Vincentian fashion designer Donna Weekes and her son, Jamane, had plans of opening up a business together for years, and their vision turned into reality recently with the grand opening of Lips Café in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Located at 1412 Nostrand Ave., between Linden and Martense, Lips Café is an open space, “marrying great coffee, a pleasant café experience, art, and Caribbean culture and cuisine,” according to consultant Leah Rae.
Rae told Caribbean Life that the Weekes kicked off the official opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, where 400 friends, family and locals attended throughout the day, including New York Sen. Zellnor Myrie, representative for the 21st Senatorial District in Brooklyn, who addressed patrons.
DJ Njamba played a mix of Afrobeats, soca, reggae and hip hop to set the vibe, as guests mixed and mingled, enjoying food catered by Vincentian Corporate Chef, Kamal Rose, as seen on the popular show Beat Bobby Flay, Rae said.
She said lips logo teas and coffee cups by Ethel Fashion, Donna Weekes’ clothing brand, were sold and are still available.
Keeping it Brooklyn, Rae said Jamane and Donna chose Brooklyn Roasting Co. and Brooklyn Tea as the official coffee and tea distributors, complementing their Caribbean-American lunch and breakfast menu, including saltfish and roti, among assorted bagels, pastries, salads and soups.
“The open space with sleek accents, multi-colored velvet seating will now be the hub of family, culture and creativity in the East Flatbush neighborhood, where Jamane grew up,” Rae said. “Pop events, open mic poetry nights and more are set to take place here.”
She said Jamane has become a coffee connoisseur over the last few years, visiting different shops throughout New York’s boroughs and making it a point to visit the best ones in cities across the US.
Over the last four years, Rae said Jamane has been unwavering in his goal of opening up a coffee shop, adding that traveling to various shops “imprinted the idea that coffee shops should have a more grandeur experience than the ubiquitous Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.
“This year gave him what felt like destiny: the opportunity to open up a coffee shop and café in his childhood neighborhood of East Flatbush with his mother, Donna Weekes,” she said, stating that Lips Café is “something truly special brewing in East Flatbush, the newest black-owned, family-owned coffee shop in the neighborhood.”
Jamane said a coffee shop is “more than just a place to get an espresso.
“It’s a creative space, where people of all backgrounds go to either kick-start their day or lounge and create content,” he told Caribbean Life. “Whether it’s writing a school paper, working remotely, the venue for meetings, or ingesting the environment around them, a coffee shop is a hub for progression.
“I wanted to create that space for people and become part of the fabric of my community,” Jamane added. “Lips Café is to be is the embodiment of this.”
He said he has always wanted to own a business with his mother, who has always been sure to instill her Vincentian culture in her children.
Tying together his love for coffee and art, Caribbean-American cuisine, and Donna’s clothing line, Ethel Fashion, the two continue to honor Ethel, Donna’s mother, Jamane’s grandmother, with Lips Café.
Their vision came together with the name and logo. Jamane said he saw the need for a space, which is easily accessible by public transportation, right where he grew up as a child.
“I grew up here, I know how this neighborhood operates, the Caribbean culture, and I also understand the gentrification that’s been taking place,” he said. “Lips Café is a way to bridge gaps, and provide an experience and space the entire community can embrace.”
Coupling his enthusiasm for art, Jamane said he will “filter and feature” local artists’ work throughout the space, complementing the centerpiece Lips logo.
With the option for creatives to rent out the venue to host pop-ups, art exhibits and open mic nights, he said Lips will function as “more than your morning pick-me-up destination.”