New York is synonymous with energy, and entrepreneur Claire Chan has a lot of it. She is the owner of The Elk NYC, a community-driven coffee shop which has three locations, and Bar Beau, a hidden kitchen and bar concept in Williamsburg. On one of the last warm mornings of the year in New York City, we spent time getting to know Claire at her sunny apartment in Soho before walking over to her newest location of The Elk on Mott Street. The moment we rounded the corner on Mott Street, the only tree-lined block in Nolita, we were struck bythe peaceful energy of the new shop’s location, nestled near the back of the Elizabeth Street Garden.
Hi Claire! Tell us a little bit about who you are.
I’m the founder and owner of The Elk NYC, a coffeeshop that has three locations throughout the city. I also own Bar Beau which is a hidden cocktail bar and kitchen concept in Williamsburg.I’m originally from Canada but have called New York City home for 12 years now.
Between owning a coffee shop with multiple locations and a bar and kitchen concept, you move in a lot of different directions! Where do you draw inspiration for your businesses?
NYC is the ultimate place to find inspiration because it offers it constantly. I'm especially inspired by the people that live in the city, including my staff, our customers, and my friends. Everyone’s following their hopes and dreams which creates an unmatchable energy.
The Elk curates a selection of other small-business products. How do you select brands to bring into your space?
Our partner brands are an extension of our community. I choose brands that have like-minded values, beautiful design, and are the best at what they are doing. For many of our brands, I was also a customer and user of the brand before their products ever lived on our shelves. At our new location in Mott Street, we have a pop-up space connected to our primary space, so we’re exploring ways to continue to grow our existing relationships.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs on bringing their vision to life?
I have two pieces of advice. As an entrepreneur, you need to be purpose-driven. Being purpose-driven means having a clear “why” of what you’re doing and what you hope to achieve with that. My second piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help. Even though it’s your business, you don’t have to do it alone. In my experience, people are willing to help at every step along the way.
Purpose is important. What’s a shared purpose across your businesses?
For all of my businesses, the goal is to create community. Community is important to me, because even a small group can create big change.
Comfort can mean a lot of different things, and we bring it to life in our brand in a literal sense, through the fit of our clothing, and in a more figurative sense, through an inclusive community. How do you infuse comfort into The Elk and Bar Beau?
Approachability is something we share. I have a clear vision for each of my businesses but want to be able to provide offerings that can be enjoyed by many types of people. I want everyone that walks through my doors to feel as though the service model is accessible and that they belong in the space.
You’ve got a lot going on—how do you find time to #MoveInBeyond? What’s your favorite piece of BY to wear when you’re moving?
Intentionally moving my body is very important to me. I try to fit it in whenever I can, which means being flexible. Sometimes I work out in the morning and other days it’s the afternoon. New York has no shortage of great classes and studios. My current favorite classes are at P.volve for low impact movement and Club Pilates, New York Pilates, and Solidcore for Pilates. I love wearing the Spacedye Slim Racerback tank to these. I love all Spacedye and wear it around the house and throughout the day.
When things are particularly busy, what do you do to rest? What’s your favorite piece of BY to wear for this?
Owning a business can be nonstop, and it’s so easy to get into a mode of constantly running through your to-do list. Checking in with myself throughout the day is so important to figure out when I need to step away. A five-minute break is helpful for me and sometimes this includes breathwork or meditation. I’ve also found that taking a second to focus on my meal or cup of coffee or giving myself time to do literally nothing is a great way for me to reset. When I’m home, I love wearing the Spacedye Biker shorts with a big t-shirt, because they’re still chic enough to wear when I leave the apartment!
Where can the BY community find you IRL or online ?
The Elk has three locations. One in the West Village at 128 Charles Street, another in FiDi inside Brookfield Place, and our newest location at 228 Mott St in Nolita. Bar Beau is located at 61 Withers St in Williamsburg. If you’re not in NYC, you can find me on Instagram, @claire_cee!
Photography by Kevin Yoo