By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MAYS LANDING – They started with very humble beginnings and have moved on with incredible success to open corporate and licensed restaurants serving plant-based cuisine at numerous locations in New Jersey, including a food truck serving the Philadelphia-South Jersey market.
Nicole Jacoby started her healthy eating business teaching home cooks how to prepare vegetarian meals in her newly built post-Sandy Ventnor home in January 2014. Fourteen months later, she and her husband Lambros Psounos opened their first quick-service brick and mortar restaurant in a small store in the South Beach section of Ventnor that is now home to Peace Pies.
“We were producing food and juices out of Lambros’ parents’ restaurant, Athenian Gardens on Rt. 9 in Galloway Township,” Jacoby said last week as she created table decorations for their newest location in Hamilton Commons on Rt. 40 in Mays Landing.
Since both had a background in food service and a somewhat unique view of healthy eating, Greens & Grains experienced incredible success early on.
“We had a lot of opportunity and we took it. We opened three stores in nine months. We started with $5,000 on a credit card and when we started making money, we tossed every dollar into the next store,” she said.
After Labor Day, they closed their Margate store in favor of moving their corporate operation to Mays Landing at the old Mo’s location near Regal Cinemas, Outback Steakhouse and Red Robin. Their iconic black and white sign that boasts “Plant Based Food for Everyone” is visible to thousands of vehicles traveling the highway every day.
Because they believe great visibility is key to their success, they moved their second store at a not-so-visible location on Rt. 9 to the “Miracle Mile” on Tilton Road.
“We moved a mile away to a more visible location and it doubled our revenue,” Jacoby said.
The couple is pursuing brand-name recognition and has contracted with a national brand management company that promotes companies such as Tony Luke’s and Mortorano’s.
“We are expanding the brand to sports, entertainment and higher education,” she said. “They are helping us grow as business owners to go national after we built this all on our own.”
Their custom built food truck, which travels to festivals, farmers markets and private events across South Jersey, offers even greater visibility and a chance for eaters to experience healthy food options.
The company still has their food hall shop in The Exchange on Jim Leeds Road in Galloway Township near Stockton University’s main campus and has licensed operations in Shrewsberry and Wall Township in Monmouth County and a new licensee in Voorhees, Camden County that opened in May.
And on Phillies opening day, they opened a concession behind home plate at Citizens Bank Park “that’s doing great,” she said.
“We’re one of the few plant-based outlets operating in a sports arena,” she said.
On Wednesday, they had a soft opening at the new Hamilton Commons location, which offers the largest kitchen area that will be the central location for preparing 37 proprietary food items for the licensing operations and food truck bookings.
They plan a grand opening with giveaways in the coming weeks.
They are currently working with Ventnor developer Mark Greco, who is in the process of redeveloping the Ventnor Plaza shopping center on Wellington Avenue in Ventnor, for a lease on a brand new building on a pad site in front of the bayfront strip mall. Their closest neighbors will be Starbucks and Burger King. Jacoby said Greens & Grains should be operational before the next summer season.
“Mark is great to work with,” she said. “Having a great landlord is a top three issue for us.”
The company employs 20-25 corporate employees, not counting those who work at licensee operations.
Their plant-based food for everyone theme has become a mainstay for many families who have become steady customers, she said.
“We’re not just for those who never eat meat or dairy. Ninety percent of our clientele is repeat customers who want to eat healthier. Like the Meatless Mondays trend, they have made us part of their weekly routines. We have become part of their normal lives.”
The food offerings are unique, she said, because it’s not just smoothies and poke bowls.
“We have a full menu of plant-based meals. People can eat super-healthy, or they can get a vegan cheesesteak or gyros made with our homemade seitan. A lot of our foods, such as falafel and hummus, have a Mediterranean influence because Lambros is Greek,” she said.
The couple is expecting their second child in a few weeks, as Lambros Jr., 4, who has never eaten meat, heads to preschool. Dad Lambros hasn’t eaten meat for 10 years, she said. Because Nicole does much of her work remotely, she has been able to work from home while raising her son, who looks just like his dad.
The company is accepting applications from potential licensees and bookings for food truck service.
Information about store locations, hours and menu options is available at greensandgrains.com.
Copyright Mediawize, LLC 2023