New business offers healthful food choices

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Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or just looking to eat healthier, options to eat out in Wilson can be limited. The owner of Smart Choice Cafe and Market is hoping to change that and change minds at the same time.

“We try to raise awareness about what people are consuming,” said owner Nick Tucker. “We want to eliminate the toxins we’re inundated with on a daily basis. We’re constantly bombarded from the outside, but then we’re putting it inside our bodies and slathering those toxins on our skin.”

In addition to a variety of prepackaged snacks, energy bars and drinks, Smart Choice also offers an assortment of freshly prepared heat-and-eat meals such as vegan quinoa black bean burger and organic roasted chicken, complete with tasty vegetable sides. Since opening on Feb. 1 at 3710-J Peppermill Drive, Tucker said word has spread largely through word of mouth, but a grand opening celebration from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday will allow residents to sample a variety of items and register for raffles at the store.

“For people who are used to fast food and processed food that is devoid of nutrients, they often have a different attachment to food, which makes it hard to transition to healthier options,” he said. “We want to offer smart choices with quality ingredients your body knows what to do with, but we advocate for an 80/20 balance. You’ve got to have balance in life, so if you eat 80 percent healthy, you can do 20 percent that isn’t as healthy, but we offer cookies and chips to help people make smarter choices about what they eat.”

While Tucker doesn’t claim to be an expert, he does have years of experience as a personal trainer and fitness coordinator, then studied nutrition through the Interactive Fitness Trainers of America in Raleigh. He and his wife, Tasharra, started teaching courses in Raleigh advocating the six pillars of healthy living — proper nutrition, exercise, sufficient rest, proper nerve supply, prayer/meditation and socialization. The couple would share items they’d found at Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market with the group, but soon decided to start a business in Tucker’s hometown of Wilson.

“To succeed in this world, you have to make smart choices whether it is about who you date, what job you pick or what you eat,” he said. “We try to make smart choices every day in our own lives and we want to help others do the same.”

Currently the meals offered in the cafe are prepared off-site with the market taking about one-third of the 1,200-square-foot space. Tasharra Tucker operates an enclosed hair salon in the Peppermill storefront, but Nick Tucker said if the demand for a cafe exists in Wilson, the salon will be taken out in favor of a full-service kitchen. The merchandise also will evolve as he receives customer feedback, Nick Tucker said.

“We want people to live to their potential, but this is one of the hardest businesses to be in,” he said. “People want it fast, they want results quick, but it takes a while to get in the situation they are in and fixing it overnight isn’t possible.”

For more information on Smart Choice Cafe and Market, visit tinyurl.com/y79nmjw7 or stop by from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Nick Tucker said he’s hoping to expand the hours as business picks up.

Extra! Extra!

When it comes to banking in Wilson, customers at several banks have seen some changes in recent weeks.

Crews recently changed the branding a bank at the corner of Tarboro Street and Parkwood Boulevard by the mall. The location changed to First South in 2014 after the Washington-based bank purchased nine eastern North Carolina branches formerly belonging to Bank of America. In June, First South Bancorp was bought by CresCom Bank in an effort to expand the Charleston-based bank across North Carolina.

For customers of Wilson-based Cornerstone Bank, the merger with Providence Bank announced in August is working its way through regulatory channels. Providence President Ted E. Whitehurst said federal authorities have approved the merger, but the deal is still being reviewed by state officials. Approval could come as early as this week.

Wells Fargo recently released the results of a survey of small businesses in eastern North Carolina regarding leaders’ outlook, which is at the most positive rating since early 2007. The survey highlights include: 52 percent reporting increased revenue in the past year; 66 percent expecting revenues to continue increasing for the next 12 months; 77 percent expecting good cash flow for the coming year; and 33 percent forecasting an increase in jobs at their companies in the next year.

“The study’s findings are consistent with the optimism we are experiencing locally among the business community,” Jim Foster, business banking manager for Wells Farm in northeast North Carolina, said in a press release. “We want to make sure Wells Fargo has a strong team of experienced bankers dedicated to helping businesses succeed in Rocky Mount and Wilson.”

Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com.