While there are a ton of plant-based ice cream shops in Hoboken, they are few and far between in Guttenberg + the surrounding towns. Luckily, for those of us who live in the area, a new vegan creamery recently opened its doors in July and the ambiance + flavors are out of this world. Bon Koko, located at 6802 Park Avenue in Guttenberg, serves up organic, vegan products like ocean-harvested sea moss gel, hazelnut cocoa spread, slushies, sorbets, cookies, banana bread, plant-based milk ice pops and of course, ice cream with classic and seasonal flavors available. Keep reading to learn all about Bon Koko’s offerings as well as the owner who was almost in The Spice Girls.
Bon Koko’s Background
The official grand opening for Bon Koko was held on September 15th and the Mayor of Guttenberg, Wayne D. Zitt Jr., cut the ribbon. Guttenberg Town Administrator, Cosmo Cirillo, Councilman John D. Habermann, and Councilman William Hokien also joined to celebrate with the owners.
Bon Koko’s story began over five years ago when owners and friends, Samantha Mighty and Christian N. Hesse decided to join forces to bring a unique twist on vegan goods. The concept for the creamery was mostly based on Sam’s island roots and can be felt in everything made at Bon Koko.
Bon Koko means ‘good coconut’ in French Creole (patois), which is spoken in Saint Lucia where Samantha’s family is from. “We were talking about my family and how we have coconut trees, nutmeg, and cinnamon,” said Sam. “We came up with this whole concept for coconuts. We started and then it absolutely flourished from there.”
Sam hails from East London, Leytonstone, to be exact, and her cool, British accent is an obvious giveaway, as well as her dry British humor. “All of my family is in London so I have quite a strong friendship base there,” she said. “I initially came here [the US] to be a musician. When I came out here I was like ‘I can make it’. I sing and song-write.”
Both of Sam’s parents are from St. Lucia, while her mom now lives in London. “She came when she was 15 and my uncles were all born in London. They used to tease her all the time because she had such a strong accent. But then obviously she found her way, she got through. Then I came into the picture. Best day of her life, clearly.”
Sam moved to NYC from London almost 20 years ago, and Sam and Christian both live in West New York now. Prior to opening Bon Koko, Sam was in the fashion + music world and once the pandemic hit, both Sam and Christian decided to take their idea more seriously. Both worked tirelessly over the last two years to get the place up and running once they came into possession of the space. There were unforeseen delays after having to gut the building due to many much-needed repairs. After much hard work, both owners are grateful and excited to finally be able to bring their vision to life and share it with the community.
Opening Bon Koko was a no-brainer for them once they realized that their unique idea was also a profitable one. “We had an idea to make good, clean, plant-based products utilizing the versatility of coconuts, which we wanted to share with the world. We literally made some ice lollies (popsicles) and thought ‘These are really good, we should open a store’. The idea was born and here we are! We chose to open in Guttenberg as it has a great community spirit and support. It’s minutes from Hoboken, Jersey City, and Manhattan.”
At Bon Koko, there is a strong emphasis on using the highest-quality ingredients for all of the products that are sold. The ocean-harvested sea moss gel, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cocoa beans are all sourced from St. Lucia. Everything at Bon Koko is organic + vegan. The products consist of ocean-harvested sea moss gel, hazelnut cocoa spread, slushies, sorbets, cookies, banana bread, plant-based milk ice pops, and of course, ice cream.
“To the best of our knowledge, Bon Koko is the only fully plant-based ice cream parlor in Hudson County using certified organic, or certified non-GMO ingredients,” said Sam. Our uniqueness includes not using any artificial flavorings or artificial sweeteners. Everything that we make is 100% organic. Everything we make is from scratch.”
The current ice cream flavors are Toasted Coconut, Ginger Cookie, Strawberry Shortbread, Mango, Strawberry, Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, Blueberry Crumble, Banana Nut Caramel Chocolate Crunch, Banana Nut Crunch, Vanilla Bean, and Coconut Pistachio Crunch. More flavors are added or modified during different seasons including fall + winter and are priced at $4. The smoothies are made fresh and have a mix of fruits and greens with a price range from $5 for a small and $8.75 for a large depending on which you choose. The plant-based milks offered are oat, coconut, cashew, and almond and are priced at $6.99 each, while the hemp milk is $7.65. The popsicles are made with a coconut base and come in a few flavors including Mango Lemonade and Pineapple Blueberry Lemonade. They are $3 or $3.50 with sea moss gel. The Sea Moss gels come flavored (pineapple, mango, ginger) and unflavored and cost $11. The Hazelnut Cocoa spread is $8 for an 8oz jar.
Sam says the Coconut Pistachio Crunch is the most popular flavor (and her fave), with Blueberry Crumble and the Ginger Cookie rounding out the top three. “That being said, some people only come for the Banana Nut Crunch, I guess it all depends on your palate. Our most popular slushy is the Mango Coconut Pineapple, followed by the Blueberry Pineapple Lemonade and then our Lemon Lime Pucker Up. Our customers also really like our baked goods and sea moss gel.”
Sam graciously allowed us to sample all the flavors of ice cream, slushies, sorbets, cookies, and more. Reviews on Google will show that Sam is just as generous with us as she is with her clientele. Happy customers expressed gratitude for being able to sample flavors – which is a great way to dispel some skepticism from patrons who have not tried vegan food in the past. “I’m just like ‘try something’,” she says. “They always leave satisfied. We definitely have repeat customers. I say ‘Just try it’ because I’ll cut up one (cookie) and then people are like ‘Okay I’ll take one, we see what you did there Sam’ and I’m like ‘No I’m not trying to sell it to you’, we just like people to try because it’s vegan as well so it has a stigma so I’m like ‘try it’ and then tell me what you think.”
After trying basically almost everything, we can confidently say that you just can’t go wrong in choosing — everything was so tasty. Some of our absolute must-tries for the ice cream were the Blueberry Crumble, Banana Nut Crunch, and Coconut Pistachio Crunch — which are all flavors that happen to be on the top-sellers list, with the Banana Nut Crunch standing out. The Banana Nut Crunch is made with caramel, banana biscotti, chocolate ganache, and infused banana — which was reminiscent of their banana bread. The Coconut Pistachio Crunch has a coconut base, pistachio brittle, and candied cacao nibs.
The two types of cookies sold, cashew chocolate chip and plain chocolate chip, are so delish, warm, and comforting. “I’ve actually fallen in love with my own cookies, sad but true,” Sam said. Bon Koko also offers free, filtered water through reverse osmosis for patrons. “I think I’m going to do an Apple Crumble for winter, because, you know in London, we love crumbles so I think I’m going to do an Apple Crumble ice cream and an Apple Crumble dessert. We’re doing our online orders as well, especially in winter.”
The owners have quickly built strong relationships with the locals. Sam speaks fondly of them and how they’ve welcomed her and Christian to the neighborhood. Some have brought her gifts, like a bag of peaches, and window decorations, others have humorously offered to give her Spanish lessons.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve just met so many people,” she says. “I know names, I know faces. I’ve turned into the neighborhood therapist.” A few minutes after starting our conversation with Sam, it wasn’t hard to see why. “From kids to grandmas, they come in and they just talk. I’m like ‘I’ve got to get something from the oven’ and they’re like ‘Okay, get it out Sam, I’m right here’. There’s quite a few of them.”
Sam says she had an amusing exchange with one customer in particular when they both realized they had similar accents. “We ran into each other organically one evening. He came in here, he was like ‘Uh, excuse me’ and I was like ‘No’. He was like ‘What’ and I was like ‘Why are you talking like me’? He was like ‘I can’t believe it. Where are you from”? He comes in all the time, now we’re officially friends, his name is Steve. He’s so lovely.” Turns out they grew up one town over from each other back in London.
Sam’s Musical Background
After chatting with Sam about Bon Koko, she revealed more of her personal journey in the music world and her other interests which include traveling, writing, fitness, and having a good meal with friends + family. Towards the end of our interview, she told us that she was supposed to audition for a spot in The Spice Girls!
“When I was in London, I was in a girl group and, funny story, I was meant to be Mel B, and I never went to the audition,” she said. “ I never went for it. I was just stupid. I think I was just young and silly and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I remember the person that put me up for it was like ‘It’s a pop group’ and I was like ‘Pop? I’m an R&B singer. I don’t sing pop, and they’re like ‘well, I mean, they’re gonna blow up.’ and I was like ‘no’ and I didn’t go for it.”
Despite not going to the audition that day, Sam continued to pursue her dreams in London + NYC and is certain that her big break could come at any time. “I am a strong believer in that. Morgan Freeman didn’t start acting until 40 something, Anita Baker started singing at 30 something, it’s never too late.” Through Bon Koko, she’s intersected 2 of her passions. “I just love good food. I feel that music and food are both creations from the soul.”
Plans for the Future
“We’re planning on additional locations and expansion into wholesale. “We plan on expanding our menu to include hot chocolate made from St. Lucian cocoa beans and international coffees.”
The creamery’s online shop offers all the delicious things from the store with a minimum local delivery order of $12, and national shipping will be available soon. Shoppers will find the hazelnut cocoa spread, plant-based milk, sea moss gel (flavored and unflavored), popsicles with or without sea moss, 16 ounces of any flavor of ice cream, and more.
Bon Koko is open seven days a week from 2PM to 8PM on Mondays; 11:30AM to 8PM Tuesday-Thursday; and 11:30AM to 9PM Friday-Sunday. Stay up to date on events and new flavor releases on Bon Koko’s Insta or Facebook.