When Keishon Warren, a banker, met with Edson Cooper in 2014 to discuss finance options for expanding Cooper’s juice bar business, Warren had no idea that less than two years later he’d be standing right alongside him helping him run it.
Two more partners– Warren’s father Ralph Warren and another friend, Ali Coutard– also co-signed onto the venture to finally open Bklyn Blend restaurant and juice bar in January 2016 at 194 Tompkins Avenue in the heart of Bed-Stuy.
That it would open during MLK weekend seems almost kismet, because the four partners had a dream… to one day build an oasis in the heart of Bed-Stuy, where people of any age, background, income or ethnicity could go to find health, happiness, good food and good vibes.
“The culture that we built here is like a safe haven,” said Warren, who wears a very contagious smile. “I’m huge on energy, especially in the morning, as people are on their way to work. We wanted to create a brand that not only introduces the idea of affordable healthy eating, but we also wanted to make a positive impact on people as they moved throughout their day.”
From Bklyn Blend’s delicious, fresh juices to their organic coffee; from their market fresh fish to the fresh bread they choose for their sandwiches, they actually want their customers to take their food and service personal.
It’s because the amount of intention and attention sewn into every detail of the business before it opened is something the owners took personal as well. In fact, aside from pouring their entire life savings into purchasing the property– formerly a 99 Cent store– the father-and-son team built the entire store themselves from the ground-up, by hand.
Before getting a degree in business management with a minor in accounting, Warren studied architectural engineering. So with a small background in design, he decided to build the space out himself with the assistance of an architect. Ninety percent of the building materials he sourced from landmark structures and “found items” around Brooklyn. For example, the tables are constructed from old building beams. The wood on the outside of the building comes from the Coney Island boardwalk before it was redone. And the wood inside of the store was generated from old water tanks.
“So there’s an emotional connection we have with the space, because we know where every screw is, we know where every nail is,” said Warren. “We literally put our blood, sweat and tears in the space, and that’s one of the reasons why we need to see it succeed.”
Cooper serves as the store’s head chef, preparing many of the food items– mostly sandwiches, salads and some fish and rice dishes–with subtle Caribbean flavors, reflecting his Trinidadian background. Some of the neighborhood faves include the kale patty, the mushroom burger and the salmon salad.
Around 80 percent of all products are organic, made fresh to order. And all of their delicious sauces are made in-house, by hand.
“My personal favorite is the salmon with wild rice, because it has no starch or sugar; it’s all grains, all proteins, an all-natural and organic product,” said Warren. “And it’s a good transition for people who are trying to cut out rice.”
The shakes, juices and smoothies also are made fresh to order and include such creative blends as the “BK Nets,” made of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, spices and agave; the “Brighton Beach Refresher,” made of carrot, orange, celery and ginger; and the “Greenwood Mango,” made of mango, pineapple, spinach, mango nectar and agave
And the price point is extraordinarily lower than your average juice bar, with all juices starting at $7. Their $12 salmon sandwiches are spilling over with salmon, and at $10 you can get their Vanderbilt Veggie Burger– made of chickpea, lentil, carrot, onion, celery patty, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled vegetables and chipotle sauce– which by itself is a delicious whole meal.
And what you don’t get your fill of from their fresh juices, salads or sandwiches, you definitely get from their vibe. The space is friendly and has a way of convincing you to stay awhile.
“While we were building the space, we made so many friends in the neighborhood. We had so much fun talking about the space to people around us watching it come together. So by the time we opened, we were welcomed into the neighborhood with open arms,” Warren said. “And people know it’s a safe space… It’s really humbling to hear parents tell their kids ‘Go to Brooklyn Blend and wait for us.’”
Bklyn Blend is expanding. They’ve already identified and closed on a new space in East New York, which is scheduled to open in about one year, said Warren.
Bklyn Blend is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00am – 8:30pm; Saturdays, from 9:00am – 8:30pm; and Sundays from 9:00am – 5:00pm.