Maison Mathis carves out place in city

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Photo by Larry Milstein.

After four months of operation, Maison Mathis, a Belgian Bakery and Coffee Shop on Elm Street, appears to be thriving among the city’s broad selection of coffee establishments.

Yale students and New Haven residents have praised the coffee shop, which opened its doors in September, for its artisanal fare and inviting atmosphere. Although manager Kelly Festo declined to reveal any details about the store’s financial health, students and local residents interviewed said it often appears crowded and that the menu continually adds new items.

“The upscale environment and the aesthetic is drastically different than what New Haven has seen in a long time,” Festo said. “We really appreciate the support we have received from Yale students and the community.”

The restaurant is co-owned by Skel Islamaj and Omer Ipek, who also own Rudy’s in New Haven. Festo said that the owners, who are both Belgian, created Maison Mathis to share a piece of European life with the community.

Ryan Davis DRA ’14 said he frequents the Belgian bakery because he enjoys the variety that the menu offers. He said that every time he visits Maison Mathis, it always seems crowded. Although Davis said the restaurant’s choice of New Haven as a location is a sign of economic growth in the city, he said he fears that the higher costs “could price out New Haven.”

Still, Festo argued that the fare is affordable considering the quality of products. Nearly all of the ingredients are organic, everything is made in-house, and some items are even imported from Belgium, she said.

New Haven resident Mai Hoang said that although she does not visit Maison Mathis often, she feels the food is decent and the prices are reasonable. Some students noted that although the bakery may have had some initial issues since it first opened its doors, it has continued to improve its service and food quality over time.

“I went the week it first opened and wasn’t impressed with my latte,” Jessenia Khalyat ’17 said. However, she added that she has seen an improvement in the food’s quality, describing the Belgian waffles as “heaven.”

Maison Mathis’s apparent success does not also seem to be impacting the business of nearby coffee shops. Drew Ruben ’11, owner of Blue State Coffee, said he believes Maison Mathis is not a competitor since Blue State has retained its loyal customer base.

“New Haven is by no means saturated [with coffee shops],” Ruben said. “There are a lot of highly caffeinated students, professors, and administrators in the area.”

Ruben said that, on the contrary, having more retailers is a positive development, as it brings people and activity to the city.

Shaina Hotchkiss, the manager of Koffee on Audubon, similarly said that her business does not rely on setting the cheapest prices or other hyper-competitive practices. She attributed Koffee’s success to its location and comfortable environment, which attract a wide range of students and residents. She added she does not see the opening of Maison Mathis as detrimental to business because the two establishments attract different clientele based on location and taste.

“We are not fancy like that,” Hotchkiss said. “We are more mom and pop.”

Khalyat noted that although she has recently supported Maison Mathis, she stills plans to frequent other area coffee shops such as Blue State and Starbucks. They each serve a different purpose, she said.

Maison Mathis is one of three locations worldwide; the other two are located in Atlanta, Ga., and Dubai.

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