Daughter, a new Crown Heights cafe, puts mutual aid front and center

Daughter coffee shop in Crown Heights.
Olivia Kubicki

A group of do-gooders behind Crown Heights’ newest cafe are looking to bring more than freshly-made coffee to the neighborhood — they’re hoping to create a communal meeting space that helps fund altruistic projects throughout the area. 

“Our profits are never focused on expanding Daughter,” said Sarah Elisabeth Huggins, who co-owns Daughter cafe on St. John’s Place “They’re focused on maintaining Daughter at the exact same size, and giving everything else back.” 

Huggins opened Daughter on April 24 along with co-owners Adam Keita and Brian Stoothhoff after pivoting from their original farm-to-table restaurant idea. The shift came as the pandemic decimated small businesses that were already struggling in Crown Heights, and as global protests launched in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

As mutual aid networks began popping up, and individual Brooklynites began launching various charitable endeavors to help their neighbors, the trio of small business owners decided to create a space that could be moldable to the needs of the surrounding community, and be used for different kinds of community events. 

Most notably, the coffee connoisseurs have devised a profit-sharing system that will spread a percentage of whatever money the cafe makes throughout Crown Heights. 

Quarterly, the civic-minded Brooklynites will donate 10 percent of their profits to a local organization. At the end of each year, they plan on donating 20 percent of the year’s profits to a more project-based local cause, such as someone trying to set up another community space or launch a small business. 

“Crown Heights is specifically where we want to focus,” Huggins said. “Something that’s building our community up.”

Daughter co-owners Adam Keita, Sarah Elisabeth Huggins, and Brian Stoothhoff.Mackenzie Jamieson

The cafe also plans on launching a family meal sharing program with volunteers working out of their kitchen to donate meals to local food banks on a daily basis, possibly partnered with an existing meal distributor in the neighborhood.

“We want to work with resources that have a good grasp of how to spread information and get these meals actually to people in need of meals, rather than play it by chance,” Huggins said. 

The storefront near Kingston Avenue has been set up with unique “stoop style” seating designed by Christopher Al-Jumah — a reference to the neighborhood’s brownstone blocks where stoops are the centerpiece of social life during the warmer months. After opening with a block party, the shop is planning on hosting a number of community events, including a latte-pouring contest. 

The three co-owners worked for years as baristas before staking out their own venture — an experience Huggins says informs their treatment of their own employees, who are paid $20 an hour with tips.

“It starts with treating your workforce with dignity,” she said. “They’re people, they’re not pawns.” 

Daughter (1090 St. Johns Pl. at Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights, www.daughter.nyc). Open weekdays 8 am to 4 pm, weekends from 9 am to 5 pm)