The cafe of your ‘velvet’ dreams has entered the scene in Beverly Hills. This is the perfect place to catch up with friends over a cup of tea, a cocktail, and some tasty shareable dishes. It also holds the story of two best friends who came together to create what the community knows as - Velverie Cafe & Teahouse. We sat down with best friends and business partners, Chloe and Charli, to learn more about their story and the start of Velverie.
To get us started, tell us about who Chloe and Charli are. How did you two meet? What’s your friendship story?
Chloe: We’ve actually known each other for about 15 years, we met when we were 12 but we became really close freshman year of high school. We were actually placed in a “College & Career” class together where they have you take an aptitude test and your results will tell you what kind of career you should pursue – which never really turns out to be accurate. Since we were the only two who knew each other, we chose to sit down next to each other and the rest was history.
Charli: After we graduated high school, we both went away to college in separate cities but then both of us ended up in New York until the pandemic hit and Chloe moved back to California. This is when the idea for the business started and Chloe asked if I wanted to start a business and move across the country, so I did.
Chloe: Well, I always knew I wanted to start a business, but I’ve never worked in a restaurant before. When I moved back home during COVID, I found myself driving around and hanging out at cafes. It made me think about the fact that I’d never seen something like Velverie before, so I had the idea but no clue on where to go from there. After about 6 months of planning and working on the idea, I knew I was really doing this so I got Charli on board.
When you knew you wanted her [Charli] to be a part of this, what was that first call like?
Chloe: When I first called her I thought, “there is no way she is gonna say yes to this, ever. But I was like, I have to ask her because it just makes sense. I won’t be offended at all if she says no, but I just need her to have the opportunity.” The call was positive, but I’m sure it was such a shock to her.
Charli: I knew she was always going to run her own business one day and have an amazing creative vision for it, but I was shocked because I never thought it would be a restaurant. Of course Chloe would never tell me she had an idea until everything was perfect so when she talked to me about it she already had this super professional pitch deck and business plan. I remember her also saying “it’s in LA.” At this time, we were deep into the pandemic, we had all lost our jobs, we were all stuck in our New York apartments. I didn’t picture moving back to California as an option, but my partner was the one who told me that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and encouraged me to just do it. So, I did and it’s been a real journey ever since.
What has it been like creating something of this scale with your best friend?
Charli: It could’ve gone either way because we spend about 90% of our time together. It’s truly the most stressed, most tired you’ve ever been in your life. It’s all those little things that you don’t think about, like building IKEA office furniture in the middle of the night by ourselves.
Chloe: I’m sure people think that we’re just the face of Velverie and that we didn’t do anything to get to this point, but there’s nobody else behind this. To this day, every little thing takes so much time and effort because we are fixing issues ourselves. Having a best friend here throughout this has been so helpful because we know how to communicate with each other; we take care of each other. As cliché as it sounds, we wouldn’t have gotten to this point if we didn’t have each other.
We know it’s not always easy to pursue your passions. Talk to me about some of the more difficult parts of starting a business - let alone, in one of the most famous neighborhoods, Beverly Hills.
Chloe: It’s not sexy to talk about but, permitting. You need a permit for everything - to paint, to tear down something, to move an outlet. We needed hundreds of permits. We were in the space for 6 months before we were able to even start knocking down any walls. Since this has also been during COVID, it was a lot more difficult to communicate with people from the city.
Charli: Sitting and paying rent in a space for that many months that you’re waiting for permits to go through, and you have no income coming in from the business yet. We’re a small family business - we don’t have big investors or big celebrity money backing us. It’s the things that happen behind the scenes that people don’t think about. Sometimes folks will come in and say, “well, why don’t you do this?” and that’s probably one of the most frustrating things. People needing to tell us who we are and telling us how to run our business can be frustrating. We are young women and there’s a lot of men who will question us and be condescending. But, we try to push past all of the noise and focus on the fact that we know what our vision is and we know what we’re doing.
Chloe: We’ve always had a huge goal of being the kind of bosses where this is not your traditional restaurant environment. I’m coming in as someone who has never worked in restaurants before so it wouldn’t make sense to try to do what everyone else is doing. We want it to be very inclusive, and have transparent relationships with everyone who works with us. We are very proud of the fact that everyone who works here feels like they can be comfortable and open with us.
Charli: I’ve worked at restaurants for many years prior to the pandemic, and I’ve worked at places where the culture is not great. I’ve also worked at restaurants where the environment is fun and cohesive. So coming into this we wanted to work on the culture first. Everything that Chloe doesn’t know or I don’t know from my previous restaurant experience will come with time but what we need to focus on first is creating positive energy and taking care of our people before we do anything else.
How did you decide on the name Velverie?
Chloe: Velverie is a combination. I did a classic word cloud and two of the words were Velvet and Reverie and those two words came together to create “Velvet Dreams” aka Velverie. I always wanted a velvet banquette and I always knew I wanted velvet upholstery and a maximalist style. I’ve noticed a lot of cafes are super cute but they lean more towards the minimalist side which seems like the trend. I wanted to go the totally opposite way, and so that’s how the name came to be.
Charli: Chloe makes something so exciting sound so clinical but she’s actually a creative genius. She’s very artistic and she doesn’t tell people that. She comes up with these things and she names all the cocktails on our list – all of those things that a lot of people aren’t good at. She has that skillset.
The story behind Velverie is one that is built on friendship. If you’re looking for a place to grab drinks with a friend, take your clients to lunch, or impress any out of town visitors - Velverie Cafe & Teahouse is the place for all of it. You can visit the Velverie crew at their location in Beverly Hills or order delivery through DoorDash for that fresh cup of tea or delicious bite to eat!