We know when one door shuts, another opens; but two Bed-Stuy 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. Hanging shells swing in the breeze as the sun slices across the garden; J Dilla’s voice floats softly outside.
You’d be forgiven for ordering a cocktail and forgetting you were meters from the hustle of Myrtle-Broadway; Haitian inspired hideaway Café Erzulie sets a convincing scene.
In February the café and cocktail bar added its name to the door of 894 Broadway, a building flower shop Flowers by Leslie has called home for more than 15 years.
By taking over the middle and back of the space, with Flowers by Leslie staying at the front, 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.
Luxama came across the spot after being told by his dad – whose friend, a fellow Haitian-American, owns the building – to check out the Flowers by Leslie; straight away he saw potential in the unused backyard. Him and his partners – two friends from high-school, one from kindergarten and his college roommate – worked with Reyes for over a year to open the space in what he describes as “a really nice equitable partnership”.
“Growing up in Brooklyn I’ve seen some of my favorite places disappear,” Luxama said.
“Being New Yorkers we were sensitive to that and wanted to work with a business that had been here for a long time.”
“It works seamlessly, he 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 local catering company Harvest and Revel. In May a liquor license meant rum cocktails joined the mix.
Every Thursday night live African jazz with steel pan percussion and bass fills the backyard, which Luxama said helps reintroduce people to different sounds that inspire the music they listen to now. A range of parties and food pop-ups have been rolled out, and Luxama says he’s open to hosting different types of events while focusing on supporting things that relate to the diaspora.
“I just want people to enjoy themselves and enjoy the food, the backyard and enjoy the ambience, that’s my number one thing,” he said.
And to add to that enjoyment, we can look forward to a dinner and happy hour menu in the near future.