Driving down G Street, one can’t help but notice a splash of color that has livened up the space at 506 G Street. The storefront’s glass features a hand-painted earth encased in a bright pink heart, accompanied by swirling script reading, “Love one another,” — certainly a welcome sentiment considering the trying times.
Stepping inside My Happy Place Nutrition, the good vibes keep on coming. Original artwork adorns the walls while a stack of board games awaits players. Through the doorway, Xenia Gilmore can be seen behind the bar, ready to mix up a cool treat for patrons on a summer day. The cafe was her brainchild and with he help of her sweetheart, Blake Blakenship, it became a realty back in October. It’s been a labor of love, creating nearly every element of the business by hand — from the paintings to the bar itself.
“I’m an interior designer by trade. I have a degree in it,” Gilmore said. “I painted all of the art and murals here.”
Gilmore has definitely invested a great deal of time and energy in her business. Beyond the painting, she’s aimed to create a place that fosters a sense of health and well being. Her menu includes a number of smoothies, shakes and energy infused teas. A sampling of items includes pomegranate green tea and protein iced coffee, alongside the likes of orange cream and snickerdoodle smoothies.
“For our teas, we use green tea and orange pekoe, which are the best parts of the tea leaves. We flavor them with Stevia so there is no sugar. You don’t get that sugar crash that you would otherwise,” she said. “Our smoothies taste like desserts. We have cookies and cream. We have banana cream pie. It tastes like banana pudding ... everyone loves it.”
But beyond the flavor, her menu is part of a mission. As one who has always struggled with maintaining a healthy weight, offering options that are good for her patrons has become a goal.
“I grew up here, and there really wasn’t a lot of healthy options. I had always struggled with my weight and I was working at a call center and my weight just went through the roof. I was at about 59 percent body fat, almost 300 pounds and just miserable. I felt like I was going to die,” she said. “My knees hurt, my back hurt. I was pre-diabetic. That’s how serious it was for me to figure out how to get myself healthy.”
She tried to engage in exercise but didn’t see much movement on the scale. But after she discovered meal replacements, Gilmore’s life started to shift.
“A family member posted some weight loss stuff on Facebook and she introduced me to meal replacements. So I started changing up my nutrition and was able to lose 65 pounds — just by changing my diet. I did start losing more and more weight. Then people started asking me ... what are you doing?,” she recalled. “It became a passion for me to help people and offer a place for people to come for nutrition.”
She started experimenting with meal replacements that would pack a lot of taste as well as nutrients, protein and fiber. Once she had a good arsenal, she and Blakenship started looking for a place to set up shop.
“We had been looking for a space for a long time and this place happened to come up on my Facebook. My landlord, Mr. Brady, is amazing, and he showed us this space. It was pretty much move in ready. It was painted, and the floors were new. It was almost like it was meant to be,” she said. “I get goosebumps thinking about it. When you want to do good things for people, I think it starts happening.”
Gilmore feels that it fills a much needed niche in the downtown district. Rather than venturing out for fast food, patrons can stop in her shop to pick up freshly made drinks instead.
“People did ask ‘why do you want to put it in Brunswick’ and I said ‘why not.’ This is where I wanted to be ... we need a place to have healthy options,” she said. “A lot people want to eat better but don’t know what to do.”
Of course, Gilmore and Blakenship’s operation has slowed a bit in the days since COVID-19 took hold. But they have dreams of doing much more than selling healthy beverages. In the past, My Happy Place has played host to a number of health-centric activities — beginner’s yoga, art classes and adult nap times. She hopes that, as the pandemic wanes, programs can resume and expand to cultivate a sense of community. “It’s not just a place for drinks. You don’t just come in and get your shake. I like to talk,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a sober bar. I want to get to know my customers.”