A while back, I was privileged enough to sit down for dinner with two dynamic and talented St. John born women to chat about their homegrown business in Coral Bay. An ingenious build out of a shipping container with the lingering smells of freshly baked treats sits adjacent to the building that used to house Pickles in Paradise. And within the walls of this shipping container, Ann Monsanto and Brenda Stephenson create magical, freshly baked flavors on par with the quality of a decadent corner bakery in Manhattan with the charm and hospitality of Love City. Building their dreams, one muffin at a time.
Ann and Brenda dreamed up this little café over their seven years of cleaning houses together. The ambitious duo, both of whom have worked VI government jobs, chatted as they worked about their future plans for their families’ security when they were retirement age.
“I AM retired,” a young and vivacious Brenda chimed in. She finished her work with the St. John Fire Department in recent years and, unable to sit still, was cleaning houses for extra cash and a way to fill her days. Ann, on the other hand is still currently working at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Cruz Bay. But don’t try to bribe this one with baked goods…The tasty treats she spends her weekends creating will far surpass any of your offerings in search of a more seamless BMV visit 🙂
While busy with their cleaning work, Brenda shared with Ann her love of coffee and her dream to one day run her very own café. Ann shared with Brenda her love for baking and desire to build an empire on just that. And thus, in those long days filled with busy work, the two women dreamed up, and saved up for, the “Love City Café.”
After months of daunting paperwork and jumping through the hoops that are kind of a hazing ritual for opening a business in the Virgin Islands, The Love City Café opened for business on February 1, 2021. Since, the two have been riding the roller coaster of being small business owners…Trying different processes until something works and then moving onto the next thing to eventually grease all the wheels of the engine, until the quickly growing in popularity coffee shop and bakery is running like a well oiled machine.
They wanted consistency in their recipes, but neither could be at the café round the clock. So, they now make their batter for the baked goods ahead of time so their one additional employee can just pop the treats into the oven for the same freshly baked deliciousness each and every day. They want to keep the ingredients fresh and healthy, but also had a desire to serve pates, a very popular local delicacy. So, Ann figured out how to bake them instead of frying them. And I’m here to tell you that they are a strong rival for their deep fried counterparts!
Oh, and the taste. I can vouch for that too. These amazing ladies EACH brought me a gigantically generous box of freshly baked sweet and savory treats to our meeting. The pictures do not do them enough justice. But I tell you what, as I nibbled here and there from the variety of pates, muffins, crumb cakes and doughnuts that these beautiful women had baked with love, there was nothing but “OMG” and “How did you do that?!?” coming out of my mouth. Delicious and decadent are both understatements.
On the weekends, Ann spends her “days off” from her full time job at the BMV baking and prepping at the Café. Brenda mans the helm most weekdays doing the same. And the challenges of keeping up with the baking is a job in and of itself for both of them!
With the baking its hard cause you have to do it and we both work! Even though I’m retired and we have the café, I still clean houses and she works at the BMV. So even though we were home in the afternoons you still have to do work. So, what I try to do is plan for the day before how many items I’m going to bake. So I used to do a lemon blueberry bread every day…Now I do two! You want to have it for your customers because they are coming looking for the bread. You want to have it to offer. If you don’t, then you go from making your money to making zero. – Brenda
They both work around the clock to discover new recipes to implement into their already hefty repertoire of baked goods. Brenda and Ann offer a different quiche each day of the week, Frittatas on Fridays, a variety of “best selling” muffins, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, coffee cakes, doughnuts, smoothies, daily specials and, of course, incredible coffee! And, they are always coming up with new sweet and savory treats to test out on their growing customer base.
But the diversity in their baked offerings and in-house menu items isn’t where their ambitions stop. I told you they had big dreams!
They currently offer villa provisioning services, which you can arrange on their website. And, this winter, the dynamic duo will be launching a beach picnic box program that will also require advance ordering. If you’re staying in Coral Bay, this is a fantastic option for lunch at the beach. You will be able to pre-order select sandwiches and sides for two, four or six people for pick up at the café. Pretty neat, huh?
Additionally, Ann and Brenda hope to one day soon offer in-villa catered breakfasts. That option paired with the picnic basket covers you and yours for two meals on the day with very minimal effort.
But, carry out and off-site services aren’t their only focus. Their real dreams for this place is for it to become a gathering place where people feel at home and are able to get quality, fresh food and coffee at a reasonable price. They want to be a reliable and comfortable space for their community.
“We just want it to be a nice little place for people to come and be comfortable, you know?” Brenda told me. “A place that they look forward to coming to.”
Love City Café recently re-opened after a seasonal closure for renovations and expansion. They need to make room for those big dreams to take flight, right? Stop by and say hello to Ann and Brenda between 7AM and 3PM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for big city quality baked goods, homemade with Love in Love City. They are closed on Wednesdays and Sundays…Because these round the clock hard-working women deserve a day off!