Nick Easton, owner, and Jozef Zebediah, founding Chef Baker
Charlevoix Main Street (CMS) sat down with Jozef Zebediah (JZ), Founding Chef and Baker, and Birdie Belle (BB), Fairy Grandmother Extraordinaire, for a Q&A.
JZ – Jozef Zebediah
BB – Birdie Belle
CMS: Tell me a little bit about your business.
JZ: My Grandmother’s Table: What began as a tent at Charlevoix Farmers Market quickly evolved into brick and mortar venture. As a bakery, café and coffee bar, we produce and serve an array of farm-to-table foods and treats from around the world. For example, our current menu includes foods and treats from Poland, Thailand, Chad, Pennsylvania Amish Country, the Navajo Nation, Peru, Italy, India, Jamaica and Germany, among others. We’re open daily from 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM.
BB: And there’s a Fairy Grandmother present, invisible to most, who flits about entertaining the troops, steering the ship and prodding whenever necessary!
CMS: What precautions are you taking to protect your employees and customers from Covid-19? How have you had to shift your business model in response to the pandemic?
JZ: We seek and follow guidance from the CDC, EPA and the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association.
BB: Oh, Joe! Get to it! Answer the question – with aplomb! Better yet, I will!
We launder daily. We disinfect hard surfaces, soft surfaces and everything in between! We spray, wipe and scrub. We wear masks and require patrons to do so as well. We, in our two kitchen areas, sometimes look like failed contestants on “Dancing with the Stars” as we peel, whip, slice, dice and mash while simultaneously attempting to twirl into and out of social distancing maneuvers.
JZ: And through it all, our primary objective is protection, of self, of other members of the team, and of all who walk through our doors.
In terms of our business model, we’ve not had to shift it given the pandemic. Quite “coincidentally,” we, while working with the Northwest Michigan Small Business Development Center, incorporated a number of strategies, especially related to our retail and takeout component, that fit well during this unprecedented time.
CMS: Why did you want to be a small business owner?
JZ: Prior to becoming a small business owner, I was a professional actor, author, psychologist, professor and ordained Interfaith minister – and I loved them all! However, as the Founding Chef Baker of My Grandmother’s Table, I more fully and gratefully get to experience a creative freedom like never before. It truly is a privilege and I can’t say enough about that!
CMS: Why did you choose to open a business downtown Charlevoix?
JZ: I thankfully acknowledge Nick Easton, the owner of My Grandmother’s Table, for that. He, after decades of successful business development, delayed his retirement once again for he saw the potential that arose from that farmers market tent and simply sought a downtown location for it to flourish. Nick’s longstanding interest in preservation-driven community development, his desire to bring joy to others and his love of Charlevoix all coalesced at 115 Bridge Street!
BB: This is, off the record, of course, but I may have thrown bit of fairy dust into the mix. Just saying!
CMS: What do you enjoy most about living and working in the Charlevoix area?
JZ: I so love Charlevoix. With New York City as my hometown, I, quite honestly, never thought I would find a place that I loved more – until I “coincidentally” stumbled upon Charlevoix. I immediately fell in love! It’s unique. Quirky. Magical. Stunningly beautiful. Paradoxical. Rich in Native history. It’s a storybook come alive. And everyday, and I mean every day, I get to experience a wordless wonder as I revel in the lakes around me.
BB: I, as you might imagine, possess an affinity for the Mushroom Houses and fairies and gnomes that live there. One of them applied for a dish washing position at My Grandmother’s Table!
CMS: What is something unique about your store/business?
JZ: Yes! And our story. My Grandmother’s Table finds full inspiration in . . . my grandmother! As a boy, her hands guided mine in the creation of foods from around the world. And her kitchen was frequently full!
Once homeless, my grandmother knew hunger and fear all too well. Consequently, and with great gratitude for those who took her and her children in, she opened her house to friends, family and strangers, too. My grandmother clearly paid it forward!
We lived in a melting pot of a town known for its racial and ethnic diversity. Her joy was in discovering the “tastes of home” for all who came by. It didn’t matter where you were from – Africa, Asia, Latin America, Russia, Poland, Italy and on – she would find a way, through garden-fresh food and an enduring hospitality, to say: You’re welcome at my table. You’re welcome in my home.
In honor of this special lady, our mission is to create locally-sourced and internationally-inspired dishes that are wholesome, heartful and tasty, too! Everyone is welcome at My Grandmother’s Table!
CMS: How would you describe downtown Charlevoix?
JZ: On a road well traveled, the shops and stores that punctuate Downtown Charlevoix are unique, particular and rare. It’s really a chest of treasures. You, quite literally, will find items that can only be found in Downtown Charlevoix. There’s also a great appreciation for this town’s history as evidenced by preservation efforts, the murals across the community, and a very special file cabinet in the Charlevoix History Society Museum that so eloquently honors those who lived here long ago.
CMS: How has Main Street helped your business?
JZ: Main Street helped, and significantly so, My Grandmother’s Table transform from a 50-pound tent and table into a 3,122 square foot bakery, café and coffee bar. Lindsey Dotson’s resourcefulness, encouragement, guidance and empathy –
BB: Don’t forget Ms. Dotson’s sense of humor, Joe! And that laugh!
JZ: Yes, that laugh! And we’re grateful for Charlevoix Main Street and Michigan Main Street, too. We’re simply able to do more and be more given the gifts that are Lindsey Dotson and Main Street!
CMS: What’s your favorite thing about your business?
JZ: Every day, as I cook and bake, I infuse the food with love, just like my Grandmother taught me. And every day, I gratefully witness the patrons who eat our food as well as their smiles, compliments and “thank you’s” There’s no other word for that but “joy.”
CMS: What’s your favorite Charlevoix event?
JZ: I am drawn to the Bridge Lighting events and the story behind the bridge itself. In Native lore, a bridge represents transformation or becoming – becoming all that we were created to be. That’s what I think of when I see the Charlevoix Memorial Drawbridge.
BB: My turn, my turn! I adore the Lavender Hill Farm Fairy Garden Tea Party, the Castle Farms Fairy Garden Take & Make and, it simply goes without saying, Edith Pair’s Mushroom House Tours!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
JZ: It is our good fortune to live and thrive in Charlevoix! We, at My Grandmother’s Table, hold gratitude in our hearts for the patrons that support us, the city that inspires us, and the people of Charlevoix who welcome and embrace us. Thank you!