We recently sat for a great chat with Sam Kirk, the man behind JC’s (two) beloved Sam a.m. eateries. Regulars at his Paulus Hook locale are very likely familiar with the lovely Shannon Rivero, one of his General Managers and a truly fabulous, multi-tasking woman on the move. We enjoyed the chance to interview her as well – read on, as she is amazing!
You’re GM at Sam a.m. and work many hours as a freelance social media strategist, as well as being a sought-after freelance hair stylist and colorist. Along with being a single mom of two amazing kids! How exactly do you fit that all in?
Balance hasn’t always been my strong suit, and I do mess up – but I try to keep on track by noting literally everything in my phone calendar, so I know where I’m supposed to be and when. When it’s super busy, I schedule in meal breaks so I don’t forget to eat.
You’ve had quite a storied career in the restaurant industry. Can you please share about your time and travels in the business?
I started by tending bar in the East Village in my early 20’s. I worked everywhere from the Village Idiot and Niagara to Brownie’s and the Sidewalk Cafe. Later, my ex-husband had a restaurant in Carrol Gardens, BK called Porchetta that had some success. I feel so lucky that I’m on Sam’s team currently in Paulus Hook. Sam is not only an amazing person, but he has seemingly limitless patience and energy and is always a kind and considerate person and boss. We love our little community, and I’m attached to so many of our regulars! We get to see kids grow up and change so much over the years, the families who live here are amazing, I love the dogs who visit, I really do get so much joy out of being a part of our sweet little crew. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with and learn from.
What initially brought you to JC?
My ex-husband lived here in the 90’s and worked at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. He thought it was a cool place then and turned me on to JC after we had our second child. We found an amazing brownstone in Greenville about 9 years ago and I’ve been there ever since! I’ve seen downtown JC change so much over the years, it’s really grown so much!
Tell us about your hair business and background. It’s entirely word of mouth and so many women in town LOVE your work and getting to spend time with you is icing on the cake. It always seemed like the most creative, interesting career to us (still does).
Aw, thanks! I LOVE doing hair. I was working in the internet biz and making a really good living, but I wasn’t happy. I had the amazing opportunity to take some time to figure out how to find a career I could be happy in and making that my focus instead of how to make the most money. I wanted to be a psychologist, but I also really wanted to have children, so I went with beauty school so I could still have time to start a family, work with loads of different types of people in an intimate kind of way, and spend lots less time going back to school. I get to talk to amazing people, listen to them, and help them feel beautiful. What could be better? The best part is I go to people’s homes to ease the stress of finding and paying for sitters or taking time off from work. I do a lot of dinnertime house calls and cut the whole family in the comfort of their home. I think a lot of kids are scared in a salon – but when I come over, they’re more relaxed.
How did you gain your expertise in social media strategy? What about it excites you?
I started managing chat rooms back when that was a thing. I created rooms in Prodigy, which was a server provider like AOL. I built online communities and created content. That was a fun time. I guess I’ve been about building communities and bringing people together for a long time in some way or another. I really love that type of work. I started working with social media off and on because it truly interests me. I’m not the most expert person, but I know some stuff, and I love figuring out ways to get a brand noticed, creating fun contests or giveaways to spread brand awareness, and helping businesses grow.
Your multi-layered career seems so hectic, but also so nicely balanced. You spend so much time working directly and very intimately and hands on with people, and then you have time to work alone and build virtual connections. Must be nice mix.
Yes, it certainly is. I really like doing a lot of various things and keeping busy. I love being social and being around lots of people, but I do need downtime too.
What advice do you have for business owners in JC looking to expand or create a social media presence?
Hmm. Well, I highly recommend DOING it. Getting it done by hook or by crook. If you’re lucky enough to have a socially savvy employee, ask them to do it for the business if money is tight, but pay them a little something extra to keep them engaged. If you have a decent marketing budget, pay a professional. It’s important to have a social media presence and knowing where to focus is important. You don’t need to be on all the social platforms, but it’s crucial to know which ones are important for your biz and to have your business out there.
Finally, what are you favorite … in JC:
Sam a.m., I eat there all the time! Bistro La Source, Mathew’s, Milk, Sugar, Love, Corto on Palisade Ave.
Ways to relax:
My girlfriend’s pool, SoJo spa, a Netflix binge session while doing laundry.
Mario who lives in Windsor Terrace with his husband Rob. He does the best nails, he’s so freaking creative and I love spending time with him and his husband. @firstname.lastname@example.org
Hamilton Park is my kids’ safe place. They grew up there, and to them, it’s the most comforting place other than home they can be. I love Lincoln Park and that big park in Bayonne too.
This is a pretty tough one. I really love a lot of people. My kids are my favorite people, and their friends give me so much joy. I’m so impressed with young kids today. They are so creative, caring, and thoughtful. They’re super interesting and have brilliant ideas and thoughts on both the horrors and the beautiful things happening in life these days. I’m wildly in love at the moment with a special lady in Paulus Hook who I could look at and listen to all day. She is really brilliant and funny and kind. I’m so lucky!
Thank you, Shannon! Always such a pleasure to spend time with you!