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Finding the unique and healthful alternative at Among the Flowers Cafe

By Staff | Apr 8, 2015

Joelene Barb and Chelsee Navy-Schmidt have had good success in their first year of operating the Among the Flowers Cafe on Sanibel, which serves all sorts of organic juices, sparklers, elixirs and smoothies, along with other food items. BRIAN WIERIMA

In today’s fast-paced life, taking care of one’s body isn’t as high on the daily list as it should be.

Diets are dictated by convenience, which ultimately leads to unhealthy eating choices.

For Chelsee “Joel” Navy-Schmidt, that trend was broken at an early age, as she took on the challenge of living a vegan lifestyle.

After feeling sluggish and tired all the time as a 14-year-old, Navy-Schmidt took to the alternative lifestyle of eating vegetarian, which eventually led to becoming strictly a vegan.

“I was just a person looking for something good for my body,” Navy-Schmidt said. “I got into vegetarianism, and later, I was interested in becoming a vegan.”

Joelene Barb and Chelsee Navy-Schmidt greet customers with a hearty “hello.” BRIAN WIERIMA

As a vegetarian, a person still consumes dairy products and eats eggs. As a vegan, it becomes more than just a diet, but more of a philosophy of a lifestyle. There are no animal products used in their diets, while excluding meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients, or foods which are processed using animal products.

Navy-Schmidt made it a way of life and studied up on vegan diets and recipes. Combined with her strong entrepreneur spirit as a young girl, her road eventually led to the opening of Among the Flowers Cafe, which is located in the Tahitian Gardens Plaza on Sanibel.

Along with the help of her mother, Joelene “Jolie” Barb, the mother-daughter duo have enjoyed a year’s worth of success at their new healthy alternative cafe, which offers smoothies, elixir shots, sparklers, juices and food items, all made with organic ingredients.

It’s the duo’s way of sharing their health-conscience choices of taking care of one’s body.

“The body is wanting simple things, if we make a few simple staple foods, you can sustain your body,” Navy-Schmidt said. “Nutrition is what you eat today, it becomes you tomorrow. We are made by nature and it’s time we get back to our roots.”

Chelsee “Joel” Navy-Schmidt and Joelene “Jolie” Barb are the mother-daughter duo which run Among the Flowers Fresh Cafe and Gifts. The pair make a couple of organic egg sandwiches during an early afternoon rush hour. Their cafe is located on Sanibel in the Tahitian Garden complex. BRIAN WIERIMA

The best way for Navy-Schmidt and Barb to spread the word of eating healthy, was to be open to the public in the form of Among the Flowers Cafe.

Everything on the menu has been created by Navy-Schmidt, who is now 22 years old and has been in the vegan lifestyle for eight years. During that time, she has experimented in making juices, elixirs and smoothies with different organic ingredients.

By the time they were ready to open their cafe, the menu was filled with organic food and drinks, made by nature’s best ingredients.

“We were able to hit the ground running,” Barb said. “I have experience in managing the front and back parts of restaurants and Chelsee also worked in restaurants and juice bars.”

Barb learned by experience, if they were to succeed, the food needed flavor, since the stereotypical healthy food items are tagged with “blah” tastes.

“I wanted to make sure she was mindful and knew how to create the food,” Barb said. “Education was important to her and she studied a lot. One thing I didn’t want this place to be, was to smell like a health food store.

“We’ve had people come through and just open the door and say ‘I just want to smell inside.’ We don’t have bakery goods, but it smells like fruits and very yummy vegetables. The taste is good, and that was my goal, it has to taste good.”

Navy-Schmidt also wanted to give her customers real healthy-alternative food choices and she didn’t want to cheat them of that in any way.

She is strict with her ingredients and makes sure they are 100-percent organically grown, with no herbicides or pesticides used. She and her husband, Kenny, are regulars at Farmers Markets, with each hauling big baskets of fruits and vegetables back home or to the cafe.

“Everyone knows us at the Farmers Market, we talk with the vendors and get to know them, so we know where the produce is coming from,” Navy-Schmidt said. “We use hormone-free dairy milk, although I don’t drink milk, it’s all for my customers. All my stuff is high-quality and we make sure nothing goes to waste.”

Her smoothies will bring different qualities, such as energy and immune booster, to go along with a good taste.

Navy-Schmidt’s main immunity booster ingredient is echinacea and she also offers oregano oil, as well.

“I offer oregano oil in elixirs,” Navy-Schmidt said. “It’s really intense, and that’s why I do it as an elixir. It’s a medicine, so it’s not supposed to taste amazing. It is created by nature and you can feel the effects almost instantly. It’s really quite amazing.”

Another main ingredient she uses is ginger, which helps treat inflammation anywhere in the body.

“No matter how healthy you are, everyone has inflammation somewhere,” Navy-Schmidt said. “Ginger is a great ingredient to use for it. I use it almost in everything I make.”

Cayenne pepper is another ingredient used to treat upset stomachs, ulcers, sore throats, migraine headache prevention and anti-cold and flu agent.

The ingredients are also based on the season and the availability of them, such as mangos, oranges and apples. But there are the “base” ingredients Navy-Schmidt uses in many of her recipes and they include those which are available year-around such as strawberries, bananas, pineapples, cucumbers, carrots, beets, celery and ginger.

Customers can also choose from the cafe’s gluten-free menu, with no worries of it tasting – well – like gluten-free.

“We also use gluten-free breads for our sandwiches,” Barb said. “Our gluten-free products taste good.”

An elixir shot is a concentrated drink which is also on the menu. Some examples at Among the Flowers include Ginger Bee (contains ginger, lemon and honey), Illuminate (ginger, cayenne and lemon) and Rooted Immune (ginnier, orange, echinacea and honey).

Some juice examples include Red Glo (beet, carrot, apple and lemon), Cleanse (beet, carrot, celery, ginger, lemon) and Cure (cucumber, apple, greens, ginger, lemon, aloe vera juice and mineral salts).

She also makes up to 11 different smoothies, with the most popular being Mi-Chai (banana, dates, chai spices, soy milk), Pink Berry (strawberries, banana, almond butter, dates, soymilk), Midnight (pineapple, mixed berries, spiraling, almond milk and dates) to just name a few.

Navy-Schmidt is always willing to make suggestions to customers and is willing to share her knowledge of each herb’s effects and benefits to the body, as well.

Barb has lived on Sanibel since 2008, so opening the cafe for her and her daughter on the island was a no-brainer. Although the goal is to serve healthy, organic food, it’s still a business and needs to profit to stay open.

So the pair have added a cozy, home-like environment for customers when they walk in with hungry tummies.

“We give them a happy ‘hello!’ from the get-go and they can leave with the feeling of having more vitality and thinking they did something good for themselves,” Barb said.

Combining her passion for eating healthy with a business, was a challenge for the 22-year-old Navy-Schmidt. But she said she is learning fast.

“Being 22, I had no clue how to run a business, but I had my mom and I had my passion,” Navy-Schmidt said. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and one of the things I have learned is don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t take things personally.

“I am not your traditional business owner, and I go with what feels right and I go with my gut.”

So far, those gut decisions have made her customers’ stomachs happy, along with the knowledge that what is being put into their bodies, is helping them in a positive way in this topsy-turvy world.

To visit and enjoy what Among the Flowers Cafe has to offer, they are located at 2003 Periwinkle Way in the Tahitian Gardens Plaza or call for take out orders at 239-312-8045. They also can be followed on Facebook or go to their website at www.loveamongtheflowers.com.