By Eric Jankiewicz
A coffee shop in a changing neighborhood sometimes can be a controversial thing.
But the owners of Norma’s café in Ridgewood, 52-09 Catalpa Ave., have always tried to integrate themselves into the community.
Crystal Williams and Denise Plowman opened the coffee shop three years ago and during that time they have attended community meetings and helped artists in the area promote their work.
Plowman and Williams started a “support local art” initiative where they allowed artists to hang their pieces in the coffee shop, free of charge, as a way of promoting the art and selling it to customers.
For Norma’s patrons, the shop offers more than just coffee.
The menu includes breakfast and lunch items like sandwiches with black beans and eggs. They also have myriad pastries and baked goods — from cookies to vegan cakes.
In 2014, the owners started a kickstarter campaign to raise money for a second location that would serve wine and beer. They raised $5,611 through community outreach and word of mouth but Plowman and Williams’ true test came from the Community Board 5 meetings that they had to attend.
“We feel like Ridgewood is missing a great beer and wine bar. We want to create the perfect date spot or a place to spend time with friends and feel spoiled,” the owners wrote at the time. “Our goal is to pick all of our favorite things about wine bars and leave out all the stuffy pretense.”
The community board had to either approve or reject their request based on what the board members thought of Plowman and Williams as community members. Would they create an environment that would encourage drinkers to be rowdy and affect the neighborhood’s quality of life measures? Community board members ultimately decided through several meetings that Plowman and Williams attended, to grant the wine and beer license.
Now they are in the process of creating a second location on Woodward Avenue.
Earlier in May, PS 290 was trying to raise funds by holding a flea market. Plowman and Williams brought their coffee and other goods to the event to raise money for the school. They were able to donate half of their proceeds to PS 290.
Reach reporter Eric Jankiewicz by e-mail at ejank