“To some extent, it’s a healthy bodega,” says Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, showing off his latest venture, Clover Grocery. The petite luxury market and pantry store is the sister to Café Clover, which Carone opened some two-plus years ago on the corner of Downing Street and Sixth Avenue, with a desire to provide restaurant-quality, good-tasting health food in a chic environment.
And while the Grocery, which opens today, is very much an expansion of the Café ethos, that’s not to say it hasn’t presented a learning curve for Carone.
“There is no idiot’s guide to how to open a grocery store,” he says.
His approach to the Grocery was to arrange the store how he would want to shop it: homewares, beauty products and the like are near the front; the back is the café, where blended coffees, matcha, smoothies and juices are prepared, as well as all the produce, and toward the checkout are pantry items, magazines like The Gentlewoman and Holiday, and single-stem flowers from Petal by Pedal.
“I always talk about the way that people grocery shop in New York — people just don’t have big enough kitchens and pantries to really go grocery shopping, so you really just go shopping for the next three days,” Carone says. “And that is why bodegas work — we want to be that, but healthy. You can come here and buy your protein, your sides, the stuff you need for your salad, you can buy pre-made, you can buy your snacks, your La Croix, and then you can also come and buy those specialty items.”
The concept sprouted from the demand for the seed crackers served in place of bread at Café Clover; enough guests asked if they were available to purchase, which got Carone thinking. When the space, which is located in the same building as Café Clover, became available, it was too good to pass up.
“The Café Clover kitchen is on the lower level, so it is all the same building — we connect through a back stairwell,” Carone says. “Everything gets made [in Café Clover] and then we just cart it over. So many of the places that have other specialty [items] make all their stuff in a big commercial kitchen in New Jersey or Queens, [N.Y.], and then they bring it in every morning, and then by the end of the day it’s kind of old, and it’s also made in a commercial kitchen.”
The Grocery currently stocks items like Alison Lou brooches; La Ligne market totes, which are for sale and also used in place of shopping baskets; beauty items from Vintner’s Daughter and Bamford beauty, and wellness lines like Sun Potion and Moon Juice.
“The things that we’re selling are so special that they make a better gift than a candle or a traditional thing to bring,” Carone says. “A great housewarming gift could be an amazing honey or amazing salt thing and you’re good.”
The central long table expands to seat 20, giving the Clover team the opportunity to host private dinners, something they’ve never had the space for at the Café.
In addition to all the salts and honeys and the like, the core business of the Grocery is the fresh food itself. “It’s a little bit like Blue Apron but more local and a little bit more finished,” Carone says, picking up cartons of asparagus and cauliflower rice. “The carrots are already roasted, and then you can grab your steak, you can grab your lettuce and put your salad together however you decide.”
Just like your local bodega, right?
“You go to Citarella’s and there might be six frozen pizzas and I don’t know which one is actually good for you — one could be full of fat and soy cheese but it looks pretty so you think that it’s healthy,” Carone explains. “So we’re trying to have one or two things per category that are just the best in the category. Best honey, best maple syrup, best mayonnaise, best meat. There’s a commitment that everything you eat is good for you — we’ve done the homework, basically.”