In the late 1980s, Melissa Rapoport was working in the corporate world in advertising — a world away from owning her own café in Park Slope.
But when her husband at the time wanted a change in his career, they started to brainstorm. They came up with the idea to own their own shop and sell coffee.
“At that time selling coffee was ahead of the curve, Starbucks wasn’t here yet,” Rapoport said, who opened Ozzie’s on Seventh Avenue and Lincoln Place in Dec. 1993. “While we were building our shop people would poke in their head and say, ‘Coffee? You’re going to sell coffee?’"
Ozzie’s closed in Aug. 2011, but Rapoport then leased a space across Seventh Avenue near Berkeley Place and in Dec. 2011, after holding a to find the perfect name for her new business.
Noella has been successful, but Rapoport, who holds a Third Degree Black Belt in Karate and teaches women’s street self-defense in her off-time, said she wanted to do more.
“It’s not enough for me to just sell coffee to people who come in to the café, it’s all about connecting with others,” Rapoport said. “It’s especially hard to connect with people in New York City, so for me it’s all about relationships with the community, with other business owners and community organizations.”
Rapoport’s goal for Noella was always to be more than just a café. She wanted to create a space that the community can use to express themselves, talk and make art in its many forms.
She sees Noella as the center of a web that is being built out further and further, connecting people of Park Slope with one another.
And come September, she's doing just that.
On Sept. 8, the owner of , a knitting supply store and workshop, will move into Noella. The owner, Maxcine DeGouttes will transform the front window area into her own store within the café.
“She came in and said, ‘You won’t believe what happened to me,’” Rapoport said, explaining the succession of moves Stitch Therapy had, from her store on Lincoln Place, to Fifth Avenue to finally Dekalb Market, which had to tell its vendors their lease was up due to coming construction of a luxury condominium. “It was a complete knee jerk reaction, I told her to move in here on the spot.”
DeGouttes, Rapoport said, is very excited to share Rapoport’s front window and make it her store’s new home.
“You can’t get more community than having Maxcine’s yarn store and work space in the front window,” Rapoport said.
Also starting in September, Rapoport is going to collaborate with the and have its falculty members host voice workshops in the café’s back area.
Christine Moore, a soprano vocalist, will hold voice lessons on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. Come Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. Mariana Iranzi, another vocalist from the Conservatory, will host a children’s sing along.
But it doesn’t stop there. Before the voice lessons, on Aug. 27, Josh Yellon, a guitarist who runs the nonprofit Guitars Not Guns, will host an open mic from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., which is open to all muscians, comedians and performers.
The Conservatory will also play concerts at Noella from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 27, Oct. 25, Nov. 29, Dec. 30 and Jan. 31.
To add to the music, a Brooklyn high school English teacher, John Dewind, will host a literature series for eight weeks, every other week starting Sept. 15. Dewind will also curate a music series called Underground Aboveground, where subway musicians will play various concerts at Noella on Oct. 17, 24 and 31 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Now, with her community hub underway, Rapoport said she cannot be happier.
"When I worked in the corporate world, I wasn't happy creating ways to convince people to buy things they didn't need," she explained. "But now I have created a small town atmosphere connecting people in Park Slope. And that makes me excited."