[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect Colello's time as athletic director at the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club in Southport.]
Lisa Storch was 15 when she became a vegetarian. Her meat-free lifestyle eventually turned into the vegan way of life, one that focused on raw foods-- quite the clash for the former pastry chef.
“I wanted to knock out sugar and wheat,” Storch, a Fairfield transplant from Westport, said. “That’s difficult as a pastry chef.”
And so in 2005 Storch attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, where she met Glen Colello, who had been a student there the year before and had stayed on to do health counseling.
A Small Business Blooms
A few years later, was born. A shop was first opened in West Haven in 2008 (that site closed in 2009), and now co-owners Colello and Storch and the rest of their gang are celebrating two years in the Fairfield spot on Unquowa Road come Saturday, Nov. 26.
Colello and Storch made a bold move in opening Catch a Healthy Habit Café in Fairfield in 2009 in the midst of a recession, but you wouldn’t know it from the daily bustle of customers.
“We’ve been great; we’ve been growing,” Storch said. “Things have only been getting better -- we have no complaints about business.”
An Unconventional Menu
The purveyor of vegan and raw food dishes, of which Storch is the master chef, employs two full-time employees and four part-timers, Storch said.
Some menu items may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the raw food movement. You can find “puttanesca” ravioli (olive pasta, sun-dried tomato “cheese,” tomato and caper sauce); tacos (romaine lettuce shell, “refried beans” made from nuts, salsa, chipotle “cream”); and “spaghetti and meatballs” (meatless meatballs, zucchini noodles, tomato sauce, the cheese substitute “rawmesan,” and basil oil).
Colello said Storch can skillfully create a meatless meatball so similar in texture to its carnivorous equivalent that customers “will not necessarily miss its counterpart.”
He added that people are drawn in by the “trigger points” included on the menu -- organic, gluten-free, dairy-free -- and that people are “overall satisfied and surprised.”
“We get a lot of ‘Wow, that was really good!’” Storch said.
The Education Aspect
Colello, who moved to Fairfield from Trumbull, said he attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a way to better his own health and wellness. One of his inspirations to do so came from world-renowned nutrition expert David Wolfe, whom Colello saw speak in Darien.
“That’s when I was exposed to the world of raw foods,” Collelo said.
Part of Colello’s mission with Catch a Healthy Habit is to educate people on that world. A former athletic program director at the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club in Southport (from 1993 to 2005), Colello is also the café’s event planner, and has organized several large speaker events in the past year -- including David Wolfe’s visit in June. More than 300 people came to the Fairfield Community Theatre, where the event was held, to hear Wolfe speak, Colello said.
The café utilizes downtown venues like the theatre and the Fairfield Public Library for big events (you can see photos from past events here). Smaller happenings take place in the café. They usually hold an event afterhours each Thursday.
Don’t Forget the Store
Apart from the menu and the education, the café also functions as a retail store, purveying goods to aid in fitness and the raw food movement. Raw ingredients, snacks like kale chips and “nut-o-la,” plant-based protein powders, chocolate bars, fitness and vegan books, local honey made in Weston, and an array of other items are available for purchase.
“There are things you can’t find at Whole Foods sometimes,” Colello said. “We pride ourselves on getting the best brands, not just the cheapest.”
The café also offers regular five-day liquid cleanses, during which customers sign up and are provided with the juices, soups, and smoothies necessary to complete the cleanse. Participants only consume those liquid foods during those five days.
“It allows people to live a healthier lifestyle after,” Colello said. “Digestion gets a bit of a break, and that energy can go toward other things, like healing.”
The next cleanse is Dec. 5 through 9. Those interested can sign up at the café – it costs $300 (a holiday discount from the usual $350 fee) and Storch said they cut off the number of participants at 20.
While the café may seem small from its exterior, it’s clear that Catch a Healthy Habit has become a big addition to the population interested in raw food, nutrition, and healthy living in Fairfield. At it’s core, “it’s a great place for people to have a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Storch said.
Interested in celebrating the café’s two-year anniversary? The party will take place after hours on Saturday, Nov. 26, from 4 – 6 p.m. in the café. Storch said there will be snacks, drinks and hopefully music and a raffle.
Catch a Healthy Habit Café, located at 39 Unquowa Road, is open seven days a week. It is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Phone: 203-292-8190. Web: http://catchahealthyhabit.com/.