When Monique Hudson switched her home to organic eating, she found it difficult to find take-out that was all organic and non-GMO. To solve the problem, Hudson joined forces with her sister, Monica Semley, and opened an all-organic, non-GMO eatery called Coffee & Cornbread.
“It’s breakfast with a Southern twist,” Hudson says. “We have to do breakfast better, so that’s what we’re doing.” Their fully organic, non-GMO menu has options for plant-based eaters, vegans and regular meat-eaters, with everything sourced from a local vendor.
The sisters opened in Teaneck in 2017 before relocating to Montclair in 2020. Coming up on their five-year anniversary, Hudson says they’re thankful for the community’s support of their Black-owned and women-owned business, and find joy in sharing their love for organic eating.
“Montclair gets behind all of its businesses,” Hudson says. “But they’re especially supportive of local Black, Brown, Asian and other minority businesses.”
How did Coffee & Cornbread get started?
Monique Hudson: When we first opened, our position was that we have to do breakfast better. So we thought, how can you? At home, for the most part, my family is fully organic. We are a fast-casual breakfast service, and we were ahead of the game with that when we opened in 2017, especially after the pandemic. People wanted to eat organically, but they couldn’t find it, so we went all in. We serve biodegradable containers, utensils and believe in reducing our carbon footprint.
Tell me about the giving back Coffee & Cornbread does.
We have partnered with Tony’s Kitchen to provide meals for the community. We’ve also worked with the organization Coalition for Food and Health Equity. Their focus is on feeding seniors and those in Black and Brown communities that don’t have access to healthy food. We partner with a deacon in Paterson and donate groceries to families in need. We try to give back as much as we can. We think that’s really important.
What went into crafting your menu?
Finding organic suppliers was difficult in the beginning and we had to really search. We use a company called Ace Natural and they have the largest supply of independent organic, non-GMO food. There’s not a lot of restaurants that do a full organic menu, so we had to do our research before opening.
Do you have any favorite items?
Half of our menu is dedicated to plant-based eaters, so we duplicate everything. For example, you can order French toast and chicken or there’s a vegan option. Same thing with our bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. It’s the best of both worlds! We can have families come in, and someone can be a vegan, a vegetarian, a meat-eater, and everyone can get something off the menu. Some of my favorite things are chicken and waffles, fish and grits, and the bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. Real homestyle cooking.
What is it like owning and operating a business with your sister?
Sometimes we want to pull each other’s hair out, of course, but that’s family. We both bring a different level of skills to the table. I do a lot of dealing with vendors and putting together the vision of the restaurant and she is more operations. I’m also the head chef, too. We believe in working directly in our business and growing Coffee & Cornbread to be bigger than what it is now.
What has your experience been being a Black-owned business, especially over the last two years?
Montclair is a great community because you see that people want to support minority and Black-owned, Asian, etc. businesses. People come in and tell us they intentionally looked up Black-owned businesses and wanted to support us. I think people support us because of what we do, which is great quality food and customer service, and we have a very diverse customer base. Me and my sister talk about it all the time, how lucky we are in this community.
What’s been your favorite part of bringing organic eating to people?
We always say this is like teaching for us. We have to educate our consumers. Because I personally eat natural things and organically, it’s so wonderful to show people the differences in non-GMO and organic foods. Seeing how it can impact people for the better has been amazing. Also, owning my own business and creating my own time has been great as well. I don’t have to clock in to anyone and it gives me flexibility with my children.
Anything new at Coffee & Cornbread this year?
Right now, we are under construction, so we are open for takeout only. We will be opening up for dine-in hopefully by the end of May and early June. We are also hoping to expand in the future to other locations across the country, but we want to remain pretty small, to keep Coffee & Cornbread special.