Photos by Michelle Gillan Larkin
Lifted from bourgeois, Dictionary.com defines “bougie” as “a person who aspires to the upper middle class or a fancy lifestyle.” It goes without saying, then, that such an individual has “a taste for the finer things in life, and would, therefore, crave coffee that is better than average,” suggests Charmaine Sanchez, one half of the two-person crew behind the new Bougie Brews, a black-owned, community-centered coffee shop that just opened (yes, during a pandemic) in downtown Yonkers.
Along with boyfriend Donte Charlton who grew up in Yonkers, Sanchez, a Brooklyn native, moved to Yonkers a year ago to shorten her commute to the Harlem high school where she was assistant principal. First thing she noticed: “Yonkers is a great place, but there are no coffee shops!”
Although she’s passionate about education, Sanchez is equally passionate about great coffee, and opening a shop of her own in the YO became her “passion project.” Charlton thought it was just a pipe dream, but one day “she came home with the blueprints for the space, and I knew she was serious.” (Charlton’s passion is tea, so he’s behind the arm’s length list of leafy varietals up on the menu board.)
The pair of mid-thirties, first-time business owners gets their fair-trade beans from a roaster in Brooklyn that sources directly from producers around the word. Bougie uses a blend of beans from Ethiopia, Argentina, and Brazil, yielding a rich, intense brew that is undeniably silky smooth. And, that goes for a regular cuppa and the lattes, too.
There’s a small kitchen on site, so a handful of house-made breakfast and lunch items are available on the daily for the coffee to wash down. “We have a super simple, but personal menu inspired by the places we’ve visited and the things we’ve experienced,” says Sanchez. Think: Mediterranean meatball sandwiches because of that trip to Morocco, and sweet potato ginger soup from a recipe Charlton dreamed up himself. (Stay tuned for another of his liquid concoctions: the Bougie Butter Chai, which is an iced chai latte swirled with butterscotch.)
Bougie Brews is open seven days a week with a few tables and benches out front, but once indoor sipping is permitted, Sanchez and Charlton hope to host live music events, book club gatherings, and open mic nights. “We want to be a community-centered coffee shop, which is what a coffee shop is supposed to be,” says Sanchez. “We want to be the place where people get to know each other.” And, they hope customers will walk out feeling a bit bougier than when they walked in.
52 Main St