When Adam Keita, Sarah Elizabeth Huggins, and Brian Stoothhoff — who met while working as baristas at the beloved Partners Coffee — decided to open a business together, they wanted to avoid the pitfalls of other new spots opening in increasingly gentrifying areas of Brooklyn. As the trio planned the opening of their new “community-first” coffee spot Daughter, located at 1090 St. John’s Place in Crown Heights, they made it a priority to get to know their neighborhood before officially debuting. Throughout the winter, the team hosted daily pop-ups outside the shop where they gave out free hot coffee as well as pastries donated from collaborators like Leo Sourdough and banana bread from Dank. They met future customers and gathered feedback on what folks would like to see from them.
Enter Daughter, and the first thing anyone notices is the “stoop-style seating” — part of the design from Christopher Al-Jumah and a nod to the neighborhood’s architecture — that makes it a perfect place to hang, and yes, maybe even get to know someone new.
“We were a bit naive about what was involved in building out [the stoop]. It certainly would’ve been easier to just be a regular table and chair cafe, but that would’ve been a whole different experience...this is more special,” says co-owner, Stoothhoff of the interior design in an interview with Eater. Daughter also hopes to be a space where they can showcase the work of local artists and individuals interested in collaborating are encouraged to reach out.
The first-time business owners raised much of the funds for the project through a Kickstarter campaign and the generosity of their coffee community (Keita is also an alum of Sey, which is their coffee bean roaster of choice, while Partners donated the cafe’s grinder). Still, as Keita says, they nevertheless met challenges along the way that “humbled them” and delayed their opening. “We’re a bunch of young people doing this for the first time without a lot of cash. The [soft launch] taught us how to fight for Daughter….we were in the freezing cold, making sure that she was on life support and getting open — all while balancing other jobs,” Keita says.
Daughter officially opened on April 24, launching with a block party in collaboration with local pop-ups that drew an enthusiastic response. Now coffee service is in full swing. The cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Currently, Daughter has several pastry offerings on offer, such as “rye gooey buns” supplied by Cold Moon as well as raspberry jam thumbprint cookies, salted chocolate chunk cookies, biscuits, and more. On the savory side, there are gooey egg and cheeses on brioche, frittatas, a roasted veggie scramble, and chia pudding with a blueberry compote. But a more expansive food menu is to come as they build out their kitchen further. The team envisions that it will be ever-changing, while also giving a chance for more pop-ups to use their space as a platform.
The co-owners of Daughter say they hope to continue working the floor so that they never lose touch of what works for their employees, something they saw as an issue in prior workplaces. “The reality of the service industry is you’re making piss poor wages, where your boss is going to ask too much. What’s kept me in this is the solidarity amongst co-workers,” says Higgins, noting that fair wages and an overall more equitable way of running their business is essential to the coffee shop’s ethos. “The goal is to create a place that values both sides of the counter, but getting away from the notion of the customer is always right, and giving honest returns for the people who work for us, by making it a place that encourages growth, learning, and protects their dignity.”
When Eater spoke with Keita this past fall, a key pillar of the establishment’s mission was Daughter’s ambitious Family Meal program, a mutual aid initiative that they hoped could provide more food security in the area. The team is still fine-tuning the logistics of how that will actually function, but they say the program should launch later in 2021.
The team hopes that no matter how Daughter evolves, that they’ll continue to be transparent about their decision-making process along the way. “A lot of places hold their cards close and don’t show their hand,” Stoothoff says. “Yes, we have this beautiful Instagram and space, but we’re ultimately working baristas who are so grateful for this opportunity, and would never want to pretend like any of this process is easy.”