To eat healthy in Memphis sometimes you have to travel. For Whitehaven residents, traveling miles outside of their ZIP code for healthy dining options has been the norm up until recently. Two new restaurants, ElectroLyfe Juice Bar and Smooth Living Health Food Restaurant, have opened to offer what many in the Whitehaven community have been craving: fresh, healthy dining options that are right next door.
“South Memphis and Whitehaven are considered nutritional deserts. I thought why are we traveling to other areas to find healthy options? Why can’t we have our own healthy spot?” said Quavisa Henderson, nurse and founder of ElectroLyfe Juice Bar.
Henderson, who grew up in South Memphis, knows firsthand what it is like to not have easy access to fresh foods. After her father began suffering from congestive heart failure, Henderson and her family changed how they ate. She began juicing fruits and vegetables five years ago, and in January 2018 began offering her fresh juices to the Whitehaven community.
Located at 4466 Elvis Presley Boulevard, ElectroLyfe has seen nearly 1,200 customers since it opened just a couple months ago.
ElectroLyfe Juice Bar has a selection of healthy food and drinks for its patrons in Whitehaven. (Brandon Dahlberg)
Some customers sip on the popular Good Vibrations, a green juice made from cucumbers, spinach, kale, apple and pineapple. Others order the Tropical Smoothie with peaches, mango, pineapple, baby spinach and apple. Delicious sandwiches and healthy wraps are also available. Other health items include wheatgrass shots and a "flu shot" made up of orange, ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper.
Owner and founder of Smooth Living Health Food Restaurant, Mente’, was also inspired by the Whitehaven community’s lack of healthy dining spots. Like Henderson, Mente’ watched his father suffer from cancer and began reevaluating what he put into his own body. The passing of his father was a large motivation for him to open Smooth Living. While Mente' moved around a bit while he was growing up, he once lived right across the street from where Smooth Living stands now at 1263 Winchester Road.
After making healthier eating decisions for himself, Mente’ decided to offer the same kind of eating options to the community.
“We not only want to satisfy your appetite but we also want to inform you. We all know that cancers and chronic illnesses can stem from eating inappropriately. I think we are in an era where a lot of people are starting to wake up and get into healthier eating. We want to help people on their health journey,” Mente’ said.
Between work meetings, second-time customer Kelliann Brown enjoyed the popular Santa Fe Hood Rolls with turmeric potatoes. Hood Rolls, an original menu item created by Mente’, include various fresh fillings wrapped in a tortilla and fried. The Santa Fe Hood Rolls include grilled turkey or chicken, sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, onions and mozzarella.
Mente', owner of Smooth Living, poses for a portrait in his cafe. (Brandon Dahlberg)
“This place is a jewel for the Whitehaven community. There are very few fast food options that offer healthy items in the area and it’s nice to have this available,” Brown commented.
Other patrons order smoothies such as the Living Legend with kale, dates, almonds, banana and pineapple. Smooth Living recently added breakfast offerings. Helpful Smooth Living staff wear t-shirts printed with the phrase: #howyouliving. Mente’ dons one also.
Mente’ explained, “It’s a slogan I started. I think if you are living right and eating healthy you are living a smooth life. Things should go smooth and you should feel good.”
He first opened Smooth Living in 2016 at 6089 Apple Tree Drive in Hickory Hill. He relocated to the restaurant’s new location in March of 2017. Mente’ said the love and support from the Whitehaven community has been overwhelming. People are genuinely excited to support new business and are enjoying the healthy menu options.
As a nurse, Henderson has spent her life helping people get healthier and feel better. While the food business has its different challenges, she said that she feels she is still practicing a form of nursing through healthy foods.
Fried okra, fried green tomatoes, a roll and kale stir fry served at Smooth Living.“I think running ElectroLyfe makes a bigger impact than nursing. It is preventative medicine,” Henderson said, adding that some people tried to discourage her from opening in Whitehaven. She was told the Whitehaven community wasn’t ready for a juice bar or health food restaurant. “But people wanted it. So many people have said, ‘Thank you for opening this type of healthy spot.’”
She hopes her juices inspire healthier eating in the community, where many residents suffer from diabetes. Making juices and smoothies, Henderson said, gave her insight to the lack of variety and quality of produce sometimes found in nearby area grocers, the closest being the Kroger at 1212 East Shelby Drive. She has found that she can find more varieties of produce and a larger variety of grocery stores when she crosses into Southaven, Mississippi.
Both Mente’ and Henderson both want to start a conversation about healthier living in Whitehaven. Diabetes and the rise of the disease in the Whitehaven community have played a big role in their efforts to offer healthy foods.
A majority of the state of Tennessee is a part of what the CDC calls the “diabetes belt”. In 2015, the CDC ranked diabetes as the seventh leading cause of death in Tennessee. Mente’ and Henderson want to help people eat right and make a difference in the fight against diabetes. Nearly a dozen dialysis and diabetes care clinic line the streets of Whitehaven.
Both Mente’ and Henderson have big plans for their businesses. Mente’ recently purchased the space next door to Smooth Living. He wants to expand the restaurant and offer a lounge area that will host music, open mic nights and spoken word events. Henderson plans to open a second ElectroLyfe and is considering either South Memphis or Frayser, areas she feels are overlooked by big brand companies. Henderson runs ElectroLyfe with the help of her family and significant other. She says running a family business it not only exciting but also gives her son, a freshman at White Station High School, a sense of responsibility and pride. It’s a shared pride that brings them all together.
“Whitehaven has been so supportive. It’s a legendary, historic area and we are proud to be here. We are all working together to be healthier and make a healthier world,” Mente’ added.