It’s been nearly 2 years since Chipotle said adios to Compo Acres Shopping Center.
The “fast casual” Mexican restaurant’s burritos were high in fat, cholesterol, carbs and sodium. The chain weathered several hepatitis, norovirus and E. coli outbreaks. On the other hand, Health.com did include Chipotle in its list of “Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants.”
A new eatery opens in the old Chipotle space November 2. This time, you won’t have any problem finding healthy options.
In fact, that’s entire premise of Organic Krush: It’s an “organic lifestyle” restaurant, with something for everyone. Meats, vegetables, herbs, spices — they’ve got you covered.
The Westport location — just down from the healthy Pokeworks (and the less healthy Jersey Mike’s) — is the small chain’s 7th. It started on Long Island, and grew there. There’s also one in Richmond, Virginia, with another opening there soon.
Co-founder Michelle Walrath always had a passion for healthy living. In college she double majored in health and women’s studies. In her first job, she traveled often — and discovered a wide world of food beyond Long Island.
Intrigued, she drew up a business plan for a healthy restaurant chain. But it was tough to finance, so she got a master’s in elementary education at the University of Bridgeport, became a teacher, and had 4 kids. While a stay-at-home mom, she remained involved in the healthy food movement.
Several years ago, she and her friend Fran Paniccia traveled far and wide, taking their kids to Taylor Swift and One Direction concerts. Finding good, quick meals — amid a sea of processed food — was difficult.
So Michelle and Fran decided to do it themselves.
They found space in Woodbury, Long Island. They hired a chef with a “great palate.” He created a menu with steak wraps, fish tacos, smoothies — “everything we loved,” Michelle says.
The women learned on the go: hiring (and firing), managing food costs, you name it.
They learned well. Customers flocked to Organic Krush from all over Long Island. Many had health or dietary issues — cancer, celiac disease, etc. — and said that this restaurant was the only place that served them.
And, customers pleaded: “Open another one in my town.”
Two years ago, Michelle and Fran took the next step. They developed a business plan, to scale across the US. They hired a CFO, a COO and an HR person.
The women are especially eager to open in Westport.
Michelle’s husband’s family is from Danbury and Newtown. She knows this area well, from her University of Bridgeport days.
This is a town filled with foodies, environmentalists and fitness enthusiasts, Michelle says. (That’s for sure: Organic Krush’s new neighbors include SoulCycle and Row House.)
“It’s a community that really cares about nutrition. We love being part of people’s health and well-being.”
It’s great too, she says, to take over space that was formerly a restaurant. Planning began in the summer of 2019.
“The staff is so warm and friendly,” Michelle says. There won’t be any speakers series or special events — a staple at other locations, before COVID — but there’s free WiFi. Socially distanced tables encourage people to linger. There are outdoor tables in front and, hopefully, in back.
Organic Krush will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — “and everything in between.”
It’s not easy opening a new restaurant — particularly in the middle of a pandemic. But Westporters are excited, Michelle says.
Here’s hoping she’ll krush it.