Roi Shlomo presses healthy dining trends
Roi Shlomo is a young, handsome Israeli on the crest of a culinary trend with Kale Me Crazy: organic juices and a full menu of healthy, organic foods.
Shlomo is best known as an innovator in self-serve frozen yogurt. Remember how excited we were when Yogli Mogli opened at Roswell and Abernathy roads? Shlomo got in early (2009), built up units in five states, and sold out in 2013.
“In my view, the market was getting oversaturated, eventually leveling out. I sold out to U-Swirl, who still uses my Yogli Mogli name,” Shlomo said.
Shlomo could write the book “Rags to Riches” and has earned his education in hard knocks, perseverance, trial and error. After growing up harvesting lettuce on Moshav Noga near Ashkelon, a frequent target of rockets from Gaza, he served as an Israel Defense Forces air force ground trainer.
He bounced from New York to Baltimore, then Houston and Las Vegas, selling jewelry, mall cosmetics and carpet cleaning, and bottomed out when the last recession hit the real estate market.
Shlomo came up with the frozen yogurt concept in Atlanta “because we are so family-oriented.”
Jaffe: Why are you attracted to the organic market? Going in next to Sprouts on the border of Buckhead and Sandy Springs is a brilliant strategy.
Shlomo: Let’s back up. I grew up on a predominantly organic diet and home-cooked meals. In Israel we didn’t have the preponderance of food allergies (soy, gluten, dairy, etc.) that Americans have, probably because of the genetically modified organisms. Thus, it is difficult to find good-quality food while dining out. Remember, Kale Me Crazy is not just juices. We have a full menu with smoothies, superfood shots, salads, and healthy wraps like wild-caught tuna ($9), wild salmon, organic turkey and chicken. We’re open daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Jaffe: Why kale?
Shlomo: It’s high in vitamins and low in calories. I was also looking for a fun and catchy business name. My favorite juice is Kale Yeah; it has kale, spinach, cucumber, apple and lemon. One of our goals is to provide nutritional foods on the go. We worked side by side with nutritionists to create our menu. We offer a barlike atmosphere with superfood shots in place of alcohol. We also have catering for those who are weary of the abundance of unhealthy options.
Shlomo: No, juicing is not a fad; it’s a lifestyle. Each bottle contains about 2½ pounds of produce, making nutrition easy for all. Our juices are prepared fresh on the premises that day. What you buy elsewhere might be pasteurized. We cold-press the produce so oxygen is limited, providing longer freshness, higher nutritional content and a better-tasting juice.
Jaffe: So how do you plan for Kale Me Crazy to fold out?
Shlomo: Our growth philosophy is slow, safe, smart. Right now we are focused on the Southeast region and a few other major cities. My brother moved here to run the corporate stores. I plan to keep four stores as corporate and franchise the rest. Franchising is quite a different business, for which we have brokers. It’s not unique to us, but in franchising we keep a percentage of gross sales as a royalty fee.
Jaffe: What have been some of the obstacles?
Shlomo: Top-notch lease locations can be a challenge. Some landlords are old-fashioned and don’t understand our cutting-edge concept. Atlanta is changing as educated people are willing to pay a bit more for quality and to get away from pasteurization, canned sugars and sweeteners. The bottom line is we have well over-exceeded our performance projections.
Jaffe: As an Israeli, how do you feel about politics?
Shlomo: Let’s leave politics out. … But I think there is a meaningful place in the American economy for more encouragement for small businesses.
Kale Me Crazy is open in Decatur at 358 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. and Inman Park at 300 N. Highland Ave. Watch for more mezuzot on Shlomo’s doors:
- Midtown, 100 Sixth St. in the new Skyhouse, is opening in October.
- Sandy Springs, Wieuca and Roswell roads, opens in November.
- Buckhead opens in January.
- Brookhaven opens in March.