The Stand Opens in Westport and Is Destined to Become the Largest Organic Restaurant Chain in Connecticut
By Analiese Paik
Good things come to those who work hard and exhibit an unwavering commitment to quality and integrity. I’m talking about The Stand Juice Company, an organic juice bar and café that opened its first location next door to a yoga studio in Norwalk back in 2005 when the real food movement was in its infancy in Fairfield County. As interest in eating organic and locally grown foods began to grow, and juicing and cleansing became popular, founders Carissa and Mike Hvizdo opened a second location at the Sportsplex in Fairfield and moved their flagship Norwalk location to the IronWorks in SoNo to better serve their growing clientele of health conscious consumers.
Then they bought a farm. Well, not exactly. They bought land in East Haddam, cleared it, and began planting and taking in unwanted farm animals. Carissa insists Hideaway Farm became a reality only after Farah Masani, a friend with years of farming experience, encouraged them to pursue their dream and offered to serve as an ongoing advisor. “She recognized the desire, gave us the final push and said ‘If you fall, I’ll catch you’” said Carissa.
And catch them she did. From dispensing advice on nursing sick chickens back to health, to helping decide where to plant crops and remove trees on their three acre homestead, Masani’s advice was indispensable. After clearing trees for planting crops, the land was littered with stumps and no budget to remove them. “Farah turned us on to the no dig growing method and we never till the soil” said Carissa. “My rows aren’t straight because we work around the stumps. It’s a quirky one-acre garden.”
“Farah was firm about not getting pigs” said Carissa “because of their short life span.” It just wasn’t a fit with their vegetarian lifestyle. Instead, goats keep pastures at bay, clear the one acre of land, and serve as natural fertilizers. Chickens supply eggs and a total of thirty four rescue farm animals call Hideway Farm home. “This is our first time with animals; we never even had a chicken before” said Carissa. Easy, low-maintenance animals was the way to go. “I can’t have unhappy customers, but I can have bad crops. I keep it simple: grow something and keep everybody alive.”
Peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, pumpkins, peppers, carrots, beans, cabbage and melons from Hideaway Farm are harvested and put in the back of the car by 4 am for Carissa’s six-day-a week commute to The Stand’s Fairfield location. Mike farms in the morning, puts the animals out, and arrives at work by 10 am. “We divide and conquer so I’m home in the evening to take care of the animals and farm” said Carissa.
Just when they thought they couldn’t get any busier, the owners of Kaia Yoga approached Carissa and Mike about taking over the cafés inside their Westport and Greenwich locations and providing grab and go food for their newly acquired Darien and Cos Cob studios. It took months of working together to hatch a successful plan for The Stand to become a “store within a store” at all four Kaia Yoga locations, and required turning the Fairfield location into a commissary kitchen, expanding the menu, promoting employees, hiring and training new employees, and finding new farm vendors.
“We more than doubled our business, so we outgrew some of our smaller suppliers” said Carissa. While they still source greens, herbs and microgreens from Gilbertie’s, the 16 trays per location per week of wheatgrass they were buying from them has grown to 100 trays per week, forcing them to seek a new supplier. Stamford-based Green Up grows wheatgrass hydroponically in a greenhouse, enabling them to continue sourcing from within the county year-round.
“We make our menu as seasonal as possible and this year we were faced with the challenge of moving people off cucumbers, a staple in about every green juice, because they’re less available due to drought and fire” said Carissa. “Three different kinds of beets are available year-round locally, so we came up with the Sunny, a blend of orange juice, carrots, beets and fresh turmeric.” The golden beet was chosen to keep it orange, a more kid-friendly color than their green drinks.
Juicing produces a lot of unused pulp – the vegetable and fruit solids left behind – but it doesn’t go into the garbage or compost at The Stand. “Our strength is reducing food waste” said Carissa. Juicing pulp is collected by three different farms, including Hideaway Farm, to feed the animals. Almond milk pulp becomes Nut-O-La, a breakfast menu item.
“I have my hands in the soil and know how much work it is” said Carissa. “Most chefs are getting better at avoiding food waste because they have a heightened appreciation for what goes into the food.”
Tops from the 250 pounds of imperfect carrots recently purchased from Sport Hill Farm in Easton were turned into a sauce for their Reuben sandwich. “Our carrot top sauce is a big hit” said Carissa. “A woman asked if she could buy it and use it as a dressing.”
The Stand opened inside Kaia Yoga’s Westport location last week and the Greenwich, Darien, Cos Cob locations are scheduled to come online within a month. Overall the new menu is more consumer friendly and includes wraps, traditional salads like the Caesar, panini, an expanded juice selection that reflects the changing seasons, and freshly baked goods. The Stand will provide grab and go service of bottled drinks, baked goods, chia pudding and parfaits at Kaia Yoga studios opening soon in Darien and Cos Cob.
- The Stand at The Ironworks in SoNo
- The Stand at The Sportsplex in Fairfield
- The Stand (full service) inside Kaia Yoga in Westport
- The Stand (full service) inside Kaia Yoga in Greenwich
- The Stand grab and go inside Kaia Yoga in Darien
- The Stand grab and go inside Kaia Yoga in Cos Cob
Please visit The Stand’s website for hours, location addresses, and menus.