Jennifer Ryan wants people to know that healthy food doesn’t to be scary or expensive or inaccessible. Instead, it can be simple and delicious—and come right from your backyard. That’s why she started Blueroot Co.’s set of colorful, nutrient-dense foods and is now opening a pick-up window for their salads and grain bowls, coffee, snacks and more in Mountain Brook Village next to Patina. Jennifer’s roots are in California, but Blueroot is definitively Alabama with a local chef and farmers behind the menu and grassroots support, largely in fitness studios, that has brought this business to this point. The pick-up window is on track to open in March, but here’s some of Jennifer’s story to tide you over until then.
Where did the idea for Blueroot come from?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but I had lived in New York City for almost 10 years. When I moved to Crestline a couple of years ago with my husband for his job, we were both excited about what the city had to offer, but we were both quite sad that there weren’t any easy options for easy healthy food that fit into our schedules working full-time. My first inclination was to try to get some big brands that I loved from LA and New York to come here, but they were only looking to expand to coastal cities. So I decided to build a concept where I saw a gap here. My background is in finance, commercial real estate and cyber security, but I knew I could hire people on the culinary side because this city is so full of culinary talent and farmers.
What came first?
We started at the Pepper Place Farmers Market and brought on Robin Bashinsky, who has worked at Hot & Hot Fish Club and Cooking Light, to develop the menu a little over a year ago. We started really, really small in fitness studios, starting with MPower on Canterbury Road. I teach spin classes there in the mornings, and it was an experiment to understand if there was a market. We were embraced almost immediately, and we had support from REV Birmingham and Create Birmingham and the private sector and Birmingham mayor’s office. It felt organic, it felt real, it felt personable, and it felt accessible with pop-ups talking about the food and farmers and the way we were cooking.
How did the walk-up window come about?
Melanie Pounds who runs Patina in Mountain Brook Village had this wild idea that there could be an opportunity for us to utilize this little box of space that connected to her beautiful store. She asked me if I would ever think about opening a pick-up window, and the idea has gained momentum. We have a central location where we do all the food prep, and then we will stock the fridges in Mountain Brook to allow community members to come get salads and grain bowls and breakfast and coffee and snacks and kombucha on a regular basis. We’ll have another similar concept at 20th and 3rd Avenue North downtown next to Fed Ex Office opening in March, and we’re announcing a location for our flagship store soon.
What are some of your most popular menu items?
People are loving the salads. That’s the bread and butter of the business. People’s favorite continues to be the Farmstand. It’s a highlight reel of what the farmers have seasonally, so right now the fall/winter one is organic spinach with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes with a creamy dill dressing, spiced pecans and Swiss cheese. The Green God is a nice nod to my California roots with every green thing you can possibly imagine with a delightful avocado-Greek yogurt dressing.
People also love the snacks. Our Collagen Bites have no refined sugar: oats, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, a little bit of honey, some sea salt and a sprinkle of dark chocolate. It’s a little bit of sweetness but really what packs the punch are collagen peptides with protein. For our Rice Krispy Treats, we put in almond butter, goji berries, pumpkin seeds and unsweetened coconut for a really unique flavor profile. People also love our oats, our dark chocolate snacks and spiced granola.
Where did the name come from?
Getting back to our roots and unadulterated food was part of our brand, so “root” needed to be there somewhere. There is a lot of West Coast influence in the menu and experience, and “blue” gives an homage to California where I grew up on the coast with the blue Pacific Ocean everywhere.