GREENWICH, Conn. -- Green and Tonic, a vegan-friendly lunch hotspot in Greenwich and Darien, has seemed to grow faster than the vegetables it sells in its salads and wraps.
Owners Cai and Jeff Pandolfino have taken Green and Tonic from a delivery service to a lunchtime sensation with three locations in Darien, Cos Cob - and now a downtown Greenwich location at 85 Railroad Ave. that opened less than two weeks ago - in just over the span of a year.
The Pandolfinos have experience with lunch franchises, having worked for Cosi and Pret a Manger in previous careers, but neither of them knew their health-conscious startup would take off as quickly as it has.
"We've really been truly, pleasantly surprised," Cai said. "When we opened we thought we'd just attract this crowd of healthy, active people getting juice. And then we have found over the course of the year people have been coming to us to really improve their health."
The company began just as a "detox" juice service, offering a variety of cleanse programs. But Cai said that eating and drinking healthy is more than just cleansing out the body with a quick fix.
"What we consider cleansing is really good, healthy eating," Cai said. "Unfortunately for the vast majority of Americans, it's really far off from what it should be."
Unlike some vegan eateries, Cai and Jeff don't preach a total conversion to a vegan diet.
"We're trying to get plants at the center of your plate," Cai said. "But I'm a 'flex-itarian.' I eat meat. I eat everything. I like to go get a drink at a bar. I'm not a weirdo. This isn't a freaky place. But we think this is where you should start, and then fill in the holes."
Jeff agreed, saying they really tried to make their café "approachable" for a customer base that has included people with diseases like cancer and diabetes who are looking to supplement their medications.
"We wanted to stay away from labels like 'vegetarian' and 'vegan,'" he said. "A lot of people coming to us have already been shocked with life-changing situations. We are really conscious of not making the environment or the product overwhelming."
The Pandolfinos said that they will slow things down for a while, solidifying their customer base at the three locations.
"I don't want to open juice bars just to open juice bars," Cai said. "It sounds blue skies, but it's really about the message and why we do this. The trend is coming: good, clean food is on the horizon and we want to facilitate that as best as we can."
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