Visit: 128 Charles St. New York, NY 10014
STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE for The Style Line
The Elk is exactly what the West Village
neighborhood needed. A dual coffee-shop and general store, owner Claire Chan’s vision for a neighborhood staple is embodied in the trendy-meets-casually low-key space. After stumbling upon the cafe on social media we were immediately enticed with the many images of The Elk’s decorative interior, colorful (and equally delicious) dishes and inviting ambiance. Known by cool kids alike, the West Village draws a crowd that is curious yet in the know when it comes to local hot spots. Despite this, The Elk’s community is all inclusive – which is just what Claire wanted. “We just wanted to provide a space where people could come hang out, feel comfortable, and be inspired.” She told us. “Watching how it grows and develops is probably the best thing about having the cafe.” After recurring visits, whether for a iced coffee or light bite (read: granola with steamed milk) it became clear that there was more to the story. Having a background in fashion we were interested to see how Claire was able to translate her knowledge and talents into The Elk’s brand. “I [also] really like to support the local, smaller businesses and have forged some really great relationships with vendors along the way.” Read on to learn more about Claire’s story, her mission for The Elk and how she’s inspired by NYC and beyond.
I was born in San Francisco,
What inspired you to include the shopping/lifestyle product aspect and what value do you think this adds to the community?
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.