Despite the name, East Chinatown’s newest hotspot Farside doesn’t feel so distant. Even though it’s been open for just a few weeks, it already feels familiar; it’s even been called “the area’s communal living room“. Stroll inside and you’ll see dozens of VHS tapes that line the wall and worn-in couches and chairs nestled throughout. A pinball machine glows near a video projection on the back wall and a mural interpretation of the 506 streetcar adorns the front.
Farside is the latest venture from industry vets Rachel Conduit and Mike Reynolds, the couple behind Kensington’s Handlebar. Patrons may also know Mike from Leslieville’s Hitch, his projectionist and musical gigs as DJ Damn Aykroyd, and him or Rachel from The Avro (where Mike proposed to Rachel during closing night.)
Wearing a neon green The Empire Strikes Back tee in front of the floral Hawaiian backdrop of the bar, Mike explained how Farside came to be, and why you won’t see him serving a weak drink in a stiff shirt anytime soon.
Q: HOW DID FARSIDE START?
Mike Reynolds: Rachel and I had always wanted to do something in the east end. I was pretty content working at Hitch but then we got to a point with Handlebar where it was almost on autopilot. We’ve got a really great manager over there and great staff who take care of the place and we were sort of sitting there twiddling our thumbs going, ‘This is pretty easy right now. We’ve got a lot of time. Why don’t we go head-first into something?’
Q: WHAT IS YOUR GOAL WITH FARSIDE?
Mike Reynolds: We’ve always wanted to have a place that’s really dressed-down and chilled out; a hang-out-and-have-a-beer kind of place. We just wanted a place that was a stone’s throw away from our house where we could do what we wanted to do. We set the bar to be super relaxed for us and for everybody.
Q: WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TO GET PEOPLE HERE?
Mike Reynolds: We’ve had a little bit of experience writing press releases for shows, so it was kind of funny that now we’re doing it for us, instead of for a friend’s band. For me it was always to get people to come to the weird events I was doing. For [Handlebar], we’ve had a couple of nights where we had to get the word out fast.
Now we’re just talking to people, making a big splash and trying to make an impression on people when they come in. You’ve got a captive audience once they’re in here.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO ONLINE?
Mike Reynolds: I’ll do my own supercuts for our movie nights and little vignettes to promote our programming [on Vimeo or YouTube.] What’s cool is because I’m making my own stuff I don’t feel bad putting in $25 for it to rotate around Facebook for a while.
HOW DO YOU MONITOR THE PERCEPTION CUSTOMERS HAVE OF YOU?
Mike Reynolds: I think that we’re really blessed where we are that I don’t feel as influenced by people’s reviews. The people who will give us reviews are the people who know us in real life […] We see people face-to-face, and I think people are just excited that we’re here.
Q: HOW DO YOU ENSURE WHO YOU ARE ONLINE IS THE SAME AS KNOWING YOU IN-PERSON?
Mike Reynolds: We want to have a we-don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously kind of vibe. [For example], our food menu is silly. It says stuff like, ‘What’s on special? You are.’
I think a lot of people feel like they need to wear a collared shirt to make a cocktail. But, if your cocktail is good, then you’re good.
Someone came in and they’re like, ‘What do you mean you have birthday cake on a Spice Girls plate?’ That is exactly what it sounds like… it’s a literal thing, it’s what you can order. So when they get it at their table they’re obviously taking photos of it and sharing it with their friends.
We want to deliver that kind of real-life experience [customers] want to share with their friends online.
Q: DO YOU EVER HEAR OF BARS OUTSOURCING THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA?
Mike Reynolds: Yeah, more so restaurants. It kind of makes sense. A lot of people expect an instantaneous and superfluous reaction. [For example], ‘Hey I had your sweet potato frites tonight and they were really good.’ All they really want is someone to say, ‘Thanks!’
Q: DO YOU EVER PLAN TO HIRE SOMEONE OR OUTSOURCE YOUR ONLINE CHANNELS?
Mike Reynolds: Probably not, unless it was someone that I know personally that’s already doing something with me.
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS TO BE SUCCESSFUL ONLINE?
Mike Reynolds: If you have a strong hold on how you identify your brand and yourself and what you’re doing, then all of that stuff will take care of itself.
Getting Digital With is Devon Burke’s monthly look at how bricks-and-mortar businesses and entrepreneurs are using online channels to build their brand. Do you have a business that’s just starting out? Reach out to Devon Burke to share your story.