My Image Studios L.L.C. (MIST) and Madiba Restaurant have partnered to create a unique culinary and entertainment destination in West Harlem. Now, the venue offers South African cuisine as well as diverse cultural experiences including music, film, concerts and more.?
?MIST is located in Harlem’s first Gold LEED certified building at 40 West 116th Street of the Kalahari Building and now with its new partner, Madiba, recently had a re-launch.??
“The re-launch happened through several intersecting efforts. The owners were trying to find a way to complete their original vision for MIST, and lots of local shareholders, including the residents of the Kalahari and event promoters and planners, political supporters like Congressman Charles Rangel, Councilwoman Inez Dickens and State Senator Bill Perkins had all shopped about for interested parties to keep MIST going and booking the venue for special events,” says executive producer Andre Robinson.??
“I had been trying to contact the people at MIST for several years and finally was able to connect with Walter Edwards on behalf of a client, Harry Belafonte, who was seeking an event space to engage and activate some of his initiatives. I began to produce a few events there and took a more pro-active role when I was introduced to Mark Henegan of Madiba Restaurants by a colleague, Valerie Gamache. One of the other owners was already a frequent visitor to his Brooklyn eatery so the idea of Madiba Harlem took off from a series of site visits, many happy evenings at Madiba Brooklyn enjoying the cuisine and camaraderie there and some determination that a place as magnificently realized as MIST should never be allowed to fail. We made presentations to the original investors and proposals to new ones and a consortium of supporters came into agreement, engaged Mark and I to operate the restaurant and studios respectively and were joined by our new General Manager, Sam Mor. A few of the more stalwart staffers that had remained with the venue despite all the difficulties also have to be given credit for holding it down during some very rough times–the controller, Abdul Kareem Muhammad, production manager, Rachael Harris, sales manager, Natasha Adams and sales associate and bar manager, Shatima Edmonson.”??
Now re-energized by the MADIBA Restaurant brand, MIST will offer spectacular cuisine, music, film, dance, spoken word, visual art and crafts that showcase the universal themes and experiences that draw New Yorkers together. Madiba first opened in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, in 1999. Now Madiba Harlem will host a few private previews with tastemakers and select VIP guests leading up to its official launch on October 15th.??
“As anyone that has experienced Madiba’s Fort Greene location can tell you, the food is incredible and the atmosphere is so family-friendly and engaging. I stopped in on my birthday last year (a date I share with Nelson Mandela) and before I knew it, I was there for three hours. I kept running into friends and associates and the good time just spilled out into the street as the warmth and good spirits inside just enveloped the neighborhood around it. I just kept thinking that this was the atmosphere that we needed at MIST Harlem as we, too, are in an extraordinary neighborhood with diverse residents and clientele. It just felt like a great match and the food was tasty and sublime,” says Robinson.??
MIST has three state-of-the-art, customizable and soundproof studios, offering music, comedy, poetry, film, visual arts and entertainment, accompanied by a sleek and contemporary lounge and meeting hub for Harlem?s emerging residents and visitors. Guests seeking sophisticated fine-dining, yet a relaxed environment for work and play will find the place to be a distinctive destination.??
“All parts of the operation feed the other (pun slightly intended). The new restaurant and wine bar will provide a compelling dining experience for customers and the Kalahari Cafe will serve coffee, juices, wraps and baked goods starting at 7am while the lounge area is made accessible for a internet co-working space for partners like Silicon Harlem,” explains Robinson. “The studios will continue to offer our wide range of entertainment experiences in film, music, comedy, spoken word and other special events while being made available for banquets, seminars, conferences and trainings–all of which will need catering from the restaurant and food & beverage operations. By spring, the Madiba Terrace will open on the west side of the building offering an al-fresco dining experience under the stars with an outdoor grill and Madiba’s extraordinary selection of South African wines and beer.”??
On September 25th, MIST kicked off its programming with a celebrity-filled Scandal Viewing Party hosted by comedian D.L. Hughley and New York?s new R&B radio station, 103.9 FM, the 10th Annual African American Literary Awards Show on September 27th and South African Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim’s 80th birthday celebration performance with Rene McLean and Urban Djailiya on October 15th. ?In addition to many other events, the venue will also serve as a taping facility for the upcoming episodes of a popular television network?s culinary show the first week in October.??
MIST is doing major outreach. “Our website has been overhauled and is linking to event calendars around the region. We have a top-notch promotion team headed up by Theresa O’Neal of Bee Season Consulting who has been promoting us to trade and consumer press for features on the re-launch. We are also in the early stages of a relationship with a new R&B station in the area, 103.9 who have been helping us get the word out and our relationships with a devoted group of local promoters and event planners have continued to expand our reach,” says Robinson. “Fortunately, we also operate in an area that is a hotspot for tourism and we continue to enjoy visitors from all over the world who have heard about us, seen the venue from the tour buses that stop by the Malcolm Shabazz Marketplace next door or were driving by when our lounge, bar and restaurant were filled with revelers at one of our many events. The good word on MIST/Madiba is spreading.”??
The operators of MIST are looking for this re-launch to be a major turning point. “MIST Harlem suffered from a series of unfortunate events at their initial launch, not the least of which was the sudden and untimely demise of its operating partner in the venture, Roland Laird. The vacuum caused by his death dragged his other partners into the operations in a way they had not intended and the venture continued to lose momentum and orbit from there,” shares Robinson. “MIST is already a very unique venture and only the stalwart hearts (and dollars) of the owners, surviving managers and event promoters and planners kept it afloat long enough for it to realize its current possibilities. While we are still not out of the woods–forced to complete the facelift on a shoe-string budget while ensuring that enough funding remains for operating reserves–the combined energy, resources and good will from our stakeholders have given us all the push that we needed to persevere despite the difficulties.”??
Of course, MIST had to prepare for the changing demographics of Harlem. As recently reported, whites do not dominate the once Black enclave. “The changing demo affects everything in Harlem now and its effect on MIST/Madiba is no different. We operate on a block that has transitioned from Harlem’s heroin marketplace to hundreds of millions of condo development with more on the way. The neighborhood offers a phenomenal opportunity to program both food and entertainment to serve an extraordinarily diverse public from river to river,” says Robinson. ” For us, this diversity in the influences over the South African cuisine–already a fusion of foods from around the Diaspora–synthesized with the Latin, African, African-American and European influenced foods, spices and flavors that we have come to expect when seeking a dining experience in this great neighborhood. So, we enjoy a culturally sophisticated crowd that now lives within walking distance and that commitment to mining the opportunities within that diversity are reflected in the food & wine, staffing, programming, decor and atmosphere.”??
MIST is looking to make a major impact in the community. “Cultural spaces are sacred spaces. Civilizations are known by the culture they preserve and leave behind for succeeding generations. Gentrification alone won’t keep Harlem vibrant and alive. MIST helps activate this incredible community as much, if not more, than brand new buildings. Those new residents and those in the neighborhood for generations still need a place to mix and mingle, eat and drink, laugh, cry and be inspired. Young people still need a place to learn and express their unique points and view and to see themselves reflected in the programming,” Robinson pints out. “Because MIST is more than just a restaurant, more than just a banquet hall or special events space, it can serve a wide array of the needs of this community. We hold seminars and town halls on events of interest like Bob Law’s Night Talk Live and we recently hosted Harlem Salsa with a room full of Afro-Latino’s and others that love the music and culture–most of whom had never been there before but are surely coming back. I have programmed many cultural spaces across the country and MIST, along with my partners at Madiba Harlem, is committed to providing an extraordinary environment where you can see award-winning independent film, sit down for one of the tastiest meals in your life topped off with a pour of world-class wine and then stay for a night of dancing in one room and comedy in another. There are not many places in New York where you can get all that under one roof and we are proud to do everything in our power to keep this critically important venue alive and thriving to serve the Harlem Community and the world.”