Not too many years ago Faith Hurtado was skeptical of protein shakes and intimated by nutrition, but now she wants to create a place where it’s cool and trendy to be healthy—and where people want to come and stay a while. “I say we are like the Cheers of smoothie shops, and our customers become our friends,” she says of her Magic City Nutrition smooth and tea shop downtown. Now Faith, along with her business partners Kevin Burks and Andy Smith, is bringing the concept to 18th Street in the former Lucky Cat Rolled Creams storefront with plans to open in early March. To get a feel for what this whole smoothie nutrition idea is about, we chatted with Faith about her past, present and future.
How did you first discover smoothies and teas like you serve here?
I found a store similar to this in Little Rock Arkansas where I am from. At the time I couldn’t reach any of my health goals. I didn’t know how to eat right. I didn’t know anything about nutrition. I walked in, and they said, “We do meal replacement protein shakes and energy teas.” And in my head I said, “Gross,” because I grew up in the era of my mom drinking SlimFast, but I said, “Okay I’ll try it.” I thought I would throw it away when I left, but I tried it and I loved it. I started coming in every day for the shakes, and I was surrounded by good energy and good people. I was feeling better emotionally and mentally, and physically my body was changing and I had more energy. I was like “I have to do this this for other people. I want to take the concept and make it by my own.”
I was ready to get out of Little Rock after 25 years. Alabama is beautiful and close to home but far away. We drove the whole state and Birmingham was it. It was big city, small town and there’s still Southern charm. We lived here for a year before we opened the store. I wanted to know the community first. I was unsure how people would react, but on our first day in five hours we served 250 people. I was like, “Whoa!” We still have new people everyday and so many regulars.
What exactly are these smoothies like?
I know the concept is crazy that you walk out with two drinks. The tea tastes more like a juice or a punch, not like an herbal tea, and it’s going to give you energy. And the shake is your meal as if you are sitting down and eating a plate of food. We let customers know they are getting 24 grams of protein and 21 different vitamins and minerals in a shake. Our shakes keep you full three to six hours depending on your metabolism, and they have the nutrient density of an 800-calorie meal. A lot of people are skeptical at first, but a lot of people can’t even finish their shake because they are so full.
How did you decide to open a Homewood shop now?
Being downtown, we get a lot of people who travel for work and say they wish there was one in Homewood and Mountain Brook and Cahaba Heights. Actually when I came to visit Birmingham the first time, I ate in Lucky Cat, and I said if this place ever becomes available I’m going to put a store there. I could tell there was something about Homewood that is so great. We went with the name Neighborhood Nutrition because Homewood has such a neighborhood feel. We love that people are walking up and down the street. Décor wise we are going for a more natural boho look with warmer tones. We will offer all of the same teas and shakes, and a lot of the faces will be familiar.
What would you recommend ordering?
I always recommend people try our Lemon Berry Energy Tea for the first time because it’s a great blend of pomegranate, lemon and mango. For shakes it depends on the day. We just launched Peanut Butter Oreo, and it’s amazing. For first time people I recommend my favorite one from fruity which is Fruity Pebbles, or my favorite vanilla ones are Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Peanut Butter Cookie, Lemon Pound Cake and Banana Bread.