As I sit outside Bohaus, a brand-new coffee and flower shop that opened only a few days ago—on June 8th—scrawling down notes from my interview with the owners, I smoke a cigarette. I take a drag and breathe out, accidentally exhaling straight into the face of a young girl as she accompanies her family into the shop (they’ve just seen it and, attracted by the novelty of a freshly opened business, have stopped by for some coffee and treats). Between pangs of guilt for second-hand poisoning this little girl, I think: damn, this shop is doing some real business, here.
For a coffee-flower shop that’s just opened, Bohaus is already experiencing the kind of success it takes new businesses months to earn. But Jenn Hauser and Laura Bonnie, the shop’s cofounders, display a giddy sort of confidence as locals roll in and out, buying cups of third-wave (read: responsibly produced, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and—while I shudder to use this word—“artisanal”) coffee and picking out meticulously arranged flowers. And while these new customers, soon to be regulars, no doubt, come in and out of the shop, it occurs to me that Bohaus, the combined effort of two hardworking women with near-diametric personalities and a shared passion for coffee, might just be set to make a splash in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood they’ve only just become members of.
“I feel like crying,” says Hauser, taking a moment to focus on the fact that her dream of owning her own coffee shop, built with her own hands, made from her ideas, has finally become something real, something tangible and meaningful.
In the next hour or so, I come to find that Hauser and Bonnie are dichotomous in their personas—Jenn is talkative, open, bold, motivated; Laura is quiet, with a head full of dreams; she chimes in once in awhile with a tiny morsel of sagacity that answers a question I’d almost just thought to ask. Other times, she sits toward the back of the counter, munching on a bag of Doritos and musing about the future of her business.
“I do mumble a lot…” says Laura, speaking through a mouthful of chips. “This was very much… Jenn’s dream to open a coffee shop was very inspiring to me. I feel like Jenn’s personality—her ambition, her gumption—is very complimentary to mine. We are very different, but we have a really good dynamic together… it’s playful, and fun.”
The two women build off each other. They support each other. They even finish each others’ sentences. Their roles are also hugely varied: Laura is the dreamer, hoping to “bring beauty to the community” by creating gorgeous floral arrangements, one day aspiring to work with local growers like Youth Farm, a local farming operation that shares Laura’s belief in sustainability and environmental responsibility; Jenn is the doer, the “catalyst” (Laura’s words), the one who had the idea for the shop and knew she couldn’t do it herself, nor would she have wanted to.
Jenn Hauser hails from Baltimore, while Laura Bonnie comes from LA. They moved to Brooklyn for very different reasons.
Jenn, who had been working as a barista in Baltimore, moved to Brooklyn about two-and-a-half years ago, after a short stint in Colorado, “which,” she says, “is where I really fell in love with coffee, working with a really good roaster [called] Novo Coffee.” When Jenn moved to Brooklyn, she was “jumping around a bit… looking for a good place to land.” For a while, Jenn used her expertise in coffee to help open up and run small coffee shops around Brooklyn—Glass House and Burly, for example.
She ended up making contact with Scott Kobrick—owner of Kobrick Coffee, a nearly 100-year-old coffee roaster established in New York City. While her first business opportunity with Kobrick didn’t quite work out, Jenn would eventually make use of that contact a year later, when Scott sent her a text asking her to open up a coffee shop for Martha Stewart (that’s right, the Martha Stewart). And that’s where she met Laura Bonnie.
Laura moved to New York from Los Angeles in 2010 to be with her now-husband, and hasn’t looked back. She was introduced to third-wave coffee in LA and found the principles espoused by the movement agreed with her own. Upon moving to New York, she kept working in the industry, taking on extensive stints at Stumptown and Intelligentsia. “I appreciated what it was about,” she says.
Jenn and Laura worked at Martha Stewart’s coffee shop for a while, but they both found themselves dreaming of something more, something they could build with their own hands and put their own ideas into.
“I didn’t want to be the ‘cool barista’ anymore,” Jenn declares with gusto. “I felt cheap—I wanted to do this for myself. So, I looked at Laura and said ‘We might as well do this our own damn selves!’” And that—along with a spur-of-the-moment trip to the beach, where Jenn jokingly proposed the name Bohaus, a portmanteau of her and Laura’s last names—was how the shop was born.
Jenn offers, “We found the space and it was perfect and I told Laura: ‘We’ve gotta do this now.'” This, while Laura mumbles softly in the background about the shop being a once-in-a-lifetime chance: “That’s how people get things done.”
To start, the two women leased the space. But building out the shop was going to be a task, to be sure. Jenn, who used her work at the coffee shop Third Rail as an inspiration, took responsibility for the layout of Bohaus—from all the measurements to the angle of the bar, that was Jenn’s work. Her family even chipped in, too. Jenn’s father, a carpenter, knew this was his daughter’s lifelong dream, and came in to build the bar from scratch.
Jenn and Laura built the tables themselves, got the chairs from a New Jersey restaurant auction, and sourced several pieces of gorgeous antique furniture from Brooklyn Flea and Craigslist.
“I started taking floral design classes and was really passionate about that,” says Laura. Jenn, in the meantime, began buying coffee from her friends at Kobrick.
Soon, word had gotten out that these women were building something big, something meaningful, and their friends showed up en masse to support them. Their opening party, held June 4th, was packed to the hilt with friends who’d come from all over the city and as far as Baltimore. They knew how much this shop meant to Jenn and Laura. Everybody knew.
At the party, guests toasted with cold brew coffee or champagne, some holding a cup of each in hand. They were all there to support these two women realizing their dream.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own shop,” says Jenn, holding back tears in the moment. “I love the environment; I love meeting people every day. I really feel like I could do this and be perfectly happy. My mission is to serve good, quality coffee—I want people to drink their coffee black, and to get a great experience.”
Laura, ever the quiet one, says this is a dream born of passion, simply contributing, “I like creating a destination spot.”
Bohaus is the story of two women coming together to realize a mutual dream, to support each other, to work hard, and to build something memorable. And if they work with half the passion and dedication with which they talk about their business, that shouldn’t be a problem in the least.
Bohaus Coffee & Flowers is located at 406 Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Brooklyn and is open 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.