The Intense Life of your Interactive Grocer
Mike Rose, a newcomer to Seward Park Housing, is the technological brain behind FreshDirect
by Frances Madeson
Mike Rose has been the Vice President of Systems Architecture for FreshDirect, the online grocery store, since 2001. But even in the mid-1970’s, when he was a 7th grader in his Poughkeepsie home, Mike was playing around with the early Apple models, the old Radio Shack TRS-80, the Vic-20 and the Commodore Pet.
He taught himself how to program, then took computer courses in school and even went to computer camp in the summers. Eventually, he wrote video games in Apple Basic on an Apple II with a color monitor—emphasis on color—which he assures me was a huge big deal back then. With a degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer College in Troy, New York, Mike was ready for the brave new world.
He is excited about his role in the collaborative effort that led to the technological system behind FreshDirect, stocking your kitchen the way Amazon has been stocking your library.
The year before the launch was intense, he reports. “I worked 6-7 days a week, until midnight or later. Then, the year after the launch, things were really intense, adapting to the rapid growth.”
Working at FreshDirect is the culmination of “all the things I’m interested in,” the engineering as well as the creative sides of his personality, Mike says. “It’s very challenging, as we enter the next phase of the business’s growth, optimizing our systems to better serve all of the diverse populations within our delivery area.”
Things have eased up, he says, “I’m down to about a 9-7 workday, five days a week, and it doesn’t even seem that hard.”
So there’s spare time to indulge in eating pan-Asian tapas at Kuma Inn on Ludlow Street, cycling with his girlfriend (whom he met on-line—surprise, surprise) and rollerblading. “I go down to Wall Street, over to Battery Park City, and up along the West Side highway.”
While at Rensselaer, he was active at the college radio station, WRPI, 91.5 FM, spending many hours running the place, programming on-air music and producing live shows. “Majoring in radio stations,” as he puts it, led to playing tenor saxophone in a band, which, at its height, was a nine member ensemble, a stylistic mixed-bag involving performance poetry.
“My friends from the old music days are the best I have,” he says. “Some are living down here, others are still up in Troy or Albany.” At one point, he shared a 6,500 sq. ft. space upstate with four other guys, living and rehearsing seamlessly.
Nowadays, Mike says he’s “more of a listener,” noting that “the iPod is the greatest invention of the 21st century.” First he converted his entire CD collection, featuring saxophone icons Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins and Roland Kirk. Now he purchases downloads, estimating he currently owns about 3,500 tunes. He lives in walking distance from the Tonic music club and regularly checks out the scene there and at The Knitting Factory.
Mike used to live on Avenue C and 2nd Street. “I was aware of all the money I was spending on rent and knew it should be going toward a mortgage instead.” When he decided to start his search in earnest, naturally he focused on resources available on-line. “The LoHo website was really useful, because the pictures show the details of the apartments. It wasn’t just one long shot from a far corner. I could weed out what I knew I didn’t want and go to see the ones that looked most interesting.”
Over a period of about six months, he attended open houses in East River, Hillman and Seward Park. “I wanted a one-bedroom with a nice, open layout. The balcony was icing on the cake. I love this block because it reminds of how New York used to be 100 years ago.”
And with the subway literally a block away, it’s an easy commute to the FreshDirect offices in Long Island City – uptown on the F, and transfer to the 7.