What began as a chance meeting at a raw food market in Miami in 2005 has since blossomed into a fruitful business in Fairfield County.
The Stand Juice Company, borne of the shared passion for clean eats and juices between Carissa Dellicicchi and her fiancé Mike Hvizdo, first sprouted in Norwalk in 2006. A second branch opened in Fairfield this past September.
Between the two locations, The Stand, a juice bar and vegan café, employs approximately 20 people -- a feat that Dellicicchi feels is the “greatest gift” of starting the company.
“Making juice is great. Having the company is awesome,” Dellicicchi said. “Our greatest gift to the community is to give jobs to people who deserve them, especially with the economy in the pits.”
But as with most small businesses, the Stand did not start out with a big payroll.
Dellicicchi, a Canterbury, Conn. native, was living in Miami when she met Hvizdo at a raw food farmers market. Hvizdo was studying holistic health at the Hippocratic Health Institute; Dellicicchi said she was living a raw food/vegan lifestyle. Both were artists at the time: Dellicicchi a painter; Hvizdo planned to pursue acting.
The two didn’t talk until three weeks after Dellicicchi moved back to Connecticut, when Hvizdo called to ask her out on a date.
“We went on a date, we fell in love,” Dellicicchi said. They were renting a small cottage in Southport when the juicing began in 2005.
At first the pair made juices and food for Hvizdo’s mother, who was going through chemotherapy for cancer, and his grandmother, who was facing ailments of her own.
Soon after Dellicicchi and Hvizdo started a five-day juice cleanse program that took off immediately. They were juicing and packaging cleanses for approximately 60 people a week from their tiny cottage.
It was time for the couple to rent some kitchen space.
The Stand Opens in Norwalk…
The couple approached on Wall Street in Norwalk to see if they pizza place would offer up some space. The people at Fat Cat did Dellicicchi and Hvizdo one better and offered to help them rent their own space.
“We didn’t know business. We were artists,” Dellicicchi said. Friends at Fat Cat helped the two sign a lease and open up at 31 Wall Street in 2006.
The payroll consisted of Dellicicchi and Hvizdo for about two years, and then business “just exploded,” Dellicicchi said.
… And a Second Location Opens in Fairfield
That explosion eventually lead to the opening of The Stand’s second branch at the complex on Mill Plain Road, nestled next to Cinch, the gourmet meal market.
Initially, Dellicicchi said she, Hvizdo, and the staff didn’t know what to expect in Fairfield. But since opening in September 2011, The Stand has been well received. Dellicicchi said the patrons are well educated and excited about the healthy menu.
“It’s a family town,” she added. “People don’t always choose health for themselves, but they choose it for their children.”
Dellicicchi also believes the Mill Plain Road location has to do with the success of the Fairfield store.
The staff members at Cinch are “fantastic and excited about their business,” she said. “It makes for a good experience for our clients to go from one good experience to the next good experience next door.”
Part of The Stand’s ”good experience” -- other than the menu, described below -- is the staff, Dellicicchi said.
“They know the customers, the orders,” she said. “Even though we’ve grown, we’re still a mom-and-pop store.”
The staff has also allowed the couple, who now reside in Stratford, to take on other pursuits. Dellicicchi still paints and has recently begun to sell her paintings.
Hvizdo, who played basketball for Sacred Heart University before he began his foray into holistic health and food, was named the boys varsity basketball coach in October.
A Small Menu With Something For Everyone
Dellicicchi said the menu is generally small, which she prefers. It also features a progression in items that are basic to items for the most seasoned vegans.
“We have options for the anybody and for the extreme raw food, organic foodists,” Dellicicchi said. “You can be a complete junk food junkie to like our cookies and our soup.”
The menu includes an array of smoothies, juices, soups, salads, “milks” (i.e. almond milk and strawberry/agave/soy milk), sandwiches like the “No Tuna Melt” and the “Tempeh Reuben,” and goodies like vegan cupcakes, cookies, and muffins.
The trick to turning what could be an intimidating menu to the casual client is to include and speak in terms everybody knows, Dellicicchi said. Using expressions like “low-carb” help familiarize the menu.
Vegan or not, customers are excited about fueling their bodies with healthy food, Dellicicchi said.
“Even people who are not interested in food, just health -- you see how excited they get about what they’re putting into their bodies,” she explained. “It’s really fun.”
The Stand employees are examples of the benefits of a vegan juice bar and café, Dellicicchi said.
“Everyone gets healthier. It’s fun to see how everybody’s body changes while they work here.”
Have you visited The Stand yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
The Stand’s Fairfield location at 87 Mill Plain Road is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Norwalk location at 31 Wall Street is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and is closed on Sunday. Call 203-873-0414 (Fairfield) or 203-956-5670 (Norwalk) for more information, or visit The Stand’s website or Facebook page.