Visit: 128 Charles St. New York, NY 10014
STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE for The Style Line
To put it simply, THE ELK is exactly what the West
Village neighborhood needed and owner Claire Chan’s vision for a neighborhood staple is truly embodied in this intimate dual coffee-shop and general store.
After stumbling upon the cafe on social media, we were immediately in awe of the shop’s warm interiors, colorful (and equally delicious) dishes, and inviting ambiance. The neighborhood itself also serves as the perfect foundation for THE ELK, as it draws a crowd that is curious yet in-the-know when it comes to local gems.
Putting the “cool” factor aside, our favorite aspect of THE ELK is that its community is built on inclusivity and as Claire aptly mentioned in our interview below, “We just wanted to provide a space where people could come hang out, feel comfortable, and be inspired. Watching how it grows and develops is probably the best thing about having the cafe.” Case in point, this feature.
Whether you’re popping in for an iced coffee or staying awhile to sample a few of the menu’s light bites (read: granola with steamed milk) trust us when we say that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to THE ELK and all its splendors. Coupling this with Claire’s professional background in the fashion industry, we were interested to learn more about how this newly-minted founder was able to translate her knowledge and talents for aesthetics into THE ELK’s brand. Without giving too much away, discover the full interview below, where you’ll learn more about Claire’s story, her mission for THE ELK and her thoughts on personal style.
I was born in San Francisco,
What inspired you to include the shopping component of THE ELK and what value do you think this adds to the experience?
I also really like to support the local, smaller businesses and have forged some really great relationships with vendors along the way. Our community continues to grow by having these lifestyle items and these relationships with local businesses.
How would you characterize The Elk’s community?
Talk to us about leadership. How has opening The Elk and running a business informed how you lead?
Opening THE ELK has been a whirlwind learning experience, on so many levels. However, leadership is definitely a role that I have had to take in strides. Because I kind of built the business from the ground up, I really had to participate in each and every role in order to fully understand each and lead by example. Every day I learn something new about the needs of the staff and our customers, and now I have started to develop a more balanced view of the business as a whole and my role as a leader within that. I think that will only continue to grow and evolve with time, and through this experience hopefully, I can become a better leader as well!
We love your attention to detail – what advice would you have for local business owners when it comes to community-building?
I would say the most important thing is to be present – really get to know your staff, regulars, and neighbors as much as possible. After all, they form the backbone to your community. Take feedback and listen to what people want from you. Within reason, try to integrate their needs into your vision. It’s important to remain flexible and adapt your original notions of how/what to offer to what people are actually reacting to.