The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in Brevard County, Fla. and an amazing new segment of these startups are food focused businesses. Over the past decade, Americans have begun to shift their focus back to their local roots, supporting small businesses and “mom and pop” shops. It’s only natural that this focus also includes food. The following small businesses have embraced this trend and have started their own food focused businesses giving consumers a face and name to the person that makes their food from scratch and with passion.
From coffee to dressings to protein drinks and more… these Brevard food businesses have something to offer every type of palate.
John Najjar started making a simple garlic dip based on his grandfather’s famous recipe that he used to eat as a child in Lebanon. It was a simple recipe: lots of fresh garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. John recalls, “Growing up in Lebanon it was a common thing for the men to smash fresh garlic and add the lemon juice and oils.”
His friends and family loved the dip so much that in 2004 John set out to perfect his grandfather’s recipe even more and his company, Joy’s Gourmet, was born.
“I wanted something with the consistency of mayonnaise, something I could dip French fries into and it would stick to it.”
He accomplished his goal and the business started with just this simple garlic spread. John didn’t stop there however and his company has since grown in to an entire line of products: marinara sauces, salsas, pesto, olive tapenade, artichoke salad, dressings, and more. He now has four versions of his staple garlic spread: original, sun dried tomato, olive tapenade and chipotle.
“It’s light to eat, it’s raw garlic with lemon juice and oil. It’s so light that you can consume it by itself or you can cook with it. I love to grill with it,” he said. “I took the opportunity to make it because I couldn’t find anything like it in the United States.” A very delicious decision.
Joy’s Gourmet products are available locally at: Green Turtle Market, Melbourne Beach Market, and Downtown Produce or JoyofGarlic.com
Lean Hemp is a delicious protein powder produced locally by founder Artem Mischenko. We know what you’re thinking, hemp? Isn’t that illegal? In short, the answer is no.
“Industrial hemp has minuscule, minuscule, levels of THC in it. There’s a little there only because it’s from the same plant.”
Lean Hemp contains very limited, simple and all natural ingredients like: hemp seed powder, cocoa powder, maca root powder, and coconut sugar. Artem, a healthy lifestyle advocate himself, says that this alternative source of protein is beneficial to all types of people who are working on a healthier lifestyle regime.
“It’s great for runners, hikers, swimmers… All the protein comes from the seeds. Your body is more aligned to be efficient in processing plants, so you don’t get bloated but you still feel full. There’s a lot of fiber. It’s a great meal replacement for people trying to lose weight, great for breakfast… It’s more fiber dense and it has those healthy fats that help fill you up. It’s slower digesting than other proteins, so it’s going to give you more protein throughout the day.”
For more information or to order, visit LeanHemp.com
Coffee kickstarts our days and keeps us going throughout and just like any culinary experience, coffee’s flavors vary based on many factors: season, soil, location and the roasting process. Lucky thing we have Open Mike’s to meet all of our personal coffee nuances. Lisa Della Cioppa, who owns Open Mike’s with her husband Mike, has taken charge of the coffee side of their business.
“I’ve always been obsessed with having perfect coffee here,” Lisa said. “So the natural progression of getting the exact flavor for the brand that I wanted was to do it myself. So now we roast it all in-house; it’s all organic, mostly fair trade.”
Strong, rich, and smooth are just three words that come to mind while savoring a cup of any of Open Mike’s signature roast coffees. The coffee menu is in constant rotation and new roasts are always in the works, “We taste all of our coffee 5,000 different ways before serving it,” Lisa says proudly. Next up, to get their coffee into other retail shops, but for now you can stop by the shop and pick up a bag or order it online.
Mike handles the food side of things and keeps it fresh, creative and delicious all the time. “Right now I’m in love with our blackened tuna bowl: Jasmine rice, house-made soy lime vinaigrette, cucumber wasabi, lightly blackened tuna with Gorgonzola crumbles, green and red onions and diced tomatoes,” he said. “We try to get everything locally.”
Lisa continues their philosophy of keeping it local down to the very end of her coffee making process, “We compost our grinds and we give them to local farms.”
Lisa and Mike took a chance several years ago when they opened Open Mike’s, a coffee shop/community space in the back of their music store. This unlikely mash-up of businesses resonated with the community. Now they offer more than just glorious coffee and delicious food, they also host nightly entertainment by local musicians, comedians, poets and more. Anytime you stop by there’s a warm welcome waiting.
Open Mike’s/Florida Discount Music is located at 454 North Harbor City Blvd. in Melbourne. For more information, call (321) 254-5645 or visit OpenMikes.com
RIVER HOUSE VINEYARD
Wine is a passion that was born out of chance for now wine enthusiast Bob Parker. It was a simple observation, “We noticed that the wild grapes grow really well out here.” Out here meaning on Bob and his wife Ruth Anne’s 9-acres of land somewhere on, about, and near the border of Palm Bay and Melbourne.
That simple observation sparked an interest in Bob, an interest that then turned into lots and lots of educational research on growing muscadine grapes in Florida at the University of Florida. Next came advice from local grape growers in the Space Coast Wine Guild (yes, we have one of those) and soon after, he began growing his own grapes. From these humble beginnings the River House Vineyard was born, back in 2004.
The vineyard and wine making are not the only things Bob is passionate about. The “River House” itself was just as much a passion project as the vineyard. The house was purchased from a piece of property along the Indian River and painstakingly taken apart and then carefully reassembled on the Parkers’ property. “It was on Riverside Drive in Cocoa Village. It was being torn down to make room for a condo,” said Bob.
The “River House” is now the gathering hub for all things relating to the grapes and winemaking on the property, plus much more.
Now the Parkers sell most of their grapes to other home winemakers and wine enthusiasts. They also open the vineyard each year during harvest. “The vines bud out the first of April. We open for grape sales about the last week of July and are open daily except Sundays until the grapes are gone. We sell about two thirds to ‘u-pickers’ who usually eat them, the rest go to amateur winemakers including us,” Bob said. “We made about 175 bottles this year.”
Ruth Anne specializes in jelly making as well and both she and Bob teach different classes. “Ruth Anne does the jellies and made a couple dozen jars this year, both delicious white and red jellies. She teaches jelly making and I usually teach a wine making class in August.” The winery doesn’t go unused throughout the year either. They have had a few weddings and more. “We have had many different kinds of events,” Bob said. “We recently added a patio and added a large dock.”
As if the property wasn’t beautiful enough with the house and vineyard, there is a lake as well. Plan a visit and discover this little-known Brevard food gem.
River House Vineyard is located at 3836 Hield Road NW in Palm Bay. For more information, call (321) 704-5999 or visit RiverHouseVineyard.com.