Restaurateur Taavo Somer of Freemans Sporting Club - Biography

New York, NY

July 2012

Although Taavo Somer was raised “in the middle of nowhere” (i.e., Wyeth country, or Chadsford, Pennsylvania), the visionary behind the Freemans brand had an early education in the spirit of invention. Growing up among composers and poets, Somer had an early appreciation for the fine arts. And school trips to New York confirmed the young artist would someday plant roots in an urban setting—but not before moving to Minneapolis to study architecture.

Somer spent seven years at Minneapolis architecture firm Vincent James, but it was the city’s liberating punk-grunge undercurrent that reignited his interest in the arts; Somer made films, worked in galleries, and put on rock shows. And while he eventually he landed a job with renowned contemporary American architect Steven Holl in New York, Somer resigned after six months, his “blind” interest in modernity dissolved. A friend connected Somer with Joe’s Pub owner Serge Becker, who hired him to fill in for two weeks (which became two years) for the renovation of Manhattan’s historic Lever House.

Meanwhile, Somer was managing a T-shirt line and throwing weekly rock parties downtown, which fatefully led him to partner William Tigertt and the creation of the masculine, aesthetically anti-trend Freemans. As Freemans succeeded, Somer expanded his T-shirt line TAAVO into a full men’s fashion line, Freemans Sporting Club. Tigertt and Somer have since opened regional American Peels and Mediterranean Isa, and Somer has consulted on various other restaurants, including Gemma at The Bowery Hotel. But it’s his own operations with his restaurant, storefront, and menswear line that continue to inspire him.