A novel tradition
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
For thirty years, the Mitchell family has operated Brother Roy’s Green Garden Health Food Store on White Plains Road in Williamsbridge.
It is an outlier in a sea of fast food, dispensing a gospel of whole, unprocessed foods, fruits, veggies, nuts, and micronutrients.
Despite the decades of service, they are those that might claim they are still a novelty shop.
“It seems like an oddball,” admitted principal Vaughn Mitchell.
But stick around long enough, and its roster of regulars makes clear this is no New Age newcomer.
It’s the real deal.
Brother Roy’s feels like a café, but instead of baristas behind the bar mixing lattes, Mitchell’s cousin, father and aunt work behind the counter mixing Mother Nature’s bounty into healthy elixirs.
Over the din of the blender, Caribbean lilts can be heard as men with steel-toed work boots gulp down their Irish moss drinks.
Irish moss is a seaweed that has a wealth of minerals.
“We’re a working man’s health food store,” said Mitchell.
“It’s like a country club or barbershop for health-conscious people,” added Maowee Moore, longtime customer who has been coming to Brother Roy’s since he was 14.
He likes to have his drinks with tiger’s bone—which is a mixture of roots, not the skeletons of endangered species.
A vegetarian, Moore comes to Brother Roy’s every day, though admittedly he gives into the temptation of fast food once in a while.
“You want your fries and nuggets, but you also have to clean your body afterwards,” he said.
The ingredients that are used in juices, smoothies and power shakes at Brother Roy’s all sound like they were taken from Merlin’s apothecary: tiger bone, maca (a medicinal root vegetable that might have aphrodisiac properties), soursop (the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree), moringa (a root with medicinal properties), and horse tonic (liquid b-vitamins) to name a few.
Many of the ingredients come from the Caribbean, but at least one ingredient is less traveled.
The wheatgrass, also an ingredient in beverages, arrives fresh to Brother Roy’s daily from Green Grass Life, an indoor farm in Throgs Neck.
Many of these herbs, roots and tonics are used widely in the Caribbean, says Mitchell. The mixes at Brother Roy’s are based on long-standing tradition, rather than fads. “You’re getting a collective knowledge,” said Mitchell.
The knowledge seems to yield positive results, and draw clientele from far-flung places.
Reggae artists like Beanie Man and Brigadier Jerry, as well as New York Knicks coach and former player Herb Williams have fueled up at Brother Roy’s.
Williams favorite item on the menu is the vegetable patties, made from whole wheat.
Aside from a wide range of elixirs, there are solids available for your stomach, like fruit cakes, made from dried fruit, and sweet potato pudding.
The solid foods are also made with health in mind.
You will hear no frying, and smell no grease at Brother Roy’s.
The vibe at Brother Roy’s remains unchanged for the past 30 years, but one thing is different.
Just six months ago, Brother Roy’s moved from its previous location across the street to its current storefront.
The new space is much bigger and features a mural painted by Jay Martin that depicts the two trains snaking through the Bronx, as well as a tropical farm.
Wanting to help address the health issues of the Bronx, Mitchell has expressed his desire to hold workshops for neighborhood residents at the new space.
There will also be a menu update: Brother Roy’s hopes to be serving sugar cane juice by the end of the summer.
3543 White Plains Road
The Bronx, New York 10467