Newark Restaurant Fresh Coast Has Grown Alongside Audible

Update: Audible has seeded Newark Working Kitchens (NWK) to help feed Newark residents in need and frontline healthcare workers while keeping local restaurants open during Covid-19. By purchasing meals from participating restaurants, including many Lunch Out Wednesday restaurants, NWK serves thousands of meals a week and sustains and strengthens the neighborhood businesses that will power the city’s comeback. Learn more and donate.

It’s common to see a line wrapping out the door at Fresh Coast, a downtown Newark fast-casual restaurant known for its poke bowls, juices, smoothies and salads. That’s especially true on Wednesdays, when Audible employees head outside the office to eat at 22 local restaurants and explore our Newark neighborhood as part of our Lunch Out Wednesday (LOW) program.

For Fresh Coast owner Luis Valls-Amabile, Audible has not only been an important partner since he and his co-founder, Daniela Hoyos, opened the doors to their colorful, tropical eatery in August 2017, but we were also one of the reasons they opened up shop in Newark in the first place.

Luis, a New Jersey native who studied finance at Rutgers-Newark, wanted to show girlfriend Daniela his old stomping grounds while the two were in nearby Harrison looking at spaces to open their poke shop. Inspired by a vacation to Hawaii, where they became enamored with healthy, flavorful poke bowls, the couple thought Luis’ finance experience and Daniela’s knack for all things creative and culinary would make a poke cafe back home a success.

Newark’s downtown didn’t have much development when Luis was an undergraduate, so it wasn’t on his radar in terms of a location for the business. But, he says, “As we’re driving around, we’re seeing the beginnings of a lot of change,” from more offices, to abandoned buildings being revamped into condos and retail, to a plan for a Whole Foods and, across from Washington Park, Audible headquarters. “I said, ‘This is where we have to open. If a company like Audible is choosing to put down roots here that must mean big things are happening here.’” Add Newark’s close proximity to New York City, where Luis was working on Wall Street, and he was sold. Two months later, they signed a lease.

Read how Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Audible Founder and Executive Chairman Don Katz celebrated employees’ 30,000th Lunch Out Wednesday visit at Fresh Coast.

For the next six months, Luis and Daniela worked on a menu and concept and getting their names out. At a food market in Jersey City, an Audible caterer approached them and asked them to be an outside vendor on a Monday in August—the same week they officially opened. “Audible was one of the reasons I came to Newark,” says Luis, so it felt like a sign despite the time crunch to handle a big catering gig at such a crucial time. Their first day in Audible’s One Washington cafe, “people kept coming back for seconds and thirds,” he says about establishing a “relationship I felt really good about.” Fresh Coast (formerly called Ono Grinds) began catering to Audible regularly, testing out new menu ideas, and Audible employees started making the walk over to Fresh Coast on their own, too. When Fresh Coast was asked to participate in the Lunch Out Wednesday program in 2018, “I was like hell, yeah!” the 27-year-old entrepreneur says with a smile.

The business, Luis reflects, has “exceeded my expectations.” A second location is set to open in the long-awaited American Dream shopping center in the Meadowlands, and a franchise program is in the works. Much of the Fresh Coast improvement and growth over the last two years, Luis says, has been catalyzed by customers. And Audible and the Lunch Out Wednesday sales are a significant part of this growth. “Audible really helped us get our name out there,” as employees told their friends who worked nearby and enabled the restaurant to “establish trust in the community.” Luis estimates Fresh Coast serves an additional 200 people a month as a result of the Lunch Out Wednesday program, meaning up to $3,000 per month in sales. “Multiply that by word-of-mouth from Audible employees and those who come in at other days and times,” he says, “and it’s really made a huge difference.”


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