NEW BRITAIN - As Mark Schand traveled back and forth from Windsor to visit his father in New Britain, he noticed something missing in the Hardware City.
“I actually couldn’t believe it. We’re in the downtown area and the whole stretch of the area has no healthy (food) options,” Schand said.
After seeing a “For Rent” sign at 60 W. Main St., across the street from his father’s home, Schand decided he was going to try to fill the void.
Sweetwater Juice Bar & Deli is a healthy food and drink café offering fresh fruit, vegetable and specialty smoothies, panini, wraps, salads and a breakfast bowl.
A self-described gym rat, Schand said he is afraid to put junk in his body, so he focuses on eating clean and healthy.
“I’m just trying to fill a niche and bring some healthy food to the downtown area,” Schand said.
He unofficially opened his doors on Wednesday, and so far, he said, people seem to like what they see - and taste.
“No complaints yet,” Schand said with a laugh.
When you walk into Sweetwater Juice Bar & Deli the first things you notice are the bright green walls, paintings of fresh fruit and displays of shelled nuts and grass.
“I’m not afraid of color,” Schand said. “It could have something to do with how I’ve been for a long time.”
Schand spent 27 years in prison on a murder conviction that was later thrown out, but he says he’s not angry. Instead, he’s focusing all of his energy on his business.
“I don’t want to be a cookie-cutter type. I want people to come in and feel comfortable,” he said.
Schand personally thought out each item and its placement. Below the chalkboard menu, the wall is lined with logs he collected and a love-seat sofa sits in front of the large window looking out to downtown. Free WiFi is also available.
“I try to make it look nice and inviting and welcoming,” he said.
This personal touch to ensure his customers are comfortable carries over to the extensive menu of drinks and build-your-own options.
Schand wants to cater to all types of people, no matter what dietary restrictions they may have. In order to do this every menu item is customizable, which is something he thinks sets him apart from other smoothie places.
“(I want it to be) like how you might go to your aunt’s house and tell her how to make your omelette type of thing. So I think that’s the difference. I want to be more personal,” Schand said.
Smoothies come with the customer’s choice of base: almond, soy and coconut milk or apple, pineapple and cranberry juice. Flax seed, oatmeal, wheat grass and almonds can be added to any smoothie for an additional charge.
Paninis and wraps come standard with the customer’s choice of protein, vegetable, cheese and sauce.
The only breakfast option as of now is Mia’s Breakfast Bowl, which includes granola, banana, almond chips, coconut chips, Greek yogurt and mixed fruit.
Schand said more breakfast options may be added if he sees there’s a need for them.
Sweetwater Juice Bar & Deli is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but that may change, Schand said.
At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled, with Mayor Erin Stewart, Economic Development Director Bill Carroll and Downtown District Director Gerry Amodio set to take part.
“I’d just like (people) to eat a little better if they could, and come on by here and get started,” Schand said.