GNEC: Can you give us a brief description of your business?
Harvest Table is a restaurant where we do fresh healthy breakfasts and lunches. We offer baked goods, sandwiches, salads, paninis, and more. We also provide catering for functions as well. We like to use fresh ingredients and do as much in-house as possible. For instance, we do our meats in house as much as possible. Our clients are primarily people working in downtown Newark.
What were you doing before you started this business?
Before opening Harvest Table, worked for a food distributor doing sales for them in North Jersey area. This allowed me to always be on the road talking to chefs, scouting locations, and understanding the industry a bit better. I have worked some aspect of the restaurant industry consistently since high school and this has given me understanding of the operations and what must be done.
Why did you pick Newark to open your restaurant?
I chose to open my restaurant in Newark because I had been to the city a handful of times and liked it. The restaurant 27 Mix was one of my sales accounts when I was working for the food distributor – so I would frequently go to Halsey Street and saw that there was a lot going on in Newark. One day when I was in Newark I was looking for a place to eat and couldn’t find a place fresh and healthy enough for my preferences. I then saw a for lease sign and the rest was history.
What motivates you to do what you do?
Initially what motivated me to open my business was the fact that I am a particular eater. I like to eat healthy, but I don’t want to necessarily spend $20 on lunch. The more I worked at other places, the more I wanted to open my own restaurant. Now that I’ve been open for several years, the motivation is the fact that my name is on it. In the restaurant business you have to do your best every day, and if not, your business will go down the drain. There are a lot of other restaurant options and restaurant customers are particularly critical because everybody eats. Everybody knows what they like and don’t like. You have to constantly do your best to impress your customers.
When was your first encounter with GNEC?
I connected with GNEC about 9 years ago – I’m not even sure where! They were a really good resource for me to get expert advice, and to work out different ideas for my business.
How did GNEC work with you to resolve those challenges?
For instance, I remember going one time to talk to former GNEC staff person Mark Quinn about a decision I was trying to make. I needed to determine whether it would be economically feasible to hire a dedicated delivery person as opposed to a dishwasher/delivery person. We sat down and worked out the numbers and I was able to make a decision afterwards. So with GNEC you just have someone to talk to. Even if you kind of know the answer but you want some confirmation, GNEC is a good place for that. Beyond counseling and advice, I obtained a loan from GNEC for working capital which was very helpful as I started out.
How would you say business is doing now compared to back then?
Business is much better now than when I started, and the neighborhood has grown substantially around me with more businesses and housing.
What has been most rewarding for you as a business owner?
The most rewarding part of being a business owner is the fact that we have loyal customers that come in every day. We have one customer who buys the same salad each day and her and all the other people we have that continually come back just affirm that we are doing something great. I also like that if there is a problem our customers let us know – that shows me that they care about this business. Owning a food business is like hosting a party at your house every day – it needs to be clean, the food needs to be good, and people need to feel welcome.
What would be your advice for someone just starting a business today?
My advice for someone just starting a business is: “Get help and do your homework. Don’t think you can do it all by yourself – even if you have been in the same industry for a while.”
Last, would you recommend GNEC services to friends and family?
I would certainly recommend GNEC services to my friends and family.