After a long career in the food service industry, Philip Wahl decided to kale it quits.
He said he spent 24 years at Georgia Pacific, leading the national account team there. He looked after companies like McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King and Subway. But Wahl wanted to turn over a new leaf.
That is why he opened the newest branch of Kale Me Crazy, an upscale health food café offering smoothies, juice and salads, all made from fresh fruit and vegetables.
The Roswell location officially opened its doors April 21 to a kalestorm of new customers.
“We were run off our feet,” Wahl said. “It was unbelievable. People were waiting to come in, waiting for us to open.”
Wahl said his crew served up 320 free smoothies in four hours as part of the festivities. One of the customers beeting a path to the register was Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, who ordered a “Grounded,” a smoothie including almond milk, hemp protein, bananas, nuts and dates, sweetened with raw honey.
The business owner said at first his customers stuck with the more conventional, fruity drinks. Now, he said, people are branching out to the more adventurous menu items. Kale Me Crazy’s juice offerings range from the sweet “Pear-adise,” featuring pear, pineapple, spinach and ginger, to the “Fire Fighter,” which is spiked with cayenne, giving it a Bloody Mary-like kick.
Wahl said the café is more than a business venture — it is a cause.
“We’re trying to promote the discussion of health and wellness,” he said. “Promoting a better option for real food.”
Also serving that cause is Wahl’s son, Brendan Wahl. He said he turned down a career in the Home Depot corporate office because he believes in the mission.
“When I used to go to the gym, I would get out, and I would have nowhere to go,” he said.
Brendan Wahl said the café’s location near Planet Fitness Gym has helped attract customers.
“We’re hearing from some of the personal trainers, you know, ‘We finally have a place to send our clients,’” he said.
The refrigerators in the back of the café are stalked with ingredients like wild-caught salmon, wheatgrass grown in special coconut leaf mulch to make it sweeter and almonds soaking in spring water, destined to become fresh almond milk.
Philip Wahl said it the company’s commitment to using fresh, local ingredients explains why franchises like his have been sprouting up all over the metro area. Kale Me Crazy was founded in 2013 by Buckhead resident Roi Shlomo, who also founded frozen yogurt chain Yogli Mogli. The chain now includes six locations, with two more set to open in Brookhaven and Buckhead.
Wahl said his location has tripled its sales projections, putting him on pace with where he expected to be after two years.
“I think the American consumer has begun to understand the importance of eating healthy,” he said.
“I was worried that this would be a flash in the pan, but this is here to stay.”