A new restaurant has opened in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, but this cafe has a twist.
It’s the latest business venture from a mom with a mission to bring the community together one at a time. Little Cocoa Bean Co. Tot Cafe is a hybrid restaurant and play space that aims to provide healthy, varied food to kids in an approachable way, while bringing people together in the process.
Local mom-turned-entrepreneur Tracy Skelly started Little Cocoa Bean Co. a few years ago to fill a void she saw in the grocery store.
“Everything is very Eurocentric,” Skelly said. “But, you know, we have a very diverse population right now. People come from all over the world and they’re raising their kids in a way that wants to incorporate some of these traditional foods.”
Little Cocoa Bean Co. is a business concept born in a doctor’s office.
The journey has moved from creating a diverse range of baby food and baby food making kits and products, to selling directly to consumers, to a pop-up storefront on Boston Seaport. It’s now leading to this new brick-and-mortar cafe and playground on South Street.
The cafe officially opened on Saturday, with several community members and leaders in attendance for the big day.
Food is fun and combines ingredients to ensure variety and nutrition.
“For example, we have chips on the menu,” Skelly said. “They’re fried or baked, but we have Okinawan fries and purple potato fries. We have yuca fries, we have plantain fries.”
The space is equipped with activities and toys that allow children to play and graze. The attention to detail also includes tabletops you can draw on, and a goal to recruit staff with experience in both early childhood education and retail. Once inside it’s easy to see that this is a mission beyond food.
“We can sell our healthy, fresh, diverse food from this particular space, but it also allows us to be part of the community, providing a space for caregivers to come together as a community and meet other people,” Skelly said. .”
Many people have longed for that connection since the pandemic began.
The café combines all the ingredients for raising a strong and healthy child, while also providing a place for parents and carers to connect, grow and learn. They host events in their back room, including parenting and postpartum workshops, and birthday parties. This space gives the smallest customers a chance to be themselves.
“They want to be messy; they want to be loud,” Skelly said of children’s nature. “So, I think, parents are really happy to have a space that feels like it’s made for them and to feel that their kids are welcome and allowed to be kids.”