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Indulge In The Cafe Experience With Caribbean Flare At Brooklyn’s Lips Cafe

By Shenae Curry

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What do you get when you blend co-working space, event space, great coffee and food with Caribbean roots?

If you’re in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn, look no further than Lips Cafe.

Owned by coffee shop connoisseur, Jamane Weekes and his mother Donna, Lips Cafe is the latest upcoming staple in Brooklyn for locals, passerbys, kids and a one-stop-shop for creatives alike. 

Located at 1412 Nostrand Ave, Lips is truly already one of a kind, especially for this neighborhood.

Lips Cafe, photo by Shenae Curry

It’s easy to spend your entire day at Lips Cafe. You start your day with an Americano or Mango Latte and either your typical breakfast go-to or take a step on the island side of things and have a Bake & Saltfish. By noon you can have friends meet up with you as Lips also gives off a communal vibe that’ll make you feel like you’re in your family’s living room. Next thing you know it’s later in the afternoon and you’ve been more productive than you’ve ever been and satisfyingly full off of your choice of mango salsa salad, wrap or panini and well refreshed from any of their signature cold drinks like sorrel, mauby, ginger juices & lemonades. My recommendation; a salmon BLT and ginger pineapple juice, my personal creations. 

left: Lips Cafe branded to-go cup; right: salmon BLT

While spending your day at Lips, you’ll never know who you’ll run into. As a Lincoln University alumni, Jamane has an extensive network consisting of all kinds of creatives and you can sense it in different aspects of the shop from the decor to the art on the walls to the Visionary Society mugs.

After years of working from numerous cafes and cafes around the city, Jamane developed an affinity for the culture and when the opportunity to combine that with his love for art, it was a no brainer for him and his mother to join forces and create Lips Cafe. For years they’ve plotted on different business opportunities where they could merge their idealistic mindsets. 

“We both kind of see what isn’t there and aren’t so stuck on the constraints of reality. That’s something I’ve picked up from her. Idealism and what could be rather than what the obstacles are right now. There’s always going to be obstacles. We tried to get a dollar van together but there are too many legalities with that so we scratched that. We thought about opening a print shop, but it just didn’t fit right. One day I ran into this space for rent and from there, Lips was born. After that, I told my mom I found a space where we could bridge her fashion background and my love for coffee and the cafe experience and create something dope for the community I’m from and grew up in. The rest is history this point or its becoming history.”

Lips Cafe menu

With only three months of business in the books, Travel Noire sat down with Jamane Weekes to get some insight into what it’s like to create his own business from nothing. Check out his thoughts below and head over to Lips Cafe soon, tell em that we sent ya!

 TN: What are 3 key things you’ve learned about opening your own business in the first 3 months?

JW: Three things that I’ve learned since opening Lips Cafe is that you’ve got to be able to do anything & everything. You have to be able to literally do everything that has to do with the functionality of the business because things happen. There are so many variables and things always happen throughout the day. No day is the same and you have to be able to be adaptable and not have to find people to adapt for you. 

Two, I’ve learned that you can open something and it may look cool, but you’ve got to be there and ready to put the work in because the first three months to a year are gonna be tough. It requires a lot of growth. It requires a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of sacrifices. So if you’re not ready to do all that, if you ain’t ready to sacrifice or ready to really grind like nothing else matters, it is gonna fail. And three, I would say it also pays to be present because establishing relationships with patrons, the people that come in, is very important and it has to be organic. I’ve met so many cool and dope people in the last three months just from opening this shop because nobody has to come in here and I’m appreciative everybody does. The relationships that I’ve made in these three months are priceless for me. You gotta be there to touch people and to be touched and grow your space, grow your vibe, and grow your platform.

TN: What have been some pros & cons of going about opening Lips the way you did?

JW: Honestly, there haven’t been cons because those are just hurdles to get through. I can’t even think of a con.

The biggest pro that I’ve seen from opening this space is being able to provide something that hasn’t been brought to this neighborhood before. I’m from this area and there’s really no outlets or place to do anything and to see kids come in and be able to do their homework, see people with such inventive and great ideas be able to have events here and showcase their talents and their passions with me, has inspired me beyond belief. Somebody is always gonna be better than you at something and to be able to experience what people are better than me at has been very rewarding. It’s a pro just being around all of this dope energy I’ve been around. It’s been a pro to watch the place grow. Been a pro to just recognize your force, recognizing your cons, recognizing what you have to do to make things better. I don’t see any cons but I’ve seen things that we had to refine and we need to do better to improve the functionality of everything. That’s the beauty of it, figuring it out. 

TN: If you could change anything you’ve done (something you knew or didn’t know about the process), what would it be? 

JW: There’s really nothing I would change because change is the only thing that’s real and you grow from change. You grow from figuring out what you have to do better, you grow from figuring out the process. In the beginning, I didn’t know how to barista. I didn’t know how to work the special machine and that cost me a lot because I had to really depend on experienced employees. Aside from that, anything that anyone feels needs to change, I’m open-minded enough to know that I need to do that. I’m all about refinement. I’m all about making this place better. 

TN: What have been some drastic changes you’ve gone through in the first 3 months of business? Both expected & unexpected. 

Some drastic changes I’m going through at the beginning of businesses have just been a lot of inventory-related things. As a place grows, you have to figure out what your place needs because what you needed a month ago is not what you need now. In the beginning, we didn’t have really any wraps or paninis. We didn’t have a lot of the things that we have now and all those things came from trying to understand where we’re headed. We plan to become a fabric of the community so we listen to people that come in and take their suggestions on how to spice things up. I’ve added a lot of things like smoothies and wraps that weren’t there in the beginning. 

TN: Any advice you’d give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

JW:You’ve got to see it. You got to believe it. You got to know it before it happens because that’s what’s gonna get you through the hard times. There’s always going to be hard times when you try to do something great. If something’s supposed to be great, it’s gonna take some work because everybody has an idea but, you know, everybody doesn’t execute. So if you plan on executing, you gotta be ready to really put the work in. When you open up a business, there’s no boss – nobody to ask for help. You got to be able to figure it out yourself or be around good peers that could steer you right or have good advice. There’s no sleep, there’s no free time. You gotta really be about the grind and be about your vision because if you’re not, you’re gonna fail.

You come into this with your own habits that you gotta adjust and you got to build around. So I would say be ready for the grind. Be open-minded to criticism, be open-minded to advice from people who have done what you’re doing. As long as they’re genuine, they’re going to steer you right and it’s gonna be times when you don’t know what to do. And you literally need to be a sponge. That advice is golden. Also, really do your research on what you’re trying to do. You gotta be able to keep your head up to the storm. You gotta keep your head up, do everything. You gotta be ready to adjust. You gotta really believe that shit. Because if you don’t believe that shit, ain’t nobody else gonna believe it.

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Shenae Curry

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