Seven years ago, Experience: Harlem was launched by Angie Hancock as an information and entertainment portal for all things Harlem. Today, it has been the go-to site for anyone—from New York residents to first-time visitors--wanting to connect and “experience” the special venues and well kept-secrets that Harlem has to offer.
After moving to Harlem in 2003, Hancock, CEO of Experience: Harlem, fell in love with the historic New York neighborhood and wanted to allow others to have the same experience. In addition to the website, she also compiles a comprehensive guide also named Experience: Harlem, which is now in its 4th edition. Under the Experience: Harlem umbrella, Hancock hosts events at various Harlem restaurants and publishes a Experience: Harlem newsletter as well.
TNJ.com: Since you started the Experience: Harlem portal in 2006, Harlem has undergone many changes. What do you think of the "new" Harlem?
Angie Hancock: I have mixed feelings about the changes in Harlem. I'm excited to see new businesses and increased diversity but disappointed about the number of African American-owned businesses that have closed and concerned about preserving the cultural legacy of Harlem.
TNJ.com: What made you decide to start Experience: Harlem?
AH: I was very excited to move to Harlem in 2006, but it was a challenge to find out where to go after work, where to shop, where to play. When I first arrived, you could barely find information about Harlem in the usual places like Zagat's and City Search. After awhile, I began telling my friends about the new businesses that were opening when it occurred to me that Harlem businesses needed cooperative marketing options that are affordable for small businesses while marketing the neighborhood in a way that brands it as "the hot place" to be similar to how NYC & Company markets New York City overall.
TNJ.com: What led to the guide?
AH: Quite simply, Harlem was being ignored by traditional media or occasionally you would see an article that included 4-5 places in Harlem but hardly provided an insider perspective. I felt that rather than wait for traditional media to catch on to the fact that Harlem is hot, we should tell our own story.
TNJ.com: The guide is now in its 4th edition. What is new about this latest one?
AH: The latest guide is so far our best guide. The guides are free and available throughout the neighborhood and at special events. It can also be ordered. Unfortunately, many businesses suffered during the economic downturn that began in 2008. In the current guide, you see that the restaurant scene has more than rebounded and expanded with a diverse range of options. Most folks know you can find some of the best southern cuisine in Harlem but the culinary options uptown are as diverse as the population. Your tastebuds can truly travel the world in just a few blocks. Beyond restaurants, I'm also excited about the music and arts and culture scene. It’s great to have so many options.
TNJ.com: What are you goals for the Experience: Harlem portal?
AH: My goal for Experience: Harlem is to continue to be the go-to destination for people who live both in and outside of NYC alike. 2013 was quite busy for us with the re-launch of our website, two sold-out restaurant events and bringing back the Essential Harlem Guide. In 2014, we plan to continue expanding our digital footprint as well as add new 'experiences'.
TNJ.com: For you, what makes Harlem unique?
AH: I first learned about Harlem when I had to memorize Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son" in 7th grade. Harlem is the 3rd most visited place in NYC which saw over 50 million visitors last year. I'm extremely proud to be part of a place that means so much to people of African descent.