opening a restaurant is no easy feat. imagine opening a vegan restaurant in new jersey. I have always been fascinated by the process, inspired by the risk that these small business owners make, and always curious- how do people do it!? It requires fantastic food, solid staff, inviting decor, a well developed brand and message. it’s a lot.
so when I heard a new vegan and gluten free cafe was opening right in my neighborhood I was thrilled. there are few vegan restaurants in new jersey. and certainly NOTHING like Heart Beet Kitchen in southern NJ particularly. yes, we have a couple healthy food spots and juice bars that offer plant based and gluten free options, but certainly not an entire menu dedicated to them.
introducing heart beet kitchen, a new vegan restaurant in New Jersey!
located on Haddon Ave. in Westmont – Ashley Coyne is the proud owner of this adorable casual cafe. She whips up the delicious desserts, hosts events in her space for health-minded southern NJ residents, and changes up her menu with new ideas consistently.
I love the ease of Heart Beet. I can…
come in and sit down for a casual lunch or dinner (or brunch on weekends),
grab a scone or muffin,
sample kombucha on tap,
order up a superfood smoothie,
sip coffee with almond milk,
or grab ready to go lunch and be on my way.
all conveniently located in my suburb of Philadelphia.
I sat down with Ashley to hear the story of HBK…
K: what inspired you to open HBK?
A: Well I was in a rut, honestly. I had lost my job working in sports and would head out with my laptop to coffee shops and cafes to work on things and plan my next move. I was disappointed in the lack of healthy food in the area- especially gluten free. (Ashley has a gluten intolerance so eats GF). Then I started thinking, maybe it was time we offered one here.
K: when/how did you learn to cook?
A: Self taught! I wanted to make this place happen- so I made recipe development happen! I did work with a chef before opening as well.
K: how do people react? are customers typically vegan??
A: No! Not at all. Sometimes people will come in and not even know what they are ordering, but they give it a shot and end up loving it. Even though everything is vegan and gluten free, I don’t advertise it as vegan. Unfortunately some customers will get turned off by that, and not give it a shot. I rather them come in, try the food, and make a decision from there. Also Yelp reviews have been very helpful in getting people here!
K: what was the most exciting thing about opening?
A: all of the creative parts of opening a business. Choosing decor and choosing the menu of course. They weigh out the boring things- like quarter sales tax.
K: what is the most challenging?
A: It used to be staffing. It’s hard to hire when we are a niche and a specific kind of product and lifestyle. However, now that the message is out there and people know more about what we are doing, I get a much more interested set of applicants who love fitness and health.
K: customer’s favorite dish??
A: Zucchini zoodles and eggplant meatballs for sure. Or the Beet Burger. They have both been favorites from the start. This spring everyone loved the Coconut BLT a lot too!
K: any advice for someone looking to start a small business?
A: The simple answer is just do it, go for it, try. But I would also suggest talking about it with others. I was working at Lululemon before starting this, and we did an exercise where we wrote out 3 goals. I ended up adding it to my vision board, then discussing the concept with other people. You never know what kind of support you will find this way, or the type of skills and knowledge other people would like to contribute to help you in reaching the goal.
K: you have cool events for customers- when are they??
A: We offer a group run every T/Th evening at 6:30pm, free yoga every saturday morning at 9 am featuring local studios, and you can find me at the Westmont farmer’s market every Wednesday down the street!
after we chatted, I had to try the coconut bacon “BLT” served on gluten free toasted bread. it was DELICIOUS. and loved the simple kale side salad.
to visit and keep in touch with Ashley and Heart Beet Kitchen, find HBK on Instagram @heartbeetnj and their website – heartbeetnj.com – to read more of the menu!