John Ropelski is a good dude. He is also the owner of &grain (andgrain.com), an artisan bread and coffee shop in Garwood, NJ. The neighborhood café is a little bit of Brooklyn mixed with a sprinkle of Portland, but it’s also all New Jersey.
When COVID-19 hit, like many other small-business owners, Ropelski was forced to downsize his staff. And his business was relegated the world of call-ahead, curbside-only service.
Undeterred, Ropelski kept baking. “I can’t give up—this is my life,” he says. And what he isn’t selling, he donates. He partnered with Westfield Fun Club, a local charity, and started donating bread two nights a week.
It wasn’t long before he placed a bulletin board in front of the shop announcing, “Free Bread!!! 4 the Elderly & Anyone Laid Off.” And with that, on March 31, &grain launched its Free Bread program.
There is no judgement and no proof of hardship is required. If you are in the area and would like bread, contact John at 908-232-2233 by 1 p.m. the day prior. &grain has pledged to continue the relief program throughout the pandemic or until Ropelski can no longer afford to continue. A GoFundMe page has been organized with proceeds going toward the Free Bread initiative.
Ropelski is humbled by the response and attention that this initiative has drawn and is happy to give back to the community that he has been part of for the past eight years.
For now, keep &grain in mind for curbside pickup and if you or anyone you know is in need of fresh bread. And once the pandemic is behind us, stop by the café for some scrumptious breads and pastries and give John Ropelski your regards.
700 North Avenue
Garwood, NJ 07027