Haddon Heights resident Ashley Coyne is transforming the former Aster’s Flower shop into a health-food restaurant and juice bar this fall.
By Matt Skoufalos
For years, Ashley Coyne had pursued a front-office career in professional sports, taking internship after internship until she finally landed a marketing position with the Philadelphia Wings.
Not long after that, however, the team took flight for Connecticut—and took her job with it.
While she was regrouping, Coyne continued to work in the family restaurant, Max’s Seafood Café in Gloucester City. After a little pep talk from her mother, she started to see things differently.
“My mom said, ‘When people lose their jobs, that’s when stuff starts to happen,’” Coyne said.
So she began looking for a way to marry her interest in fitness with her experience in the food business. The concept she devised is Heart Beet Kitchen, a plant-based restaurant and juice bar that emphasizes full-flavored, healthy eating.
“I want to change people’s ideas of what food is around here,” Coyne said. “I was always looking for places to go eat quick and healthy, but there’s not a lot of options.”
For Coyne, who has a gluten allergy, catering to those with special dietary needs is a priority, but so is making guests of any palate feel welcome.
Her chef, Melissa Maly, is a 20-year vegan whose former Millville café, Wildflower, was known for its gourmet recipes. Coyne said Heart Beet won’t go strictly vegan, but that a majority of the menu will head in that direction.
“We’re going to keep everyone happy,” she said.
In addition to a cold-pressed juice bar, breakfast will comprise oatmeal pancakes, fruit-and-cereal bowls, and tofu scrambles. For lunch and dinner, Coyne plans to offer gluten-free pizza, zucchini noodles, and eggplant “meatballs”, as well as locally sourced, organic salads. Desserts will include fresh fruit smoothies, chia pudding, and a chocolate-avocado beet mousse that Coyne said is a head-turner.
“It’s so good,” she said. “You can have dessert and not have it loaded with sugar.”
The Haddon Township storefront will offer dine-in or take-out service, with a to-go case of pre-packaged meals and sides.
Although Coyne wants to keep the pace brisk for customers on the go, those who dine in will have their choice of a 14-foot, custom-built, communal table, a front-window lounge, or café seating. Heart Beet may someday expand to offer outdoor seating as well, but for now, Coyne is most focused on creating a friendly experience inside the former Aster’s Flower Shop on Haddon Avenue.
“I want it to be comfortable,” she said. “I want people to come and feel like they’re sitting in their own kitchen; where they know they can go and get healthy food.”
As she heads toward a late October opening date, Coyne said she will add a winery pairing, farm-to-table prix fixe dinners, and even weekly meal planning for school-age children.
“I want to promote healthy and active lifestyles,” Coyne said. “In New Jersey we’re behind the current food trends.”
Until the kitchen swings into action, Heart Beet will occupy a stall at the Wednesday night Westmont Farmers Market, as well as the weekend markets in Haddonfield and her hometown of Haddon Heights, Coyne said.
“It’s all going to be good stuff,” she said.
Heart Beet Kitchen is located at 29 Haddon Avenue in Westmont.