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Yardstick Stories: When a little Poison is good for you...

What’s in the name? You guys definitely pushed it a little bit more with naming your brand. Can you tell us more about it?

We extracted the idea for Poison from a much bigger beast: Hydra, the name our design group. As a doughnut shop standing guard at the mouth of Hydra’s quarters, Poison felt like a very apt name. And frankly speaking, doughnuts and coffee taken together aren’t exactly good for you. They can even be dangerous in extreme doses.

What’s your take on the role of coffee shops in society? How does Poison fit in?

Coffee shops are lifeless without the people who visit them. A bustling coffee shop is the perfect distillation of any community: it’s a place for conversations to flow, relationships to flourish, and ideas to take shape. This collective, social energy mixed with the scent of coffee is the kind of potent atmosphere that can drive a community forward.

In that sense, the people you don’t find in your local coffee shop also speaks volumes. It’s difficult to say that coffee shops are truly communal in nature until people from all walks of life can participate in the experience surrounding a good cup.

It’s great that there are a lot of coffee shops around with that potential, but with Poison in the picture, we wanted to offer a contrast. Unlike sunny neighborhood cafés and their wholesome, inviting air, Poison is for folks looking to get away: to be alone with their coffee, maybe a book, or their own thoughts. If you want to marinate in your own internal, far-reaching monologues, Poison’s the place for you. The shop is especially lonesome and brooding on a weekday morning.

There’s a group of design studios residing next to Poison. How do both spaces interact?

Poison is pretty ingrained in the sort of creative exercises we’d like to pursue at Hydra; so much so that their respective logos mirror each other. Since it opened in late 2017, we’ve used Poison as an outlet for collaboration: The Acid House, one of Hydra’s studios, designed the delirious doughnut projections you see inside the shop. Another studio, Plus63 Design Co., takes care of the shop’s menu and identity. Poison is really the result of four distinct creative groups bashing their heads together.

What were your inspirations for Poison?

Dan, one of Hydra’s heads, initially pitched the idea of a doughnut and coffee shop to the group. They’re a very classic pairing, particularly for people working in a swift-moving urban environment. The rest of Hydra was quick to get on board with the thought of giving up an office lobby for a conveniently placed doughnut and coffee dispensary—what that spells for our gut, only time will tell.

From our point of view, we also felt there’s still room to present doughnuts in a different light. Design-wise, we tried to imagine what a doughnut shop in an alternate neon-noir future looked like, which led to the harsh purple glow cast by our neon sign and the cold finish in our interiors. Our menu is also something new for our tastes. The more popular doughnut chains are great for that quick sugar rush, but our attempt with Poison’s creations is to make you think about what else you can do with a common treat. Our pastry chefs, Miko Aspiras and Kristine Lotilla, do an incredible job of translating this into distinctly flavored doughnuts like Garam Masala, Salted Dark Chocolate, and the Eggnog doughnut we offered for a limited time during the holidays.

The setup of the concept seems to be very collaborative. What did you learn along the way?

Our setup as four independent studios with the occasional shared project marks a new challenge in our respective working cultures. Some of us thrive in a more unhurried atmosphere, while others churn out their best ideas against a ticking clock. Seeing these wildly different disciplines produce equally amazing concepts certainly proves there’s no single way to do a good job. Hopefully, it’s this respect for each other’s approach to work that keeps us learning and discovering down the road.

What should we expect from Poison in the coming months?

By the time this story’s out, we’d have launched two new items in our menu: egg sandwiches and cold brews. We’ve been planning the sandwiches for a long time as a way to round out our offerings. We’re pretty much all over the Sriracha & Egg Sandwich.

Also slated this year is a series of talks we’re calling The Twelve Labours. Each session will be loosely themed around the legendary labours of myth and will cover a range of creative and social topics. You can expect news of it in the near future at @poisondoughnuts and @hydradesigngroup on Instagram.

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