By Beth N. Gray
WEEKI WACHEE — For kitchen klutzes, dieters and health loyalists, relief is at hand under the sign: "The best meal of your day is right here. It will take 30 seconds."
The slogan is the first eye-catcher through the door at Smoothie Shack, a new sit-and-slurp stop that opened last month at Weeki Wachee Village shopping center.
For the uninitiated, a smoothie is a whipped-in-a-blender concoction of fruits and ice with a consistency approaching a milkshake. At Smoothie Shack, the 20-ounce cup takes a healthy bent with additives, such as flavored whey or plant protein, dark chocolate, oatmeal flakes or vitamins. Other inclusions aim to boost energy, burn carbohydrates or detox the human body.
"We believe in the product," said Nicole Patterson, who launched the business with her husband, Brian Patterson, after more than eight months of planning for a business to support their far-off retirement. She's 40. He's 47. She a former general manager and he a meat department manager with Winn-Dixie grocery stores.
"We like a healthy lifestyle," said Brian Patterson. Both attest to the science-tested ingredients — and tasty recipes — provided by their supplier, Performance Food Centers, which has advised juice bars for 19 years.
With their research, Nicole Patterson gained an encyclopedic knowledge of healthful consumption, which she shares with customers. She admits that until 10 years ago, "McDonald's was the way to go."
Today, she pitches 29 varieties of smoothies grouped under labels: Refuel & Power Up, to support a 30-minute workout; Refresh & Detox, containing five servings of vegetable equivalents; Lifestyle, geared toward diabetics and carb counters; Meal Replacement, with whey protein for feeling fuller longer; and Pre-Workout, for hydration support.
"If you can't decide," Nicole Patterson said, "you've just got to go with your taste."
Joan and Jeff Morris of New Port Richey, who dropped in after a dental appointment on a recent Wednesday chose a lunch replacement.
"I like berries," said Joan Morris. "I had the Berry, Berry Good, and it was very, very good. I've made my own, and mine's not half as good."
Billie Henshaw popped in and learned the shop is open till 7 p.m.; she gets off work at 6 p.m.
"I'm looking to replace dinner with a shake," she said. "I've been dieting, and I do great at breakfast, pretty good at lunch, but dinner is a killer."
Customer favorites include the berry mix-up, Strawberry Slam, I Love Veggies, Peanut Butter Cup and Tropical Shredder.
The fruit and vegetable additives are in freeze-dried form "so all the vitamins are intact." A 20-ounce smoothie costs $6 or $7; children's 12-ounce, $4.75; additives, 75 cents or $1 each.
Bill Burnham, Hernando representative of the Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, had high praise for Brian Patterson's planning.
"He did what a lot of small business owners don't do," said Burnham. Patterson prepared a financial feasibility and goal plan, worked through start-up and operating costs, researched demographics of available locations and didn't over-extend financially, Burnham said. "He's got a long-term vision. He was very prepared for what he wanted to do."
Meanwhile, Nicole Patterson prepared for her afternoon pick-me-up, a Java Jolt smoothie. It's a slam of Columbian chili and mocha coffee, espresso beans, almond milk and vanilla whey protein powder.
"There is something here that appeals to everyone," she said.
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.
What: Healthy smoothie beverages, nutrition snacks, homemade sandwiches
Where: 6282 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee Village shopping center
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (352) 600-8557