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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Social Mission Drives Happy+Hale

OPEN-2Fresh, delicious, healthy food, purchased from local growers when possible, and served fast. That is the way Happy+Hale, a newcomer to the downtown Raleigh food scene, is doing business. Plus, it’s working to support the emerging local food system in the area and playing an active role in fostering a healthy community.

“At our core we are a restaurant, but really the mission is a social mission for us–changing the way people think about how they eat, what they eat and where it comes from,” said Tyler Helikson, co-founder of the new restaurant.

Helikson and partner Matt Whitley launched the business in August 2013 with a two-pronged approach. Helikson was in a commercial kitchen preparing foods and taking online orders, while Whitley was selling juices at Fayetteville and Hargett Streets in Raleigh from the Happy+Hale tricycle. They quickly built a customer base and signed a lease about a year ago for the restaurant, which opened in June this year on busy City Plaza in downtown Raleigh.

“You know what you’re eating, you know everything is made from scratch, and it’s delicious and healthy,” said Helikson. The menu features a variety of salads, wraps, juices and smoothies, all ways that to eat and drink your veggies.

Supporting Local Farmers

Those veggies are purchased locally whenever that is possible and feasible, Helikson said. The restaurants buys produce from growers selling produce at the weekly Downtown Raleigh Farmers Market during its season, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Hoke Street Training Center in Southeast Raleigh, and from other urban farmers, such as Lester Clay, who is growing produce in Southeast Raleigh after completing the Agricultural Training Program through the Food Shuttle.

“The farmer relationship means a lot to us,” Helikson said, “but our biggest challenge is how does a business like Happy+ Hale, which goes through so much produce each day, make this all work. We go through so many sweet potatoes, so much kale, and so forth, that we could wipe away a small farmers’ entire crop in one week because of our volume.” Seasonality and demand can make working solely in the local food system a challenge today, so Helikson said he does have to rely on major food distributors such as Foster-Caviness and FreshPoint for some produce. “Some is local, some is not, but if we can get it local and we can get it organic, we will,” Helikson said.

“Consumers don’t see the challenges in making local food available, but it matters to us, so every week we are focusing on arugula, or tomatoes, or butternut squash and we go out after it locally,” he continued.

Community and Composting

Happy+Hale wants to be part of a vibrant, healthy community, so it plans events that bring people together, such as yoga, dances and community education at Marbles Kids Museum, for example. Plus the restaurant is composting for urban farmers in the community.

“We have a lot of cardboard, so every other day we deliver that to urban farms in Raleigh. They use this  as the foundation for growing.  The live compost is then combined with topsoil as a natural fertilizer. And we juice three times a week, so we’re producing a lot of compost. The pulp and all the other parts of fruits and vegetables––we don’t throw any of it away–that can all be composted,” Helikson said.

Composting helps the restaurant reduce waste and provide nutrients for the soil where some of its farmer suppliers are growing produce for the restaurant. Helikson said it’s an important part of the full circle of the urban food movement. “If we’re helping someone who is low income or low resource who wants to grow food to support himself and his family, then it’s a win-win situation,” he continued.

Finding Happy+Hale
The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday on Fayetteville St., takes orders in person and online, and delivers within a one-mile radius. Follow Happy+Hale on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and visit to learn what the name means and what’s on the menu.

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