Member Profile – The Biscuit Eater Café & Books

The Biscuit Eater Café & Books, a Black-owned cafe and bookstore, is a celebration of life and community. You’ll find tasty, locally-inspired food, and books filled with stories representing Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. It’s a refuge for the BIPOC and Queer/2SLGBTQ+ communities on the South Shore of Mik’mak’i (Nova Scotia), located in one of the oldest heritage buildings in Mahone Bay.

Be a Biscuit Eater BenefactorBiscuit Eater Benefactor Graphic

Many small businesses are struggling because of lack of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biscuit Eater has come up with a creative way to raise funds now, so they can keep the lights on.

Biscuit Eater Benefactor Packages allow you to buy now, support the cafe, and benefit later.

“It would give us the capacity to rehire all of our staff to stay open, even if we’re not making the same level of orders, and to be creative and reinvest back in our community,” says owner Jessika Hepburn.

There are five options to choose from: 

The Biscuit Eater hopes to sell 1000 packages at $125 each by June 1.

Biscuit Eater take out

Currently, The Biscuit Eater is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 12-5 p.m. with a limited take out menu. 

“Throughout the whole first shutdown, I was feeding people consistently.” Jessika says it was mostly just her in the kitchen, but there were consistent orders coming in. 

“This time, everybody is being very careful, which is wonderful. But it means that we’re not able to continue feeding people in the same way.” During this most recent lockdown, the cafe has not been getting the volume of orders necessary to stay open.

The Benefactor packages will provide a necessary buffer so that the cafe can reopen five days a week for take out from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting June 1.

The Local Impact

Assorted pastries sit a white tower at the Biscuit Eater
“Spending local means that that money stays in your community,” says Jessika. “For every dollar that is spent locally, it circulates up to 10 times.” She says that ensures that people are able to stay living in their communities. 

“We’re seeing lots of changes within our communities right now. Investing in local businesses, especially the ones that have been there for the long term, is an investment in seeing what you want to continue in your community,” she says.

“When we come out of this, what do you want our communities to look like?”

Biscuit Eater Beginnings

Comfy chairs under a bookshelf at the Biscuit Eater Cafe

Jessika and her partner Chris bought The Biscuit Eater in 2016. Their family had suffered multiple tragedies that year and they wanted to do something healing for them and for the community. 

They took that grief and loss and channelled it into community care. “We invested in the cafe to create a place that was not just a food business, but as a site of community care to bring us together and also to create a presence for people of colour.”

The Biscuit Eater is, to the best of Jessika’s knowledge, the only Black-owned bookstore east of Montreal. Their focus is on supporting and elevating BIPOC authors and narratives. They want to ensure that when people come into the cafe, they see themselves represented and find books that speak to them.

“It’s the same with the food, right? To be able to come into the cafe and feel represented and that there’s food for you.”

A variety of baked goods sit on several white plates at the Biscuit Eater

Black culinary excellence is one of the biggest inspirations behind the cafe’s menu. Biscuits are traditionally a Black Southern comfort food. The Biscuit Eater is named after a short story about segregation in the American south.

“It was an insult originally,” Jessika says, “So our vision is to take this term that was derogatory and transform it into a celebration of Black food.” And so that’s what they do.

The Biscuit Eater creates beautiful baked goods, tea parties, brunches, custom cakes and comfort food. Food that celebrates life.

A white plate full of beautifully placed fruit, baked goods and charcuterie.

“Community care is always my highest value and the foundation for the cafe,” says Jessika. The Biscuit Eater operates a Community Care Fund, which simply means that people can donate and pay it forward, so that everyone can eat.

“We feed people for free, no questions asked, and we always have.”

Welcoming back the community

Biscuit Eater Staff in the Kitchen smiling

Jessika says that the thing she is looking forward to the most after the pandemic is seeing everybody’s beautiful faces. 

“One of the things that I miss most about the cafe is hearing all of the sounds that accompany a thriving business – the tea cups clinking and kids laughing and playing in the front yard and exploring the garden.”

She says they received a phone call the other day from a woman who said The Biscuit Eater was the last place they brought their mother before she passed. 

“A lot of people have stories like that,” she says. “We want them to be able to come back and be in the space. That’s the thing that I look forward to more than anything.”

Photo credits: Chef Dany Duguay & the Biscuit Eater Café & Books

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