It’s a very sad day for local coffee aficionados, as twice W42ST Best of Award Winner and longtime Hell’s Kitchen fixture Kahve Coffee has closed, citing rising rents and COVID-19-era challenges as devastating to the shop’s survival.
The West Side coffee shop, located on W51st Street between 9th and 10th Avenue shuttered as of January 1, said co-founder Erol Zeren, telling W42ST that the indie java joint couldn’t survive increasingly high commercial rents in the face of multiple COVID-19 shutdowns and financial setbacks. The brand’s South Florida outpost remains open to snowbirds and nostalgic Kahve fans.
“After COVID, we’ve never been able to pick it back up,” Zeren said. “People aren’t buying specialty coffee like they used to. Sure, we were fortunate to have our regulars, and thank God for them because there were a good 40 regulars that supported us no matter what, but that wasn’t paying the bills,” he added.
After struggling to pay the rent, Zeren and his team at Kahve came to a mutual agreement with their landlords to shutter. “I didn’t want to owe them any more,” said Zeren. “So we came to a mutual agreement and they came in on Monday and we changed the locks and that was that.”
Amid the heartbreak of closing after years of service to the Hell’s Kitchen community, Zeren had another concern — the future of his staff. “I’m not so worried about myself, I feel bad for my employees,” he said, “but I was able to get them jobs at local bars and businesses.”
Kahve opened in 2011 on both 9th Avenue and 10th Avenue and W47th Street before consolidating to one location, and its high-quality Turkish and Cuban brews, curated pastries and evening wine selection quickly became a favorite with West Siders and W42ST staff. Comedian Stephen Colbert counted himself a fan, stopping by the shop’s 10th Avenue location to pose for the brand’s Instagram account with a signature pink cup.
“I have been a loyal Kahve customer for almost the entirety of my time living in Hell’s Kitchen these past eight years,” said one reader on our annual W42ST Best Of survey. Another added, “Besides having the best coffee and atmosphere, the staff is extremely friendly. Great way to start your morning. You can tell that this shop is the owners’ pride and joy, and really put their heart into the shop.” Many readers who voted the cafe this year’s Best Coffee Shop cited Erol and co-founder Alex, as well the entire staff’s welcoming nature as motivation to visit — adding that “it feels like home!” and that “the staff is friendly and the coffee is strong…what more could you ask for?”
Zeren will miss seeing community members in Kahve, but as a local resident he is confident that they can stay in touch. “Luckily, I still live near the store, so I still see everybody,” said Zeren. “I didn’t put up a sign or anything announcing that we closed because the more I talk about it, the sadder I get.”
What’s next? “I’m staying positive about the future,” said Zeren. “I have a lot of things up my sleeve,” including a new medical billing company that will focus on helping Hell’s Kitchen and LGBTQIA+ community healthcare services with administrative work. “I want to give doctors serving the community time to focus on their patients, and be the first LGBTQ-staffed medical billing service in New York.
“We’ve had a very successful run,” added Zeren. “But it is what it is. You don’t fall in love with businesses, you fall in love with people. Kahve was my baby and losing a business can feel like losing a child, but unfortunately I’ve been there, I’ve done that — this is not the first business I’ve closed, so I know I’ll be okay.”