A love for bringing together family and all things food — along with the chance sighting of an empty lease — was all it took for Andrea Perez, our NJMOMpreneur of the week, to hatch a plan with her fiancé: open a family place with delicious, farm-fresh offerings, where people could meet over the first meal of the day. Enter Hatch 44 Café, a unique breakfast and brunch café that’s one of the area’s most sought-after spots for friend get-togethers, business meetings and family gatherings. The menu, featuring dishes named after her kids who inspired the breakfast food concept, is a mix of American foods with a dash of Hispanic cultures blended in (she’s Puerto Rican, her fiancé is Dominican) and includes something for everyone, with gluten-free, allergy-free and vegan offerings. We sat down with Andrea to chat about how she juggles four kids under 9 and a packed café (it helps that she closes at 3!), how her customers bring her joy and the amazing Jersey City pizza spot she and her family say is so worth the trip up the Garden State Parkway.
Owner of Hatch 44 Cafe & NJMOMpreneur Andrea Perez
NJMOM: Where do you live and where is Hatch 44 Cafe located?
Andrea: I live in Woodbridge and was raised here from middle school through high school. My parents still live there as well. Hatch 44 Café is located in Metuchen where I pretty much grew up, too. My grandparents always lived in Metuchen so we visited it often.
NJMOM: What do you offer and how is it different than other places?
Andrea: We are a brunch café, open from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M., seven days a week. Our food is a mix of American and Spanish. I’m Puerto Rican and my fiancé is Dominican, so we really wanted to incorporate our Hispanic culture in the flavors of the American food we make. We exclusively serve breakfast and brunch, but our menu extends to vegan options, gluten-free options and other allergen-free options, so there’s something for everyone. My oldest daughter has a high allergy to peanuts, eggs and dairy. It took me a while as she was growing up to get familiar with and understand what she could and couldn’t eat, so it was important for us to open a café where we really do have an option for her and everyone else. Our brunch café truly stands out because we do offer those options, and we always get great feedback from happy customers who opt for the vegan and gluten-free menu items. Right now, living a healthier lifestyle is important to a lot of people as well, so we’re more than happy to serve what they want to eat.
“Every time my fiancé and I wake up and start a new day, we believe we have the new opportunity to “hatch” into greatness. If you feel happy, the sky is the limit.” —Andrea Perez
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Andrea: The best part about being a mom for me is honestly the fact that I have four little humans that will look up to me, always, and I know that they’ll love me no matter what.
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Andrea: My children, at the end of the day, will always be the ones who inspire me the most. My fiancé and I love trying different foods and places to eat, We consider ourselves “foodies” and have had a dream to open up a farmer’s market, or a small restaurant. Our children love to eat breakfast for dinner, so a light bulb went off — we knew we had to open up a brunch café. One day we were driving home from my grandmother’s house in Metuchen, and we saw a vacant space for lease right up the street from her home. We fell in love instantly. The owner happened to be there, and after meeting him, we decided to come up with a unique menu and have been open ever since.
NJMOM: How do you juggle being a mom and businesswoman?
Andrea: Being a mom is my first priority, as I have four kids, ages 1, 5, 7 and 9. I look at the business as my children’s future. It’s a foundation I’m building for them, especially if God forbid I’m not here anymore, or when I grow old and I can no longer handle running the business. I have a great support team. My fiancé, my mother and his mom, they all help with the kids a lot. It’s not easy, I’m here every day at work. We also chose to serve breakfast and brunch because we can close at 3 PM when the older children get out of school, so we still have time with them. My children come to the café when they get out of school early or when they have off in the summer, and I have pictures of them all over the café, so everyone knows who they are. They’re my biggest inspiration, and my drive to keep going. A lot of the names of the menu items come from my family. We named items after my children, parents and grandparents to incorporate the most special people into the menu.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about owning the café?
Andrea: My favorite part about running Hatch 44 Café is being with my customers. I come from a corporate background in the fashion world, so customer service is what was emphasized in my former career, and what I instill into my employees. Having good quality food and great customer service is what makes a business the best. I’m constantly visiting the tables, chatting with the customers and making sure they’re doing fine, asking about their day. I love that I can bring family and friends together for what’s usually their first meal of the day.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Andrea: My advice would just be to follow your heart and follow your dreams. I feel that you just have to be happy. If you’re happy with yourself, you can achieve anything. Our motto is, “Hatch Vibes are Happy Vibes.” We chose the name “Hatch” because we serve freshly hatched eggs from local farms in NJ, but also because every time my fiancé and I wake up and start a new day, we believe we have the new opportunity to “hatch” into greatness. If you feel happy, the sky is the limit.
NJMOM: What has been the hardest part about having your own business?
Andrea: It can be really hard to juggle — you have to have a great support system and surround yourself with positive vibes, whether it’s at home or work. A lot of things can go wrong while running a café — if someone quits or if an employee calls out or if a customer does not like the long wait — but you have to figure it out and do whatever you can do to make it a positive, better situation. If something negative is going on at work, like if a customer isn’t happy, I’m always proactive and make the situation better. No matter what is going on that’s negative, I turn it into something positive and try to make a better outcome.
NJMOM: Do you have any famous customers who come into your café? OR, do you have any favorite, returning customers?
Andrea: Just yesterday, a customer named David Toma came in. He’s a veteran of the Korean War and a singer and actor from the early 1950s. He was amazing to meet and mentioned he and his wife have been around the world, but that Hatch 44 Café was some of the best food they’ve had in a long time. I was honored to meet him because my father is a veteran as well, and for someone to take the time to tell me that just touched my heart. We also had some American soccer players from the women’s U.S. team come in over the summer.
NJMOM: Name the top places you and your kids can’t live without in NJ!
Andrea: My family and I love to go to the beach. I know the Jersey shore is everyone’s go-to place in the summer, but we love Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant. It brings back memories of when I was younger and it’s our tradition to play games on the boardwalk, walk along the beach and collect shells. We go to their movies on the beach every year. My kids also love to eat at a pizzeria in Jersey City called Razza. They have the best pizza and we go there every chance we get to eat out. It’s not easy going out with four kids, but this place is worth the trip.