NEW YORK—You’d never suspect that Blu Cafe is also a realty office if it were not for the apartment listings posted on its windows. The first things customers take in when they enter is the brightly sunlit modern décor and the cake trays displaying assorted cupcakes. People come to grab a drink, work on their computers, and seek real estate information.
Blu Realty Group and Tavalon paired up to create a new business model, a cafe and realty office hybrid. It is currently the only one of its kind in New York. The goal is to help customers feel relaxed and enjoy the experience of looking for a place to live.
“The first impact is the cafe and it’s what you want to eat and what you want to drink and [second], it’s your choice if you want to talk to a real estate agent to buy or rent an apartment or just answer questions,” said David Tobon, Founder of Blu Realty Group.
Douglas Elliman Real Estate had planned to open a shop of the same concept in 2009 but the idea was never realized. The company did not offer an explanation for the change in plans.
“We hope that the combination of our efforts could really draw a new crowd and also start a multipurpose one-stop shop that can enhance the experience for consumers,” said John-Paul Lee, co-founder and CEO of Tavalon.
The realty cafe is located at 120 Riverside Blvd., at the corner of W. 66th St., on the ground floor of Trump Place 120, and offers a view of the Hudson River. Tobon said that he sold and rented out many apartments in the area and a common concern for residents was not having enough public places to lounge and spend time at.
“Everyone has been telling us that they nicknamed [this area] the ‘Death Valley’ because there’s nothing around here,” said Melissa Allerton, the general manager for Blu Cafe. “There’s absolutely no options for them, they have to go to West End, etcetera, so right here, it’s just super convenient.”
The shop’s specialty is in high quality tea, but it also serves coffee by Fonte Coffee Roaster from Seattle and many choices of compliments. Lee said that the cafe will begin to carry a wider variety of foods, such as sandwiches, salads, and croissants from SoHo pastry shop Ceci Cela in the near future.
“Our goal for Tavalon is to make tea the number one [drink] but we respect the balance and everyone’s preference so we want to offer everything,” said Allerton.
She added that the customer flow has been steady since the official opening on Tuesday and feedback from customers is highly positive.
The two companies realized that the new model would create a win-win situation for their businesses and customers. It would bring in more foot traffic for the real estate company because customers would be able to sit down, look at listings on their electronic devices using the cafe WiFi, and have access to the real estate office in the same spot, instead of having to separate the tasks of browsing online and meeting with an agent.
“I think by having the environment to walk in, do a search for real estate, sit down with a real estate agent in a coffee shop, I think it makes it more personal for them to get to know the agent that they’re going to be dealing with,” said Tobon.
Tobon and Lee plan on expanding the hybrid concept in New York and nationwide. They are searching for another good location in the city to open another shop.