As Harlem’s landscape continues to change, it’s a rarity to find places in the community that stay true to the neighborhood’s culture. For sisters Juliet and Justine Masters their restaurant The Edge—a casual eatery in the heart of Hamilton Heights—is an ode to a community that they’ve been living in for over a decade.
The decision to open a restaurant wasn’t intentional, but all of the signs to move forward were there. Juliet was initially looking for a space to expand her catering business when she stumbled upon where The Edge lives now. “It was serendipitous. I was looking for somewhere to live right before we acquired the space. I ended up moving into the building and this commercial space became available. At first, I thought it would be a good space for the catering business or potentially a coffee shop.” said Juliet. “We were like ‘okay here’s this opportunity that we stumbled upon, we either say yes or we regret it forever.’ It evolved as we went along. It’s a very organic way that it grew about.” The Edge started off as a juice shop, grew into a coffee shop, and eventually became a full-service restaurant. After being in the neighborhood for two years, the establishment has evolved into a mainstay in the Harlem community.
The Edge authentically captures the essence of a classic Harlem spirit. The physical space itself is an integral part of the neighborhood’s history. During the peak of the Harlem Renaissance, influencers that included Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay would gather on the roof of the building for literary salons; where Harlem creatives would mix and mingle. “When Juliet and I first took this space, we did our research on the building and we realized that it used to be a space where the creatives would come hang out and have a good time. I connected with that and thought that it was a sign,” said Justine. “Randomly one of our parents’ friends gifted us a portrait of Langston Hughes after learning that we were opening up a restaurant in Harlem and she had no idea that he used to hang out in the building.” Some of the fixtures in the restaurant were built out of materials from classic Harlem brownstones.
The entrepreneurs also incorporated elements from their upbringing when designing the space. The sisters, who are Jamaican and British, were inspired by their times in Jamaica as children. “The restaurant is inspired by elements of who we are. The menu and the décor are inspired by our lives growing up. We spent a lot of time here in New York and in Jamaica. My mother is British so her influence was always with us. We wanted to bring the element of the ocean in here so we stained the floor turquoise blue which we loved against the brown and the red of the interior brick. We always have plants and flowers in this space because that to me its reminiscent of Jamaica,” said Justine. The Jamaican, British, and New York inspiration translates through their menu as well with dishes that include fish & chips, the jerk chicken Caesar salad, and NY Beef Sliders with cheddar cheese. Their tasty rum punch also makes for a great Jamaican-inspired libation.
Ever since opening their doors, The Edge has received an outpour of love and support from its surrounding community. Many of their regular customers have watched the eatery evolve from the very beginning. “The community has an incredible impact on our business. The individuals in the community make our business what it is,” said Juliet. “I think a part of why the community is also very accepting of us is because they’ve watched us grow. We’ve come a long way from the first few months and they were a part of that.”
Sisters Justine and Juliet hope that their entrepreneurial journey can inspire others to pursue their passions and dreams. Their road to opening up The Edge was far from easy. They used their hands—both figuratively and literally—to shape their business into what it is today. Their perseverance to see the vision that they had fully realized is what kept them going. “When you’re opening up a restaurant there are so many moving parts, but it’s important not to give up on your dream” said Justine. “There’s a great satisfaction in building something with your own hands and seeing it grow and become successful. It’s like building your own dream.”
Visit The Edge Harlem at 101 Edgecombe Ave, New York, NY 10030.