A TRUE LOCAL BUSINESS PROVIDES FOR ITS COMMUNITY
Out in Vegas, my “office hours” (basically time that I devote to updating all my social media outlets, answering foodie questions, and creating recipes) always consisted of 9:30AM to 2:45PM Mondays at the Starbucks a mile and a half from my daughter’s elementary school. I’ve been going to this wifi cafe, if you must, for the past two years. It kept my schedule for a blog post and correspondence on point and it provided me with that black cup o’ joe or unsweetened iced green tea to keep me going. If anything the only complaint that I ever had was that there was an annoying cold draft at every single seat in the place. Makes sense, they don’t want us setting up shop for too long but shoot, didn’t I buy plenty of hot libations in exchange for the wifi connection?!
Anyhow, being back in New Jersey, I needed to find a great spot for “office hours” whenever it was available to me. It’s a little bit different out here. You get to drive a little further than 30 minutes and find yourself in a quaint town with a cute cafe or even a suburban Starbucks. Or you can take the train into the City and prop yourself up at a Starbucks in front of a park or see the organized chaos that is New Yorkers hustling to catch the next train, cab, or bus. I love the plentiful options my new home offered but I still wanted that special place that can play as my muse or sanctuary.
I was driving to Montclair State University where I’ll be taking some classes (not degree program, just classes) to spruce up my nutrition/healthy eating background. Anyway, I was in the area needing to post a quick blog on my latest trip across the country. I found myself on my Yelp app searching for a “wifi cafe.” And there it was, with 4 stars, 13 reviews, and the closest location to me. The top two reviews, both by amount of stars and recent post, excited me even more about this place.
Liz D. said, “This is what so many places in Montclair TRY to be…but just can’t. Or won’t. Or are just incapable of being, because the lady who owns this place is ‘genuine.'” 5 Stars 5/12/12
Per L. says, “This little cafe is a perfect spot for lunch – especially on a nice day when you can sit outside. Great for kids, great for adults. Really, really nice!” 5 Stars 4/1/12
This is exactly what I needed, so I checked it out!
I pull up to park on the street and see that I need to pay a parking meter. I thought, “Oh, heck no!” So I pulled up a little further then caught a glimpse of the Montclair Public Library. What?! I thought my GPS brought me to Terra @ The Isabel Rose Cafe. I kept driving and saw a side street, no meters and I can park here at the time without any time restrictions, score! I walk over to the library and wonder what was going on. Then, I look just to the left of the library entrance and saw it…Terra! This place is attached to the public library? This place just got cooler and I haven’t even gone in yet.
With a chalk sign on the front lawn and few patio seats adorning the front, it just keeps giving me good vibes. Walking in, I saw a circular nook with window table tops and four free standing tables with a counter and kitchen good to fit four team members comfortably to create all the orders. A young gentleman, who turned out to be the owner’s son (at least I think so), greeted me and asked how he can help me. Looking over the chalk designed menu behind him, I ordered an unsweetened green iced tea and a special, the Jersey Bowl Salad. I asked him if it was ok to have vinegar just on the side and no oil. He turned over to Grace, his mother and the owner of the cafe, and she obliged with a smile!
The young man (sorry brother, totally forgot your name) served me my iced tea first because Grace was making my salad, freshly cut, my favorite. Once the salad came, I couldn’t help but smile myself. It had local green leaf lettuce, so light and buttery I thought it was butter lettuce, apples, local strawberries, fennel, and thinly sliced Walla Walla onions (I think that’s how you spell it, like the city in Washington state) which at first I thought were leeks. She served it with a slice of lemon and small bowl of red wine vinegar. The salad was so fresh and the apples and strawberries were so juicy that I didn’t even need the vinegar. It was perfect! Totally Jersey fresh and local.
After eating my salad, I checked out what she had for sale other than the fresh food and libations. Terra featured Fair Trade teas and chocolates, fresh local strawberries, organic and natural coffee, tea, drinks, and specialty gourmet honey, syrups, and other pantry items. There were also a few products I recognized because we sold them at Whole Foods Markets across the country like Simply Organic bread and cake mixes. Don’t quote me on this but I believe they are Gluten Free as well. They also sold tea pots, coffee & tea cups, and a special display contained all-natural loose teas! The cafe was adorned with plenty of art, probably created by the local artists and maybe school children. Directly behind where I was sitting, there was an Opus One (some great wine) crate of locally made soaps and beeswax candles.
They were from Tassot Apiaries, Inc. out of Milford, NJ which is only 60 miles away. Talk about LOCAL!
Need I say more?! Ok I will! Sitting there, I got to see a true local cafe do what it does best, take care of its community. Parents came in to pick up their pre-ordered local strawberries, probably like a co-op program. A mom and son came in to pick up a catering order of sandwiches decorated with edible pansies, if I’m mistaken. I overheard them talking about the nice platter the sandwiches were placed on and that instead of throwing it away or keeping it. They were going to return it to Grace so that they can reuse it. The mother was exposing being ‘green’ and reusing things to reduce waste. I swear I thought I was in a global warming commercial and I was happy!
I finally flagged the owner over. She introduced herself to me and I quickly thanked her for an amazing experience. I told her who I was and what I do and extended another “Thank You” for being there for the community. She told me that she’s been in business for six years but recently moved into the library. She was on a location on Church Street prior to the library but moved over when her lease ended. I think she made an amazing decision. Greetings from library employees and frequent community members said it all to me. The community was thankful she was there and Grace was only humbled by the gesture. Just like what Liz D. said on Yelp, the owner is “GENUINE!”
There are so many businesses these days that claim to offer an experience as genuine as this one but they are definitely far from it. A lot of current and future business owners need to take notes from Terra At the Isabel Rose Cafe. Being genuine and simply humble goes a hell of a long way. A true business not only offers services and goods but must offer a sense of community and quality in its interactions with it’s patrons. Grace, her son, and team does just this!
Do me a favor, if you are in the Montclair area or if you are parched searching for true sustenance in a great cup of tea and customer service, come and visit Grace at Terra. They’re located at the Montclair Public Library on 50 S. Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, NJ. It’s in the heart of Montclair just minutes from Montclair State University and the town center. You won’t be disappointed just incredibly pleased! Tell them King sent you!