Saucon Valley native Jessica Morrissey never expected to open a gourmet toast and juice bar, but a fateful trip to Stone Harbor, N.J., in the summer of 2021 changed all that. And now the Bethlehem area is about to benefit.
Morrissey, who was preparing to graduate from Lehigh University with a Master of Business Administration degree, was walking the Jersey Shore town’s main shopping district with her mom when they discovered that a home store they had previously frequented had been replaced by a restaurant called Toastique.
One meal later, she was in love with both the food and the concept behind the eatery, which serves a variety of freshly-prepared open-faced sandwiches or “toasts” along with fruit bowls, smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices, coffee, espresso and other light fare that is supposed to be healthier and more portable than traditional fast food.
Morrissey, 28, didn’t know it at the time, but the visionary businesswoman responsible for developing the Toastique brand is not only close to her in age but also grew up in a community close by to hers.
Toastique founder and CEO Brianna Keefe–who is one year older than Morrissey–was raised in Lehigh County, where she graduated from Parkland High School before attending college at James Madison University in Virginia.
It was during that time that her participation in Division 1 athletics led her to develop the toasts that are now Toastique’s signature menu item.
Their invention was birthed by necessity, according to the Toastique website, which states that Keefe “learned how important it was to have wholesome meals throughout the day to keep her energy up while on the go. Day in and day out, Brianna expanded her original avocado toast to various toast creations to accommodate her busy schedule anytime of the day.”
After graduating, Keefe opened the first Toastique in the Washington, D.C. area in 2018, which is where the company’s largest concentration of stores remains. Over the past five years she has overseen Toastique’s growth; a remarkable achievement for which she was named to Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list in the food and drink category in 2022.
There are now approximately 15 Toastique locations, including six in the D.C. metro area, two in New Jersey, one in Florida, two in Utah and four in Colorado.
The number of locations is expected to more or less double over the next year, with several stores–including the Bethlehem Toastique–opening this spring, and more than a dozen more slated to open later this year. A number of the new stores will be located in California, Maryland, Tennessee and other states that don’t yet have a Toastique.
Morrissey didn’t know Keefe before she became the company’s first Pennsylvania franchisee, but she said she’s since discovered that they have overlapping circles of friends.
Keefe’s friends and family will be among those in attendance for the opening of the Morrissey’s franchise this Saturday, March 11 at 21 E. Third Street on Bethlehem’s South Side. As an incentive to draw people to the opening, the first 50 customers who make a purchase in the new shop will each receive a weekly $15 credit on the Toastique app for an entire year.
Last Wednesday, 10 days before the opening, Morrissey was busy unpacking equipment, stocking supplies and furnishing the restaurant, which is housed in a retail space that was previously occupied by Domaci and Cleo’s.
Morrissey’s mom–Dr. Ann Huniscker-Morrissey, a Saucon Valley dentist and the owner of Hellertown Dental Group–was there to help, as were some members of the youthful team of employees she’s assembled. Morrissey’s father is Dr. William Morrissey, a plastic surgeon who is affiliated with St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem.
She said the support she has received from both parents is much appreciated and praised her Toastique team’s enthusiasm as a reflection on the brand she fell in love with.
Morrissey said deciding to open Toastique in Bethlehem’s South Side Arts District was relatively easy, given the area’s youthful vibe and proximity to thousands of Lehigh students.
“My vision for South Bethlehem is that Lehigh is here, but there’s so much more to the community, too,” she said.
Toastique is also centrally-located near upscale rentals that are expected to draw thousands of new residents to the area, with Morrissey noting that seven apartment buildings within walking distance of the store are currently or will soon be under construction.
One of the things that sets Toastique apart, she said, is the freshness of their ingredients, which also means that a lot of prep work goes into making every gourmet toast creation.
Most of the toasts are savory. For example, the Avocado Smash is made with avocado, marinated tomatoes, watermelon radish, micro greens, seasoning and chili oil, on top of multigrain bread, and a Tuscan Tuna is made with sundried tomato tuna, Bibb lettuce, Kalamata olive, capers, tomato, Herb Lemon Vinaigrette and balsamic glaze. For anyone craving something sweet, however, there is the PB Crunch toast option, which features honey roasted peanut butter, bananas, strawberries, granola, chia seeds, honey and mint carefully arranged to resemble a flower atop a slice of Raisin Walnut bread.
Morrissey said that even things like peanut butter and jelly are made from scratch at Toastique. And she said that one toast can be surprisingly hearty.
“They’re definitely filling,” she said.
Gluten-free and vegan menu options are available and there is a monthly featured Toast of the Month special for customers who like to explore new flavor sensations.
“We want people to have a good experience,” Morrissey explained. “As long as we have it, we can make it for them.”
Toastique in Bethlehem will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, and Morrissey said she is still hiring to fill some positions.
There will also be a “quiet room” in the back of the store for studying, which she said may be available for private events in the future.
Catering options also exist for fans of the menu who want to share it at their own events or parties.
Morrissey said food delivery will be available via third party apps like Doordash and Grubhub.