Coffee Talk with Claire Chan of The Elk
Welcome to the elk
photos courtesy of The Elk
Sometimes — in life and in coffee shops — you come across little unexpected gems. They're usually on random street corners, when you round a bend and happen upon something spectacular.
Enter, The Elk: a coffee shop that doubles as a general store and also may have captured my heart. Dare I be a bit mushy, but The Elk is one of those spaces you come across once in a blue moon. The one you always wish to discover.
I could go on and on about the decor, the coffee, the hand picked goods, but I'll let Claire Chan, owner of The Elk, take it from here.
Name, Location, Occupation
Claire Chan; 128 Charles Street; Owner, The Elk
The Elk is not your average NYC coffee shop. Tell us a little bit about the experience customers can expect to have when visiting.
Firstly, our coffee is roasted by Sight Glass roasters in San Francisco. I learned about them through my brother who owns and operates Beacon, which is an amazing little coffee shop in North Beach, SF. Sight Glass, in our humble opinion, is really going above and beyond to find the best beans sustainably sourced from around the world- so we are proud to serve it!
Secondly, we have our favorite housewares and foodie finds in our general store so customers can browse the shelves for interesting products while they drink coffee and eat delicious food.
Thirdly, speaking of delicious food...most coffee shops have some pastries and small bites to nibble on, but we wanted our customers to think of The Elk as their neighborhood spot for great coffee and great food —all sourced from Union Square Farmers Market right to 128 Charles Street. We take pride in our weekly shopping at the market. The food at The Elk takes coffee shop food to a new level, ranging from egg salad on sourdough and Chia seed pudding to our Market and Brown rice bowl. I teamed up with my friend and local chef, Sam Talbot, to curate the menu and our food story. The philosophy is clean, modern and delicious.
Tell us the story behind The Elk (and the name, which we love!)
I wanted to name the cafe something that embodied the vibe and ethos of my concept, and also represented my home, the Pacific Northwest of Canada. We have Elk everywhere, and they are pretty magnificent creatures. They are also associated with a lot of symbolism, things like strength and stamina. I like to think the elk has become my spirit animal throughout the process of opening up the shop.
What’s the best part about owning a coffee shop?
The free coffee!!! Hah, but truly, everyday is a surprise at the café; I see new smiles and familiar ones and it’s always a blast. I think we have successfully created a warm, inviting environment that I love spending my days in. It's always been my dream to have a place to call my own, a little gem — and The Elk is exactly that.
The Elk isn’t just a beautifully designed café, it’s a general store. What items are you be gifting?
We have some great gifts lined up in our general store. Beautiful linens, vegetable wax scented candles, organic dish soaps and delicious goats milk caramels made in Vermont. Of course we sell the chemex filter drip coffee maker as well which is an amazing gift for the coffee lover in your life.
The West Village is (in our opinion) the perfect location for a coffee shop. How is The Elk fostering a community on Charles St.?
The west village is the perfect place for it! Our customers are the backbone of The Elk and they have been so welcoming. The neighborhood really opened their arms to us and showed us we must be doing something right since we have a lot of regulars! That to me has been the best part of being on Charles Street.