Two new restaurants coming to Montclair later this year are owned by the same enterprising woman, Adenah Bayoh. Adenah is a Jersey Girl through and through, arriving in the Garden State after emigrating from her native Liberia. Essex County has been the site of her many achievements — from growing up in Newark to starting her first businesses here. The Montclair Girl got a chance to chat with Adenah about her Essex County connections, her new businesses coming to Montclair, and what’s next for this ground-breaking entrepreneur. Read on to learn more about Adenah Bayoh.
Adenah Bayoh came to the US from Liberia as a teenager and landed in Newark. She graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and she says that business has always been in her blood. “I was raised by my grandmother in a small village,” she told The Montclair Girl. “My grandmother had a restaurant, a bread factory, and a farm. I remember being around her and soaking up all of the things she was a part of. She involved me from a very young age in her business dealings.”
This exposure to the back-end of business and the independence that could be gained through success powered Adenah throughout her life. “Through my grandmother, I was able to see that a powerful woman with no education was able to build something for herself,” she said. Even throughout her schooling, Adenah had businesses of her own, from babysitting to doing laundry to offering hairstyling in her college dorm. “When I came to the US, the only thing I knew was business,” Adenah said. “It was a natural part of who I was.”
In 2008, she opened an IHOP franchise in Irvington, making her one of the youngest IHOP franchisees in the nation. Since then, it’s been one success after another — through real estate investments, expanding her franchises, and other ventures. Adenah now owns seven restaurants, including four IHOP franchises.
Adenah has two children, an 11-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. They live in Essex County. She relaxes by exercising and is currently training for the New York City Marathon. “My goal is to reach the finish line on two feet,” she says. Adenah trains at Secret Formula Fitness in Hillside, and her favorite park for training is Weequahic Park in Newark. In her downtime, she likes to support other woman-owned businesses. Besides her own restaurants, she likes Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark.
Her connection to New Jersey has only deepened as her business enterprises have grown. “In every community I’ve encountered, the neighborhoods where I do business, they are all extremely supportive of me,” she said. “It’s not just me, but being a woman in business. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is that you have the backing of your community behind you. I am lucky to be doing business here, because of the amount of support I’ve gotten. I wouldn’t be here without community support and I want to go above and beyond to make them proud.” she said.
Coming to Montclair
Adenah owns two restaurants that will open later this year as part of the Seymour Street development project in Montclair. One is called Brick City Vegan, and the other is called Cornbread Farm-to-Soul. Expanding her portfolio to Montclair was an easy choice, Adenah said. “I spent a lot of time in Montclair during college at a bar called Diva’s Lounge,” she said. “Many Friday and Saturday nights were spent there with friends.” Adenah’s children also attend school in Montclair.
“What I love about Montclair is how welcoming it is. There is a diversity of thoughts, culture, and race,” she said. And the fact that Montclair residents like to explore helps, too. “The city is doing a good job of inviting different foods to the community, and the community is open to the experience,” she said.
Something important to Adenah no matter the location of her business is building deep, meaningful connections within the community. “In any communities that we go into, it’s to really hone in and honor those communities. One of the ways that we’re looking to honor Montclair and all of its history is to be a good neighbor, work with the town and other businesses, non-profits.” Adenah said. “We want to volunteer in Toni’s Kitchen, for example, and not take away from what already exists. We want to go deeper than the surface and really intertwine ourselves in the community and be a big part of it.”
“Montclair is so welcoming and that’s what made me eager to build our concept there,” Adenah said. “If we can have more communities like this it would improve the country.”
Adenah says that with all of her brands, she wants to give people more choices. “I think about communities and want to solve the issues they deal with,” she said. “I want to add something that is wholesome and good.” Adenah herself follows a plant-based diet and felt there was a void around accessible plant-based options in urban neighborhoods.
The concept for Brick City Vegan came from her desire to solve that problem. “I was thinking about bringing food into urban communities, especially underserved ones, getting people access to quality food,” Adenah said. “People in these communities experience awful food insecurities. The neighborhoods are inundated with chicken shops and unhealthy options. My idea was to bring something in that countered that and bring it into the neighborhood. I want to give people the option, the ability to have healthier food, healthier choices.” There is one location of this concept called Urban Vegan, which is in Newark, and the Montclair location will be its second. The menu at Brick City focuses on plant-based comfort food that has been sourced locally.
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Cornbread Farm-to-Soul is a fast-casual style restaurant serving soul food. All of the ingredients are farm-to-table, free of steroids and hormones. There are three locations throughout New Jersey and New York.
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Adenah hopes to open both of these Montclair locations by the end of 2022. As for what’s next with these two brands, Adenah has a big vision. She wants to create a franchise for Cornbread Farm-to-Soul. “I want it to be a premiere franchise and share authentic recipes,” she said. “I want to make soul food a household name and honor the communities where we do business.” Creating a premiere franchise is something that Adenah says no African American woman has done before. “I want to do this for others,” she said.
She also wants to see Brick City Vegan’s retail products sold on the shelves of stores like Whole Foods. “We are working with Whole Foods to have burgers and patties in stores,” she said. “I want to grow that brand on the retail side and open more stores in communities that would benefit from our brand.”