Where organic, fair trade and community meet

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:43

MILFORD - Walking into Nervous Nellie’s Café is like walking into your living room or dining room. The comfy sofas, the music, the decorated tables at 115 Seventh Street in the Old Lumberyard Shops all invite you to grab a cup of organic, fair-trade coffee or herb tea and sit down to chat with a friend. Across the wooden patio is Nellie’s Naturals, another cozy place. Both are owned by Karen Nell and Cindy Schreyer who strive to create a welcoming environment where people will shop, eat, and linger a while. Nell and Schreyer first looked at space in Milford in October 2004. They had already established a natural foods store in Connecticut, but liked the feel of Milford and wanted to expand their business here. Cindy, a former professional golfer, and Karen, a part-time physical therapist, took the plunge and opened Nellie’s Naturals in May of last year, offering an array of organic produce, natural baked goods, cosmetics, herbal remedies, and vitamins. They included wheat-free and gluten-free products for those with special diets. Not long after opening the natural foods store, another space became available in the Old Lumberyard and Nell and Schreyer decided to extend their commitment to the community by opening Nervous Nellie’s Café. These two businesses are based on values held deeply by the owners — offering high-quality fresh, organic ingredients, fair-trade products, and products that are not tested on animals. “This is not an easy task,” explained Nell. “It would be so much easier to substitute cheaper-grade ingredients in our freshly prepared foods, but I can’t do that. I would rather fail in my business and remain true to my values and beliefs than to substitute low-quality ingredients.” That idea resonated with a customer who offered Nell and Schreyer an acre of land on his farm so that they could grow some of their own products to use in their foods. It could mean healthier food in a shorter time from field to table. Nell turned to her staff to get their buy-in and each one agreed to tend a piece of the land, which has already been planted. The staff even came up with a name for this project—Girls Grow Wild. This kind of all-inclusive involvement is what Nell loves. The idea of growing their own ingredients just took on a life of its own. “It just seems that whatever we need shows up when we need it. It’s an amazing process,” said Nell. Her long term dream for the farm project is to develop a self-esteem program for kids where young people can learn what foods look like during the growing process, before they get to the dining room table. And it will all be organic, of course. Karen Nell and Cindy Schreyer have an attitude of “we’re all in this together—owners, staff, and customers.” The relationships they establish along the way are very important to them personally, not just to the business. They welcome more community involvement in the café. Some community programs that are ongoing are the drumming circle on specific Friday nights, the Artist’s Way support group, Open Mic Poetry Readings, and Finding Peace talks. New events in the works are a farmer’s market, live music nights, spinning classes, salsa lessons, and Friday and Saturday night dinners (after Memorial Day). The next events, a drumming circle and a live jazz night, will take place on the Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Stop by Nervous Nellie’s Café or call 570- 296-2906. You’ll feel right at home.