Heather Hnizdil’s first business venture has been cleared for take off.
Hnizdil (pronounced NIS-dill) is the owner of Flight Crew Coffee, the newest coffee shop in Manhattan at 423 Poyntz Ave. between Syndicate Tattoo and Danenberg Jewelers. Flight Crew Coffee opened for business Thursday, and Hnizdil said the community response has been positive.
Hnizdil, 31, said she moved to Manhattan in August after “doing a little bit of everything” over the past few years, including teaching English in Taiwan and Sicily. A native of near St. Francis in the far northwest corner of Kansas, Hnizdil said she wanted to pursue her dreams of owning her own business after she “tried teaching in America but did not love it.”
“Why wait to live your dream?” Hnizdil said, adding that she had thoughts of opening a coffee shop for several years.
A K-State graduate with a degree in printmaking, Hnizdil said she is an “artist by habit.” All of the photography and interior design pieces in the shop — including a large mural of a Douglas DC-3 aircraft on the east wall — are of Hnizdil’s creation. She said she “didn’t have to do much” to prepare the space, adding that the Poyntz Avenue location happened to be the only spot available when she had the means to start her business.
“Something I have heard … is that a coffee shop on Poyntz has been requested by Manhattan residents for the past several years,” Hnizdil said. “I just wanted a place to go and do my dream thing.”
The name and decor at Flight Crew Coffee plays into Hnizdil’s love of travel and retro style.
The coffee at Flight Crew is provided by KC Roasterie in Kansas City, which also sports an aviation theme (particularly the Douglas DC-3) in its marketing materials. Per the name, the shop features menu items with aviation-themed titles, and the first round of customers got a sticker celebrating their “first flight” with the business. The menu board is designed to look like an arrivals/departures board, and Flight Crew employees wear outfits similar to flight attendant uniforms.
The aviation details even extend to the restrooms, which are labeled as “lavatories” similar to airliners. Patrons also can get punch cards to earn free drinks as part of the shop’s “Frequent Flyer” program. Additionally, Hnizdil said the shop will host live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, and is seeking interested performers. She said the goal is to create a “chill” atmosphere.
Hnizdil’s business copilots are familial. The middle child of five siblings, she operates Flight Crew with her three sisters and her mother helping out. She said she has plenty of staff on hand, and that she “doesn’t really believe” in resumes.
“I personally don’t feel like a resume has told who I am very well,” Hnizdil said. “I can teach anyone how to make a good espresso drink, but I can’t teach personality.”
Heather Hnizdil’s older sister, Rachel Hnizdil, said Heather is a “really good leader.”
“She believes in a style of leadership … that it’s less about rank and title and more about taking care of those that are left and right of us, and she loves that,” Rachel Hnizdil said. She added that it was “a little weird” working for her younger sibling but that it’s “kind of nice to let her take the reins.”
Rachel Hnizdil is a marriage and family therapist with her own online practice licensed in both Kansas and Washington. She said working in the coffee shop is fun thanks to the exchanges with customers and her sister’s artistic expressiveness.
“She’s never really had an outlet to be able to show that to the world,” Rachel said. “It’s been sad to journey along to see all these closed doors for her, with all her artistic ability … and this is finally an avenue that’s all her.”
Heather Hnizdil said she designed the interior space to be as “welcoming and warm” as possible. She said she made the bar to face outward, so customers are encouraged to get to know the person serving them.
“I tell everyone, ‘It’s just coffee, it’s not surgery, please don’t burn yourself, slow down,’” Hnizdil said. “Here, it might take a minute longer to get you your drink, but that’s okay, you can chat with your barista in that time.”
Flight Crew Coffee is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.