Peace Nation Cafe Operates Mindfully
Compiled by Jodi La Marco
We spoke with Noe Declid, owner of Peace Nation Café, to hear what he had to say about his eco-friendly restaurant in Midtown Kingston.
Can you describe what you offer at Peace Nation? When did you open for business?
We opened about a year and a half ago. We do locally-sourced organic food with a Guatemalan menu, and it’s probably the only place where you can get vegetarian or vegan Guatemalan food. We do a vegan night every second Saturday. The vegan community is very supportive of what we’re doing; I’d say we have a pretty good following. We’re also shooting for an eco-café. We source our electricity from wind farms upstate, we compost to close the farming cycle, and we don’t use any plastics. Our takeout containers are compostable or made from corn-based plastic. We’re still adjusting the menu. It’s my first time really doing something that’s farm-to-table. There’s many challenges there; when you have a menu and something’s not available, how do you keep producing that item on your menu? I’m still tweaking the café, but our main goal is to be as green as possible and to have a low carbon footprint.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’m really passionate about the environment and making the world a better place. Because of where we are right now with environmental destruction, I think helping the environment is possibly the biggest business opportunity out there. I started the company Peace Nation five years ago. I had a line of hemp and organic cotton tee shirts, because hemp is one of the most environmentally-friendly crops one can grow. That’s how I started five years ago, and then I moved to Kingston and decided to open a café.
Did you have a background in food service?
I managed my parents’ restaurant and bakery for about 10 years, and I had my own restaurant and bakery that I opened in Westchester when I was 26.
How do you plan to develop your business?
With expansion of the company itself, I still want to grow our eco apparel line. As for the café, I came to Kingston because it was much more affordable, but the business model isn’t perfect. I’m incorporating local organic food, sourcing green energy, and our containers are compostable—all of that costs more, but I didn’t want to have expensive food, especially in the area that we’re in. Kingston is a relatively low-income area. I didn’t want to help gentrify this area by serving dishes that are $20 and up. When I first opened, it wasn’t to make a bunch of money. I thought, “Let me open this, do the best I can at it, and see what happens.”
How does your business fit into the larger movement to revitalize the Hudson Valley?
I think it’s important for food to be accessible to the community, especially since I have a Guatemalan menu and there are a lot of Guatemalans who live in the area. I’m Guatemalan myself so I want it to be accessible to my people.
What measures do you and your business take to support the local economy?
We source everything as local as possible to support local farmers. We buy from local farms like the Kingston YMCA Farm Project. We also provide jobs. Everyone who works here lives within a five-minute radius. One big step I saw to support the local economy was to use the Hudson Valley Current. That really makes you keep it local. Even though we already buy things locally, I thought the Current was a great program. I believe in it.
How do you use Currents in your business?
The Current has a couple of farms that participate. The main way that I’m exchanging Currents is through the farms. They also have a few graphic designers, so if I need something designed, I can reach out to them. Mostly, I plan to use them through food supply. There’s a new farm that opened this past year; they’re as local as we can get. This farm is literally 10 or 15 minutes away. They’re here in Kingston, and I’ve met them personally. They’ve come in to eat. It’s definitely a connection I want to nourish.
Why do you think it’s important to use Currents?
I think it’s important to keep things local. I also wanted to support someone who was doing something outside of the mainstream. Currents take cash out of the equation. I wanted to support something that would disrupt the normal bank-based cash society.