Don’t let icy service keep you away from 1 Exchange Street. Director Cassandra Carruth insists it’s by design. Wet ice, crushed ice, kold-draft ice, and custom cubes are all a part of drinking at Niche Hospitality Group’s variety of establishments, where bartenders know that the shape and size of superior ice makes an enormous impact on the cocktail in your glass.
At 3:00 p.m., the staff looks unrecognizable in their street clothes as they shuttle juice from the commissary, cut fruit, and tend to the aforementioned ice program, which is a staggering task unto itself. The team breezes through Reserve, Niche’s reservation and table management provider. Bartenders slip into their formal vests at 4:27 p.m., just moments before unlocking the doors for the public. Bar Manager, Silas Axtell, on the other hand, reportedly sports stately attire at all hours of the day. “This is how I actually dress,” he says of the restaurant’s gentlemanly uniform.
Axtell oversees the bar program at Niche’s three adjoining concepts at 1 Exchange Street, including The People’s Kitchen, The Citizen Wine Bar, and Still & Stir. Although the three spaces share a kitchen, they each possess markedly unique ambiances. Carruth handles the wine for all three locations, in addition to Bocado in Wellesley.
Together, Axtell and Carruth make sure vintages are up to date, servers are informed, and the staff is prepared with comparative tasting notes based on their extensive training. The duo also enjoys facilitating elaborate pranks on their respective teams, antics which would never be apparent to their fine dining customers during service, but nevertheless create a strong sense of camaraderie before and after hours. Don’t let Carruth’s sophisticated wine palate fool you, she has a terrific sense of humor and the light in her boldly resonates with the rest of the staff. Ask her about the time she filled an entire delivery van with packing peanuts and you’ll see what I mean.
If there’s one thing Niche knows, it’s how to make customers feel at ease. Whether you prefer the formal dining room of The People’s Kitchen, the enticing buzz of The Citizen, or the secret cocktail culture concealed behind bars at Still & Stir, the staff wants you to find your fit. Carruth makes use of Reserve to track customer preferences, including which of the varied ambiances a guest typically desires. She doesn’t mind catering to unique requests, recalling a guest who likes to drink his beer out of a champagne flute, and more seriously, her regulars who possess specific dietary needs and restrictions. All of that information gets stored in Reserve and reviewed before arrival, with each new reservation.
“If a server can form a relationship with a guest who’s a regular, and prepare a menu for them for a gluten allergy or something like that, it develops a trust with the guest that we’d like to utilize as much as possible,” Carruth concludes. Just don’t be surprised to find Axtell quietly tracking your penchant for kold-draft cubes on your next visit. Nothing is left to chance when it comes to Niche.