Typically, when a restaurant strikes success, it debuts new locations; opening a storefront is far less common.
This month, however, the health-conscious Cafe Clover — a 62-seat West Village eatery — marked a brand expansion with the debut of the 990-square-foot Clover Grocery a few doors away.
Customers can buy packaged foods there, but the newly opened space also bills itself as a neighborhood market, where patrons can purchase other goodies — including housewares, beauty products and fashion accessories.
We spoke with Cafe Clover partner Kyle Hotchkiss Carone to find out how this new concept materialized and what’s in store for the future.
Customers at Cafe Clover would always ask if they could buy packs of the seed crackers that we serve instead of bread baskets. My partners and I knew it was possible and also understood there are so many items we love that we could sell outside of the restaurant — and not just food. It helped that grocery shopping is a slight problem in this area. You’re not close to the downtown Whole Foods locations, you’re not close to Dean & DeLuca in Soho and Citarella is eight blocks away — to a New Yorker that’s far, especially in winter. We also noticed that visitors could go to those stores and feel confused by the number of items per sale in each category. We wanted to take the guesswork out of health-conscious shopping. Clover Grocery has a small footprint. We’re forced to limit [ourselves] to just one or two items per category — which we source from trade shows and personal networks. (The same goes for our housewares and body products.) That makes it easier for people to shop.
After stocking the food shelves, we still has space for other items. So customers can see Clover Grocery as a specialty shop — not just as a option to grab healthy food, but also gifts. We partnered with brands, like fashion designer Prabal Gurung and jewelry designer Alison Lou, because I thought they’d benefit from exposure to our Sixth Avenue location, which has gotten great foot traffic from tourists and people who work in nearby Hudson Square.
Clover Grocery isn’t a typical store. You don’t know if you should read the book on grocery stores or the book on fashion retail. It’s meant to be shopped in a number of ways — and there were a lot of challenges in understanding how customers would make their way through. After awhile, I had to give up on any preconceived notion of what food retail is meant to be, or how things are supposed to be organized, and go with gut instinct. I’d ask myself, “How do I want to shop in this space?” Now, we have a produce table at the entrance, with grocery items off to one side, and home and beauty items off to another, with a mezzanine in the back where patrons can get juices and prepared foods.
We’re scouting the Upper East Side for restaurant and retail space — our customers tell us there need to be more healthy-eating options in that neighborhood. I’m also developing a 48-room hotel in Philadelphia — it’s part of a renovation of the historic Divine Lorraine building that will potentially open around the new year — and I’m thinking of opening a Clover Grocery there.
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