GREENSBORO, N.C. — Kathryn Hubert’s making news on a couple of different fronts.
She recently opened a business that’s adding to the growth and popularity of downtown Greensboro.
She’s also offering employment opportunities for those who wouldn’t otherwise have them.
She’s also satisfying one of her life’s passions when it comes to hospitality.
Last fall, she opened a French café on South Elm Street and named it Chez Genése.
“It means the place of genesis or the place of new beginnings,” she told me during my recent visit.
Not only does she own the place, she’s the one in the kitchen preparing some of the well-known favorites of French cuisine.
“So lots of vegetables, lots of fruits, good breads, cheeses, quality meats,” she said.
She uses skills she developed while cooking with her mom growing up and spending a year at a conference center in Burgundy region of France doing whatever needed to be done—including food preparation.
“I loved the way different people (in France) are so generous with their time and with their homes and with their food,” she told me.
Hubert would come back to the states to work on a degree in hospitality management at UNC-Greensboro. While a student, she needed part-time work and came across a job posting for a behavioral support assistant at the Autism Society of North Carolina.
“I have three cousins with autism. And growing up with autism in my family, I think I always had a heart for individuals with special needs,” she said.
Through the Autism Society, she got connected with a family and provided after school care for a third grade boy with autism.
That experience was so influential she decided to hire people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and give them—like the name Chez Genése implies—new beginnings.
“It’s like they don’t even get a chance to get their foot in the door because people tend to write them off,” she told me. “I think that’s an injustice.”
Hubert and her team have worked hard on meeting personal goals and handling the stress and anxiety the workers may face.
The break room features everything from a timer to headphones to art supplies. There’s also a “south out” board featuring post-it notes that recognize those employees who go the extra mile.
“Your teams is more important than your location, than your concept and then your menu,” she told me. “Your team is going to make or break you.”
So Hubert’s focused primarily on building a team whose members love what they do. Both new beginnings and success have followed.
But Hubert’s also quick to point out Chez Genése wouldn’t have happened had it not been for community support. People in the community donated and/or invested $75,000.00 for the startup. A Kickstarter campaign also raised $25,000.00.
Chez Genése opened in late October 2018, and today more than half the people who work there have intellectual or developmental disabilities.
It’s open for lunch and breakfast Monday through Saturday. Sunday is brunch only.
For more information, including the menu, visit the Chez Genése website
Visit the Autism Society of North Carolina’s website for more details on their work. .