Women’s History Month Spotlight: Vanesa Kim of White Noise Coffee Co.
March 31, 2021
This Women’s History Month, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is proud to share stories of our many women founders and business owners. We interviewed Vanesa Kim, barista and owner of White Noise Coffee Co.
Vanesa used to be an actress and views staging the customer experience as akin to putting on a performance. Similarly, she identifies her coffee bar as a stage that should be the center of attention, and her appreciation for theatre and its aesthetics is evident in the design of her spacious location on the corner of State and Smith Streets.
DBP: Why Downtown Brooklyn?
Vanesa Kim (VK): We’re in the middle of everything. It’s right next to Manhattan, we’re in between Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn - we’re right in the center! We’re in between some touristy areas and some more residential areas, so we get the best of both worlds. We thought this location would be a lot of fun and very diverse. It’s definitely lived up to our expectations so far.
DBP: What’s your best-selling drink?
VK: The flat white — it’s an Australian drink! Before the pandemic, we used to get a lot of Australian flight attendants staying at the Hilton Hotel next door whenever they flew in. We’re very proud that we can serve a good cup of coffee to Australian customers.
(Editor’s note – Australians have very high coffee standards)
DBP: How did you get into coffee?
VK: Long story short. I used to do theatre. I grew up studying how to react, how to act in front of people on stage, how to be in the spotlight. That experience is similar to how I act as a barista. When I’m on stage, however I feel and however I portray to feel, the audience will feel, too. Every time I’m behind a bar, it feels like I’m on stage, too. Instead of a play, the audience, in this case, is receiving a cup of coffee.
DBP: How did you come up with the name White Noise?
VK: White noise gives you a sense of calm. In the cafe, all the noise - like the espresso grinding, the sink, the steamer - all that noise put together is the most calming sound a person can experience. We want our cafe to be pleasing aesthetically and auditorily for the customer. For example, when we shut the fridge door, one of our rules is “don’t make any sound.”
DBP: What would you recommend a first timer try at your cafe?
VK: We’re very proud of how we make our cortado. I’m from Argentina, so cortado is something my parents would drink all the time. Even when I go to another cafe, the first thing I try is a cortado; that can help me evaluate how much the cafe is focused on making coffee. It’s a very difficult drink to make!
DBP: Can you speak to the design of your cafes?
VK: My cafes have an Argentinian influence — there are a lot of plants and they are very rainforest-y. For this cafe specifically, we were very inspired by the European subway station vibe. Han, our financial manager and head barista, designed this location. We were in London for a coffee competition and the aura of the London Tube inspired us. The way the stations worked reminded me of how our cafe worked — sound wise. The station was so deliberate about the sound of the subway coming in, the doors opening, people sitting and being mindful of what sound they made — our cafe is like that, too.
DBP: Why do you think customers keep coming back to you?
VK: Just one thing: we stress quality. We take pride in our coffee and want to create such a good experience that there’s no way a customer can’t come back. We think the amount of energy we put into each cup of coffee is worth every penny. The first sip and first look of every cup is so important to us!
DBP: To what do you attribute your success?
VK: I would say my family — more specifically my grandfather. I know I’m going to be successful because I have to be. He taught me everything about being a strong woman and how to own a business. He raised me to be the leader of my family and to be stronger in the heart. I want to be just like him. Now that he’s gone and he’s in a better place, he’s passed me the baton and it’s my turn to be the leader.
Located at 57 Smith Street, White Noise Coffee Co. is a meticulously decorated space with enough indoor seating for social distancing. Visit them for a quick pick me up or a “work from home” pit stop — you won’t be disappointed.