|DESIGNERS.(Photo by: itraveljerusalem.com)|
Voices of Jerusalem: Bohemian baristas
By LOREN MINSKY/ ITRAVELJERUSALEM.COM TEAM
Loren Minsky speaks to Amit Shechter, the warm, down-to-earth owner of coffee house Nocturno in the city center.
"Nocturno is a very special place," says Amit Shechter, owner of the homey
coffee house that acts as a gathering place for a creative and eclectic crowd
from the surrounding neighborhoods of Nahlaot and town. "Many people sit here
every day all day with their laptops. We're like a small family," Amit
Amit grew up in Tel Aviv but as a teenager lived in Switzerland for
two years before moving to Jerusalem where he worked at Nocturno as a barista
while taking his final school exams. Later, Nocturno changed ownership
and Amit became manager and then five years ago he became a co-partner in the
business. In the process, Amit studied Psychology and Musicology for five years
at the Open University.
"I never wanted to be a psychologist or
professional musician," says Amit. "I was simply interested and wanted to learn
more." Though Amit is a passionate academic and plans to spend his life
studying, it is at the café that he really shines and is most at home. "I am a
people's person and a natural host. I've always enjoyed entertaining – preparing
and serving food and drinks to friends – and I get to do that here."
there are an abundance of coffee shops in Jerusalem town center, Amit claims
that not many grasp the feeling of community like Nocturno. "When we see someone
walking through the door, we know immediately what they'll drink." Amit believes
the secret also lies in the amazing house blend of coffee and in the people that
work at the cafe.
Nocturno used to be a lot smaller but now more and more
tables sprawl onto the Bezalel sidewalk. The business is continuing to burgeon
and toward the end of December is moving to a space in the adjacent Designers in
the City compound, which serves as a working and selling space for over 20
talented designers. "The compound has always relied on us for a boost," shares
Amit, who is looking forward to co-operating even further.
The new space
promises to be a kind of bohemian haven and will offer an expanded dairy menu as
well as intimate live music and art exhibitions. The current premises will serve
as a boutique store selling a unique blend of coffee and other branded items.
"Nocturno has become a product," explains Amit. "Our repertoire is funky and
homely at the same time, and I believe that's something that people like to
buy." "Nocturno is one of the last places that haven’t really changed," says
Amit. "It's not about chasing a trend; rather it's about living day by day and
evolving slowly." Amit compares the café to something out of Paris or Amsterdam,
and emphasizes that it's not “Tel Aviv-ish,” which according to him is "all
about chasing something that doesn’t exist.”
Nocturno do not have kosher
certification but offer a thorough list of all the ingredients used and their
kashrut status. Most ingredients are kosher but at the moment they also have two
products from abroad without certification. "We believe kosher is about a
relationship built on trust between a place and a customer, and a lot of people
respond enthusiastically when we show them the list," says Amit.
café is my second home, or my first, depending on who you ask," grins Amit.
"Often I don’t have to work shifts, but I do it anyway as I love it so much."
Amit admits he's not so good at delegating, though he tries to let go and take
one annual holiday a year. Last year, Amit escaped to the Dead Sea, which he
regards as "so close and yet so magical.”
"I believe that if you're a
whole person you can be better at everything that you do," says Amit. He used to
sing acapella in a small ensemble, is working on improving his German and has
plans to study law. "I am privileged to learn what I want, and to earn my living
from something else," says Amit. But time is one resource that Amit feels he is
Amit feels more at home in Jerusalem than in any other place.
He is optimistic about the city and salutes Mayor Nir Barkat's efforts at
encouraging arts and culture in Jerusalem. "The fast train to Tel Aviv would be
a real enhancement to Jerusalem," says Amit. "It's a disgrace that the two
largest cities in Israel are connected by a train that was built by the
"Regarding the current situation, I just want to live in peace,"
sighs Amit. "I'm all for the ceasefire, and hope it will last. I also hope that
one day a long-term solution will be found. It's important to work together with
Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas} and non-violent
Amit reflects that a lot of people are nervous about Nocturno's
transformation to a large space, and fear the place will lose its trademark cozy
style. "But I'm sure that if there is one thing that we will take with us, it's
the feeling," shares Amit. "It's all about the people."
Nocturno's grand opening
at Designers in the City will take place on December
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