In two sentences, what does your business do?
Heritage Café is a locally run and owned café that specializes in sandwiches, salads, pastries, and of course espresso and coffee. We are committed to exceptional customer service that matches the quality of our products.
Where is your business located?
We are located at 614 South Crouse Ave Suite 100, Syracuse, NY 13210. We are on the ground floor of a large apartment building.
What inspired you to start your business?
My family owns the building that Heritage is located in, as well as, other rental properties in the area and while I didn't want to join that portion of the business I did want to stay close to family. As a result, Heritage Café became my version of my heritage.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
One thing that really stood out to me was the bank was shocked I had created a business plan.
Apparently, it is a rarity that people come to the bank with a prepared course of action, facts, and figures to support why they believe their business will succeed and why the bank should give them money to invest in themselves. Making my business plan took me months. I researched all "competition", gathered number for construction and equipment, and made plans for hiring employees amongst other things. While securing funding I was also using my own capital to construct my business. The kitchen I took over had 100% seen better days and was in no way health code compliant and the café itself was a big white box with no counters, walls, sinks, or anything. In the end it took me a little over a year and a half to get everything ready and open Heritage's doors.
How is your business different from the competition?
Our location is partially what makes us different. On the SU hill there is an abundance of pizzerias, Asian options, and chains such as Five Guys and Chipotle. Our fare is sandwiches, salads, pastries, etc. If you want pizza or Chinese, you aren't going to come to us. We are also one of the few healthier options around the area and our customer service cannot be beat so that is how we have attracted and retained our amazing customer base.
What's your best piece of advice for someone just starting out?
What has been your biggest life challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest life challenge was when my mother was struck and killed by an elderly driver in March 2020. Not only was my mother my best friend and mentor, but she was my biggest cheerleader especially when it came to Heritage. Less than a week after her death the world shut down due to COVID-19. Heritage's entire customer base disappeared overnight. Syracuse University and ESF students were sent home, university, doctor and hospital administration employees were told to work from home, and the hospitals stopped letting employees out for food. My entire world had just blown to pieces. I made the difficult decision to close Heritage as quickly as possible to get all of my employees on unemployment. Heritage was closed for exactly 5 months. During that time I tried to grieve, but it was odd since everyone in the world was grieving some sort of loss. Re-opening Heritage gave me purpose. I know it was what my mother would want me to do and if she were still alive she would have been right along with me scrubbing the entire place, but let me tell you opening a restaurant is hard enough the first time, but doing it twice? Ugh. Let's never do that again. Thankfully, we did re-open and have been slowly regaining our customer base back. I will keep fighting not only for my mother, but for my awesome employees who are also my little family as well.
What's your favorite non-business activity and why?
I love to travel. My mom and I have been all around to world together and honestly I feel most at home in an airport, or on a plane. If you talk to anyone in my family apparently I took my first steps in MCO Orlando airport. There is something about experiencing a new place and a new culture that is so exciting. If I had to pick a favorite trip I would say our trip to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The people were so welcoming, the food amazing, and of course the animals on safari were spectacular. I can't wait to bring my own children back some day.
Public Contact information (include website, social media links, phone, email, address, etc)
Michele Rochkind, www.heritagecafe.com, www.facebook.com/heritagecafesyr, www.instagram.com/heritagecafesyr , (315) 303-1675, firstname.lastname@example.org, 614 South Crouse Ave, Suite 100, Syracuse, NY 13210