When one door shuts, another opens, as the saying goes; but two Bedford-Stuyvesant businesses have gone one up by sharing an entrance and letting the old and new come together
People are sitting under a leafy peach tree, some have wine, some coffee. Shells hanging from branches are swinging in the breeze as the sun slices across the garden; J Dilla is playing in the background.
You’d be forgiven for ordering a cocktail and forgetting you were steps from the hustle of Myrtle-Broadway, as Haitian-inspired hideaway Café Erzulie sets a convincing scene.
In February, the café and cocktail bar added its name to the door of the 894 Broadway, a space occupied by Flowers by Leslie for more than 15 years. The café’s name embodies the duality and spirit of the space: Erzulie, the Haitian Goddess who represents love, strength, fertility and light, who loves beauty, flowers and sweet food.
By taking over the middle and back of the building, with Flowers by Leslie staying at the front, the café’s conceptualizer Mark Luxama and his four partners gave flower shop owner Rodrigo Reyes some respite and long-term stability with rent in the changing neighborhood. The partnership also gave Reyes an invigorated garden to store and display his tropical plants.
“Growing up in Brooklyn I’ve seen some of my favorite places disappear,” Luxama says. “Being New Yorkers, we were sensitive to that and wanted to work with a business that had been here for a long time.”
Luxama came across the spot after being told by his dad – whose friend, a fellow Haitian-American, owns the building – to check out the flower shop; straight away he saw the potential in the unused backyard.
Luxama and his partners – two friends from high school, one from kindergarten and his college roommate – worked with Reyes to open the space in what he describes as “a really nice equitable partnership.”
“[The flower shop] absolutely is part of the makeup of the entire space given that it’s a Caribbean Haitian-inspired café,” says Luxama. “It works seamlessly, he [Reyes] already had all this amazing foliage and these amazing plants, it was the best scenario to integrate with another business.”
Luxama’s desire to share his background and rich culture, and a prior trip to Haiti with one of his partners, set the ball rolling for Café Erzulie. The menu, designed to introduce Haitian ingredients and flavors, was put together by his grandmother and a friend from the local catering company Harvest and Revel.
Every Thursday, there’s live African jazz with steel pan percussion and bass in the garden, which Luxama says helps reintroduce people to different sounds that inspire the music they listen to now. He says the partners are open to hosting different types of events and have done a number of food pop-ups, but are focused on supporting things with issues pertinent to their concept that relate to Caribbean diaspora.
And he says in the near future, we can look forward to a dinner and happy hour menu.