep and rich experiences that have shaped me in ways I can’t describe. So much has changed, but some things stay the same.
In this case, my respect and appreciation for Mr. Tusk has remained true, and I’d like to share his story.
“P&T Knitwear was a way to honor my family and the community of the Lower East Side, creating some jobs, and offering a free podcast studio and event space. Hopefully all of that is way to thank New York for giving us a chance.”
Bradley Tusk is an anomaly of a human being. He is equal parts visionary of the future, with a strong pulse on the realities of the present moment, and a deep connection to the past.
He wears many hats and his track record speaks for itself. As I mentioned, he was Mike Bloomberg’s right hand man and campaign manager in his successful re-election for Mayor of New York City. Bradley runs a venture capital fund with notable investments like FanDuel, Coinbase, Ro, Lemonade and Bird. His philanthropy tackles issues of world hunger, feeding millions of people. He is spearheading and piloting a mobile voting app, has a regular column in Fast Company, teaches at Columbia University School of Business, has ongoing appearances on CNBC, a regular podcast, and speaks around the country about entrepreneurship.
But Bradley, in his many dynamic offerings, does not rest on his laurels. He is interested in forward motion and finding spaces, ideas, and markets that do not yet exist.
Recently, we were sitting in his Park Avenue office, exposed brick to his back, direct light entering the windows from the left, and he told me.
“I have no interest in doing things how they’ve been done before. It’s simply not interesting to me.”
This is how he was able to invent a venture capital firm doing work that had never been done before. He helps smart startups with disruptive ideas to avoid an early death by government regulation. The aforementioned Uber, Bird, and Coinbase, for example, all trusted Tusk Ventures with their integration into mainstream life and their business growth. They chose well.
While Bradley is an entrepreneurial savant, it’s not just technology, business and politics that drive him. As with most success stories and power players in this world, there is usually a soft spot, something under the surface that drives them and pulls on the heartstrings; that which makes our humanity a little more human.
P&T Knitwear, his most recent passion, is now up and running.
But how did this bookstore on 180 Orchard Street come to be?
In 1952, Bradley’s grandfather Hymie Tusk, and his business partner Mike Pudlo opened the original P&T Knitwear, a small shop selling sweaters and collared shirts on Allen Street in New York’s lower East Side.
The two men survived the Holocaust and met in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany after the war. After living in these camps for five years, the men were sponsored by extended family, and they emigrated to the US, determined to create better lives for themselves and their families. They had no education, and the only jobs available for uneducated Jews at this time was in the garment industry. So Pudlo and Tusk opened a 400 square feet shop on the Lower East Side. Pudlo and Tusk couldn’t even afford enough merchandise to fill the store. They stocked the shelves with empty boxes, hoping to give the illusion of a bustling business. Soon, their creativity and fearlessness paid off.
Fast forward to 2022, Bradley Tusk has built a bookstore, cafe, podcast recording studio, and event space on the Lower East Side. He named it P&T Knitwear to honor the namesake and give back to the very same neighborhood that made Tusk and Pudlo’s story, and so many others like them, possible.
In this honoring, Bradley has built a bookstore,the first of its kind podcast recording studio and event space. It is right around the corner from his grandfather’s old sweater store.
The bookstore contains a mix of genres, and is proud to include many local writers and books about New York City. Bradley has also created the Gotham Book Prize, a local offering Tusk makes along with his dear friend Howard Wolfson, that awards two New York City writers a $50,000 prize, and a place and feature in the new bookstore.
The store also has a podcast recording studio and event space. Both of these services are completely free for the local community to use and enjoy. The podcast studio is on the ground floor, looking out onto the street and has the ability to live broadcast throughout the bookstore and cafe.
“I felt this was a way to both honor my family and also build something really iconic. I want this to be on the LES/East Village itinerary for travelers and locals alike.”
P&T Knitwear recently opened in the Spring of 2022.
As with all of Bradley’s endeavors, there is a philosophy that drives the action.
He shared with me that New York City is in a pivotal point right now. Covid left the middle of the city empty, and hurting. The economy has devastated storefront businesses, and crime and quality of life in a bad place. Tusk believes that if you create a good value proposition, you make a city clean and safe and fun, people will want to be here. Cities are not etched in stone. Cities are not inherently alive, they are only alive if you run them well. P and T represent an attempt to increase the proposition value, to celebrate arts and culture, and to bring the most talented people in the world to New York City.
I may not have known that moving to New York City would expose me to the most brilliant minds in the world, unbarred creativity, and infinite opportunities to serve, but after all these years, I see it so clearly.
With every story I write, I am better, the city is better, and the world is better because of their bravery and commitment to something beyond themselves.
This story, this store, and this man, included.
Meet Bradley Tusk, owner and founder of P&T Knitwear, and official sponsor of Love Letters to New York City.
Thanks for reading!
This letter is a part of Brian Rashid’s “Love Letters to the World,” a global initiative bringing stories of hope, humanity, and travel/tourism to our world.
A huge thanks to Bradley Tusk, the sponsor of this series called, “Love Letters to New York City.” Bradley is owner of Tusk ventures and Founder of P&T Knitwear.
It’s a real pleasure sharing their story, here.
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Thank you so much for being here on what is literally my dream coming true.
Oh so true!