in Bedford Village may have closed its doors last Friday, but the mission of the mission of the business will be preserved under new ownership, say Sherene DePalma and Helene Rosenhouse-Romeo, the store's co-owners.
The timing may come as a surprise to some—on the heels of an expansion and restructuring of the business, previously reported in The Record Review. But DePalma said the opportunity presented by caterer Erica Wallace was too good to pass up.
"We had been approached several times over the past year with offers to buy the business, but the match just wasn't right," said De Palma, "Then Erica was introduced to us by local farmer and friend John Ubaldo, and it all came together."
Wallace, who has successful catering business, said she was attracted to the space that Near and Natural occupies since she first saw it several years ago, mainly for its layout with dining area, location in the village, and such amenities as a big walk-in refrigerator, enabling her to run her catering business plus have prepared foods for eat-in and take-out.
The now-former owners say they weren't looking to close Near and Natural, having turned down previous offers to buy the business. Both described wanting to educate the community about local and sustainable agriculture and to make good food delicious and readily available.
"We wouldn't have handed the business over to [a name] like McDonald's" said DePalma.
But Wallace's enthusiasm and like-minded philosophy made them realize they'd created a successful infrastructure. And consider that maybe, it was time to pass the baton.
What to expect from Erica's Kitchen
Wallace envisions a full menu, fully stocked coolers and shelves, and a "sense of abundance." The menu will offer her signature blend of vegetarian options, raw foods, local, grass-fed meats, and sustainable fish—kid-friendly options will be included.
Beverages include fresh vegetable juices and fruit smoothies and coffee, tea and cappuccino. Seasonal foods like hot soups and stews will be freshly made all winter, and Wallace plans to continue her catering and delivery service. Patrons will be able to visit for breakfast, lunch and dinner, eat-in or take-out.
She hopes for a soft opening around Thanksgiving, and an official grand opening in December.
As for DePalma and Rosenhouse-Romeo, they're looking to the future.
DePalma, a former lawyer, said she thought she "hated being a lawyer" but now realizes she didn't like the type of law she practiced. She plans to use her experience to launch "Jobs with Heart," an online community to connect lawyers with jobs they care about.
Rosenhouse-Romeo, a registered dietician, plans to focus on her practice, and continue wellness consulting and private counseling. She's also a member of the wellness and sustainability committee for the Bedford Central School District.
DePalma she was grateful for the experience.
"I am optimistic that more nutritious and nourishing foods are becoming available for general consumption, even for those for whom that is not a goal. Near & Natural was the first of its kind in northern Westchester and I think the groundwork has been set for others to follow."