Fruit-based restaurant trend in downtown Kent

The Fruit Stand opened on Jan. 5 at 175 E Erie St.

Brynne Mann

Downtown Kent opened three new fruit-based restaurants in the past year despite COVID-19. 

The Fruit Stand, Kwench Juice Cafe and the Tropical Smoothie Cafe are the new restaurants people can visit. 

“Restaurants like these become popular in waves as the trends change,” said Tanya Falcone, the coordinator for the Center of Nutrition Outreach. “They are a middle ground between unhealthy fast food and super healthy restaurants.”

High school and college students can be motivated to eat healthy and go to restaurants like these because of trends and the aesthetics they offer, Falcone said. 

The Fruit Stand opened in January and was met with instant success with a couple of sold-out days in the first week. 

“The response since we have opened has been great,” said Jason Carpinelli, the owner. “Some days I have a line out the door for 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.” 

The business offers acai bowls, warm oatmeal, overnight oats and cold brew coffee. Each item can be customized, including adding fresh fruit, a crunchy element and/or a drizzle. 

“I think something that people like so much about this place is not only the fresh product but also the easy-to-read menu,” he said. “The menu is great for college students who need something quick and fast without having to modify everything they order.”

Also offering acai bowls is Kwench Juice Cafe owned by Natasha Bastrakov. 

Kwench opened in Feburary to offer its customers freshly made juice and smoothies, acai and pitaya bowls and juice shots. 

“I buy all my produce the morning before I come into work and we start make our products,” Bastrakov said. “We have no added sugar in our products either. Only honey or agave if the recipe calls for it. So, it really is a fresh and natural product.”

Business in the colder months was slow for Bastrakov, but she said that as the weather has warmed up, more people have been coming in to try the products.

“I like getting to work with customers to help them customize their orders to their liking, and I see people coming back again each day because they enjoy it so much,” she said. 

For people looking for something more lunch-based but want the taste of a fresh smoothie, the Tropical Smoothie Cafe, opened in August 2020, is for them.

The restaurant offers its classic fresh smoothies but also offers wraps, sandwiches, flatbreads, bowls and some breakfast items. This sets it apart from the other two locations. 

Restaurants like these have proven to do well in downtown Kent so far. College students appreciate alternative on the go options instead of normal fast food. 

Meaghan Hahn, a junior nutrition major, looks to these options when commuting to campus. 

Having these options near campus has helped her avoid stopping when she is in a hurry at the three fast food restaurants close to her house, she said. 

“I am very inclined to try and keep myself healthy no matter what food place I go to,” she said. “I know that starting healthy eating and exercise is something that is harder once you get older with having a full-time job and a family, so getting in that routine as a college student is what I think works best for me.” 

From her experience creating meal plans and as a clinical dietitian, Falcone said students struggle to fit in full nutritious meals and things like smoothies and fast options appeal to them rather than waiting for a meal that takes time to sit and eat. 

“Many college students look to meal replacements and liquid meals, like smoothies and juices, to eat on-the-go and get their fruits and vegetables in. Protein and carbs are both equally important to on a daily basis,” Falcone said. “I encourage students to look into what they are ordering ingredient wise to see what is actual in the product and where they may need to eat to supplement their diet.”

Brynne Mann covers the City of Kent. Contact her at [email protected].