Maman coffee crush
On a resent trip to NYC I was introduced (through a friend) to the delightful Elisa Marshall (and partner Benjamin Sormonte), founders and creators behind Maman Coffee (but Maman is so much more than great coffee!). Let's just say I fell head over heels for them, their coffee, the food and their considered interior style, which truly resonates with my Interior Environmentalist ethos!
With cafes located in NYC and Toronto, I go behind the scenes and talk with Elisa about what inspired them to create such a beautiful experience for their customers.
What makes Maman a unique café destination?
I like to think what makes Maman unique is the detail that goes into it and our top quality cuisine. I was noticing such a huge trend in 'hipster cool' anti brand cafes, that were cold & uninviting. I wanted to create a warm environment where everything is beautiful, carefully curated & there is LOTS of attention to details. Somewhere inviting and 'cozy' and reminding you of 'home'. When it comes to the food, having my partner as a Michelin Staf chef also makes us very unique. Most top chefs have high end (and high priced) restaurants and its rare to have a really delicious top quality to go item or quick lunch at an affordable price.
When the Café’s design aesthetic was coming together, what was your process or inspiration?
Most of my inspiration has come from individual pieces that I have found and fallen in love with. My father was an antique dealer & collector growing up so ultimately it reminds me of 'home' for me! The overall aesthetic and branding was created from my love for mixed patterns. I found one common theme and fav colour, blue, and wanted each one to have meaning to them. When I couldn't find exactly the prints I was looking for I called upon one of my friends Candice Kaye, who is a talented textile artist from Toronto who just moved to NYC as well & I worked alongside her to come up with some great custom patterns. French toile with hidden bunnies (we have a love of rabbits) to pay homage to Bens heritage (and my love of toile), a floral pattern with both my mom and ben's mom's favorite flowers (roses & peonies), a tile print representing our time living together in spain and Mediterranean heritage and finally a watercolour stripe, a more classic American pattern with a little artistic twist!
How does Maman’s design make you a stand out Interior Environmentalist (someone who loves decorating with plants, makes a design commitment to up-cyclying and mixing old with new)?
Indoor plans and upcycling are two of my major inspirations when decorating. It allows us to reduce our footprint, reuse materials and most importantly have something unique and one of a kind that no one else has...and to me that is what makes Maman 'special' and stand out from other cafes and restaurants. From our one of a kind disposable coffee cups to our old postal carts made into couches, it are these small elements that make it special, memorable and from a business/marketing stand point - 'instagrammable.' It is too easy (and boring) to go to a store and buy a classic piece....which you will likely end up seeing elsewhere. We love the creativity, challenge and especially the hunt to find unique one of a kind pieces.
What’s the most exciting part of owning a business like Maman? What’s the most challenging?
The most exciting part to me (as cheesy & cliche as it may sound) is getting to do this all along side my boyfriend/business partner Ben. It is rare to get to experience so much in life together and spend every day with each other on this adventure...and still enjoy one and others company at the end of the day! ;) We have far from a 9 to 5, which always keeps you on your toes and no day is ever the same or goes as planned. You have your daily to-do list of course, but that always gets thrown off track when your Barista doesn't show up and you run out of bed to spend your days making coffee...leading me into challenges! Apart from the long hours, no weekends and ultimately having 'work' become your life when you run your own business one of the biggest challenges would be staffing and managing people! It is hard to accept that no one will care as much as you or do something exactly how you would want it done.
How has your experience as a female entrepreneur shaped Maman’s journey?
I think being able to share my passions and creating a beautiful and delicious space for my guests (and selfishly myself) by combined of all the things I love has made Maman and the concept unique and stand out from many others. I think the personal touches that you are able to put into something you call 'yours' make it unique, welcoming and all around special! I love hearing when guests comment on the little details and small things we have done in the space that I know many people don't notice, but those who do really appreciate it!
What advice do you have for women building their own brands?
It's ALOT of work - and get ready to sacrifice many things you may take for granted...I don't have any kids but I can relate to having a 24 hour job where you are always 'on'..sleeping is less, personal time is less ..I knew it would be hard - but not this hard and I had to give up a lot and still do! I feel those around me don't always understand if they are not in the same situation and have 9 to 5 jobs that they can 'turn off' at the end of the day and weekends. The investment of time over the last few years has been a difficult struggle, personally and for my relationships around me and as for advice, it is something important you have to recognise, and be willing to sacrifice before you go into it - but if you do what you love everyday it makes it all worthwhile in the end!
What are your goals for your business?
My business goals are to really create a lifestyle brand - I don't only want to be a cafe, bakery or coffee shop but I want to create a brand that encompasses many elements, from an event space to retail to weekly workshops...I would love to have a full market one day, a magazine, books...my idol is Martha Stewart and I admire the timeless and vast brand she has built!
What are your three favourite Instagram accounts right now?
I really love @harryandfrank and the aesthetic & photos, @sittinginatree because I have a wedding obsession and always get inspired with their beautiful events and @flora.forager as they have the most beautiful images made from florals!