Stomping Grounds
The Allure of Cafe Erzulie

photography Amandla Baraka
as told by Mark Luxama

Cafe Erzulie offers Brooklyn event space, exotic floral arrangements, and Haitian-inspired cuisine. Mark Luxama — one of the owners of the cafe, located in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood — tells the story of Erzulie and bringing Haiti to Brooklyn.

Photography & Creative Direction — Amandla Baraka
Stylist — Liana Jaime-Lopez
Production Assistant — Jalisa Arnold
MUA — Mykela Brown
Starring — Kyanna Felder

the meaning of Erzulie

So, In short, Café Erzulie was conceived about 2 years ago, by myself and a group of extremely close friends.

Erzulie is Voudou Orisha. She’s the goddess of many things, including, love, dancing, fertility, jewelry, and flowers. Shes characterized by her duality. Erzulie Dantor, is celebrated for her strength, power and tenacity. While, Erzulie Frida is distinguished by her beauty, love, and affinity for fine jewels and flowers. We thought the name was fitting because it encompassed our dual vision for the space; A place that was calm, soothing and beautiful in the day, with a flower shop in the front and garden in the back. And then, by night we become a place that reflects Erzulie Dantor and her affinities, such as rum.
We first opened in February 2017.

It’s hard to pinpoint specifically what the original vision for the café was, but I think one thing that we were always convinced of was that we wanted it to reflect Haitian Culture in a positive way. So weather that was through food, music, dance, poetry, art, or whatever else, the idea was always to share parts of the Culture with people in a ways that they haven’t quite experienced. And then, I think we also always agreed that we wanted the Café to be a creative space for people to express themselves, particularly people of the African Diaspora. It’s hard enough to find accurate and quality representations of diasporic culture, so I’ve always viewed the café as a platform to do that.

I hope [our vision has not yet come to fruition]. We’re only 6 months in and new ideas continue to spawn out of new connections, so I’m hoping that things just continue to grow, and that we continue to feel inspired.
It’s hard enough to find accurate and quality representations of diasporic culture, so I’ve always viewed the café as a platform to do that.
[As a person of color] I got lucky, and I feel fortunate. My Dad’s friend happened to buy the building in the early 90’s when the city was practically giving them away for free. I moved to Bed-Stuy about 3 years ago, and my Dad kept pestering me to go check out his friend’s flower shop. I eventually did, and long story short we made it work. I had no intention of doing anything but checking out the flower shop, until I opened the back door and stepped into the yard. It was full of junk, but having grown up in the city my entire life, I knew that 1,000 Sq Ft of outdoor space is priceless.

I have four other partners. Most of us have known each other for many years at this point. I’ve known all of my partners for over 10 years respectively. Chris, I’ve known since I was 8 years old, so teaming up with them has been great. When you’re working with a team, I think it’s important that you trust your teammates, and you communicate openly and candidly with them. It sounds really simple and cliché, but both of those things can actually be extremely difficulty. Purely based on the longevity of our friendships, our trust and understanding for each other differs from your typical working relationship, and that’s helped us a lot.
on the design
of Cafe Erzulie
We worked with two amazing humans, Adam Charlap-Hyman and Andre Herrero to come up with our design concept. Their team was really fundamental in helping us channel our ideas and refine them. We we inspired by several things. The aqua washed finish of walls was always a texture and color that resonated with us. The tile was inspired by, Brazilian landscape architect and designer Roberto Burle Marx. His designs incorporate a lot of swirly ornamented tile patterns that we loved. So, if you look at our floors they aim to capture his aesthetic. The bar also has a snakelike curve to compliment the floor pattern and create a flowy moving space. We wanted the space to look and feel open, fluid and unique.
We sourced our furniture from all over. A lot of it came from restaurants in New York that were preparing to shut down, which was ominous, but also great, because it was cheap. Our tables we made ourselves, and almost everything else was either found or takin from one of our homes.