Berkins on Oak Co-Owner Andréa Hawkins talks about owning a business in Hartford and why community matters.

Why did you decide to open your second location in Hartford?

ANDRÉA HAWKINS: I grew up in this city—so Hartford feels like home for us.

After being in business for three years in Glastonbury, with our original Berkins Blend Café, we thought it might be time to try to scale our business. One of our regular customers, Jill Barry, worked in Hartford and came to our Glastonbury café to tell us about the space in Hartford.

At the time, the space was quite outdated, but Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the building owners offered to fund some of the renovations. Opening Berkins on Oak has helped us scale and expand our service offering to lunch and catering.

Tell us about the neighborhood and what makes it unique.

ANDRÉA: This neighborhood is very different from the Glastonbury neighborhood, where our first café is located. The area is primarily occupied by state workers, attorneys, and local government officials and their staff. The Frog Hollow neighborhood is intertwined with families and other non-profit businesses. Berkins on Oak café is located in an office building, but we get many compliments about the comfort of the space.

What key elements are necessary to start and run a successful business in Hartford?

ANDRÉA: Three main elements are needed to be a successful business owner in Hartford:

1. Support from the community. Hartford is amazingly diverse in its community. And further, the downtown areas change by the hour. This diversity means your offering has to reflect the richness of the community. Our food offering changes to meet our customers’ and building tenants’ demands.

2. Flexible product and service. We offer catering and rent our space for various events, such as affinity group meetings, parties, social events, book signings, and art exhibits.

3. Great marketing. We use various social media tools to reach and retain customers. Collaborations are important as well and help us make full use of the space and resources.

Photo: Andréa Hawkins and Doug Barber are co-owners of Berkins on Oak (Hartford) and Berkins Blend Café (Glastonbury).

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