It’s rare that we hear good news about small businesses in Brooklyn, especially in the service industry, what with rising rents causing several eateries to shutter every month. While it’s tough out there for all food joints, we’ve noticed vegan restaurants having an especially tough time as of late, with Boerum Hill vegan restaurant M.O.B. closing last week. But maybe things are turning around for vegan businesses. Greenpoint became home to Screamer’s, the city’s first all-vegan pizza slice pizza joint, in June. Now another cafe that serves up delicious vegan baked goods and sandwiches is making a huge expansion too.
On Friday, popular Clinton Hill Clementine Bakery expanded to the much bigger space next door at 395 Classon Ave., taking over the former space of NeroDoro, the corner cafe that shuttered at the end of May, (R.I.P.). Clementine will hold onto its previous space at 299 Greene Ave., but use it for wholesale, while the new space will serve as the main cafe. We’re excited to see the popular neighborhood spot, which appeals to vegans and omnivores alike, able to expand its operation and become an even greater presence in Clinton Hill.
“The business was really growing, so we were happy to be able to use this space as a cafe and keep the old space for our wholesale business, which is also growing,” general manager Marcella Maki told Brokelyn. (Their vegan pastries and cakes, which include some gluten-free options, are available to order and can be found at cafes and storefronts throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.)
The new iteration of the bakery was bustling this morning, filled with folks working on laptops, reading, or chatting with each other while sitting in front of the open windows, looking out onto Classon Ave. It gets better: Soon they’re adding beer and wine too.
Owner Michelle Barton did all of the interior design for the space, Maki told us.
“She had a vision for what she wanted, to be able to use this fantastic light to create a bright and open feel.” And she’s certainly succeeded at that: ceiling to floor glass doors, which line both sides of the building, were left open up this morning, allowing a breeze to circulate.
The large, one room space is lush, filled with hanging and potted plants, which nicely offset the neutral-toned walls. Green awnings shade the Classon Ave. and Greene Ave. facades, keeping both the indoor cafe and the outside tables a remarkably cool temperature. Heat dome; what heat dome?
The process of expanding next door took seven weeks, and the bakery remained open the whole time.
“We closed two hours early the day before we opened, that was it,” Maki told us. “Everyone had to pitch in to make sure we could keep the bakery up and running while we did renovations. The staff has been really great, doing whatever needed to be done, from working late to making runs to Home Depot, you name it.”
The menu includes the same vegan pastries, cakes and sandwiches — the “schmancy,” of baked tofu, avocado, pesto, and spinach on a rosemary roll, is one of our favorite vegan sandwiches in BK for under $9. But they’ve made a few changes, adding fresh juices and new lunch dishes, such as quinoa bowls. Items that were previously only available for weekend brunch, like the tofu scramble, are now on the daily menu.
“It’s nice to see Clementine succeed like this,” Olivier Sherman, a regular who lives just down the street, told us. “I love the coffee, I love the pastries. It was already a neighborhood spot, so it feels like everybody’s sort of sharing in that success. I see the owner on the street all the time.”
He also thinks that the new space will be a big asset. “It did feel like they were a little cramped over there. Whatever coffee shop that’s in this space is lucky because they have these great windows they can open up. It has a real lounge feel to it, which is nice. I can’t wait until they get their liquor license!”
Lucky for Sherman, and all of us, Clementine, which opened in 2012, plans to add beer and organic wines, along with bar snacks, to the menu come fall, Maki told us. “A lot of changes are going to keep happening over the next few months,” she said. We can’t wait.
Clementine Bakery is open Monday-Friday, 7am-8pm, Saturday 8am-8pm and Sunday 8am-6pm. For more info, visit ClementineBakery.com.