Photo from early November
Text and photo by Stacie Joy
Lucky Bar owner Abby Ehmann and Brooklyn Roasting Company founder Jim Munson are opening Hekate Café and Elixir Lounge in the weeks ahead at 167 Avenue B between 10th Street and 11th Street.
In a storefront that previously housed a dry cleaners, the new business is across the street from Lucky, the bar Ehmann opened in September 2016.
Here, Ehmann talks about the concept behind Hekate Café and the challenges of operating and opening a business during the pandemic.
What is the concept behind the new venture?
Hekate Café and Elixir Lounge will be a warm space infused with feminine energy, serving coffee and espresso drinks, specialty teas, and magical elixirs. There will also be interesting merchandise for sale with an emphasis on the mystical.
What prompted you to open a second business?
I have had new business ideas percolating — heh — for years; I honestly cannot help myself! Every empty storefront I walk past sparks an idea — what would be good for each space, what I would do with it. I was working on opening a bar/coffee shop/restaurant on the Lower East Side with a couple partners back before the pandemic hit, which obviously put the kibosh on our plans. During the lockdown, I was still thinking about how and where the Hekate concept could become a reality.
When things started opening up, I looked at several spaces and simply didn’t move fast enough to grab them. Then I would be at work, staring across the street at the FOR RENT BY OWNER sign, and think, could THAT work? I consulted with Jim Munson, my “coffee guy” and chief dreamer at Brooklyn Roasting Co., wondering if we could make a little café work, and we decided to give it a shot!
The reasonable rent was really the driving factor for this space. I sure wish more landlords would be willing to work with new businesses, as we have so many empty storefronts, which is a disservice to the neighborhood. I have been very fortunate with generous and understanding landlords, both here at my new location and at Lucky.
How did you come up with the concept for the witchcraft-themed spot?
I honestly can’t recall how the concept came to me! It has gone through many iterations, always coming back to, basically, creating magic. I believe people really crave hope and magic in their lives right now, which has been amplified due to the pandemic. People want to believe and be optimistic, which is difficult in times with so much overwhelmingly bad news. I felt compelled to create something with hope and magic.
And once I decided upon Hekate as the “personality” of the business plan, wonderful things just started happening. People have been seeking me out to collaborate, which I believe is a true necessity to make any business work these days.
How does proximity to Lucky Bar factor into the new location?
Opening a new business right across the street will make it convenient since commuting between locations will only take seconds. Friends who are already coming to Lucky will easily be able to check out Hekate. And my regulars are excited to grab a coffee before or after they’ve had a drink. However, ideally, Hekate will attract an entirely different audience.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of opening a new business during the pandemic?
Government agencies are always a challenge; for instance, learning that 95% of the awnings you see are illegal and working with the awning company to be compliant while also competitive — well, as competitive as an awning can be. They really don’t make it easy to run a business in this city.
The pandemic has inspired a whole new level of regulations and even more regulators. I can’t say what the rewards of opening a new business in a pandemic are yet. I am hoping that, as I’ve said, the desire for a little magic in people’s lives, and our ability to offer some of that, will prove to be very rewarding! I know that providing a haven for weirdos, and my customers’ appreciation of that with Lucky, has been extremely gratifying.
You can keep up with the new business and their opening plans here.