April 4, 2021
In 2005, Ellie Zoumberakis opened Fresh Start Organic Market & Eatery, a health food market in Astoria, Queens. At the time, she says, there weren’t a lot of organic or health-centered options in the neighborhood. “We figured, let’s be there for the community,” Zoumberakis recalls. “We wanted to create something for the busy New Yorker who needed to run in and get somebody healthy to eat. And that’s what we did.”
Today, Fresh Start boasts a selection of salads, bowls, wraps, soups, juices, and baked goods. “I want to have something for everyone,” Zoumberakis says, adding that she has delicious and healthy eats for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-lovers alike. She also has gluten-free and keto-friendly options.
“Everyone loves our vegan, gluten-free Mac ‘n Cheese,” says Zoumberakis. “We make it from scratch. We use the quinoa pasta. That’s really popular and most people can’t tell that it’s vegan.” Her personal favorite is the Hemp Sunshine Patty, a vegan burger made from quinoa millet, red lentils, sunflower and hemp seeds, and dried mushrooms.
A lot of Zoumberakis’ training, when it comes to cooking and baking, is thanks to her mom. And today, she likes to make traditional recipes with a twist: “The bakery is pretty much what I’m craving at the moment. I love curry, so I recently made a Curry Chocolate Chip Cookie. I was craving Girl Scout Cookies one time when I was in the kitchen and I wanted to make something really quickly, so I just made a raw, no-bake Samoa. Now that’s really, really popular. ”
When COVID hit, Zoumberakis received donations, which she used to make meals for first responders and communities in need. It was important, she said, that she deliver it herself, because she didn’t want to put any of her employees in a dangerous situation. Now, a year later, when the outreach from many other organizations has tapered off, Zoumberakis is still going: “There’s so much to do. We’re always looking to see who we can donate to and who we can help out as much as we can. We have a great community that helps with fundraising, as well.” Recently, Zoumberakis set up a stand and distributed free food. And just last month, Fresh Start donated 500 meals to a Nepalese community in Sunnyside, Queens.
To stay afloat during the pandemic, Fresh Start also began expanding to non-edible retail items. These novelty items—think totes, charms, frames, candles, and jewelry—are all made by local artisans, which is a commitment that extends to the rest of the business as well. Zoumberakis makes sure that nearly everything she buys, from retail items to food ingredients, comes from a smaller, local company.
While the business has undergone a lot of change over the last year, their biggest project at the moment is launching a wholesale component. Zoumberakis is currently selling her goods to cafes and delis in Bayside, Astoria, and Flushing, and she hopes to continue expanding. “Everyone asks: ‘What kind of store are you?” Zoumberakis laughs. “And I go, ‘I know! It’s so hard to say. Everything’s organic, we support small farms and purveyors and artists. We do a lot of cooking. We do baking, we get a lot of vegetables from Ace Natural. It’s a lot of different things!”
If you’d like to visit Fresh Start, you can stop by and grab a bite—or a bowl or a baked good or a retail item!—at 29-13 23rd Avenue in Astoria. They’re also hiring front house kitchen staff, so if that sounds like you, reach out to Ellie Zoumberakis at email@example.com.