Mug shots: Brooklyn’s cafe owners on how they’re staying afloat (and how to help)


For many of us, our favorite coffee shops rank high among the places we most miss going on a daily basis. And the feeling is mutual. “It was such a relief to hear customers tell us that coming to our coffee shopwas the first normal thing they did outside their homes in a while,” Paviz Mukhamadkulov of Poetica Coffee says, thinking back to the spring when the city began to open up again. “When their eyes filled with tears, ours did as well. Thats when we realized we are not just a coffee shop but a part of a neighborhood.”

It’s true: Our Brooklyn communities are built on independent coffee shops. We miss hanging out in cafes, and it turns out that cafe owners miss their customers, too. We checked in with a few of our favorite coffee shop owners to ask how they’re doing, what they’re drinking these days, and to remind you to support the coffee shops you love. Even if you’re brewing at home, buying your coffee beans directly from your go-to cafe (without using a third-party delivery service) can help your beloved shopkeepers stay afloat.

We chatted with three cafe owners about their favorite mugs, how to buy their beans, and how things are going.

Linda Thach from Little Skips

Linda’s favorite coffee mug: I love small mugs. My favorite is the notNeutral Lino mug and saucer set I got in LA many years ago. I love using a mug with a saucer at home because it makes me feel fancy.

Linda’s favorite coffee drink: Black filtered coffee.

How to buy coffee beans from Little Skips: Order directly from our website and click by location. Our coffee is always rotating so customers usually get a surprise ‘dealer’s choice’ bag when they order online. If they want to call in, then we will walk them through our current offerings and help with choosing the right beans for their taste preference.

How has the pandemic has affected your business? In so many ways. Our sales are less than 50 percent of what we were doing before the pandemic. We had to cut our staff in half as well. I don’t have a general manager at Little Skips East anymore and am back to being my own general manager at that one location. Our hours are limited to 8am-3pm, when we were previously open 7am-11pm, serving beer and wine along with hosting evening events like live music, the Democratic debates and various screenings, and art openings. Now, we only allow a limited number of customers to be inside the café and there is obviously no eating or drinking inside.

We had to work diligently on developing a Covid-19 Protocol doc and retrain staff via Zoom before reopening. Currently, for all locations, we are shifting into a marketplace (“The Little Market,” we named it to be cute). I’m hoping this will help with our revenue stream since rent and utilities remain the same as before the pandemic. We need to find creative ways to increase sales.

The three cafes in the Little Skips family include Baby Skips (1158 Myrtle Ave., Bushwick), Little Skips East (1643 Broadway, Bushwick), and Little Skips South (1038 Nostrand Ave., Prospect Lefferts Gardens).


The owner of Kos Kaffe reaches for this green ceramic mug day after day. Photo: Sarah Huck

Sarah Huck from Kos Kaffe

Sarah’s favorite coffee mug: I’ve been drinking out of this green ceramic mug most mornings for years. It took me awhile to figure out why I was always reaching for it, but I’ve realized it’s because the tapered top helps keep the drink hot. I’m a bit of a nut about hot coffee. Once it cools to room temperature, I lose interest, so this mug usually gets me to the bottom of my drink. Also green is my favorite color.

Sarah’s favorite coffee drink: French press coffee, splash of whole milk, no sugar. I love how much body you get out of a French press, and milk’s sweetness cuts it perfectly. I enjoy alt milks (oat, etc.) in chai and matcha, but to me coffee and cow’s milk are made for each other. And if I had a choice of beans, I’d go for a fruity Ethiopian, but I’m an egalitarian drinker.

How to buy coffee beans from Kos Kaffe: Please order from our website unless it’s a coffee emergency! We lose quite a bit of money on fees via online ordering platforms. We use priority shipping, so locals will usually get their coffee in two days. I’m also working on an Instagram shop, so follow @koskaffe and you’ll soon have our beans at your fingertips.

How has the pandemic has affected your business? Where to begin—almost no aspect of the business has been unaffected. Logistically, I’ve had to adjust our space, adapt to Covid regulations and needs, improve delivery services, and take a hard look at our inventory and supply chains to see where things could be made more efficient while remaining mindful that our vendors, many of whom I’ve known for years now, need me as much as I need our customers.

My heart aches for all the struggling small businesses right now. It’s a tough road. On a more personal level, I miss very, very much the creative energy I get from surrounding myself with the intelligence and passion of neighbors who used to come and spend hours with us each day. That din of voices chattering, silverware clinking, music cranking and the espresso machine going full steam…that’s where it’s at for me. It’s a different beast right now, but I try to keep a positive mindset and take it all one day at a time. The green mug helps.

Kos Kaffe is located at 251 5th Ave. in Park Slope


The owner of Poetica Coffee finds comfort in this simple black mug. Photo: Paviz Mukhamadkulov

Paviz Mukhamadkulov from Poetica Coffee

Paviz’s favorite coffee mug: I use this mug that I got as a gift. This mug’s design and feel made me fall in love with it, and the matte color of the mug looks pretty nice, too. Since there is no handle, I love holding it with two hands.

Paviz’s favorite coffee drink: My favorite drink is a pour-over. I wish we could serve the drink in our coffee shops, but it takes a lot of time to make it.

How to buy coffee beans from Poetica: The best way to buy our beans is through our website or just email us, and we  will send you a payment link.

How has the pandemic has affected your business? The pandemic has hit us in every possible way from financial to mental. We have endured a 60 percent sales drop, and after some painful changes we hardly survived. With the enormous help of our team and customers we are hopeful that this spring and summer will bring us back the normalcy we had before the pandemic. We are very grateful for all of our customers. While we still have a long fight until this is all over, we are not worried about making profits as long as we have enough to get by and make sure our baristas and our customers are safe. As a new parent and a business owner, many priorities have changed over the last 10 months. We at Poetica appreciate every day and most of all each other.

Poetica Coffee has locations in Cobble Hill (251 Smith St.), Windsor Terrace (1233 Prospect Ave.), and Williamsburg (561 Lorimer St.)

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