Crown Heights’ new Classon Avenue cafe is a hit

CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN – It’s been an eight-year dream for Polly’s Cafe.

The small cafe – which opened in late September – has already become a hit on the sleepy commercial stretch of Classon Avenue in Crown Heights.

With indoor tables and an expansive backyard, the small display case can be deceiving.

Find out what’s happening in Prospect Heights-Crown Heightswith free real-time Patch updates.

Their coffee comes from La Colombe and pastries from Balthazar, but Polly’s also serves an assortment of simple but delicious homemade sandwiches in their small prep space.

Owner Terrie Mangrum, 55, has always dreamed of opening a small cafe at 766 Classon Ave.

Find out what’s happening in Prospect Heights-Crown Heightswith free real-time Patch updates.

Years ago, it was home to The Glass Shop, a 600-square-foot cafe that was once listed by The New York Times as part of New York’s serious coffee scene.

“I’ve always loved space,” Mangrum told Patch, “I used to hang out there.”

But the cafe was just one of the reasons the place stuck in his mind – 766 Classon Ave. is also where Mangrum met his wife, then a barista working at the Glass Shop.

Years later, once her son started attending school across the street, Mangrum would walk past the closed store and stare out the windows, thinking of what it was and what it could be again.

Since the Glass Shop, the location has seen a few pizzeria attempts, but business seemed to falter, leaving 766 Classon Ave. closed for most of the last decade.

“I would go, look out the windows and try to see who the owner was,” Mangrum said, but never without success.

Finally, Mangrum, who has a long history of working as a chef, including at the late Ft. Reno BBQ in Park Slope, found herself with a lease on her hands last June — almost by fate.

In May, she decided to quit her job as a chef at a Bronx charter school after nine years.

“I’ve had enough,” she said.

Two days later, 766 Classon Ave. appeared as a listing on Craigslist.

“It took a little while, but I got the lease the next month,” Mangrum said, “I waited eight years to get this spot.”

“I wanted it to be a cafe again, because I thought the Glass Shop was so cool. It was very cool and very welcoming and people were hanging out and you could meet people,” Mangrum said, “it’s is just to build a place of community.”

Despite opening Mangrum without an espresso machine (it arrived about a week later), she said business was booming.

“It just went off,” she told Patch, “like gangbusters.”

The cafe is named after her mother in Tennessee, who is thrilled to read her rave reviews online on her computer.

Future plans include maybe putting the BBQ back on and getting a smoker in the backyard for take-out dinners. Or perhaps a grill, for weekend specials. Eventually, Mangrum wants to expand to a place with a full kitchen, beyond his little prep bench at Polly’s.

For now, she is just focused on finding a balance and hiring more people.

“I’ve only had one day off so far,” Mangrum said, “but I just hired three people — maybe I can take another soon too.”

Mangrum says the experience has really come full circle for her and his wife.

“Now I’m the barista and my wife makes a lot of money,” she joked.

Visit Polly’s Cafe, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 766 Classon Ave., between St. Johns and Sterling Places.

Get more local news straight to your inbox. Sign up for free newsletters and patch alerts.