As One Door Shuts, Another Opens For Gourmet Coffee Shop Owner

Tracey Porpora Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Veronica Arze shares her journey of how she pivoted during the pandemic to keep her dreaming of owning a cafe ALIVE.

Staten Island

Two years ago, Veronica Arze created a neighborhood cafe where customers could enjoy a gourmet cup of coffee while relaxing in an an artsy environment when she and a friend opened Duzer's Local in Stapleton.

The single mother had built up a strong customer base — many of whom came in regularly for gourmet coffees, desserts and various locally-produced goods.

"Duzer's was successful and beloved by our customers, because we created a welcoming experience where you could sit and socialize, or sit and relax. We became a destination," she said.

But she was forced to shutter in March due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. And it wasn't long before Arze she knew she couldn't sustain being closed for an extended period of time, so she closed for good in May.

"When COVID struck [everything] changed. We lost that connection and the ability to deliver that [relaxing] environment. Business rapidly dropped by nearly 80%. The margins in this industry cannot support that type of revenue loss. As a single mother of three, I had to make the difficult choice to cut my losses. The expenses and debt would have been devastating," said Arze.

At the same time, Kevin Lawrie, owner of Enrichmint, a Tompkinsville-based 5,000-square-foot open, airy, modern co-working space that opened in January, was also struggling amid coronavirus restrictions.

"Business dropped off dramatically in March and the months following," he said.

Just when he was trying to figure out how to keep the business afloat, Lawrie got word of Duzer's Local closing.

"We reached out to see if Veronica would be interested in creating a strategic alliance at Enrichmint," he said. "Enrichmint has reconfigured our open co-working space to provide for social distancing and introduced new conference room facilities. Ultimately, we felt this alliance would provide an incredible value to our members and the community,"

A SECOND CHANCE Arze said she was more than excited to get a "second chance" at doing what she loves — serving up her gourmet coffees in a local, friendly and creative environment. That's when Vetto's was born.

The new cafe opened inside Enrichmint last week.

"When I heard from Kevin and he explained his vision for a strategic partnership at Enrichmint, it sounded like an incredible opportunity to relaunch to the community. The space, location and the collaboration with Enrichmint are enabling me take the original cafe concept to the next level with Vetto's. The customer feedback during our reopening has been amazing," said Arze.

And it was perfect timing, as business recently picked up at Enrichmint at a time when many people are looking for a change of scenery while working remotely during the pandemic.

"In the last 30 days or so, demand has begun to increase for all of our services, including shared co-working and meetings," said Lawrie, noting he's seeing many more remote workers who would normally report to offices in Manhattan.

"With offices closed, many people have been primarily working from home. Home workplace fatigue seems to be influencing some of this new demand. Time will tell if this trajectory continues with the constantly changing dynamics of the pandemic," he said.

THE MERGE Occupying the front of Enrichmint, Vetto's Cafe features a warm and modern atmosphere with cozy seating, eclectic decor, rotating artwork and the scent of freshly roasted coffee beans. Vetto's started serving its made-to-order gourmet coffee and homemade pastries on Nov. 14.

"I am excited to welcome back all of my customers and the community that was so supportive of Duzer's Local. I'm thrilled with joining Enrichmint on Minthorne Street and growing a new community of customers in a new neighborhood," said Arze. "Vetto's mission to deliver outstanding products and memorable service is my true passion."

Vetto's currently offers limited seating indoors, but customers of the cafe are eligible to purchase affordable day passes to Enrichmint's open co-working space, which includes a host of amenities, including ergonomic workspaces, fast wifi, complimentary flavored still and sparkling water, trendy meeting rooms and more.

Minthorne Street also offers outdoor space for sipping a latte at Inspiration Plaza, which is a public area set above Minthorne Street with sleek, black ultra modern seating imported from Spain. The space also includes colorful plantings by Cecelia de Corral from Brooklyn Grange and a vibrant glass sculpture designed by renown artist Henry Richardson.

ORDERING VIA AN APP In building upon the commitment to being a contactless workspace, Enrichmint members will be able to place their coffee orders through the Enrichmint mobile app. Customized catering menus will be available for meetings or events at Enrichmint in early 2021, said Lawrie.

"Our mission of creating 'smart luxury' workspaces and unique environments for members and their guests will be greatly enhanced by this partnership. Whether you're a daily remote worker or joining us as a meeting guest, Vetto's will be an amazing perk to have on-site," he said.

MINTHORNE STREET And one of the reasons Arze and Lawrie said they think the merge of the two businesses will be a success is because of their location on Minthorne Street, which houses a trendy, converted 33,000-square-foot warehouse with a row of restaurants.

The street was chosen by the city this summer as an "open street," in which it was closed on weekends to vehicle traffic so patrons can dine outside. Father-and-son team Gary and Sam Angiuli — who own the building that is named after the street on which it sits — developed the restaurant row, which also includes Flagship Brewery; DaddyO's BBQ and Sports Bar; Flour & Oak and O'Henry's Publick House.

"When we (Enrichmint) first opened, we developed this phrase and marketing message.. mainly to capture and describe the spirit of Minthorne Street," said Lawrie. "The phrase is: 'Built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.' Everyone on this block is a 'pull it up' by the bootstraps, entrepreneur. That really all starts at the top with Gary and Sam. It now also extends to Veronica and her story, which is why she fits in so well on this block."

VETTO's CAFE IN ENRICHMINT AT A GLANCE Address: 4 Minthorne St. Websites: www.enrichmint.nyc, www.vettoscafe.com/ Instagram: instagram.com/enrichmintnyc, .instagram.com/vettos.cafe/ Facebook: Facebook.com/enrichmint, facebook.com/Vettos-Cafe

___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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