Tucked away on the Western end of Nassau behind effervescent walls lies one of Nassau’s best kept secrets. Perhaps the irony of Louis & Steen’s is that the less than year old business somehow manages to be a whisper and a shout all at once. Word of the Creole and Cajun Coffeehouse sprinkling it’s New Orleans magic traveled quickly throughout the island of New Providence like a perfectly executed game of Chinese whispers. However, once you come face to face with the quaint coffee shop, shades of purple, blue and yellow emblazoned across its walls, the statement it makes dare not be compared to a whisper, it is blaring.
A dream 20 years in the making became a reality positioned directly across from one of the beautiful beaches that have become synonymous with the Bahamas, the view for the founders of Louis and Steen hasn’t always been the picture of perfection depicted in the crystalline waters and powdery white sand. In fact, the coffeehouse was born out of personal tragedy.
After a 10 year run working directly with Sarkis Izmirlian then CEO of Bahamar and the messy and highly publicized custody battle and bankruptcy with the company that would follow, Tara and her family couldn’t have decided on a better time to launch their family business. What started as a leap of faith propelled forward by what seemed to be a closed door of opportunity, has blossomed into a soaring success.
I sat down with Tara and her mother in law to learn more about the charm that is undeniably in Louis and Steen’s genes. Tara’s mother-in-law, Joyce Russell muses of the memory of how the coffeehouse idea came into play, she reminisces about her childhood when her father Louis would frequently shout out to her mother:
“Steen, give me a “swalla” coffee with that sweet potato pie.”
The saying became a staple in their household and a key factor in their company.
As the conversation during our sit down moved forward it became clear that there is an intense emphasis on family when it comes to this business. Tara cheerfully and with palpable sincerity says:
“we want you to understand that this is a family environment and we want you to feel the love.”
Such an emphasis on this family orient is not only clear when speaking to the founders but it also revealed in the overall ambience achieved by a combination of the cuisine, the aesthetic and of course, the coffee.
“We’re trying to create an experience for Bahamians that’s not here.” Tara states.
And that they do. The coffeehouse features authentic New Orleans recipes passed down by Steen herself ensuring that it’s all kept in the family. The iconic pecan candy and famous mouthwatering gumbo that was learnt directly from sharing the kitchen with Steen are just a few of the items on the menu that keep foreigners and locals alike coming back for more.
‘My mother was a teacher and in her retirement years, she made pecan candy, sweet potato pies, brownies, cooking up gumbos and she gave all of the profit to the church ministries. My dad was a businessman and he was a pastor and both he and my mother worked extremely hard. My father went from working in a brick yard to purchasing a sweet shop, to building a community supermarket, to buying and renting houses and then moved into building homes and financing homes. He went on to build hundreds of homes for blacks.’
“Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting and intricate. We wanted our main lounge to feel like someone’s living room with that Louisiana twang so we created this.” -Mrs. Russell stated.
It was fairly easy to see that the overarching goal of Louis & Steen’s was less about building a successful company, but more so building an authentic connection. A connection Mrs. Russell describes as wanting a sense of community.
As I pack up my things to leave the coffeehouse that has come to be my home for a few hours I ponder on the intensity of the story I’ve just been told. A dream took 20 years to come into fruition seemingly fermenting and strengthening with time. The passion of the founders was clear and it blossomed into something much deeper than just starting a business. One dream became a reality spanning the course of decades at the hands of 3 separate generations who all played a significant role in the intricately woven web that is Louis and Steen’s.
I take a final sip of my coffee and I can almost taste how much it means to these extraordinary people. I can taste exactly what it means to be brewed with love.
Dress: LSD Couture
Looking for someplace just as bright and vibrant to stay in Nassau, read more about Compass Point Beach Resort.