My Conversation With KAVA Owner Naomi Gottlieb on Fashion, food, and fierceness.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

And just like that, Pesach is upon us. *panic* Is your house clean enough? *panic* Do you have your menu yet? *panic* Did you start stocking up your freezer and pantry? *panic* Are you freezer and pantry even clean yet? *panic* Do you have brand spanking new clothes for your kids that you probably won't put on them because the weather won't cooperate? *panic*

Stop panicking and take a coffee break! I'm serious. Everything will get done. It's really important to take the time for yourself when you feel overwhelmed.

And if you live, work, or visit Lakewood, you should go to Kava! With their heavenly coffees and their new gourmet menu of freshly made food, carefully curated by owner Naomi Gottlieb herself, it's the perfect spot to meet a friend and relax, or take the whole family out and get everyone away from the kitchen that you're trying to clean.

Enter to win $100 to Kava by liking them on Instagram, finding the giveaway post there and tagging two friends!

A few weeks ago I sat down with Naomi to discuss empowerment, success, and of course great food. Because Naomi is a fashion maven in her own right (her last business was the popular Lakewood boutique Tabeez), and she's a huge advocate of self belief and following your dreams, we really connected and discussed some inspiring ideas, and I wanted to share them with you.

Fashion-isha: Hi Naomi. We’ve known each other for a long time. You we’re the original #girlboss way before it was even cool to be one.

Even though this post is about your hip new kosher cafe, Kava, your roots lie in fashion. And we know that good taste literally crosses over between fashion, style, design, even food and leisure. 

Years ago, when you opened up your boutique, Tabeez, so many of us were thrilled with the high-end-yet-affordable, trendy boutique you created. I was just starting my line of clothes, before I even knew what blogging was, and you told me to “dream big.” That has always stayed with me, and inspired me, which is a big deal since you’re like, what, 15 years younger than me? You we’re and are fearless when it comes to creating your life and realizing your dreams.

We both ended up leaving Lakewood (even though we just can’t seem to stay away for too long). As I was readying for my move last Spring, I heard from you about the new cafe you were opening. You knew I spent hours in the local Starbucks, working, blogging and socializing with my friends, and you sent me a message saying, “Kava is going to be your new hangout.”

Although I don’t live in Lakewood anymore, I do still love to go back, and I always try to stop into Kava. I love the vibe, the decor (the bathroom lights!), and now the incredible new menu. 

So tell us first, what inspired you to open Kava in the first place?

Naomi: I felt like there was a real lack of places in the kosher work to be able to hang out with friends, work (or blog in your case lol) or just be able to people watch and sit with a quality cup of caffeine and fresh homemade food. I mean honestly, what are our options? Starbucks- no kosher food and it has a commercial feel, bagel shop? pizza? there was really no in between, it was either drop crazy amounts of money if you want any type of ambiance or settle for pizza and bagels. I felt there was a void that needed to be filled and that's what I did. People sit here for hours chilling on the sofas with their friends, or settle down next to the fireplace with their coffee and laptop. I feel we have created a perfect balance that just didn't exist in the kosher market. Plus we have a drive through which rocks because you know those days that you have all the kids in the car and are starving or have a headache from lack of caffeine???  you don't have to even get out of your car, Thank G-d!!!!!!!!!

Fashion-isha: Let’s go back a little. You put your heart and soul into your boutique Tabeez. It must have been hard when you closed shop. Is there anything you can share with the women reading this post to help them deal with putting themselves out there to pursue a dream and then not necessarily being successful?

Naomi: Well firstly, as the say "all good things must come to an end", not in a negative way but that's just the cycle of life, when one door closes another opens, I truly believe with all of my heart that everything happens for a reason. You are totally right though in terms of having to face failures to keep on going until you reach success which can come in many forms. Steve jobs failed countless times, if he would have given up- we wouldn't all be glued to our iPhones.

Addressing my fashion business specifically, I definitely wouldn't call Tabeez unsuccessful, it was a major success, it was my baby for almost 10 years, I made so many people happy and confident through fashion and I wouldn't change a thing just for that reason. When the economy took a hit in '09 retail was pretty much down the tubes for the whole world so I am not unique to the effects of that. We did however, convert to online, which is just how most people shop these days. I continued that strategy for 6 years and the business grew tremendously. I even created my own accessory line and began designing and manufacturing my own label which I successfully went on to sell on many big name websites and QVC which is the largest television home shopping network in the world, had to do the whole live on air thing, being in over 11 million peoples home, LIVE! so by no means was Tabeez unsuccessful, definitely some bumps in the road but no regrets. Nobody should ever have regrets, go with your gut instincts, and if it fails, at least you tried! I have recently sold the business because for me I felt it was time to move on and continue my creative ideas in other areas, like KAVA!

Fashion-isha: Someone once told me, “If you try, you may fail, but if you’re too afraid to try, you have already failed for sure.” That pushed me to pursue my own original line of clothes. If you look at every successful person in the world, they can tell you about all of their “failures” and rejections. The difference between them and others is that they picked themselves up and kept trying.

Naomi: I couldn't agree with you more. Actually read a quote the other day and I love it, totally applies here "Giving up on a goal because of a setback is like slashing your other 3 tires because you got a flat."

Fashion-isha: So back to KAVA, I feel that you have filled a niche in the kosher world. There’s no reason why our restaurants have to be grungy and dated. When you sit in KAVA you feel like you’re in a cozy, boutique style space. How did you decide how to decorate the space? What were some of your inspirations in the decor?

Naomi: I wanted people that walked in to feel like they were instantly teleported into a cozy ski lodge or a warm rustic  living room in a cabin somewhere far away, we all need a break from the real world at times! we kept the decor rustic and authentic with a lot of natural elements that goes along with the theme of our fresh natural ingredients in our food and drinks. We utilized natural materials such as bamboo, natural stone, and brick (to bring a little edge). I'm big into unique so I really tried to make every corner a little different with something unexpected, from the decor on the walls to the hand paintings and string lights in the restrooms. we have many different style tables and chairs for the eclectic lived in feel, and it all blends and feels comfortable.

Fashion-isha: It really does! Let’s talk about the new menu. Tell us a little about it and what makes it so special and different from other places in Lakewood.

Naomi: Firstly we spent months perfecting our coffee drinks. we use the finest coffee beans imported from all over the globe and they are ground in house, fresh all day. Our food menu is very unique to the kosher genre as the focus is on health, without giving up on taste of course! We offer lots of healthy options that you cannot find anywhere else like spaghetti squash pasta, baked buffalo cauliflower bites, assortment of whole wheat quesadillas, salads, and veggie towers with fresh mozzarella just to name a few. We also have a full breakfast menu with omelets, sandwiches, and breakfast burritos. Our waffles and crepes are heaven, OK not the healthiest for a diet but we all deserve a treat once in a while!!! I love the apple pie crepe, it literally taste like fresh home made apple pie wrapped up in a thin crispy delicious french crepe. We are rolling out a new exciting Fish menu too, well be offering sesame crusted tuna steak on a bed of fettuccine and grilled vegetables, spicy kani salad, fish tacos with salsa and sour cream, fish n' chips, and fresh baked salmon that you can add on to any of our existing pastas or salads. So does that sound like a typical menu to you? LOL 

I translate my creativity into the dishes, I created them all and am always challenging myself to come up with new items so we can offer unique specials in addition to our regular menu.

Fashion-isha: So, what’s your personal favorite on the menu?

Naomi: Ugh I cant pick a favorite! That's like asking me who my favorite child is (I know we all maybe secretly have one but of course well never admit it).

Fashion-isha: I hear that. When I was there the other day, you kind of read my mind as to what I wanted and had an incredible omelet made for me. That type of intuitions is great when you’re in the food (and fashion!) business. If someone walked in and was looking for something healthy and dietetic what would you recommend for them on the menu? 

Naomi: There are lots of things that are healthy as we spoke about before... I personally like people to try things that they typically wouldn't order. I like to push customers to try something new and go outside their comfort zone. I want people leaving here feeling like they had a full new experience, not just breakfast or lunch.

Fashion-isha: OK. Enough of that. What’s you’re most decadent item on the menu?

Naomi: Well we have lots of pastries, the caramel cheesecake is one of my faves! The huge warm sticky cinnamon buns are also to die for. I would definitely highly recommend the chocolate Belgian waffle, its a huge thick round waffle, with vanilla ice cream, whip cream, chocolate chips and chocolate drizzle, its reaaaaalllllyyy good!

Fashion-isha: Now let’s talk about coffee! So many people are in love with their coffee. I had the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache Cappuccino the other day and it was heavenly. I’m thinking of being unfaithful to Starbucks for that drink! (Can you please open a chain in North Jersey?) How do you come up with your coffee combinations and will you be changing them seasonally like Starbucks?

Naomi: For you Sharon, I will open a chain right next door, Springfield here we come! We have put so much effort into really delivering the highest quality coffee drinks, which is really what makes it taste good at the end. The quality of the beans are key, and we don't cheap out! We worked really hard in coming up with unique fun flavors and spent a lot of time perfecting them. I personally love love love our s'mores frappe, our chocolate peanut butter frappe is also yum. there are way too many drinks to even talk about, and we do seasonal drinks as well so you will all have to come in and try some!

Fashion-isha: And I will! Do you have a funny KAVA story to share?

Naomi: This was more stressful then funny but I guess you can have a comedic perspective on it. We open at 7am, as the clock struck 7:01, 6 vans all packed pulled up to the drive thru, the passengers were orthodox, and from Mexico. They had spent some time in NJ on their trip and was so in love with KAVA that they stopped on their way to the airport to load up on food to bring home and coffee for their flight. Maybe they even opened a pop up KAVA in Mexico, they could have with the amount of food they took home, their luggage must have been overweight!

Fashion-isha: That's so cool. When we were chatting, you said some really empowering things about the way women should live their lives. Can you tell us some of your thoughts on achieving a positive day and ultimately a positive life?

Naomi: Well life is lived day by day, so I try not to get ahead of myself. As long as you can keep each day positive at the end that does equate to a positive life. I wake up everyday saying that today will be great, and no matter what is thrown at me (cuz real life happens) I still look at it that today was great. Obviously that was a lesson for me, or I don't know why something happened that didn't seem to go my way but there's a bigger plan and I know it will turn out great, what would it help to throw a pity party? LIFE IS GREAT! I'm alive on this beautiful earth, healthy, have my beautiful kids and wonderful husband, amazing family, and rocking coffee house of course! the only limitations each of us have are the ones we put on ourselves. We can have it all, you just have to want it and be willing to put in the work. And of course most importantly have faith/Emunah, because when you have that, you already have everything.

Fashion-isha: So true! What’s your ultimate goal for Kava in the future? What dream would you like to see happen?

Naomi: The ultimate goal is to make our customers happy!

I am pretty spontaneous and a go with the flow kinda girl so I don't like to plan so far ahead, I like thing to be natural and organic. I live in the present and today I am working hard perfecting whats happening here in our current location so we can offer the best coffee, food and service possible. I can definitely foresee more locations in the future, but like I said, I live in the present so that's my main focus.

Fashion-isha: You’ve already realized several of your visions. Name something else that’s on your bucket list that you’d like to see happen in your life.

Naomi: Your audience does not have time for my bucket list! LOL

I have so many things I want to see and do, personally and professionally its really too much to list. If I had to say one thing it would be that I want to see the entire world, every continent, and experience every culture. There are so many people on this earth and we live in our little bubble of NY/NJ, maybe venturing down to Miami or the Bahamas as a tourist once in a blue if were lucky... I want to see the authenticity of all the diverse cultures and religions because I feel that every person on this earth has a purpose and it would just give me a broader perspective on things. That's why I work hard now! I want o fulfill my dreams, and I can make that happen if I put in the effort.

Fashion-isha: And if you could have lunch or dinner with any famous person alive, or dead, who would it be and why?

Naomi: I'm really not into the whole fame game (gasp!) even though I have met a number of "celebrities" over the years through business. Once you meet them, you realize they are a regular person just like you and me, but usually with majorly inflated egos. I'd rather have lunch with my daughters, that's what matters to me most, quality time with people I love.

Fashion-isha: I LOVE that! Finally, if you could go back, what piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Naomi: Don't keep saying you wish you were a grown up!!!!! I'm definitely a kid at heart but I would kill to be 16 again LOL

One other thing on a serious note would be patience, as you get older you realize that not everything happens instantly and on your time line, when you're younger you just expect instant gratification. Good things come to those who wait.

Fashion-isha: That's great advice! Thanks so much for being here :) I can't wait to come back and try all your great food and coffee!

So if you live, work, or visit Lakewood, I highly recommend you stop into Kava.  You'll love it!

Win $100 to Kava Cafe just by liking their Instagram page, finding the giveaway post, and tagging two friends. Easy peasy. Unlike getting your refrigerator clean.

PS: A fun girls' night out at Kava is in the works for after Pesach, so follow KAVA on Instagram to keep updated. And don't forget to enter to win the $100. Winner will be picked next week.

Until next time,



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  1. This is great ladies!
    I smell reunion....