When Emily Weisberg was a teenager, she dreamed of working at a cafe in her small town of Hartford, Wisc. The owner told her she could apply for a job when she was 16.
For her birthday that year, her mom threw her a birthday party at the cafe and the owner of the café handed her a gift: a job application.
So began a life-long love affair with cafés. While living in Jerusalem, she ran a small café out of her apartment, serving coffee and pastries to customers on the sidewalk in front of her home. That is, until a government official told her that, without a permit, she had to close shop.
But she didn’t stop for long. After Weisberg and her husband moved back to the U.S. to settle in Riverdale, Weisberg opened up her very own — and perfectly legal — coffee bar: Moss Café. She envisioned a community space where neighbors could meet over a meticulously brewed cup of coffee or a rhubarb-thyme scone. The café, opened in 2015, quickly grew into a café-restaurant serving three meals a day with a full-service dinner menu.
Moss brings together Weisberg’s disparate interests in immigrant rights, ethical food culture, coffee, and community. Growing up in the Midwest, being connected to food and to land was just a part of life. “It wasn’t anything trendy, it just was,” said Weisberg. She does her best to source her ingredients as locally as possible, making whatever can’t be purchased locally or at a high enough quality. That means the jams, pickles, yogurt and sourdough bread are all made on site. Having worked in restaurants where she used her Spanish skills to learn about her immigrant coworkers’ experiences, Weisberg wanted to be an immigration attorney. Now she takes pride in creating a warm, family-like environment for her staff.
“All of these interests and things I cared about felt like things I could do,” said Weisberg. “I could make a community space, I could be a good employer, I could help immigrants, I could support local farms, I could do food outreach … and form relationships and help other people form relationships.”
Designing woman: If she weren’t a restaurant owner, Weisberg said she would be an interior designer.