A Look Back at the First Four Years of InsideHook

Distinguished Readers of InsideHook,

Hope all’s well and this communique finds you with heart and tumbler full in equal measure.

A tumbler I’d like you to raise, at the moment, in a toast. Because as you read this, we here at InsideHook HQ are celebrating this publication’s first birthday.

Those of you who’ve been reading for more than a year no doubt find this perplexing.

You see, way back in 2012 when Gangnam was the prevailing style and Jeremy Lin was racking up more buckets than a sorcerer’s apprentice, yours truly and a few other “adventurous and discerning” souls published the first ever InsideHook article* — on Leap Day.

And as such, we’ve spent the last four years awaiting our first official birthday.

Much has happened in the interim, and today our editors would like to share some of their favorite moments. Both to commemorate the occasion and to express our gratitude to all you readers, without whom none of this would have been possible.

So take a stroll with us down memory lane. Who knows — you may find some of these recommendations every bit as valuable as the day we first reported them.

See you out there,

Danny Agnew

Creative Director and Founding Editor

*For anyone curious, it was about a zero gravity airplane that’s still offering flights today. It also hosted Kate Upton. In a bikini.

There’s an ongoing joke in the InsideHook office that I could spend my days just writing about handsome leather, tiny homes and gonzo tech, and we’d be fine. But a few years back, we started writing about treehouses, and, well, we struck a nerve. We’d write about one: people would flood us with questions, request reservations or just do the written equivalent of “ooooh, ahhhh.”

The nature resort that got us on the map (er, tree): Finca Bellavista, a private treehouse resort perched far off the beaten path on 600 nearly untouched acres along Costa Rica’s south Pacific coast. Waterfalls, 360-degree views and Ewok-like suspension bridges abound. #paradise

That said, as far as audience engagement and InsideHook stories that I hold true to my heart, treehouses got nothing on “The Uber of Bathrooms,” which was, sadly, too good to be true.

–Kirk Miller, Nation Editor

Manning the L.A. edition for the last three years and change, I’ve seen some impressive entrepreneurs. There were Scott Goodman’s handmade leather wallets. The ultra-Cali, breaks-in-like-a-glove Freenote Cloth denim. The Houston Brothers, who consistently out-wow us with their raucous nightlife projects. I’ve also seen a slew of cool projects evaporate. Those I won’t mention.

If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Jason Hoehn’s Huckleberry, LTD, a line of Keith Richards-ian men’s jewelry and watches. What started with black diamond-studded wolf rings and solid gold pendants modeled after Xanax bars now includes Rolexes with detailed engravings like you’d see on an outlaw’s pistol. Each watch takes 140 hours to make and they’re released monthly — the next one, No. 4, is a Stainless Steel Rolex Sea Dweller “Deep Sea” Edition. It comes out Thursday. Talking to Jason, you wouldn’t know that his client roster is packed with A-listers; he’s a sincere and humble dude, a rare breed in this town and as gold as the items he so earnestly makes.

–Reuben Brody, L.A. Editor

David Byrne wrote last year that curators who are “less predictable than an algorithm or the herd still have a place.” He was reacting to the effect of big data on the business of recommending things (aka, our business). As is the case with most media outlets in the digital age, we largely evaluate what we do by “engagement” metrics: Did people click/share/like the thing we recommended, or did they ignore it? And while that information is massively helpful in informing our strategy, it shouldn’t be the only way we evaluate what we do.

Another way? By keeping in touch with the people, companies and experiences we cover, and hearing their success stories. When we first wrote about NYC shoe label Paul Evans in 2013, founders Ben and Evan were working full-time in finance while bootstrapping their startup by moonlight. They offered three styles. Two-and-a-half years later, they’ve expanded their collection to just about every style and color of dress shoe imaginable, and later this week, they’re opening their first brick-and-mortar in Manhattan’s West Village. We’ll be there to celebrate.

–Walker Loetscher, Managing Editor

We launched the Windy City edition in late October, 2013. My fondest memory from the early days: no restaraunt in their right mind would ever allow a writer with a camera access to their opening night, but that’s exactly what Alexa Welsh and Jake Bickelhaupt of 42 Grams did when they graciously welcomed me to their first ever dinner service. That’s just the kind of people they are. Here I am in an unmarked storefront in an underserved neighborhood in Chicago and I distinctly remember thinking, as the first, second and third courses went out, that there was something really special going on here. I went home and ate frozen pizza; 42 Grams went on to receive two Michelin stars within their first 10 months.

But one of our most popular pieces, and one that I conscientiously enjoyed reporting, was when I spent 24 hours in the Virgin Hotel. By nature, it all came together ad hoc. I love hotels, and capturing the rhythms of traveling solo — with the enhanced sense of sentimentality, the distance — in my (and our reader’s) hometown, was delightful. There was also joyriding in a Tesla. Okay, scratch that. It was all one big excuse to take a joyride in a Tesla.

Michael Nolledo, Chicago Editor

I’m looking for s*** that’ll change a man’s life. Make his day-to-day easier. Better. I want a paradigm shift — not just an upgrade. Truly innovative takes on the simplest, most vital things hit the sweet spot. And something we take very seriously in NYC is coffee. Devoción’s coffee — which we dubbed “fourth wave” — disrupted the entire industry.

They know their farmers by name. Each cup is harvested just a week before it hits your cup and comes with a distinct, mind-bending aroma. Devoción’s subscription service is more than just premium beans delivered to your door: it makes your life easier, and better. And to date it’s the best damn cup of coffee we’ve ever had.

–Shari Gab, NY Editor

Two weeks after graduating from college in New York, I got off the Amtrak in Emeryville, terrified of walking under highway overpasses (earthquakes) or through Golden Gate Park (murderous buffalo/serial killers). As it turned out, I was unprepared for the true threat: the June weather across the Bay, which did not sync at all with a lifetime’s worth of “Triple H” summer forecasts. There’s a reason why every single story we do on jackets does boffo numbers, and that is because this is a city custom-designed (microclimates!) for layering.

DSPTCH makes our favorite jackets. And our favorite daypacks. And luggage tags. And camera straps. And they do it all under the watchful and intuitive eye of founder Richard Liu. It’s worth noting that while attention is rightfully paid to our persistent struggle against class immobility, S.F. remains an incubator not just for startups but for the country’s best and brightest creative talent. DSPTCH proves it. Speaking of anniversaries, they just celebrated their fifth with a series of innovative limited-edition pieces. We eagerly wait whatever Liu and his team think up next.

–Diane Rommel, SF Editor

Main image: © Bettmann/CORBIS