Interview with a Local: Hartje Andresen of Pudge Knuckles

This month, we spoke to Hartje Andresen of Pudge Knuckles, a coffee shop favorited by locals, as well as a wine bar and roastery. It's also a featured stop on our Williamsburg Bites Brooklyn Food Tour and Sunday Funday Boozy Brooklyn Tour. As their website states, "Packed with the full flavor and energy of New York City, PUDGE KNUCKLES is not just another coffee shop. PUDGE KNUCKLES was started by Ivan Greene & Hartje Andresen. Ivan is a former top ranked professional rock climber and Hartje is a highly sought after professional model."

How did you come to open Pudge Knuckles?

My husband and I spent many years traveling the world and living in different countries, and learned to love the coffee and coffee house culture. Ivan as a professional rock climber, me as a model - both are professions that require a lot of caffeine.

Furthermore, my family has a background in coffee roasting, with my great grandfather opening the first coffee roasting company in Husum, northern Germany. My father used to work in my great Grandfather's coffee shop when he was a little boy.

When Ivan and I met, we bonded over our love for coffee, amongst other things, and were excited to learn what it took to start our own coffee company.

It was more of a side project at first, and we sold our coffee online to fellow rock climbers and friends, but very soon as well to coffee lovers and climbing gyms all over the world. When the retail space at 184 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg became available, we wanted to not only have a place for people to buy our coffee, but also create a European style coffee spot with a welcoming atmosphere where patrons can enjoy their coffee "to stay", hang out to read a book, play a board game, write emails or to study.

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Such a great story! What do you love about Pudge Knuckles?

I love being able to continue the family tradition by roasting coffee here in New York. Our northern European style lighter roast is named "Broder's Blend" to honor my great grandfather Broder Brodersen.

I love creating a community feeling by making the cafe available for special events, fundraisers and social gatherings. The Williamsburg neighborhood is full of creative people and young entrepreneurs, and because we are accommodating to people using laptops and free WiFi, we have seen many projects grow from their Kickstarter campaign all the way to a successful business. It makes us happy to think how many startup businesses were fueled by Pudge Knuckles coffee!

I love being my own boss and creating my own favorite coffee roasts and drinks. I can go all "coffee-nerd" with light roasted single origin pour over, or play around with our very own creative concoctions that we give funny names like f**k sleep or crack-o-latte.

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The crack-o-latte is a personal favorite of ours! I know you frequently host events. Can you tell us about anything coming up?

We dedicate a lot of our events to social, environmental and humanitarian causes. This year more than ever, we think it is important for us as a business to show that we care about our neighbors, our environment, our society and about each other. With a liquor license and our selection of craft beers and organic wines, I love to watch the cafe transition from the busy coffee-drinking crowd to a relaxed evening vibe. 

We are hosting monthly talks on environmental issues and the events support various nonprofit organizations.

Every Friday in March we are hosting a child-friendly brunch for parents, together with Kidville Day Care, where the parents can enjoy their brunch while professional daycare staff keeps the toddlers entertained with music and play. We are also hosting regular music gigs and comedy shows, and we often donate part of the proceeds to different charities.

Next up besides the music and comedy shows will be a talk about how to become more environmentally conscious as a New Yorker, held by my mother-in-law, action director of the organization Clearwater and a lifelong environmentalist and activist. Another upcoming event will be an African themed evening educating people about fair trade products, movies about African art and social/health projects, and of course tasting different African coffees.

We are also working on putting together a small fundraiser for a dog rescue organization that my husband and I volunteer for, where guests can meet adoptable puppies while enjoying unlimited glasses of organic wine.

Incredible! I would encourage everyone reading this article to follow Pudge Knuckles on Facebook and Instagram so you're in the know on upcoming events. As you know, we are all about local … can you share your favorite bar and restaurant in NYC?

I like to support other local businesses. I try every new spot that opens up in the neighborhood. I love to meet the other business owners, and I am loyal to the places I like!

I have lived in the East Village, in Midtown, in Greenpoint, and on the Upper West Side before moving to Williamsburg. I usually prefer quirky over fancy, like the Surf Bar on North 6th Street, Modern Love on Union Avenue for great vegan food, St. Mazie's on Grand Street for live Jazz music, and Nitehawk Cinema on Metropolitan Avenue for their awesome dine-in movie selection.

Last but not least, how did the name Pudge Knuckles come about?

There was a world-famous German rock climber called Wolfgang Güllich who said "coffee is an integral part of climbing" and it is true! Since we were roasting the coffee just for our friends and family at first, the majority of our customers were climbers and climbing gyms. The word Pudge Knuckles was a nod to climbers, whose finger knuckles start swelling after a strenuous workout. It also happened to be my brother-in-law's nickname when he was a little baby, describing the typical cute little dimples on the baby's tiny finger knuckles.

When we played around with logos and designs, the hand-drawn baby-fist quickly caught on, resonating not only with climbers and parents of new babies, but also people who saw the fist as a sign for revolution, strength, health, or power. 

So we stuck with the image and the name when we transitioned to our first brick and mortar location. Funnily enough, with 184 Kent Avenue being a registered landmark building, we were at first not allowed to display the logo on our outdoor signage, because the building's management was concerned that it could seem offensive to some people.

Thanks so much for talking with us Hartje! See you soon for a crack-o-latte!