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Juice on the loose in Darien: Green & Tonic opens

Updated 3:13 pm, Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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  • Green & Tonic, a health food and juice shop, has opened on the Post Road in Darien. Photos by Belinda Stasiukiewicz. Photo: Contributed Photo

    Green & Tonic, a health food and juice shop, has opened on the Post Road in Darien. Photos by Belinda Stasiukiewicz.

    Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Juicing changed Jeff Pandolfino's life. And he wants it to change yours, too.

As the owner of Green & Tonic, a new health food and juice store in Darien, Pandolfino embraces the health food culture. He became interested in health food in 2009, when he and his wife decides to better their lives by exercising and eating more nutritious foods. He discovered the difference it made in his health and energy levels, and he vowed to help others make the switch to healthy living in an easy, delicious way.

He launched the Green & Tonic website in 2009 as a web-based health food and juice program. Visitors would log on and choose their cleanses -- which ranged from a three-day food and juice plan to a longer "Just Juice" plan -- and have them delivered to their homes. Similar to other "juicing" sites, Green & Tonic provided their customers with fresh, bottled juices (no preservatives or pasteurization involved), veggie salads, soups, bars and teas.

"I uncovered [the idea of] using food to fuel your body; to eat for energy," Pandolfino said. "I tried every juice, learned the industry, spent time in juice bars. I've since adopted a partially-vegetarian lifestyle."

With the website a success, Pandolfino sought out to create a bigger impact in the Fairfield County area. After his loyal customers encouraged him to do so, he decided to open a local store, also named Green & Tonic, where people can pick up their cleanses or simply pop in to ask questions, try some juices or pick up a sandwich or salad for lunch. The bright, open store sits set back from the Post Road and is a minimalistic green and yellow. A refrigerated section in the back is stocked with different flavors of juice, salads, soups, parfaits, and even spreads and dressings. Packs of nuts, seeds and nutrition bars are displayed along the wall next to a big screen TV. Checkout is on an iPad.

"We wanted to be grab-and-go; an Apple-esque kind of store," Pandolfino said. "Customers can come in and ask us questions. We don't just stand behind the counter; we will interact with the customer. People have been very positive about our model. This stuff is new to a lot of people and we want to be seen as educating. Our goal is to appeal to customers and be informative."

Pandolfino feels Darien is a great place to set up his first store, as people in the area are very health-conscious and focused on clean living. They are the "Believers" and "Achievers": two out of the four groups of people Pandolfino describes as customers. Believers and achievers are people who are often very invested in the product and have a lot of personal and professional success.

"People in the area are into this lifestyle," he said. "They're disciplined about what they put in their body." Three of his investors live in Greenwich and have absorbed the healthy living lifestyle as he has. Pure, clean food just tastes better and makes the body work more efficiently, according to Pandolfino.

"The cold-pressing of the juices extracts more nutrients," he said. "This leaves a cleaner-tasting product that feeds the body on a cellular level."

The health quality of the juices can help one of the other types of people -- "Adapters" -- who need to alter their current lifestyle for medical reasons. Eating healthy and drinking nutritional beverages can yield numerous health benefits, according to multiple studies. The final group, "Jump Starters," are people who need to "bounce back" from unhealthy habits at different times; after heavy holiday eating or vacation drinking, for example. Pandolfino believes people can be a few different types over the course of their lifetimes. With any of these types, however, he feels juice can only benefit their lives.

"Everyone's been a jump starter," he said.

Green & Tonic is the first business of its kind in this area. Although other juice bars exist, they are mostly smoothie shops -- places where fruit is mixed in a blender, rather than extracted through a specific juice-pressing machine. There are other companies that use the Norwalk Press, like Green & Tonic does, but none are based in Fairfield County. A commercial kitchen in Stamford is where the juicing is done. Cold-pressing is so important because it extracts more nutrients and produces fresher juice, Pandolfino said.

"These drinks are nutrient dense -- they fuel people," he said. "We're the only ones cold-pressing juices in Fairfield Coutry. We're [one of] the first in this market." Other juice places in Fairfield County use Swedish cylindrical juicers; different from Green & Tonic's system.

Pandolfino works with a nutritionist and chef to come up with nutritious, yet delicious, recipes for juices and food. They fill their shelves daily with only the freshest items; since there are no preservatives items will go bad if they aren't consumed within a certain time frame. This ensures that the customer is only ingesting the highest-quality food.

"Our food program is the post popular," Pandolfino said. The program combines a day of juices with a salad, soup, nutrition bar and tea. "It's a nutrition program that's a little easier to get through [than just juices]."

Green & Tonic continues to expand. A Greenwich store will open later this year; it will feature more food choices, a cafe and places to sit and eat.

"Greenwich will be designed as the flagship store," he said. Darien will continue to function as a quick and convenient outpost.

Pandolfino invites the community to join the health food revolution. With common sicknesses, obesity and disease becoming more prominent in today's fast food and processed culture, a break from the usual can produce good results.

"We're committed to providing healthy convenient food to go," Pandolfino said. He believes Green & Tonic can inspire even the most junk food junkie. "You're hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't enjoy it."

Green & Tonic is at 1098 Boston Post Road, Darien. Visit http://greenandtonic.com, twitter.com/greenandtonicfoods, email hello@greenandtonic.com or call 203-964-8101.

bstasiukiewicz@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/belindarosestas; 203-972-4405