Ms. Dahlia’s Café, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s go-to spot for Cucumber Lemonade and Green Velvet Cake may be closing soon.
Margo Lewis, the owner of Ms. Dahlia's said the store has been burglarized twice recently and, in both cases, the burglars nabbed the café’s rent money. Now, Lewis is struggling to find money for the $2,500 a month rent payment.
“It wasn’t a forced entry thing, so it had to be someone who has a key,” Lewis said Sunday afternoon. “But it’s almost impossible to make up from that.”
Lewis said she is trying very hard to keep the business open. As an effort to increase revenue, Lewis has started selling barbecue dinners alongside the usual pastries, deli sandwiches, coffee drinks and summer lemonades. Some of the café staff also have agreed to forgo their paychecks until the business can get back on its feet.
“They are really kicking butt for me,” Lewis said of her staff. “I am so awed by their strength.”
A sign posted outside the café’s front door explains to customers that the shop is facing dire financial pressures. Lewis said people who read the sign are saddened by the thought of Ms. Dahlia’s closing for good.
In the two years since it opened, Ms. Dahlia’s Café for Bed-Stuy residents, particularly the people who live along Nostrand Avenue. Lewis, who lives in Fort Greene, opened the café in October 2009.
On most days, the café is filled with about a dozen people, munching on bagels and typing on their laptop computers.
Some of the coffee shop's customers seemed dismayed at the prospect of its closing, saying it's beloved favorite in the neighborhood:
"I would never want this place to close, it's pretty iconic, and you know it's great to see this neighborhood come up with great bars and great coffee shops," said Olga Boyko, 26, a Bed-Stuy resident for two years. "We can stay in Bed-Stuy versus having to go to other neighborhoods to pick up food and coffee, so I definitely would want this place to stay open."
Alex Gale, 33, said it would be really sad to see Ms. Dahlia's close because it's a really good business and people who live in the area often go to the shop to work: "It would be a big loss because the food here is delicious. This is a black-owned business—something that's very important to have in Bed-Stuy, because it's not just for the newcomers or gentrifiers, it's for everyone who lives in Bed-Stuy."
However, Lewis said business is slowly dwindling at Ms. Dahlia’s now that the Vodou Bar next door offers brunch and alcoholic beverages. She said it’s difficult to attract customers when there is a new business a few steps away that is “using the same vendors and suppliers and menus” as Ms. Dahlia’s.
Lewis said the building's landlord has already served her an eviction notice, but she is trying to earn enough money to make up for her losses and avoid closure.
Daphne Surpris, the building's landlord and Vodou's co-owner along with Emmanuel Tropnasse, has declined to comment on the burglaries and eviction, stating only that they do not use the same vendors, as they have entirely different brunch menus, and they are a bar that sells alcoholic beverages, not a coffee shop.
Lewis said the best way to help keep Ms. Dahlia’s open is for customers to buy the barbecue dinners or drinks or pastries.