Dishes at the simple eight-stool food counter focus on whole grains, tofu, tempeh, lentils and split pea soup, and eschew dairy, eggs and animal products. The amiable Schicchi, a Sao Paulo native who rode the macrobiotic wave in Brazil in the 1980s and who opened his juice bar in 1993 after a Miami vacation turned into a permanent stay, “can charm a sample of lentil soup into the hands of the most devout beef lover,” his son Gabriel teased from his home in New York City.
“It’s the absolute best place in Miami for juices, organic food and vegan food. It’s amazing. Carlos and Tom are the best, and Carlos is an institution,” said regular Rhonda Rodriguez of West Miami, who has been coming nearly for at least 15 years.
“It’s like Cheers, a neighborhood hangout. It’s just a treat to come here almost every day, not only for the food but for the company,” she said.
Schicchi, 55, who previously operated vegetarian restaurants in London and Austria, says his counter draws clientele from as far north as Palm Beach and as far south as Key West. The Beehive bunch come for the Seitan whole wheat empanada or tofu picadillo, with soybean curd ladled into seasoned tomatoes sauce with peas and raisins. Or the whole wheat pita sandwiches festooned with sprouts and veggies.
“We have many customers who are not totally vegetarian but come mainly because the food is very rich, healthy and tastes phenomenal,” Schicchi said while on a quick break before the lunch rush turned the back of the store into a standing-room-only scene. Schicchi will serve anywhere from 60 to 180 meals daily. According to a 2011 poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the Vegetarian Resource Group, about 5 percent of Americans identify themselves as vegetarian. Vegetarian Times reported that year that 1 million Americans are vegans who will bypass all animal products.
The industry “has gone through many changes. Not so much on the looks of it but the industry has increased tremendously in the last 10 to 15 years. We’ve been through many phases — Argentine-style, the South Beach Diet. We always adjust. Now there’s gluten-free products to cater to their needs,” Schicchi said.
Still others swarm to the “Hive” for Neubert’s juices, such as the carrot beverage he concocted on a recent afternoon. Neubert goes through 100 cups a day of juices or smoothies in this small space.
“It’s a shame because a lot of businesses have been here 30, 40 years and it’s going to be replaced with one business,” Neubert, 45, said. “Some of the businesses are going far away. The karate people come here to have a smoothie or go down to the sandwich shop. Maybe they use the shoe repair or eye glass place. So now they will all be separated. I’ve been coming to the store since 1986.”
Del Valle encountered sticker shock when she learned this summer she had to move.
“What first went through my head was chaos, like, oh my God, now what? After being 32 years in one location I had no idea how the rents were out there and what was new in the business world. My initial thought was I would go across the street because they have several spots open but they want $5,000 to $6,000 for [monthly] rent. For shoe repair? Do you know how many shoes I’d have to repair? Quite. A. Few.”
Del Valle was paying about $1,800 monthly rent in the old location. “I was lucky to find something on 57th Avenue, just pure luck.”
For Rodriguez, she will miss the old-school charm of this dusty place time has passed by: “There are enough CVS’s in Miami but not enough Beehives and juice bars, so it’s sad this will take the place.”
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