They call it Budin (pronounced booth-in) – An Icelandic all-encompassing word for shop, and that is what the newest entrant to the ever-blossoming retail market in the neighborhood is aspiring to be.
It’s not just coffee they’re serving, it’s a Nordic lifestyle. So proclaim the owners of the store, Greenpoint residents Crystal Pei and Elliot Rayman, and their Icelandic, business partner, Rut Hermannsdottir.
Walking through the sleek wood-paneled interiors – compact shelves lined with coffee beans, sweet and salty licorice, and chic knitwear sourced directly from Scandinavia – the atmosphere they’re creating for customers is quickly evident.
On Monday, Rayman, the coffee expert and barista at the store, prepared coffee sourced from Portland, Oregan using an Aeropress. The coffee used is similar to the ones the owners tasted while taking a month long coffee-tasting trip through the Scandinavian countries.
Pei rung up customers on her iPad cashier, talking animatedly about the concept of the store. The couple she was interacting with hailed from Winnipeg, a city close to where Pei grew up in Canada. They bonded over the presence of a strong Icelandic community in that city. A steady stream of customers continued to enter the store, some grabbed cups of coffee and began typing away on their laptops on adjacent tables. Others inquired about the different types of coffee, remarking they had heard about the store on neighborhood blogs.
The type of atmosphere the morning hours engendered is exactly the vibe the owners are going for – a homely environment if you will—where customers can drink coffee, eat Danish bread from Torst, the bar on Manhattan Avenue, browse through Nordic art books, and sample Siggi’s skyr – Icelandic-style yogurt.
“It’s a concept lifestyle store,” said Pei. “We have coffee, design goods, and snacks. Scandinavia is really cold. You do a lot of stuff indoors, and a lot of big places are multi-functional. You need to have a place where you can do a little bit everything. You don’t want to be in 25 different places. I want to create that kind of a neighborhood environment.”
All three owners have a strong connection to Scandinavia. Raymer, who is also a musician, has toured there. Pei, who works as a film colorist, worked on film projects in Scandinavia, which is where she met Hermannsdottir, who also works in film production. However the idea for the shop germinated in Greenpoint. Pei met Raymer at a local coffee shop where they bonded over their love for all things Scandinavia – and along with Hermannsdottir – wanted to bring some form of that passion to Brooklyn.
Much has already been made of the store’s licorice-infused $7 latte, but as Raymer explained, the drink is more like a “special treat,” and the intense focus on it distracts from the true nature of the store – a place to hang out and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Pei says the attention hasn’t hurt. In fact it has attracted more customers to their store and they have already run out of the syrup. But she insisted the store wasn’t trying to put out outrageous prices just to drum up publicity, and the price of the particular drink had to do with the quality of the ingredients used.
The shop has also faced problems with its liquor license. Norwegian beer is another component owners hope to add to the eclectic mix at the store. But neighbors and the community board were far from thrilled. Their liquor license application was rejected both by the board and the state liquor authority.
Pei says the fracas was essentially a form of miscommunication. Budin closes its doors at 8 p.m. – when most bars are only starting their business. And beer is just one of many components that are integral to the identity of the store. Pei said she understood how residents might have construed it as just another bar opening in the neighborhood.
“I think people had the wrong idea of who were going to be,” said Pei. “I understand their positions. We just have to work with them and prove to them that we are good neighbors, and I believe we can do that.”
The owners are reapplying for the license and Pei expects the matter to be settled in the next couple of months.
For the meantime, the owners are just looking to settle into the routine of everyday business, creating a warm atmosphere for neighbors in the frigid temperatures, selling quality products and getting acquainted with neighbors.
In coming months they expect to get a Finnish chef on board to craft a store-based menu. In April, Norwegian coffee maestro, Tim Wendelboe – whose coffee is served at the store – will conduct coffee-making classes at the shop.
For store timings and more information visit http://budin-nyc.com/about.