Like any new business owner, Zoe Rose was nervous on the day she opened the doors of her new cafe, Happy Bread, in Germantown,
But there was a good omen.
“Who opens on their first day with the governor stopping in!” Rose exclaimed.
The man at the door last Nov. 1 was Tom Wolfe, the Democratic candidate for governor, who went on to win election. He happened to stop by the Happy Bread Café, grabbing a bite for himself and his entourage.
The governor’s visit was, indeed, a good omen. Since then, business at Germantown’s newest eatery at the intersection of Germantown and Chelten avenues has taken off. Customers say its home-baked goods are a welcome relief from the fast-food joints that dot the area.
‘Different to Germantown’
“The comment that we always get is that, ‘This is different to Germantown and we’re so happy you’re here,'” Rose said.
Located at 5701 Germantown Ave., the Happy Bread Café is the result of decades of professional experience. Between time spent writing for Proud Neighbor magazine and over 30 years in the food industry, Rose has now combined what she calls her “purpose and passion” — her purpose in contributing to the community and her passion for good food.
And after just a few months, customers are sold.
“They basically sold me from day one with their hospitality, her (Rose’s) hospitality, her warmth and employees, so we just kept coming right back ever since day one,” said William Jones, a 40-year resident of Germantown and frequent customer.
The cafe’s unusual name came from monkey bread – soft, pull-apart bread made in a Bundt cake pan, and a pop song.
“I thought about a recipe that my son had brought home from high school, and for some reason it just kind of came to me, and it was for monkey bread,” Rose explained. “At the same time, Pharrell (Williams) was running around the country singing ‘Happy.’ I never really liked the name ‘monkey bread,’ so I decided to rebrand it and call it ‘Happy Bread,’ and that’s how the name came about.”
From there, things went smoothly for the new venture. Though she did have to pull resources from her family and friends, the small nature of the café, compared to a large restaurant, meant that she would be able to manage without being overwhelmed. Between that and Rose’s 30 plus years of experience in the food service, the café had a solid a foundation.
In addition to the “happy bread,” the menu features food and drinks for all times of the day, with a focus on breakfast. Items like chicken and waffles, Texas toast grilled cheese sandwiches and fish fried rice are among the café’s top sellers. A big draw is that Happy Bread makes its food from from scratch.
“I found out that they bake all their things here and they make everything here, so that’s what made me want to try it,” said Jewel Lloyd, a regular customer.
Although she did little marketing when she opened, Rose is now stepping up her outreach. Her cafe, she hopes, will be part of a renaissance in Germantown, especially when it comes to food.
In the forefront
“Germantown is slowly but surely changing this perspective that you get nothing but fast food in the area and that there are no good restaurants,” Rose said. “I think that we’re in the forefront of that change.”
Rose said she is close to breaking even, which is rare for any new business, and it has led to plans for the future.
“We’d like to expand the outside so we can have more seating, and then bring more attention to the location,” said Rose. “We want to do deliveries, we want to expand the bakery by expanding operations to the lower level and then we want to, within the next two years, open up two more locations and look into franchising.”
Rose’s commitment to quality has drawn the admiration of her employees.
“Zoe is one of those people that I like because she’s very adamant to make sure that customer service and food quality are both there, and that’s what I like, too,” said Daniel Todd, a cafe cook. “We’re on the same sheet music when it comes to that.”
In recent years, many cafes have come and gone in Germantown. While Rose is aware of the pattern, but she remains confident that as long as she sticks to her business model, she’ll continue to make her café something special.
“It’s really the three important keys to any business: location, product and customer service,” said Rose. “We had the opportunity to have a great location, we have to stay focused on the food and we have to make the customers feel comfortable and provide them with the quality service they deserve. If we stay focused on those factors, we should make this a great store.”