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Cool Mom Q&A: Tracey Stewart

Moomah founder, wife to Jon Stewart, and NYC mom of two

A play space with booze? Now we’re talking. Moomah, the cool downtown family center, celebrated its first birthday in May and just secured its liquor license—meaning a carefully edited wine list and weekend mimosas are in the offing. We caught up with Tracey Stewart, the mom behind Moomah (and Jon Stewart’s wife), who readily admits that the Tribeca space is her third child, in addition to her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

Q. This must be such a busy time for you, getting ready for fall classes at Moomah–—not to mention getting your own kids ready for school. Did you get a chance to relax with your family this summer?
A. We are Jersey Shore people all the way. We head out when my husband gets a break, and we go miniature golfing, eat fried food, dig for sand crabs, swim all day . . . total hedonism!

Q. And now that summer is more or less over, it’s time for Moomah’s busy season. Did you ever think Moomah would be as wildly successful as it has turned out to be?
A. I knew I couldn’t be the only one craving a space like this. At first glance, Moomah appears to be a children’s space but it really is an adults’ space as well. We strive to be a sanctuary for stressed-out parents and I was certain there were lots of them around.
 
Q. Yes. Lots of stressed-out parents in this town. How have you lured so many of them to Moomah?
A. Almost all our business has been driven by word-of-mouth. The first year we didn’t do a lot of press. My goal was always that parents would have a relaxing time when they came, and so the last thing I wanted was to be overrun before we had the systems in place to provide that kind of environment.

Q. What are your favorite programs at Moomah?
A. I couldn’t pull out one of our programs as a favorite. Instead I would say my favorite thing about our programs is the intention behind all of them: whether it’s music, art, movement, or secret agent training, we always ask, “How is this time spent going to help the parents and students feel more connected and in love with the world around them and with each other?”.

Q. That’s a very Earthy approach for a New York City establishment. Are you a City mom at heart?
A. Oy! I’m constantly in conflict about living in the city. Ultimately, I feel like these are my peeps so I don’t know if I’d ever feel brave enough to leave entirely. The abundance of great doctors, schools, ideas and food is a comfort, but the difficulty in connecting to the natural world can be frustrating. I was recently visiting a friend out in the country and as I sat on the toilet a little bird sat on a branch on the windowsill singing. I was filled with such an intense feeling of peace at that moment and was reminded that I have to make an effort to have more moments like that. Is that too much information?

Q. Not at all. We totally get it. So how do you try to “connect” when you’re in the City? Where are your favorite places to go with the kids?
A. I adore the Museum of Natural History. I’m a big science and nature geek so I can just get lost there (much like my bird-by-the-toilet experience).

Q. Other than Moomah, where do you like to shop for kids’ clothes and toys in the City?
A. A trip to Target is always strangely exhilarating and I have no self-control when I’m at Michael’s. Neither of my kids are fans of tags or seams . . .  I often get their clothes from J.Crew, as they make the softest, yummiest tees and dresses in the Universe. I hate to go shopping, so I usually buy a year’s supply of goods when I actually venture out. I’m a tired cashier’s worst nightmare.

Q. Do you and your kids get to spend much time at Moomah?
A. The first year of Moomah I spent almost every waking moment there. It really was like birthing my third child. For my kids, it’s been especially nice to feel like they’re part of a family-run business. They love “straightening up,” “taking inventory,” and “checking on guests.” They also think their mom’s job is really cool.

Q. Are all of the Stewart Family celebrations now held at Moomah? It’s such a beautiful space.
A. Moomah was inspired by our home and so home is still where it’s at for us.

Q. What do you guys like to do at home? Family dinners? Games? Any programs you watch together?
A. My kids were playing last week and my son asked my daughter how she’d know when it was time to get married. She replied, “When I find someone funny and cozy.” Cozy is a big word in our house. At night we love to all get in bed together and watch movies or TV.

Q. Well, congratulations again on the success of Moomah. We love it and can’t help but wonder: any plans for Moomah out East, or in other parts of the City?
A. We have BIG plans for Moomah, but it’s all top secret right now.