A new cafe, 23 Skiddoo, which officially opened on June 25, has breathed new life into a small strip of storefronts about a block from Watsessing Park on Carteret Street, embedded in the residential neighborhood on the border of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge.
The café is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and offers a wide range of coffee and teas, including cappuccino, latté, espresso, and chai sourced from Yogic Chai in Montclair. Cold drinks, juices, and pastries that come fresh from Balthazar Bakery are also available.
Its early opening time makes it convenient for commuters to stop in and pick up their morning beverage. Daytime visitors come to relax and enjoy the ambience, or work on their computers using the available wi-fi while sipping on a latté and listening to cool jazz playing softly in the background.
Hodge Halili, a 20-year resident of Glen Ridge who owns the three buildings housing the café and the two storefronts next to it, partnered with Evan Harrison Parker, a Montclair resident originally hailing from Ohio, to create 23 Skiddoo.
They worked to transform a vacant storefront that formerly housed a catering business into a warm and welcoming space, filled with eclectic touches, including a restored original tin ceiling, musical instruments, and sentimental antiques such as a vintage wall telephone donated by a family member.
The front entrance opens into the counter area where Parker mans the espresso machine to create creamy cappuccinos and other specialty drinks, while Hodge Halili welcomes and serves customers.
Couches in the front room provide some of the seating, but the main seating area is in the adjacent room, which provides tables, chairs, love seats, and even a chess set donated by a neighbor for entertainment.
The artwork decorating the walls is the work of local artist Michael Hammond, who lives around the corner.
Halili explained he had been intrigued by the architecture of the stores every time he passed by, and had always hoped to open a café there. Once his kids were grown, he explained, he felt ready to leave his 30-year career in catering, and finally fulfill his dream. After purchasing the buildings and doing some research, he learned the commercial strip had been built in 1923 and the phrase “23 Skiddoo” came to him. He decided that would be the name, in homage to the original builders. The phrase is often associated with the speakeasies of the 1920s, although there are various versions of the slang term dating to earlier in the 20th century.
Halili said that pulling down the dropped ceiling and finding the intact tin ceiling above was “the source of the inspiration of how to bring the building back to life.” He also credits Kevin Lane, originally from Seattle with a 25-year background in coffee, with coaching him on the creation of 23 Skiddoo. He emphasized that good coffee is key, and that their coffee is all sourced from City of Saints Coffee Roasters in Bushwick, where Lane now works.
“We’ve built a really strong relationship,” said Halili. “It’s important to stay with people you feel good being with.”
Parker emphasized the importance of the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere they are striving for, and said they will continue to talk to the local residents about what they are looking to see at 23 Skiddoo. He sees the location as a “hidden gem” with its proximity to the park and the residential area, and believes people will seek it out.
Future plans for 23 Skiddoo may include a variety of breakfast or lunch dishes as the business continues to grow, and perhaps live music on certain days. “It will grow naturally and organically,” said Halili.
There is currently a bench out front for customers to sit and relax, as well as a full water dish for dogs. An outdoor seating area in an open courtyard in back of the building is also in the works.
As for the adjacent storefronts, Halili has some ideas for the spots, including fresh produce, gourmet cheese and artisanal breads. But he’s in no hurry. He will continue to involve the neighbors in his plans and find the right fit for the community.
You can follow 23 Skiddoo at their Facebook page to learn more and keep up with any news.
23 Skiddoo, 33 Carteret St, Bloomfield