By Sally Deering
The blender whirls full blast as Sheldon Hall, owner of Fruteria Juice Bar pops mango, pineapple and papaya chunks into a plastic pitcher for one of his signature smoothies, the Caribbean Queen. Throughout the day, customers stop by the tiny juice bar on Park Avenue in Union City with its green and yellow walls adorned with mermaids juggling fruit, and other eclectic artworks, for one of Hallâ€™s delicious â€“ and healthy â€“ smoothies, veggie and specialty drinks.
Hall, 38, opened Fruteria Juice Bar last December and since then, the entrepreneur has been building a close relationship with the local community and a growing fan base, one smoothie at a time.
” Providing people an alterna”tive to whatâ€™s out there is rewarding,â€ Hall says while on a short break from an endless stream of customers. â€œA lot of people have curiosities about juicing.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I make it accessible.â€
Watching Hall create his smoothies is like watching a master mixologist. Fresh fruits and vegetables are tossed into juicers and blenders with options like almond juice, apple juice, passion fruit, pineapple juice and yogurt. Then Hall adds ingredients like fresh veggies, fruits and nuts, and proteins like Irish moss. He pours the concoctions right up to the brim of the 16-ounce cups he serves them in without spilling a drop.
â€œHe knows what heâ€™s doing,â€ Juan Pablo Aguirre, a first-time customer says, after a sip of Hallâ€™s Caribbean Queen smoothie with a dash of spinach. â€œIâ€™ll be back for sure.â€
No drink is too complicated for Hall who cultivated a taste for smoothies growing up in The Bronx and drinking them with his dad at the Green Garden health food store. His family is originally from Trinidad and settled in The Bronx before Hall was born.
â€œI would always go back to the Green Garden,â€ Hall says. â€œI would bring high school friends, college friends. If I saw a juice bar, no matter where I was, Iâ€™d check it out.â€
Hall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Norfolk State University in Virginia; and a Masterâ€™s degree in Graphic Communication Management and Technology from NYU, where he also taught communications. He taught business at Duchess Community College in Poughkeepsie.
Hall worked several years in advertising, including a stint at Time, Inc., but felt a strong desire to open his own business. Changing from a lifestyle of fast-food to healthy eating, Hall thought about having his own juice bar. When he moved to Weehawken a few years ago, Hall reached out to his friend Dawitt from Jahlookova juice bar in New York who taught Hall smoothie mixology and helped him design his menu. Â When the storefront was available on Park and 42nd St, Hall made the entrepreneurial leap from juice bar consumer to owner.
Fruteria Juice Bar offers Smoothies ($4.50), Veggie Juices ($5.50) and Specialty Drinks ($7). Smoothies feature the B Berry with strawberries and bananas; Caribbean Queen with mango, pineapple and papaya; Berry Blast with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, Mango Tango with strawberries, bananas and mango; and Mellow Yellow, bananas, pineapples and mango.
Veggie drinks are the Hulk Smash with kale or spinach, cucumber, parsley, celery, pineapple and spearmint; the Energizer Bunny with carrots, apples, beets and ginger; the Park Avenue with apples, lemon, parsley and cucumber; and Beet Street, with beets, pineapple, celery and apple.
Specialty drinks feature the Weehawken Warrior: cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, ginseng, protein, maca, Irish moss and carrot juice; Mr. Planters: peanut butter, peanuts, banana, vanilla extract and almond milk; Union City Eagle: pumpkin seeds, granola, ginseng, spirulina, maca, Irish moss and carrot juice: the Veggie Berry Blast with spinach or kale, strawberries, banana, blueberries, almonds and chia seeds; and, the Fountain of Youth: spinach or kale, red grapes, banana, strawberries, almonds and maca. You can also purchase plain juice â€“ carrot, apple, beet and orange â€“ for $4.50, or create your own drink from a choice of ingredients on the menu.
Rebecca Toledo, a local resident, stopped in for an â€œEnergizer Bunnyâ€ veggie drink and a shot of Wheatgrass. She called ahead and Hall had the drink and shot waiting for her. Toledo describes herself as a juice fan.
â€œI like the taste and Iâ€™m into health,â€ Toledo says.
After a sip of Energizer Bunny, a blend of carrots, apples, beets and ginger, Toledo says:Â â€œI get one of these in the City, but yours is better.â€
To go with the smoothies and health drinks, Hall offers sweets like chocolate chip cookies and cakes created by Weehawken resident Carrie Spindler, owner of the Goodie Box Bake Shop in Cliffside Park.
Right now Hall works seven days a week to make his business a success and heâ€™ll be adding more staff for the busy summer months ahead. Fruteria has Wi-Fi and several stools for those who wish to sit, sip and surf the Internet.
A welcome addition to the neighborhood, Fruteria Juice Bar seems to be part of a growing trend of boutique businesses sprouting up on Park Avenue that offer local residents boutique services and products. Ispresso coffee shop a few blocks north on Park Ave serves artisanal coffees in a cool space; and Clarity Fitness a few blocks south offers Pilates, yoga and other fitness classes. These small businesses are specifically designed to give consumers a hip, pleasing and healthy-lifestyle experience that you would find in Manhattan, only right here in Hudson.
â€œI want people to come in, sit down, have conversations and share thought- provoking ideas about art, design, culture, politics, and music,â€ Hall says. â€œItâ€™s not just about the juices; itâ€™s about the lifestyle.â€
IF YOU GO
Fruteria Juice Bar
4115 Park Ave
Hours:Â Mon-Sat, 10-8