“I want this place to be the local hangout, but one where Mom feels cool calling the landline,” said new co-owner Sarah Flaccavento, who envisions the cafes as places where kids can grow up. “Young couples can come to drink wine and hang out, then bring their kids for morning sing-a-longs, and then the kids come with their friends.”
Sarah, Marjorie and their french bulldog live in South Slope — patiently awaiting the arrival of the newest addition to their family.
Sarah was looking to make a life change when their baby was born, and it was serendipitous that she and her wife, Marjorie Flaccavento, found the two cafes up for sale: Lark, at 1007 Church Avenue, and Elk, at 154 Prospect Park Southwest. “Lark and Elk were profitable, well-designed businesses. We walked out from that first meeting [with previous owner Kari Browne] with so many ideas.”
This is their first cafe venture, but both women work in finance and are business minded. Married since 2014, they make a great management team. “Marjorie is my CFO, she’s a problem solver and a fixer,” Sarah told us. She wants the cafes to help support her growing family while contributing to the fabric of the neighborhood.
And in many ways, the couple wants to carry the torch ignited by previous owner.
“Kari wanted someone to carry on her vision,” said Sarah, distinguishing herself from other applicants who wanted to transform the cafe into a restaurant. “There is incredible creative design here that we couldn’t have done on our own,” said Sarah, noting their complementary skill sets. “Kari built something from scratch, and owed it to her customers, community and staff to keep it going.”
Sarah told us that she’d like to extend the cafes’ reach into the community, while leaving the atmosphere and coffee selection just as they are.
For example, she noticed that the cafe often sits empty after 6pm, so she plans to extend the hours, add a beer tap, more wine, and evening hors d’oeuvres. Lark’s back room already hosts a variety of kids sing-a-longs, but Sarah sees potential to book that space for private parties, weddings, PTA meetings, rehearsal space for acoustic musicians, book clubs, classes, and public events like open mics and drink ‘n’ draw sessions.
The couple wants to broaden the audience beyond just families with young kids, and be a community hub for an ever-changing demographic. “The neighborhood has grown and changed a lot, even in the few years that we’ve been here. We’re asking how we can grow with the neighborhood,” said Sarah.
Sarah already speaks about both cafes like they are her children, with their own distinct personalities and characteristics to be nurtured. “Elk and Lark are very much brother and sister cafes,” said Sarah, “and there are some hilarious rivalries between them.”
The transition to the new owners has been relatively smooth, thanks to the dedicated staff. “All the people who work here are friends, they hang out together, support each other and train new baristas. I love it,” said Sarah. They’re also helping Sarah perfect her three-level Stumptown Coffee training, as she learns how to make espresso drinks, clean machines, and more. “I made my first latte-art leaf!” she said proudly. “I believe that no one should ever work under you unless you know how to do their job.”
On the new owners, Kari Browne says:
Sarah and Marjorie are ambitious, smart, capable, energetic and pragmatic women who are going to do wonderful things with these cafes. I’m so excited for them and I’m also so excited for the neighborhood to experience the cafes under new ownership of these dynamic women!
And the process of meeting prospective owners and choosing was no easy feat. Kari says:
After the cafe’s Facebook messages went out and the article on Ditmas Park Corner was published, I received no less than 40 emails from people who were genuinely interested in buying one or both cafes. Over the next two weeks I met with experienced business owners or people who connected directly to my personal story of opening the cafes (without any real cafe experience) — all local to the neighborhood. So many people loved the cafes and many seriously considered leaving their jobs to take up the helm at LARK and ELK.
It was truly humbling and so encouraging to see how many entrepreneurial spirits exist in our neighborhood. So when more than a dozen offers started coming in, I was even more encouraged. But I wanted to know that the next owners would embody the culture we created at the cafes and could continue them on their path to success. I wanted someone who would think creatively about them and grow them, possibly even expand them elsewhere.
We’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sarah and Marjorie, and the new baby on the way, to the local business owner community. We look forward to many diverse events, extended hours, and new drinks — with the same thriving community (and strong coffee!) we’ve come to know and love.