You don’t want to mess with these moms or their stuff.
At the end of 2020, Catherine Willhoit and Kristin Karotkin opened The Hive in Hoboken. A mom-friendly café with young children, it includes a playground, retail stores, home baked goods and specialty coffee drinks.
Willhoit and Karotkin met in a group for new moms years ago and quickly became friends. They were also fired from their jobs around the time they had children, which led to their new venture.
“I believe everything is a dot on the map of your life,” Willhoit says. “Everything connects you to what you need to do.”
Since opening, the women have introduced a series of Hive After Five evening events, which includes Drag Queen Bingo. On weekend mornings, customers may find a line up the block before the doors open at 8 a.m. Locals and visitors to Hoboken sacrifice sleeping late on weekends to wait for fresh homemade cinnamon rolls from the hive, served only on Saturdays and Sundays.
For Pride Month in June, the Hive raises funds for the Hudson Pride Center. Customers can purchase paper hearts and add them to the Hive Showcase, where they will be displayed until the end of the month. For each heart purchased, the hive matches the amount with a donation to the Hudson Pride Center.
“We made a lot of new friendships,” says Karotkin. “It’s great to see such a mix of people who make up our Hive community,”
How did you two meet?
Catherine Willhoit: We both had babies at the same time and used to go to this new mom support group in Hoboken. We found common ground there. One day I asked if anyone wanted a glass of wine, and seven women pulled up with their strollers, and Kristin was one of them. From there, we became very good friends.
How did the idea of going into business come about?
Kristin Karotkin: When our kids were toddlers it was easy to transport them to happy hour or the coffee shop, but when they started to move it became more difficult. We both felt like there was no place that served both us and our children.
CT: We started to flirt with the idea of creating a place, but it seemed so impossible. I remember one day we were together in a coffee shop, and Kristin turned to me and said, “How about we do this? And I was like, “I guess we could!” Conversations went from very fantastic to a bit more serious.
You built something you needed, and Hoboken needed it too.
KK: Much of Hoboken is made up of young families and young children, so this is definitely something unique to Hoboken.
Your shop also sells lifestyle products. Why did you decide to include them?
CT: A place called Indigo in the Short Hills Mall really rooted our decision to incorporate retail into our cafe business model. What better way to spend your weekend than browsing cool products with a coffee in hand? We’re really focused on female and minority owned independent brands. It’s our way of supporting underserved markets in places like Amazon or Target.
Tell me about your pastries.
KK: We wanted to have homemade treats and we really wanted to add a nostalgic touch. We have four homemade cookies, all homemade: chocolate chips, confetti, s’mores and brownie batter. It was almost a happy accident when our cinnamon rolls took off. We launched them in February, the morning of a blizzard, and people were so excited about them.
Do any of you have a favorite Hive drink or treat?
C.W.: I love our brownie batter cookie. I’m so addicted to chocolate, it speaks to my heart and soul. We launched a cereal milk latte that was supposed to be just a novelty drink for March last year, but it’s our most popular drink now behind regular lattes.
KK: Before Catherine and I even met, I had tried hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes, as these are still my favorites. As for drinks, I would say that I love our salted caramel latte. This is my reference.
What’s new this summer?
CT: For drinks, a mint mojito, made with coffee and blended with fresh mint and homemade simple syrup. The Peaches + Dream with matcha, peach and white mocha syrup. We are also launching lemonade, which was important for us to develop.
KK: And the Hot Mama Latte with espresso and Mike’s Hot Honey!
CT: The team is so excited about this one. It’s made with Mike’s Hot Honey and it’s neither too sweet nor too spicy. The team was delighted. This is delicious!
Do you have a favorite moment in the growth of your business?
KK: We have so many regulars who are in the store every day, so connecting with people is really cool. We now know so many people in the community in a different way than just being in school and things like that.
CT: We’ve become a bit of a safe place for new parents, especially those who want to spend their days with a newborn, or it’s their partner’s first day back at work and they’re a little nervous. We have also become a place where children come to do their homework after school. Our intention was to create a safe community for everyone who walks through the doors. Seeing this come to life is so rewarding.
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