Park Island Brew opens during pandemic because ‘people needed a place to go’
By Marielle Songy, Gentilly Messenger
Park Island Brew Coffee House, on Gentilly Boulevard across from the Fair Grounds Race Course, is all about family and neighborhood.
Kevin Davis, a 7th Ward resident, owns the building that houses Park Island Brew. He and his business partner, Chachera Brantley, first had the idea to open the coffee shop in August 2020, months into the pandemic.
“Kevin is a lifelong 7th Ward resident who owns multiple buildings in the area. I’m from L.A., but I have family in the 7th Ward and, growing up, I spent a lot of time here,” Brantley said. “I would come for summers, and I always loved New Orleans. When I had the opportunity to move here, I jumped at it.”
Even though we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Brantley didn’t have any hesitation about opening the café during such an unpredictable year.
“I actually wanted to open during the pandemic, because I knew that people needed something positive to focus on,” she said. “People needed a place to go where they could get their mind off of it for a while. I didn’t know how business would be, but we decided to just go for it.”
Brantley said the focus of the Black-owned shop, which opened in November, is to be a family operation that serves good coffee and offers good service.
“My main goal was to have a coffee shop where people could come in and see someone like me working,” she said. “It’s important for people to feel comfortable and feel welcome. They know they can ask questions about what we offer and they can feel at home here.”
Journalist Megan Braden-Perry is a regular at Park Island Brew. She likes stopping in with her son, Franklin, and she likes that it’s in the neighborhood.
“I live nearby, so I’d been waiting for it to open for quite a while,” Braden-Perry said. “The drinks are amazing and they made a great choice buying pastries from Gracious [Bakery]. Chapo, the café dog, is a friend of mine and Franklin’s now. Truly, it’s the best coffee shop I’ve been to, out of all the ones I’ve tried over the years — and as a writer, you know that’s a lot.”
Park Island Brew currently offers an array of specialty espresso coffee drinks and a variety of teas including chai latte and matcha latte. The shop also offers pastries and ice cream, and Brantley said that a food truck is in the works.
To make the shop welcoming for everyone, whether two-legged or four-legged, Park Island also offers dog treats as well as things that kids would enjoy.
Brantley has precautions in place to keep her customers safe during this time.
“Everyone has been following guidelines, and we’re doing everything that we can to keep people safe,” she said. “We have limited indoor seating, and we have outdoor seating as well. We wipe every space down [with disinfectant] between customers and we make sure that everything is clean. Customers have been really great about wearing masks.”
So far, Park Island Brew has been a hit in the neighborhood. I loved the vibe when I visited — a cozy atmosphere inside, perfect for work, and an idyllic feel outside beneath the trees of Gentilly Boulevard. The coffee is delicious and most certainly worth the trip, especially when the pastry case is packed with goodies.
Park Island Brew is open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Park Island Brew
1688 Gentilly Blvd.
Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.