When I arrive at Galco’s Old World Grocery, the last thing I expect owner John Nese to talk about is the future. After all, in its current format, Galco’s has been around Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood since 1955, and in one form or another, the grocery store dates back to when the city was a sleepy border town in 1897.

Nese is excitable, bubbling with energy on what seems to be a pretty typical Thursday for the store. A few people wander in, wander out. They look straight ahead, into the aisles, and notice lots and lots of soda. More soda than they’re used to. More soda than they might be comfortable with, even if they’re people who love soda, because all of it comes from unfamiliar labels. Which is what John Nese and Galco’s Old World Grocery has become known for in the last two decades: selling sodas from around the world.

Nese wants to talk about gentrification and how its high costs are changing Highland Park.

“There are more homeless people in Highland Park right now than there’s ever been, because people can’t afford to live in Los Angeles,” he says. “It’s a huge cost in human-ness.”

Nese knows the costs of Angeleno gentrification deeply: he grew up in Chavez Ravine, where his father herded goats before the city infamously removed all denizens in order to build Dodger Stadium. Chavez Ravine was mostly Mexican, but Nese remembers his Italian family fitting in perfectly: his mother would go next door to learn how to cook enchiladas, while she would teach spaghetti to anyone willing to listen. He never realized his family was poor until people told him he was, but it never fazed him: “How many kids do you know who could ride an oil well?” he asks.

Galco’s had a long life as an Italian grocery, one that started to wane with other independent groceries around 15 years ago.

“I can tell you what happened here in California,” Nese says. Larger chains started buying up distribution chains outright and putting the squeeze on Galco’s and other markets. “The independents were capped on supermarket pricing and they could never compete more than any other independent.”

How a Beloved Los Angeles Soda Shop Stood Up to Pepsi 3For soda, Nese says, “when they re-opened the distribution network, the cost per case was 15 dollars more. So all of a sudden, the prices in the supermarkets soared, but there was no cap. There was nothing to judge what was expensive.”

The result?

“We couldn’t compete. It was cheaper for me to go to a supermarket and buy one can off the shelves than it was to get a case delivered here,” he reveals. “The manufacturers would call, and want to sell us all this stuff, and I just couldn’t afford to buy it. So we were sitting around, and then this Pepsi-Cola rep walks in one day. He says, ‘I’m going to give you the best buy you’re ever gonna get on a pallet of Pepsi cans. I’m only gonna charge you $5.59 a case.’ Remember, this was 15 years ago. I asked him how much profit I could make on a pallet like that. He said 30 dollars. I told him thanks, but no thanks—I’ll point my customers down the street to where they can buy Pepsi at the supermarket for cheap.”

The salesman didn’t take kindly to this. He came back with Pepsi higher ups, who cased the store. They never said a word, but their actions spoke volumes to Nese. He’d have to play by their rules, even if that meant he’d go out of business. If Nese had agreed to their prices, he knew that they would just force them upon other independent businesses.

“Nuts to that,” he says. “It took me two weeks to figure it out. A light bulb went off. You know, John, you should be happy you own your shelf space, and Pepsi doesn’t, and you can sell anything you want. So I went out and found 25 brands of little sodas.”

It was a risk, betting on unknown and older brands. But curiosity got the better of customers: What was in those glass bottles? What did cane sugar taste like? Soon, the biggest problem turned out to be that people felt overwhelmed with options.

“There’s so much choice,” Nese says. “It’s not that you’re overwhelmed, you’re just not used to having a choice for yourself. Coke and Pepsi buy all the shelf space. You can only buy what they want to sell you, so you’re bought and paid for. For me, it’s personally aggravating. And that’s why we have Freedom of Choice,” he says, alluding to the painted sign hanging above us.

Nese fell into soda accidentally. He didn’t even drink them as a child. But the freedom he has found in the wake of a bullying from Pepsi has sprung into a philosophy that defines his entire business.

“Once upon a time, there were 3,500 soda manufacturers in the United States,” he says, talking about mint soda, cucumber soda, and sodas with the flavor of rose petals. “Have you ever noticed that Coke and Pepsi don’t create anything? They buy little guys and shrink their lines from 25 sodas to two. If it doesn’t sell a million cases, forget it.”

On the off chance a customer can’t find a soda of their choosing, Galco’s provides them the opportunity to make their own. Rows of cane sugar syrups line the back wall, along with bottles and caps and a dispenser of carbonated water.

“Whatever you can think of, you can make!” Nese says.

He warns that this is not a happy-go-lucky enterprise.

“You have to live with your mistakes,” he says. “I had a kid come in last week and make a soda. He comes up to me and says, ‘I don’t like it. Can I dump it out?’ I say, ‘Yeah! As long as you pay for it.’ I asked him what type of soda he was trying to make, and he said he didn’t know, he was just pumping syrups in at random. ‘Next time,’ I said, ‘put some thought into it and it’ll be really good.’”

So very carefully, I go with two flavors: green apple and marshmallow. I can say without hesitation that it was the best damn soda I’ve ever had in my life.

Photo credit: Salvador Ochoa

Some workplaces seem more child-friendly than others. Got a big corner office with an assistant and a drawer full of markers and paper? Why not bring your kid in for the day? They’ll be entertained and minimally disruptive. On the other hand, if you’re a university professor teaching undergrads the finer points of microeconomics, it’s fair to assume that your child will be bored sitting in a lecture hall for hours.

But Carolyn McKecuen, executive director of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTWD), which celebrates its 26th year today, believes otherwise. “When this day first started, there were too many kids sitting around offices coloring and being kept entertained—but it’s a lot more constructive today than it’s ever been.”

Every workplace offers an opportunity to learn, says McKecuen. Department-store visual designers bring their kids in to dress mannequins paint, and set up window displays. The children of restaurant workers shadow hosts or servers, setting the tables and working as greeters at the front door. “People get really creative with these things,” says McKecuen, who also counts prisons, hospitals, and government agencies among the businesses who participate in the day. “And the kids get to work a little more closely with staff and with their parents.”

At Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, TODASTW planner and talent-acquisition coordinator Michelle Rampmeyer expects 45-50 kids to attend the day’s events on campus. Children of the deans, faculty, support staff—“literally everyone,” says Rampmeyer—are invited to the School of Engineering for a robotics demo and hands-on activity, and to the Office of Teaching and Learning for an “escape the room-style” session. They’ll also go on a trivia-fueled scavenger hunt run by the Greek student honor society.

The goal, says Rampmeyer is to “have the kids be hands-on and get some campus experience.” Plus, she adds, “It makes it so that your child thinks it’s fun where you work when you leave them every day.”

Nicole Centeno, founder of ready-made soup and smoothie delivery brand Splendid Spoon, plans to give her boys, ages 4 and 5, the full workday experience for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. “I’ll ride my bike with a bike trailer on the back for them—we’ll make it into a whole little journey,” she says of her commute to Brooklyn’s WeWork 109 S 5th St, where she’s a member. “They like to help by watering the plants in the office, then do an activity from a file drawer of activities, play with the dogs in the office … they have their own spot set up.”

For Centano, it’s important for her sons to understand what she creates. “They like to open our office fridge and see all of our products,” she says. “They’ll each pick out a soup, warm it up in the kitchen, and then critique it seriously, like, ‘Wow, this is really delicious soup.’”

Stephanie Joy Benedetto, founder of Queen of Raw (and a WeWork Creator Awards winner), has set up her 3-year-old son with his own workspace at home and brings him to the office with her so he can understand what she does. “I’m running a marketplace with tools for businesses to buy and sell their fabric waste to each other and keep them out of landfills,” she explains. “I’m inspired by my son—he’s why I am bringing sustainability-in-business solutions to make the world a better place for his future.”

Benedetto says her WeWork 349 5th Ave location in New York has a full day of activities set up for TODASTWD, starting with a group breakfast, and she’s sure that her son will enjoy interacting with other kids and being in the office environment. “He’s used to a community-based office, with the vibrancy and the noise,” she says. “And my co-founder is bringing his child, who is less than a year. At any age, we see the value in bringing them to see what we do.”

The more kids are exposed to different types of jobs across different industries, the easier it will be for them to find their own fit in the workforce. “This is a day that opens kids’ eyes,” says McKecuen. “All the stuff they learn at school, they get to see how it’s put to work when they go to an office or a police department or wherever. It lets kids know there are careers out there they can work toward.”

Four ways to get your kid involved in your day—no matter what’s on your calendar

Have them make lunch reservations. Phone skills are a dying art. Have your son or daughter practice by calling a local restaurant for lunch reservations for the two of you—or ask them to place a delivery order by phone.

Let them spellcheck your resume. In between jobs? Help them hone their computer skills by letting them spellcheck your résumé (this task might also spark a discussion about your own background and career path).

Ask them to plan the commute. Taking public transportation? Ask them to check departure times and overall travel time. On the road? Have them preview the route for traffic and construction.

Put them in charge of inventory. Ask your kid to make sure you’re adequately stocked on stickies, markers, and any other supplies you use regularly (older kids can then order whatever’s running low).

Fitness and lifestyle brand Athleta knows the value of parents and children playing sports together. On April 25, the retailer joined forces with WeWork to bring a yoga and movement class to those families celebrating Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at WeWork Chelsea HQ.

Beyond Athleta, a new crop of athletic programs is translating exercise into something parents and their children can—and should—do together.

For some families, this is already second nature. Vadim Shoykhet’s parents started Physique Swim School in New Jersey in 1997 after his family immigrated to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union, where his mother and father were professional swim coaches. In 2004, Shoyket moved to New York to attend college, and he brought Physique Swim School to Manhattan with him.

In the 15 years since, Shoyket has watched his younger students—many of whom he taught to swim  himself—grow up, and has seen how the sport has affected their development into adulthood.

“When children learn to swim, they’re doing themselves more favors than simply learning how to navigate through the water,” says Shoyket, a member at New York’s WeWork 25 Broadway. “Swimming skills can help a child develop the mental, emotional, and physical strength necessary to develop and grow into a healthy and successful adult.”

According to Shoyket, a recent study in Australia and New Zealand showed that children who were engaged in swimming scored significantly better than the general population on cognitive language skills and mental development. And swimming, as with other physical activities, also helps improve coordination and balance, and develop muscle tone.

Physique Swim School allows children to start swimming at an early age, offering “Me & My Shadow”parent-child classes  forkids as young as 4months old. The trust that materializes in the pool between parents and their young children is palpable, and according to Shoyket, it can last a lifetime.

“The bond that the child creates with their parents in the water really grows outside the water, as well,” he says. “As the kids get older, they’re able to transition into working with a teacher. It’s the building block that allows them to be open to receiving instructions from an instructor.”

As children progress beyond swim floaties and paddle toward adolescence, that bond is more important than ever. At Mentor Foundation USA, an organization that works to prevent and reduce youth substance abuse and promote health and wellbeing, president and CEO Michaela Pratt sees that firsthand.

Mentor Foundation USA estimates that the quality of parent-child relationships is 10 times more powerful than demographics in predicting whether children develop critical character strengths, and Pratt believes that goes back to the investment parents make in their relationships with their children. Something simple like volunteering to coach their child’s little league team—one of the recommendations made to parents—goes a long way.

“Parents understand what an enormous responsibility, but also ability, they have to guide their young children,” says Pratt, a member at WeWork 1775 Tysons Blvd in Washington, D.C. “It’s about combining the work world to fit your needs to be the best at what you can be, not only at work, but also at home, and combine the two to have a healthier life for yourself and your children.”

Debra Giunta founded dance education company Design Dance in 2008 with a similar mission: to bring dance education to children through partnerships with schools and community centers. Growing up dancing in the south suburbs of Chicago, Giunta, a member at Chicago’s WeWork 1 W Monroe St, found dance to be uniquely therapeutic in a way she hopes to pass along to children and their parents.

“Dance is both a physical activity and an artistic activity, so when we move, we can really access emotions and thoughts that we’re not accessing regularly,” she says. “There’s a lot of feelings and memories that live in the body that we’re not consciously thinking about, but when we move, we’re able to access those things.”

Like Physique Swim School’s “Me & My Shadow” course, Design Dance advocates for tandem parent-and-child movement. In 2017, Giunta launched an offshoot for children between ages 3and 5called The Groove, which focuses on the needs of families affected by disability.

“A lot of people think they need to learn how to dance in order to engage with dance,” she says. “But I always use the analogy of a wedding. If you go to a wedding, you have a bunch of people who would never call themselves dancers, but who hear music and get up and dance and have a great time.”

Brands and programs may make it seamless for parents to incorporate physical activity into their family lives. But there’s no need to wait until Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day to enjoy the benefits of. Shoyket, for one, encourages parents to incorporate swimming beyond the lap pool and into their family’s leisure time; look for a local pool’s open-swim hours or organize a beach day one Saturday once summer hits.

“When parents can find a way to incorporate that into their family life,” says Giunta, “it can be really impactful throughout the course of their child’s life.”

Below, three ways for parents to incorporate movement into their family’s everyday lifestyle:

Make long road trips a dance party. While the kids are safely strapped into the backseat, Giunta recommends putting on your family’s favorite playlist and grooving to the beat of the music—as much as the seatbelt will allow, of course.

Put on a yoga class on YouTube and turn the living room into a studio. There are plenty of options for full families or even just for a parent and child. What’s even better is that many of these tutorials are 10 minutes or less. Your younger children will be pleased.

When the weather cooperates, plan a beach (or pool) outing. Make a day of it. “Families can incorporate swim through leisure time—the love for water—by going to the beach, a pool, or a water park,” says Shoyket. “It creates a bonding experience for them.” Pack plenty of snacks and, obviously, SPF.

Illustration by Alana Peters / The We Company

Let’s say that you, a trusted, competent, beloved member of your workplace, were charged with increasing your company’s productivity by 15 percent and substantially boosting in your coworkers’ happiness. Most of the solutions to this kind of problem—say, a renovated space, group meditation, or workplace yoga—usually involve throwing a decent bit of money around, or asking employees to do things that aren’t, well, very productive. What you really need is a low-cost, low-maintenance solution that requires minimal effort or time from your colleagues, that inspires productivity and happiness.

You need plants.

Science has proved that a greener thumb leads to happier, healthier people. Study after study links the biological impact of plants, like cleaner air, with the psychological effect, like a more aesthetically pleasing environment. In a 2014 University of Exeter study, researchers saw a 15 percent increase in productivity after adorning an otherwise barren office with houseplants—a correlating result of its subjects also reporting increasingly positive perceptions with concentration in the office, air quality, and how satisfied they were at their jobs. A 2010 study from the New University of Technology Sydney yielded a similar result: Plants helped reduce stress levels and negative feelings 58 percent.

But plants are a pain: They are a pain to buy, a pain to move around, and a pain to care for. Going to a nursery or the greenery section of a hardware store is an endeavor of suffocatingly multilateral decisions to be made. Which size plant? Which species? What color? How much (or how little) light do you have in your room? And which of those plants require the level of care you’re willing to put forth? What kind of care is required of it? Which kind of soil does it need? And, finally: What. Kind. Of. Pot. Will. You. Put. It. In?

Plants are definitely earning their place on a pro forma cultural lifestyle checklist, the perfect adornment for finishing an Instagram-perfect living room. If you’re at all a citizen of the internet, looking at the Instagrams of young urbanites near and far, you’ve probably been served ads for companies like The Sill, a plant startup selling everything from succulents to room-dominating fiddle leaf trees in chic, color-blocked pottery. If nothing else, you’ve read the stories about plants as—what else?—a millennial trend: Bloomberg reports that startups like The Sill are taking advantage of the intersection of millennials’ delayed parenting plans and their desire to care for something living while still enjoying the frequent travel they’re known to value.

All it would take, then, would be some canny entrepreneurs who knew the greenery space, who understand our most contemporary anxieties, and who have a slick hand with branding to come along and solve for the plant-decision-paralysis that stops potential buyers before their first pottings. The world needed someone to make houseplants cool. The plant disrupters did just that.

Bloomscape founder and CEO Justin Mast.

Justin Mast comes from four generations of professional gardeners, and he practically grew up in his parents’ Michigan greenhouse. His company, Bloomscape, headquartered out of WeWork 19 Clifford St in downtown Detroit, is vaporizing the most quotidian details of dressing your workspace (or home) in greenery, making the most grating aspect of plant-buying a thing of the past. With a tightly knit (but, yes, growing) team of 13 employees, Mast is painting the country green, taking a personal understanding of what a new generation expects from their lives, and (yes) using it to help sprout a new standard around itself.

“Millenials have been a conscious group of consumers from the beginning,” says Mast, 36. “A lot of the mindfulness around food and where it comes from—I think we’re taking that same attitude to our homes and the environment that we’re in. It’s weird that you’d spend all this money taking yoga and drinking an organic smoothie, and then you come home to a stark space that’s full of chemicals in the air and Ikea furniture.” That same logic, Mast explained, should naturally extend to millennials’ expectations for workspaces.

Bloomscape begins by quizzing users on what they might want in a plant, what they might be able to commit to, both space-wise and timewise, and how much light the plant is going to get. After that, users pick a plant, which all come in Bloomscape’s one-motif-fits-all chic terracotta potting. After you place the order, the plant shows up at your door with a notecard detailing care instructions specific to the plant in terms so simple no green thumbs are required.

When it comes to picking the right plants for the office, Mast offers advice that has little to do with natural-light needs or water requirements: “Get a plant that’s interesting to you and the people around you,” he says. “There are some really funky and fun ones to choose from. A ponytail palm, for example, looks like a character from a Dr. Seuss book. Find plants that you can relate to. Or, more simply, just get excited about.”

In the canon of cliche quotes about gardening, a particularly common one comes from Spanish poet and playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca: “Green is the prime color of the world and that from which its loveliness arises.” Surely, some pinstripe-wearing stockbroker from a bygone era once purchased a brass and mahogany paperweight from the back of a SkyMall catalog with that line inscribed on it and mounted it next to his banker’s Lamp. But imagined misappropriations of Calderón notwithstanding, is it possible that plants genuinely boost success of one’s business and life? To say nothing of the loveliness of one’s life?  

“There’s a Dutch word  I grew up hearing a lot—gezelligheid,”  Mast says with a laugh. “It’s a feeling of warm, social, lighthearted coziness.” If that sounds like the kind of thing that can’t be faked—especially in a work setting—it absolutely is. It’s a feeling that needs to be cultivated naturally. And the easiest, healthiest way to see it around you involves cultivating nothing more than a little nature.

Hedge your bets

Before you plant your urban jungle, keep these things in mind.

Start with one plant. Then get a friend. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many plants right away. Get to know the rhythms and needs of a single pot. Once you’ve got that down, try another, similar plant—no two plants are exactly the same.

Read the instructions. You are not a bad plant parent. Plants are not a mystery —you just need to do your homework. Keep those tags with the plant name and care instructions. If something’s going wrong, read the label or expand your research online.

Pick a plant that inspires you. Instead of choosing something by how easy it is to care for, get a plant that excites you. If you’re interested in the plant, you’ll keep it alive.

Photographs by Stocksy and Nic Hagen

Even though every bit of news about climate change is, well, terrifying, it’s comforting and empowering to remember that small adjustments to our daily lives can make a big difference to Mother Nature. Each of these shoppable items (all created by WeWork members or sold at Made by We in New York City) make being green easy.

Ditch disposable to-go cups. For your next coffee run, bring along a collapsible cup by StoJo, a member at WeWork 81 Prospect St in New York. The Pocket Cup, which is made from recyclable materials, keeps your morning joe warm or cold, then stashes in your bag when you’re on the go. $15

Put your best foot forward. All of the cozy socks made by Conscious Step—a member at WeWork 109 S 5th St in New York—support farmers in India and are made sustainably and ethically with organic cotton. And depending on which pair you choose, like these Socks That Plant Trees, you can support a cause, like planting ten trees through nonprofit Trees for the Future. $15.

Follow the sun. These TwiLight solar-powered lights by Solight, a member at WeWork 123 E 23rd St in New York, are pretty genius. They’re lightweight, foldable, and waterproof luminaries, which means they’re perfect for patio parties and camping trips. And the best part? They require no electricity or batteries. $17

Solight, a WeWork member in New York, offers solar-powered lights that are lightweight, foldable, and waterproof.

Bundle up. Save on heating bills (or protect yourself from aggressive office AC temps) with this chic Aria Topaz scarf from member Studio Variously. The cashmere scarf is hand-woven and dyed with chemical-free coloring by artisans in Nepal, and it comes in a natural canvas case—no bubble wrap here!—that you can reuse. $118

Fry right. Many nonstick pans are made with chemicals, but not Green Pan. The Venice Pro frying pan from Green Pan, a member at WeWork 1460 Broadway in New York, is made from upcycled stainless steel and aluminum and a trademarked Thermolon coating. The sand-based finish emits 60 percent less CO2 into the air compared with traditional nonstick coatings. How’s that for green eggs? $99

Drink all day. Make each trip to the water fountain a fun one with the Aurora bottle from S’well, a member at WeWork Medius House in London. Its sleek design makes it a breeze to take anywhere—and keep up with your daily water-intake goals. $32

Be totes amazing. Break your plastic-bag habit for good by toting one of these adorable Utility Canvas bags, available at Made by We. They’re just as handy at the farmers market as they are at the public library—and each one makes a serious style statement, too. $52

Send good word. Sure, email is technically zero-waste, but these pretty cards by member Miks Letterpress are printed on 100-percent-recycled paper and are an old school (and biodegradable) way to say “thank you” to clients, coworkers, and friends. They’re available at Made by We, too. $12

Get buzzed. Al Mokha makes it easy to get your caffeine fix without a guilt trip. Their socially and environmentally conscious beans, grown and harvested in Yemen, are conflict-free and handpicked by farmers who are fairly paid for their work. Try their Yemeni Medium roast for its subtle citrus and cocoa notes. $21.95

Al Mokha makes socially and environmentally conscious beans that are handpicked by farmers who are fairly paid for their work.

Make ’em work. We may be biased, but giving yourself (or a friend) a WeWork membership is a solid way (and is so much more personal than, say, a scented candle) to introduce them to sustainable workplace practices like being single-use-plastic-free, offering only meat-free menus, and committing to being carbon-neutral by 2023. Prices vary.

Photographs by Katelyn Perry / The We Company