Chef Anna Harouvis treats you like you’re her favorite customer when you enter Good To Go Cafe, her raw and organic foods bistro in downtown Cleveland’s IMG Center. She dashes from behind the counter to extend a hug. She asks you what’s new and how you have been. She may need to interrupt you with a vigorous wave and an air-kiss to another patron in the corridor, before turning back to you and adding, “I love him,” or “She rocks.”
The familiar face could be anyone from a building janitor to one of her many legacy athlete customers, for whom she has been making and selling her nutrient-dense, cold-pressed juices over the past two years. In fact, orders from the Cavs, Indians, Browns, as well as other professional athletes who have learned about her juices from colleagues or social media organizations, represent about 65% of overall cafe sales, according to Harouvis.
“It’s an incredible honor, because these athletes trust me with what I’m giving them to put into their bodies,” she says in a voice that sounds like she just spent the night before in the front row of a Bon Jovi concert.
More realistically, in this early evening hour, she’s nearly 12 hours into her workday, still with so much to do. Next, she’ll spend the equivalent of another work shift first cleaning her equipment, then making, bottling, and delivering juices. On this particular day, she is prepping juice for the Cavs. Her genuine passion for the well-being of her clients powers her through the longer days of her week.
By the time the clock strikes midnight, Harouvis will have compressed 420 pounds of organic produce into 70 bottles, just for athletes. At 1am, she’ll stock about 40 of those bottles into portable freezers and transport them to the Cavs training facility in Independence.
“Since the juices were just made, I’ve been known to run the air conditioner at full blast, even when it’s freezing outside, so that the juices are ice cold when the players arrive,” Harouvis says.
Popular tonics range from the algae-colored Hercules–a nutrient jolt with six pounds of organic greens–to the Zeus, cashew milk fortified with almond butter for double protein, a recovery favorite of the Cavs. The Aphrodite–an amalgam of pineapple, green apple, and mint to which she can add a shot of turmeric, ginger, and orange on request for extra potency–is another in-demand item because it aids in reducing muscular inflammation.
“I’ve had guys who have gone from craving chicken wings and vodka to craving green juice,” she says.
Cavs team chef Terry Bell orders about 120 bottles a week of both the Aphrodite and the Hercules. The juices are divided between the players, coaches, and support staff during practice.
“Pretty much everyone here drinks them,” Bell says. “They provide the hydration and energy these guys need while they’re burning all those calories.”
Juice bottles meet the recycling bin quickly in the Cleveland Indians visiting clubhouse, where visiting clubhouse manager, Willie Jenks, makes sure the refrigerator is replete with a variety of about 30 juices over a three-game series.
“Some of the players are immediately happy because they don’t have to pull out the Vitamix and make everything themselves,” Jenks said.
Not all players are receptive to the juices, simply because they are unfamiliar with the idea of finding satisfaction in a liquid form of beets, carrots, apples, and ginger. But an increasing number of athletes are more educated on health and wellness, and understand that hot dogs and cheeseburgers (a clubhouse offering once upon a time) don’t properly fuel the body.
“These players don’t get a lot of sleep when they’re on the road, so they’re looking for something healthy to give them energy during that half an hour after batting practice and before they head out to the field,” Jenks said. “They want to take care of their body. It’s the machine that drives them.”
While specific varieties tend to be the order of the day, teams will call in for the full six-bottle daily cleanses.
“Sometimes I’ll get a call from a Browns coach for a three-day cleanse because one of the players has to make weight,” Harouvis says.
Her line of business, in a way, is serendipitous. Her father was an All-Ohio football nose guard at Lakewood High School who went on to play at the University of Georgia, and her brother played college football on a full-ride scholarship at Northwestern. Harouvis grew up on sports, though she professes indifference during her formative years.
When she opened Good To Go Cafe across from the IMG Center in 1995, she unknowingly had placed herself within field goal range of some of pro sports’ premium brand names.
In 2001, she relocated to the IMG Center to be closer to her loyal customers, and reframed the Greek-inspired grab-and-go concept to a cafe that served raw, organic, and vegan goods. The inspiration for what was then a peripheral way of eating unfolded after her father passed away in 1997 after battling a multitude of conditions, including Crohn’s disease and heart disease. Harouvis herself also has battled a variety of gastrointestinal issues, and knows firsthand that the foods you eat are the medicine that can transform your health.
Now, she is a key player within the local culinary industry and an authority on clean, healthy cooking. Th e brand loyalty she has from local customers, including her pro-athlete clients, is what nourishes and fuels her.
“Extending the quality of someone’s life and putting some good into the world is my legacy,” she says.
If Harouvis could bottle up and sell what she is made of, her cold-pressed juices just might be the closest thing.
Good To Go Café: 1360 East 9th St. in downtown Cleveland. 216.623.7220. M–F 7am-4pm. And opening in early spring in the transformed Fairmont Creamery in Tremont: a second café that will off er gluten-free products and items that are 100% non-GMO. The café will off era full breakfast and lunch menu, and grab-and-go dinners. Monthly pop-ups with other local chefs, some of the proceeds of which will benefit local charities, are also planned.