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Meet Aubrie Therrien: Advocate For Collaboration and Creativity at Vineapple Cafe

Naomi Banks | 21 March, 2024

            Meet Aubrie Therrien: Advocate For Collaboration and Creativity at Vineapple Cafe

Aubrie Therrien, co-owner of Vineapple Cafe since February 2020, transformed the establishment from a local coffee shop into a full-service, community-oriented restaurant with her husband, Zac Rubin, after the previous owner's departure. Influenced by her nonprofit work as Founder and Artistic Director at EPIC Players and her family's background in the hospitality industry, Therrien fosters a creative environment where all team members can shine. She draws inspiration from resilient women in her life, highlighting the importance of family, friendship, and collaboration. Through her ventures, Therrien has learned the value of stepping back and leveraging strengths to build dynamic teams.

Her responses have been edited for length and clarity. Check out the short video clip from the interview on Instagram and TikTok by clicking the hyperlinks.

Purchase the only print signed by the owner to support a worthy cause. 100% of the proceeds of the signed print benefit the Brooklyn Community Services’ Transitional Living Community women's shelter.

What inspired you to take over the Vineapple in February 2020?

Therrien: We would come to Vineapple, the local coffee shop, prior to us taking it over, as loyal followers, just like our other neighbors. That was when it only had coffee, no food. My husband, Zac Rubin, and I would always say, “Wouldn’t it be great if they had food and wine with a name like Vineapple.” One day, the owner put up a sign saying they were going away for the summer and never came back. Weeks later my husband said, “Were you serious about what you said we could do for Vineapple?” I said, “No!” Running a restaurant is hard. My family used to run Giambone in Little Italy for 75 years. I've always worked in the hospitality industry and I know how hard it is. He said, “Well, I found the owners and I started talking to them, I think we should meet.” We met and talked about what we thought could be Vineapple 2.0, if you will. They had decided to move on from the business anyway, so it was a perfect match.

We took it over in February 2020. Then March hit, so we spent time putting love into the restaurant deciding what the identity was, and then opened in July 2020. We had some wonderful people on board helping us decide what Vineapple is. It's a very community-oriented restaurant. Our regulars give us feedback and let us know what works and what doesn't. We’re also a community within our staff and our team. We opened with my mother and I in the kitchen, a friend of ours making homemade bread, cutting up cheese, handing out wine, and then we moved on to brunch. Now we have breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch and aperitivo. We are always reinventing ourselves and how we can be a part of the community. That's most important to us.

How has your experience with EPIC Players (Empower, Perform, Include, Create) influenced how you run Vineapple?

Therrien: I founded EPIC Players and I'm the Executive Director. EPIC is a nonprofit focused on elevating Neurodivergent and Disabled artists. We help by amplifying their voice and bridging professional performance opportunities, as they have historically lacked accessible pathways to that. EPIC is a much bigger organization than it was seven years ago. We have over 100 members who identify as Autistic or Disabled. Some of our players just made their Broadway debut, others are going on to film and TV.

In terms of DEIJ (Disability Equity Inclusion and Justice), it’s about creating invisible pathways for people; what we like to call invisible ramps. Figuring out ways for our artists to get into a room assuming competence and capability in our partnerships. How can I build an invisible ramp to make sure everyone shines even further? 

That seeps into what we do at Vineapple in the community experience that we have with our team, and ensuring everybody can put their best foot forward to shine, be creative, and collaborative. This is an extremely collaborative restaurant, more so than any other place I've ever worked at. That's really important to our ethos.

Nonprofits are really important to the social fabric of this country. We elevate nonprofits every Monday with our Dine-Out For a Cause, to amplify the voices of local nonprofits. We donate proceeds from that night's dinner and we also donate our space for them to use as they please.

Who are the women throughout your life that have inspired you?

Therrien: My nana was an extremely resilient woman. She was also disabled with polio at a young age. She was a very hard worker, dedicated to her family and the culinary arts. Her husband died, so she had four kids that she raised by herself. I always think about her and how what she was able to do translates into our life and also the love of food and family that she instilled in me. My mother also loves to cook and to be at a table with our family and friends, eating, drinking wine, and talking about our lives.

My sister-in-law, Cynthia Therrien, designed this whole mural and logo for our merchandise. She's an extremely talented artist. My mother helped paint it and put her touches on the design, along with my father. In the summer of 2020, they were all here on scaffolding, painting the mural and making it a part of the Vineapple brand, which is lovely. Zac's family came and planted this entire garden and built things we needed to build. Vineapple is very much a labor of love and a family effort.

I'm really lucky to have amazing friends who are really amazing, powerful women doing incredible things. It's wonderful to have women in your life that you can call and say, “You are amazing. I love you. Thank you for being in my life.” It's important to have a network like that, especially in New York.

What have you learned about yourself from all of your personal and business ventures?

Therrien: I've learned to step back, process, and allow other people to step in and take ownership of things. I've learned how to be truly collaborative in all of my endeavors, especially at EPIC and here at Vineapple. My husband and I are running Vineapple together. Working with your husband is a blessing and has its challenges. Learning what my strengths are, what his strengths are, and figuring out how to make that into a dynamic team that helps run the restaurant is valuable. It's something we're always learning.

Vineapple Cafe is located at 71 Pineapple St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 and is currently open on Monday to Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., with happy hour from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and brunch on the weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (347) 799-1035.