Yesterday, the second day of summer and possibly the finest of the year, I walked into the hybrid coffee and flower shop, Bohaus, in Bed-Stuy. Owners Laura Bonnie and Jenn Hauser—whose names combined create that of their two-week-old business—stood behind the counter in their light and airy space, largely constructed by themselves; simple and small arrangements of seasonal flowers were placed throughout. Bonnie and Hauser had the relaxed rapport of old friends.
“We actually met about a year ago,” Bonnie corrected me. “We were hired to lead Martha Stewart’s first coffee shop.” Hauser added, but, “it became too corporate for me.” Both had worked in coffee for years, but it was their stint at Martha that pushed them to strike out on their own. “It was ten hour days; the cafe was in the lobby but the storage was on the 9th floor—it was a lot of back and forth.” Finally, they asked themselves: “Why don’t we work for ourselves?”
Fast forward a year, and there we all were, standing inside the product of that question. “It’s still surreal, you know?” Hauser said reflectively. I was sipping an icy cup of Ethiopian cold brew. “We have a little following for it,” she explained, “Cold brew, that’s my jam.” In a perfect world, Hauser told me she would only sell cold brew coffee. The beans never touch hot water, and, as a result, more intense and varied tasting notes emerge during the slow brewing process; this cup tasted like blueberries.
As the friends planned for their new space, they emphasized that they would offer only the things that made them happy, especially after pouring all their energy into other people’s visions. For Hauser, who moved to New York two and a half years ago, that meant keeping the coffee at Bohaus pure. “I try to keep it very professional coffee,” Hauser explains—by which she meant no syrups, nothing extra. “I want people to enjoy the experience, because if you’re getting good coffee, that’s the way it should be presented.” Currently, their beans come from Kobrick; eventually, Hauser says they’ll host guest roasters, too.
And, as far as Bonnie was concerned, happiness meant floral design. She’d been taking classes, and that’s when Hauser suggested they join forces, a coffee and flower shop in one.
“Ideally, I’m going to work with local, seasonal, sustainable flowers,” says Bonnie. She also prioritized making her arrangements, single stems, and hand-tied bouquets affordable—nothing more than twenty dollars. Nobody makes money if the neighborhood can’t afford it. Aesthetically, she wanted “suggestive” designs, rather than overwrought. “I don’t think people realize how inspiring flowers are,” Bonnie tells me. “You bring them home and they’re a part of nature, but they don’t think about it until they see them arranged in a special way, and presented in a certain way.” I pointed out a really lovely bouquet at the check out counter. One of the flowers looked like a big green pom-pom.
“That’s Dianthus,” Bonnie said right away. “They’re really trendy right now—I guess a lot of pale greens and whites are in.” But Bonnie had finished this arrangement with delicate splashes of pink, orange and red.
A neighbor walked in, already friendly with the owners. He ordered a coffee and asked if they had any oatmeal raisin cookies he’d eaten the day before (courtesy of Ovenly). But yesterday, there were selections from Park Slope’s Colson Patisserie in the glass treat case. Eventually, Hauser said they may use Ovenly again but, overall, the menu will stay simple: just coffee and pastries—“for now”—she added.
On the sound system, Beach House and my favorite jam from summer ’11, “The Look,” by Metronomy, played. Sun poured in through big front windows, and highlighted the green hues on the floral wallpaper and distressed wood—much of which, Bonnie told me, had been purchased at Home Depot: all this handiwork was their own, and that of Hauser’s dad, who was a contractor and helped out. Soon, they’d also paint the ceiling gold to match Goldie, their vintage espresso machine, which had been sitting in storage, unused, at Kobrick coffee. “That’s the kind we wanted to work with,” Bonnie said of the machine, that looked like the Bentley of espresso machines. It was a real show piece in their otherwise understated pretty space.
Before we left, Hauser had one last thing to show us. “Do you want to take a picture of our stamp cards?” She wondered. Most cards you get at a coffee shop are boring, uninspired tallies. But Hauser had designed her own: with every cup of coffee, she would stamp a multicolored circle on top of a stem. The final product was a bouquet—a real trailblazer in the world of stamp cards, but also another sign that, at Bohaus, the combination of coffee and flowers makes something more inspired than the sum of its parts.
Bohaus; 406 Marcus Garvey Blvd, Bed-stuy
Photos by Jane Bruce