Myapapaya Coming Up on One-Year Anniversary: "We Are Building a Community"

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In South Florida -- just like anywhere else -- restaurants come and go all the time. Whether it's operator error, lack of funds, a bad concept, too innovative an idea, or whatever else, if you're hitting your one-year mark, you've got to be doing something right.

Myapapaya juicery and kitchen in Fort Lauderdale is about to celebrate its first birthday next month. As the first cold-press juicery and one of the leaders in the area's healthy eating movement, husband-wife-and-14-month-old-daughter-team Adam, Michelle, and Mya Kanner are doing their part to "build a community" of health-conscious eaters (and juice drinkers).

See Also: East End Brasserie Switches to Farm-to-Table Concept

Though the Kanners don't necessarily consider the spot to be purely about health, they do assert that it really boils down to good whole foods and a more conscious lifestyle.

With bright-green wainscoting below crisp white paint that highlights the multicolored tropically inspired fruit paintings, contrasting vivid orange accent walls, an open kitchen, and colorfully scribed special chalkboard on the walls, the place feels like you're walking into a traveler or island lover's home.

"The concept was for Mya," said Adam. "Growing up, I wanted her to be around a lifestyle based on this."

Everything is focused on good clean food. Juices are cold-pressed nightly from fresh organic produce; almonds, cashews, and other nuts are milked right on site; grass-fed bison comes straight from a ranch in Pennsylvania; and everything is made in-house from scratch, with no butter or microwaves. All of which was a concept three years in the making while Adam and Michelle scouted a location.

"Adam was a personal chef," said Michelle, a local realtor herself. "He traveled for work all the time and I really wanted a way to keep him home."

Active travelers, when Michelle was about seven months' pregnant, the couple decided to take a trip to Jamaica. Just before leaving, Michelle noticed the Italian restaurant that had been open in the space on the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Bayview Drive in Fort Lauderdale, just a few blocks from their house, looked like it had closed. After returning from their trip, the space looked as dim and dark as it did before they left. By the end of the month, the couple had signed the lease.

Mya was born in August.

In the five years before the couple signed the lease, the space had been home to numerous concepts that seemed to come and go within months. The Kanners heard over and over again that the space was cursed.

"So many people in the area would give us that look and say, 'We wish you luck,'" said Adam. "Now they have a hard time getting in the door."

Opening a business and having a baby are two milestones that require ample time, money, and resources. Few people would opt to do both at the same time; however, in the Kanners' case, things couldn't have worked out better.

Most afternoons, you'll find Adam working in the open-air kitchen while Michelle and Mya watch over the front of the house. Mya has become a local celebrity among the many regulars who turn up for food and juices numerous times per week.

"One day I was out in Sunrise, eating falafel at a Mediterranean restaurant with Mya," said Michelle, "when I ended up in a conversation with two women, one of whom lives out here. After a couple of minutes, she recognized Mya. It happens all the time, mostly at Whole Foods."

Since Myapapaya has opened, the number of local juicers and health-conscious restaurants in the area has grown exponentially. Green Bar & Kitchen has opened its doors as well as Fresh First. While the Kanners were almost the pioneers of this casual whole foods movement in Fort Lauderdale, they're just happy to see awareness growing.

Apparently, Myapapaya's customers feel the same way. While I was interviewing the family -- Mya included -- after the bustling Wednesday lunch rush subsided, a customer walked up to thank them for just being here.

"Finally, I've found the right place to come in the area," said the fit, middle-aged woman. "I'm hooked."

According to Adam, that sense of gratitude comes out frequently.

"I'm proud to say, I think we were the first," said Adam. "One guy said, 'Thanks for being the pioneer.' For me, it's way late in the game. California and New York have had these sorts of concepts for years. This is about health care."

November 19 will be Myapapaya's one-year anniversary. Currently, the Kanners are planning to host a party on November 16; they'll be making some announcements on changes that will be rolled out shortly, such as a new menu with breakfast, grab-and-go dinners, and more. Check their Facebook page for details at facebook.com/MyapapayaJuiceryKitchen.

Myapapaya is located at 1040 Bayview Drive, Suite 100, in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-338-5651, or visit myapapaya.com.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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