Downtown: In Penacook, Kaye’s place becomes a community spot

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  • Kaye Jeong whips up a latte for a customer at the Penacook coffee shop, Kaye Place, on Tuesday. Caitlin Andrews photos / Monitor staff

  •  The menu at Penacook coffee shop Kaye Place features typical coffee fare, but also speciality drinks with Asian twists, like the “nuts and grain” and “sweet potato” lattes. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  •  The storefront for Penacook coffee shop Kaye Place on is shown on January 29, 2019. The shop opened up three weeks ago in Penacook’s downtown. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • The storefront for Penacook coffee shop Kaye Place on is shown on January 29, 2019. The shop opened up three weeks ago. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • The inside of Penacook coffee shop Kaye Place on is shown on January 29, 2019. The shop opened up three weeks ago and features pieces from local artists. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • The inside of Penacook coffee shop Kaye Place on is shown on January 29, 2019. The shop opened up three weeks ago and features pieces from local artists. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • A photo of Kaye Jeong’s cat, Mochi, is seen in the Penacook coffee shop Kaye Place on January 29, 2019. The shop opened up three weeks ago in Penacook’s downtown. bCaitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/3/2019 7:00:28 PM

For five years, a small storefront in Penacook’s downtown has been Kaye Jeong’s place.

The Pembroke artist first picked the brick storefront with the yellow cream trim as a showroom for her natural soaps and candles. She’ll tell you the place was a wreck, so she got to work painting the walls and carving wooden “bricks” that she installed by hand. In fact, most of what you can see at 324 Village St. was done by hand, including the floor.

At first, Jeong’s place was called Nudebar, and her soaps were meant to be as beautiful as they were practical; but they didn’t have a long shelf life, and bars quickly piled up. When that project proved to be difficult to maintain, the space became Jeong’s painting studio while figured out what to do next.

Then, six months ago, she had the idea to make her place not just her own, but the community’s, too. In January, Kaye Place opened, selling handcrafted coffees, lattes and tea.

“I thought the community could use somewhere to gather that wasn’t just like a Dunkin’ Donuts,” she said.

Creativity has always been Jeong’s passion. Originally from South Korea, she studied fine art as a teenager for years, and went so far as to attend college to study illustration and set design. But she disliked her country’s rigid education system and chafed against its hierarchal society; 15 years ago, she moved to Boston to study fashion design, where she met her husband, Christian.

After moving around a bit, they settled in New Hampshire, first in Penacook and ultimately in Pembroke. But Jeong said she soon found herself missing the Penacook community, and wanted to give something back.

And after a slow first few weeks, it seems as though the community likes what she has to offer.

“Last weekend, we must have taken off on Facebook or something, because it was packed in here,” she said.

Jeong’s not shy about showing her goofier side to her customers. After that busy Saturday last week, she took a photo of herself, hatted and aproned, collapsed on the floor, seemingly asleep and posted it to Facebook.

“To everyone who came and had to wait for your drinks, we are tremendously sorry yet wholeheartedly thankful for your patience! We hope that everyone enjoyed their Kaye Place drink of choice, and will continue to support our little corner of Penacook!” the post read in part.

Jeong brings some of her Korean roots to her drinks; a few lattes she said are popular in Asia.

“I like to be adventurous with the food,” she said. “A lot of coffee is just plain; I wanted to do something with different options that don’t have espresso.”

Like the sweet potato latte, made with dried sweet potato powder and sugar, steeped in milk. Or the matcha lattes, an earthy green made from powdered tea.

And art still thrives in the shop, too. Jeong has a few paintings displayed of her cats, but she’s planning on featuring a different local artist each month.

“It’s inspiring,” she said. “I didn’t even have to go looking, the artists were finding me, asking if I could display their work.”

Right now, it’s just Jeong working at the shop. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but thinks maybe in the future some snacks could be incorporated into the lineup. If she starts making soaps again, those could be on display, too.

“I always want to do more; I want to keep changing and expanding,” she said.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)



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