Abed AlShahal stood in his brand new juice cafe on the first morning it opened cracking coconuts on the counter. He didn’t have a coconut opener, but he did have a line of 10 people waiting for smoothies.
AlShahal was expecting people to be interested in his new Alchemy concept, but he wasn’t anticipating just how much attention his latest brainchild would draw in the early-morning hours.
“It was just me by myself and I was expecting it to be slow from five-seven,” he said. “But we were busy at around 6:30 in the morning.”
And that interest in Alchemy Juice Bar and Cafe’s healthy inventory – whether it’s early in the morning or mid-afternoon – hasn’t died down yet.
The new concept, which opened in October, is from A&R Creative Group – the same minds behind The Crest and The Market, among others.
“We’re very health-conscious here so this is the healthy child of our family of businesses,” AlShahal said. “This menu is very well thought out. It’s not like you’re going to Jamba Juice or these random corporate-chain smoothie bars where they’re just putting [in] syrups and all these refined sugars.”
Alchemy has smoothies, cold-pressed juice, acai bowls, hemp pesto, edible weeds, and other combinations that use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
“A lot of these things are really out there, like Paw Paw and acai. You have a fruit coming from the Amazon rain forest and Paw Paw coming from Athens, Ohio,” AlShahal said. “We Googled that, we couldn’t even find that online. There’s a lot of innovative thought.”
That innovative thought for the menu comes from Dustin Bradford, the same head chef who’s behind the menu at The Crest, and features input from Alexis Jones, the cafe’s onsite registered dietitian.
“You come here, you know that anything you get here is good for you, it’s good for your body, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for your soul,” AlShahal said.
The owners see it as a convenient place for patrons – where customers can get a combination of healthy food and healthcare advice from the dietitian in one spot. Like The Crest, the new building also will also feature a rooftop garden; it was designed by an architecture class at Ohio State and should be ready to provide fresh produce for the cafe in the spring.
AlShahal said the biggest change from opening a restaurant to manning a grab-and-go cafe is less kitchen space. With just one long open counter full of blenders and ingredients, everything is out in the open.
But he said that’s the only challenge with the new space. He was ready for the concept because he and Jones have been dreaming of opening the cafe for about five years.
“This is my background: it’s just human nutrition and good food,” he said.
The cafe is located on the corner of Parsons and Livingston avenues near Nationwide Children’s Hospital and right under a gym – a strategic location aimed at drawing interest from the hospital, the gym members, and the entire community.
AlShahal grew up in the neighborhood and said he is excited to be back.
“[It’s] where our roots are within Columbus,” he said. “The best part of business the way we do it is how we can connect with the community. It’s not like you make money or you care about the community – we can balance both.”