In January of 2007, Phil and Shanna Mastrangelo opened the doors to a juice bar on 111 West German Street. With just 79 cents in their checking account and $250 worth of outstanding checks, the Mastrangelos needed a big opening day. The menu listed only juices and smoothies, but the steady stream of customers from the community allowed them to break even.
Today, Mellow Moods Cafe & Juice Bar, located on 119 West German Street offers a menu chalked full of different smoothies, juices, sandwiches and coffees. Some of the beverages include the Green Mountain smoothie (strawberries, mango, pineapple, spirulina and agave) and the Garden Elixir (carrot, celery, tomato, cucumber, garlic, basil and optional hot sauce).
Hungry customers can find more than 20 different sandwiches and burgers, but the only meat is in the tuna melt or the fish taco.
"We do not think one type of lifestyle is necessarily better than another when it comes to
whether you are a vegetarian or eat meat," Phil Mastrangelo said. "I personally eat meat, but I will not judge you if you do not. No one opinion is better than the other."
The Mellow Moods concept is largely taken from other eating establishments that Phil and Shanna liked. While Phil lived on Ocracoke Island, N.C., he frequented a coffee shop called Ocracoke Coffee Company. The shop offered bagels, smoothies and other specialty drinks that were considered healthy items. When Phil and Shanna were in Hawaii for their honeymoon in 2006, they frequented a small restaurant named Tropical Taco, which served only fish tacos, lemonade and water. Even with the simplified menu, Tropical Taco was popular and helped inspire Phil and Shanna to open a place of their own.
"[Tropical Taco] actually started in the back of a Volkswagen van. They put a window in the side of it with a little counter that you could walk up to, and they'd take your order," Shanna Mastrangelo said. "The simplicity of it was really interesting, and they had a line out of the door everyday."
While sitting on a beach in Kauai, Phil and Shanna decided to bring the ideas of both restaurants to the Shepherdstown area. They wanted to create a place with a minimal menu. The main goal was to maintain a steady, positive atmosphere that made customers want to come back.
"We want people to come in and feel like they are valued and not just another customer like 'oh gosh there's another person in line, so I have to go wait on them', which is what happens at a lot of restaurants nowadays," Shanna said.
Not only is customer service important to the Mastrangelos, but they also want to serve the community the healthiest foods possible. Phil's father, who was a park ranger for the C&O Canal, made sure that his family ate healthily. He passed away when Phil was just 11 years old, leaving Phil's family in a weakened financial state. Bulk frozen pizzas from Sam's Club became a regular meal for the Mastrangelos. Although Phil loved the taste of them, he knew they were not the healthiest option.
As he entered his late teens, Phil got back into eating healthily with different foods. He felt like what he had been eating was making him sluggish, so he started to eat more healthily with organic and gluten-free foods and he felt more energetic immediately.
The Mastrangelos have made a commitment to trying to use organic and locally-grown foods in their menu. Organic farming is a form of agriculture that uses natural growing techniques instead of employing synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It is what many consider a much "cleaner" way to eat and is a growing phenomenon internationally.
In addition to the organic foods on Mellow Moods' menu, almost all of the foods are gluten-free. Gluten is found mainly in wheat and other grain products, but is added to many other foods as a thickener or to give them texture. Many people have gluten allergies that can result in severe gastrointestinal distress.
"Just recently we found out that the genetically modified wheat that's on the shelves that most people eat also has another protein that is hard for us to digest, so we're beginning to wonder how many people are actually gluten-intolerant or how many people are just having bad reactions to this type of wheat," Shanna said.
The Mastrangelos want healthy, wholesome food to be part of the relaxed atmosphere they strive to create for their customers in Shepherdstown. As parents to two children, they are happy to be fostering healthy habits, and they believe that their restaurant is one of the few places in the area that serves only healthy food.
"I want to be the Ronald McDonald of healthy foods," Phil said.
Six years after opening, Mellow Moods is a popular dining destination in Shepherdstown and Phil says he is thrilled to own a place where customers can come and relax while eating healthily.