Ishmael Hall was spending too much money on his daily juices and smoothies, but working in education meant he didn’t have time to sit down every morning for breakfast. So, he bought a blender and started bringing his liquid creations to work.
His coworkers immediately noticed.
“They would say, ‘What do you call this?’” he said. “And I would say, ‘I don't know. What does it taste like?’”
One early concoction tasted like a heavenly breeze, said his wife, Deborah Hall. That was the moment she knew Ishmael was onto something.
“It was literally like I felt a breeze sensation over me,” she said. “And, again, this is a drink that has kale in it. And I was very, very anti-kale.”
That smoothie is now called Eden Breeze (it includes kale, banana, pineapple, almond butter, honey, almond milk and yogurt), and it’s one of many drinks that is on the menu at the newly opened Eden Juice and Smoothie Bar on Wilson Avenue in Bushwick.
When the pandemic hit and schools shut down, Ishmael decided to seize the moment and “build something,” he said, while his job was remote. With the help of Deborah, Ishmael quickly founded the health-conscious company in March 2020 and then launched operations in June.
The two were initially delivering products out of their home, but the goal was to always open a storefront in Bushwick, the neighborhood where Ishmael was born and raised, where he had his first kiss and where he eventually bought his parent’s home to raise his own family in.
After running a successful popup in the spring 2022, the duo opened a brick-and-mortar in October 2023.
Throughout the process of starting and running a business, building community has been at the center of the duo's work. Ishmael worked in education for 20 years, and Deborah has a master’s degree in social work, so they strive to bring “back something to the neighborhood that I grew up in,” Ishmael said.
Ishmael, who has since left his career as an educator and works full-time at Eden, has brought on employees via the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program and Exalt, an organization that works with teenagers who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system.
“I love interacting with folks, and I love making connections with folks,” said Ishmael. “That is the heart of my work.”
The store, just a couple of months old, already has “lots of regulars,” Ishmael said. He loves showing newcomers that healthy food can taste good, like the Crimson Root juice — one of his favorites — that’s filled with beets, carrots and oranges.
Deborah, who still works a full-time job and describes herself as “like a second brain” in the operations, said the next step is to start thinking about partnerships with other businesses and work toward putting their drinks on other storefronts’ shelves.
The couple has bigger dreams of one day opening another location, but for now, they’re focused on hiring more staffers at their Wilson Avenue spot and building a successful Black-owned business in the neighborhood, something Ishmael didn’t see much of growing up.
“If you want to know how I did it, ask me,” said Ishmael, who wants to see Black ownership increase in the area. “If you want to know what my resources were, ask me.”
Eden Juice & Smoothie Bar is located at 448 Wilson Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11221.