Getting Into the ‘Happy Habits’

Aug 01, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds NEW VENTURE: Shauna Thompson and her husband, Richard, show off their Happy Habits organic juice bar on Bay Avenue, Manahawkin.

Happy Habits, the newly opened organic juice bar on Bay Avenue in Manahawkin, is encouraging the community to break bad eating habits and opt for more-wholesome dietary alternatives. With a plucky motto like “For the Health of it,” how could you say no to a hearty treat from the new eatery? Shauna Thompson, the owner of the establishment, is hoping to make mindful nourishment a priority in the community.

“It was incredible. Honestly speechless,” said Thompson after reflecting on her opening day just a few minutes after closing up.

The Ocean Acres resident had been an employee at Schwee Tea, the business that had previously filled the space Happy Habits now occupies. She’d taken Schwee Tea over just a year or two ago before deciding, this year, that she wanted to make some changes to the menu. But after some thought and research of her own, Thompson decided to strip the store entirely and start fresh with a little rebranding – something to make it her own.

“Food-wise we have a lot more options. Everything is still organic. I’m a little bit more plant-based, so we’re calling it ‘plant forward.’ I’d say 98 percent of the menu is vegan. We still have chicken, but all of our sauces are vegan,” she said.

Thompson credits her husband, Richard, an experienced cook, for assisting with the conception and carryout of the new menu. Together, they collaborated to create an expansive list of nutritional, delicious options. Offering anything from bean burgers and toasts to homemade hummus and açai bowls, Happy Habits has a little something for everyone, even the picky ones.

The organic juice bar takes a swing at the trendy “flight” concept. Flights, popularized by breweries and vineyards, allow customers to sample tastes of a variety of beverages, typically brews and wines. Happy Habits offers something dubbed a “Wellness Flight.” On crafty, wooden handheld palettes, tiny holes serve as placeholders for shot glasses. Customers can sample turmeric, ginger, E3 algae and wheatgrass shots, along with a featured chaser.

The inside walls of the shop are painted a pickle green, which pops above a white backsplash. The stainless steel counter wraps around the space above a chocolate-colored wooden, hexagonal foundation so the interior resembles a luxurious beehive. Happy Habits is both spotless and cozy, sterile yet warm.

This October, Thompson will have completed her studies and obtained a degree in nutrition and health promotion. She said the more she has learned about food, the more she has wanted to share her knowledge. “What I’m trying to do is teach people why this food’s good for them and how it’s going to benefit them because that’s what’s helped me change my diet for the better.

“There are a lot of things you can substitute, and you don’t miss those things the way you think you will. I thought I could never survive without chicken or turkey; that’s all I ate growing up, and now I never eat it.”

Thompson’s research and own personal experiences have led her to believe that a plant-based, organic diet yields innumerable health benefits, both mentally and physically. “I just want people to know that if you have anxiety, you don’t necessarily have to take medication for it. You can just eat better and feel better.”

She has noted a clear improvement in her overall well-being since switching to a plant-forward diet. “I sleep better. I’m more confident in myself. I work out all the time.

“Cancer runs in my family. I hate to say I’m scared to death to get cancer, but I just don’t ever want to be sick. So for me it’s trying to prevent those things,” she said.

Ironically, the store is located next door to Cake That!, a renowned gourmet cupcakery and sweet fixture in the community. But Thompson sees the contrast between the two stores as a positive. “We have a lot of people who will go get a cupcake and they come over for their juice, and they call it balance.”

Having grown up on fast food herself, Thompson is no stranger to the challenges associated with drastic lifestyle changes. Her goal is to inspire and to inform. “I’m gonna be honest: It’s taken me, like, five years to get to the point where I was like OK, I don’t want that,” said Thompson.

At just 24 years old, Thompson has not only found her passion, but she’s also accomplished an impressive feat in creating her own brand. In her humble, happy way, Thompson denies any direct compliment to her remarkable achievement. “I feel like I got lucky; I was at the right place at the right time. It still doesn’t feel real yet.”

For more information about Happy Habits, visit happyhabitsnj.com.

— Sarah Hodgson

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