For all the acclaim the West Village receives for its charm — (dilapidated) cobblestone streets, (expensive) historic townhouses, and (overrated) Sarah Jessica Parker sightings — the far western edge of the neighborhood has been surprisingly underserved in a multitude of realms, including coffee (and groceries, and gyms, and ethnic food). But this week, a new coffeehouse opens with the ambition of bringing quality beans and locally sourced goods back to the hood: The Elk (128 Charles Street, 212-933-4780) has (softly) debuted in the former Mojo space on Charles Street.
Prior to founding the Elk, Parsons graduate Claire Chan worked in a dramatically different sphere of NYC as a buyer at a major luxury retail brand. She departed, disillusioned by the reality of the business, to take a sabbatical in California, where she was introduced to the coffee world.
Chan’s brother and cousin opened a coffee shop in San Francisco, Beacon Coffee & Pantry, in 2012 in North Beach. The extended visit out west influenced Chan’s decision to open her own shop back in NYC and use the same roaster, Sightglass, on account of its emphasis on quality, extensive training program, and mix of distinctive blends and single origin coffees.
Applying her eye for design to this project, Chan made the Charles Street space seem doubly large by sanding the floor, lightening the walls to white, and employing a spare, clean design of raw blond wood, reflective of a masterful carpenter’s vision.
Chan, in fact, credits the success of the aesthetic to quality carpentry work by Ennis McIntosh, which also had a hand in Saturday Surf NYC, the pop-up Gilligan’s at the Soho Grand, and several other cafes and retail shops. Other design touches include Chan’s drink menu stenciled over white subway tiles, the paper and the latest Monocle in the magazine rack, and the store’s name written on butcher paper hanging on a roll off a wall.
The name “The Elk” harkens back to Chan’s Vancouver roots and also hints that she intends for the shop to do more than serve coffee; it’s an extension of her sensibilities, which are reflected on the shelves of the shop: You’ll find rugs, candles, soaps, and other home goods from local vendors that espouse natural materials and sustainable production. The Elk aspires to represent a lifestyle, as well as provide a neighborhood hangout spot for any time of the day.
Coming soon, Chan will offer pour-overs of various single origin coffees via Chemex. West Village tea drinkers can select from a range of Harney & Sons teas. In a few weeks, Chan will expand the shop’s menu to offer breakfast and lunch — and possibly resurrect the beloved Mojo breakfast burrito — upon which she’ll subsequently launch an official opening. By then, customers may be tempted to camp out half the day, but don’t get too comfortable; I’ve been tracking the Elk’s progress all summer and call first dibs.