After Christmas excesses ‘tis now the season for New Year’s resolutions. If healthier eating and food choices that have a lower impact on the environment top your list, you might want to kick off your new regime by dropping in to Fresh FueLL on Kent Street.
Inside, you’ll probably find Luis and Leanna Segura, the two “Ls” in “FueLL” and motive force of the business, now beginning its fourth year.
When I drop in one chilly morning the Seguras take time to sit down with me at a table by a wall entirely taken up by a blackboard covered with colourful chalk sketches and “Fun Facts” about everything from avocados to veganism.
As Luis’s mother tends to customers I learn about their innovative business and hear an interesting backstory. Before I leave I also have a chance to follow-up on a story that put their faces on the cover of the Advocate’s very first issue.
On the menu at Fresh FueLL are salads with vegan, store-made dressings, wraps, over 20 smoothie options, and more. Customers customize their selections, choosing from a range of fresh veggies and nuts, grains, and proteins.
Every day a few new customers come through the door, but the Seguras also have lots of devoted regulars. There is, for example, the 85-year-old who makes a three-kilometre trek for her 20 oz protein shake.
Over the past couple of years the business has spun off in interesting directions. As parents of four kids (the oldest just 8) the Seguras understand the challenge of ensuring children are eating well, so they offer busy parents prepared bag lunches containing a wrap, vegetable and fruit, a protein, a dessert and water.
They’re providing some school lunch programs with the same sorts of offerings. So far Parkview, Pope John Paul, Grandview and Queen Victoria P.S. have bought in.
And then there’s the food-trailer. Last March Leanna found a Kijiji listing for a food trailer. They bought it, dug it out of a snowbank in Barry’s Bay and with the help of some grants rebuilt it, floor to ceiling. It was ready to roll in September and gave fair-goers in Lindsay and Bobcaygeon healthy alternatives to corn dogs and funnel cake.
Expect to see the trailer next year when the Farmer’s Market at Wilson’s Fields re-opens.
Leanna’s story is — she’ll forgive me for this — not the stuff of high adventure. She grew up in the Lindsay area, attended LCVI, and later studied Fitness and Health Promotion at Humber College. That led to a position as trainer at a Toronto gym, Fitness Connection, which is where her story intersects with Luis’ story.
Luis’s story is a different matter. He was born in El Salvador. Although the country was war-torn, Luis was largely unaffected. He remembers trips to the ocean on weekends, swimming in a lake formed in the crater of an extinct volcano, and summers on his grandfather’s farm.
Good times and food. “I’d climb a mango or guava tree and eat the fruit!” he tells me. When he and his cousins were thirsty they’d knock some lemons down for lemonade. On Sundays there’d be his grandmother’s sopa de pata, a rich stew of plantain, sweet corn, squash, tripe, and a cow’s foot. So rich and filling that afterwards they would nap.
When he was eight the civil war precipitated emigration to Canada. They settled in Toronto’s Parkdale area. From there it was on to Little Italy and then Newmarket for high school.
Over those years he acquired two enduring passions. Basketball was one (at 41, he still plays in a league, once a week at the Boys and Girls Club. The other was hip hop (his band, Los Poetas, is currently making a second album and has gigs booked in Elora and Toronto this summer).
After high school, Luis moved to Toronto to pursue his music career. Music didn’t always pay the bills, so he took on part-time jobs, including a job at . . . Fitness Connection. Turned out a young trainer there, Leanna, was not only a co-worker, but lived in the same apartment complex Luis had moved into.
Long story short, they married, moved up here (Leanna’s parents run Foodland in Little Britain) and identified the need for what became Fresh FueLL.
The Cover Story
So, about the photo on the cover of the first issue of the Advocate? The Seguras were on the cover because of their involvement with the Basic Income project. Every basic income story is unique. It turns out that for the Seguras this has been a happy story.
They applied as a couple for one year of Basic Income. Community Futures (CFDC) loans had gotten them started, and this was another resource, with an added benefit to society — their participation would add useful data.
“The money didn’t go into the growing business,” Leanna tells me, “but it did help on the personal side of things.” As they put in long hours growing their business, the basic income could cover daycare and after-school care and provide a buffer.
Afternote: For those looking for healthy lifestyle inspiration, one final anecdote. Luis’ grandfather is still in El Salvador. He enjoys climbing trees to pick mangoes. He’s 95-years-old.