You don’t want to mess with these mamas or their businesses.
In late 2020, Catherine Willhoit and Kristin Karotkin opened The Hive in Hoboken. A café tailored for moms with young children that includes a play area, retail outlets, in-house baked goods and specialty coffees.
Willhoit and Karotkin met years ago at a group for young mothers and quickly became friends. They were also fired from their jobs around the time they had children, which led them to their new company.
“I think everything is a dot on the map of your life,” says Willhoit. “Everything connects you to what you have to do.”
Since opening, the women have introduced a Hive After Five nightly series that includes drag queen bingo. On weekend mornings, guests may find a line at the end of the block before doors open at 8am. Hoboken locals and visitors alike sacrifice late weekend sleeps to wait for the Hive’s fresh homemade cinnamon rolls, served only on Saturdays and Sundays.
For Pride Month this June, the Hive is raising money for the Hudson Pride Center. Customers can purchase paper hearts and add them to the beehive’s showcase, where they will be on display until the end of the month. For every heart purchased, the Hive matches the amount with a donation to the Hudson Pride Center.
“We made a lot of new friends,” says Karotkin. “It’s great to see such a mix of people who make up our Hive community.”
How did the two meet?
Catherine Willhoit: We both had babies at the same time and we went to this support group for new moms in Hoboken. That’s where we found things in common. One day I asked if anyone would like a glass of wine and seven women came by with their prams and Kristin was one of them. From then on we became really good friends.
How did the idea of going into business come about?
Kristin Karatkin: Carrying them to happy hour or a coffee shop was easy when our kids were very young, but once they started moving it became more difficult. We both felt that there was no place that served us and our children.
CW: We started flirting with the idea of starting a place but it felt so impossible. I remember one day we were at a coffee shop together and Kristin turned to me and said, “What if we did that?” And I was like, “I think we could!” The conversations were of very fantastic to something more serious.
You built something you needed, and so did Hoboken.
CC: A majority of Hoboken is made up of young families and young children, so it’s definitely unique to Hoboken.
Her store also sells some lifestyle products. Why did you decide to record these?
CW: A place called Indigo in Short Hills Mall really rooted our decision to integrate retail into our coffee business model. What better way to spend your weekend than browsing through cool products with a coffee in hand? We really focus on indie brands that are owned by women and minorities. It’s our way of supporting markets that are underserved in places like Amazon or Target.
Tell me about your baked goods.
CC: We wanted to have some homemade treats and were very keen to convey a nostalgic feel. We have four homemade cookies, all made in house: chocolate chips, confetti, s’mores, and brownie batter. It was almost a happy coincidence when our cinnamon rolls took off. We launched them in February on the morning of a snow storm and people loved them so much.
Do either of you have a favorite drink or treat from the Hive?
cw: I love our brownie batter cookie. I’m such a chocolate junkie, that really speaks to my heart. We launched a granola milk latte which was only intended as a novelty in March last year but is now our most popular drink behind regular lattes.
CC: Before Catherine and I even met, I had tried hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes because these were always my favorites. As for the drinks, I’d say I love our Salted Caramel Latte. It is my goal.
What’s new this summer?
CW: For drinks… a mint mojito that’s coffee-based and blended with fresh mint and simple syrup. We also launch lemonade, which was very important for us to develop.
CC: An espresso tonic consisting of tonic, espresso and some citrus.
CW: And the Hot Mama Latte! The team is so excited about this one. It’s made with Mike’s Hot Honey and isn’t overly sweet or spicy. The team raves about them. It is delicious!
Do you have a favorite moment in building your business?
CC: We have so many regular customers that are in the store every day so it’s really cool to build relationships with people. We now know so many people in the community in a different way than just at school and stuff.
CW: We’ve become a safe place for new parents, especially those looking to fill the days with a newborn or it’s their partner’s first day at work and they’re a little nervous. We have also become a place where children can do their homework after school. Our intention was to create a safe community for everyone walking through the doors. Watching this come to life is so satisfying.
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