It all started when Michelle Walrath, and close friend Fran Paniccia, were on a girls’ trip with their daughters.
As they traveled the Eastern Seaboard, Walrath and Paniccia noticed a shortage of places to feed their children healthy organic meals.
“It was a very difficult,” Walrath said. “McDonalds, Burger King … they were everywhere. But if you wanted something healthy, there was certainly nothing that came close to that.”
The two returned to their Long Island, New York homes after the trip, determined to cook up a business plan addressing the lack of organic foods in restaurants.
The result was Organic Krush, which opened its first location on Long Island in May 2015, and this week opened its first location south of the Mason-Dixon Line in Henrico at 3406 Pump Road in the Short Pump Crossing Shopping Center.
The Short Pump location is the group’s fifth overall location and its first in Virginia. Organic Krush owns and operates four other outposts on Long Island, with another on the way.
Organic Krush offers up a variety of baked goods, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, salads, soups, wraps and sandwiches.
Signature items include its Chocolate Syduction smoothie, made with banana, raw cacao, chocolate vegan protein, peanut butter, chia seeds and almond milk; and the Elvis acai bowl made with peanut butter, banana and chocolate chips.
Patrons also can build their own wraps, salads, bowls and tacos from more than 50 ingredients, including grilled chicken, tofu, shrimp, celery, chickpeas, basil and tomatoes. Its 18 dressings all are made in-house.
Breakfast is served all day.
Half of the 4,000-square-foot space is dedicated to the dining area and the remainder serves as a commissary prep area for catering and to-go menu services, including providing prepared meals to Walrath’s alma mater, the University of Richmond.
“I think every parent wants to know that what they’re child is eating at college is healthy, or they can find healthy options nearby,” Walrath said. “This is a great opportunity for us to be providing those students.”
Walrath and her husband, Michael, are UR alums, and her twin sister resides in Short Pump. The couple’s daughter just began her first year as a Spider.
Know what you’re eating
“I majored in health while I was at the University of Richmond, so being and staying healthy is very important, including what you feed your body to live longer and work harder,” Michelle said. “Richmond means so much to us, so it feels good to come back and open a business like this here.”
The Walraths also made the lead gift for an undisclosed amount to construct the Well-Being Center on the UR campus. It is scheduled to open by the 2020-2021 school year.
Walrath said the biggest test for Organic Krush was taking the concept beyond Long Island and into the fast-food-chain-loving South.
“It’s a totally different place,” Michelle said. “I think people are becoming more engaged in what they consume, and how that affects their bodies and minds … It’s one of the reasons why we opened Organic Krush here in the first place.”
Michelle said the Short Pump location is part of a bigger strategy to roll out Organic Krush across much of Central Virginia, with plans to bring about five stores to the area.
“We’ve looked at locations in Scott’s Addition and Charlottesville,” she said. “We’d like to grow south into Midlothian, but are keeping our options open.”
Organic Krush is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekend.
The restaurant employs about 40 people, Walrath said, and was designed by 510 Architects and constructed by M.L. Bell Construction.
Annie O’Connor of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer represented Organic Krush. Andrew Thacker and Bob Butcher of S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co. represented the landlord.