Walk the stretch of Kew Gardens surrounding Forest Park and you’ll be met with nondescript storefronts, chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and Rite Aid and highway onramps. Unlike its Forest Hills neighborhood, whose streets are lined with hip restaurants and coffee shops, Kew Gardens is still waiting for its moment to shine.
Forest Park is where Simone Lord Marcelle decided she would expand her practice as a naturopathic doctor into a café and storefront, where she could prepare and sell the very items she prescribes to her patients. Her business idea was admittedly a little selfish: “I kept going to the park and there wasn’t a juice bar close to the park or somewhere to get something healthy.”
But as a practitioner of naturopathic medicine, Lord Marcelle’s mission is to help others optimize their health as well. Mother Earth opened in March 2017, a neighborhood oasis on Metropolitan Ave, one block from Forest Park Dr, serving fresh-made juices, herbal and vitamin infusions and healthy takes on classic Trinidadian dishes (a nod to Lord Marcelle’s birthplace).
It was a risk to open in a neighborhood where residents are accustomed to sugar-and fat-laden food choices, but the reception was warm, and that is a credit to the painstaking detail with which Lord Marcelle and husband, Martin, whose background is in finance, wrote both their business plan and the recipes used in the café.
“We took time to bring something of deep value to the community. When people see that you’re there to help them, they’re very excited,” said Lord Marcelle. Though the neighborhood is home to a melting pot of ethnicities and backgrounds, Mother Earth’s customers stand united in their belief that the space is a great match for what the community needs.
The most surprising and excited set of customers? Kids. As Lord Marcelle lists each Mother Earth juice recipe, she pauses on the one called Immune Power to share an anecdote. The original ingredients, rich in vitamin C, include orange, pineapple and strawberry, but, “a little boy named Austin came in and wanted to add cantaloupe.” With the addition, Austin stumbled onto a flavorful drink that Lord Marcelle describes as “smooth and groovy.” It’s on the menu now: the Austin Power. Aside from that consulting touch, all juice recipes are created by Lord Marcelle, who researches the properties of every ingredient and tests what combinations work best to combat fatigue, build immunity and support liver function.
The space is meant to serve as a community meeting place; a collaborative and engaging energy surrounds the 10 indoor seats and sunny patio where seating is also available. While the juice bar serves up an easy on-the-go snack, guests are encouraged to pause, take a breath and enjoy a carefully prepared meal as well. And while the menu focuses primarily on Trinidadian recipes, the ingredients are Lord Marcelle’s primary focus.
“We don’t just buy any rice or oil. We spend the extra money to buy unprocessed basmati rice and pure grapeseed oil and extra-virgin olive oil.”
She also incorporates fresh herbs into each dish, for both health and flavor. On weekdays, you’ll typically find spinach rice with coconut cream; yellow rice and turmeric; grilled salmon topped with mango and avocado salsa; and Caribbean curry chicken on the menu. On weekends, specialties appear, including jerk chicken and callaloo, and a coconut-cream-based Trinidadian soup with spinach and okra. Though the dishes could be weighed down with additions like cream, each one is light and flavor-packed—the perfect post-run fuel, exactly what Lord Marcelle had been searching for.
She’s managed to feed her own appetite for healthy food and create a much-needed community space. Now that the café’s business is strong—they’re creating a larger patio space to accommodate guests—Lord Marcelle is focused on blending her naturopathic practice even more into the café and store. She provides consultations to customers eager to move beyond the health benefits of juicing and stocks her shelves with a steady supply of house-prepared herbs, roots and vitamin infusions to cleanse and calm their minds and bodies.
Now runs through quiet and expansive Forest Park are even calmer and at the finish line is the promise of a snack or meal that will heal the body and soul, while introducing you to the healthconscious neighborhood that’s been hiding behind fast-food chains all these years.