When Soleyah Brittian opened the doors to Hapisoul Cafe and Juicery Sept. 13 at 118 NW Second St. in Abilene — the former location of Ortus Cafe — it was after years of dreaming.
“It’s been a dream of mine — a vision of mine — for a very long time,” she said.
Brittain began working toward her goal at the start of 2022.
She has wanted to open a juicery and healthy eating cafe for years and now she has finally achieved her goal.
Brittian started eating healthy in a serious way after her mother was diagnosed with stage four non-hodgkin’s lymphoma back in 2008.
Brittian moved to Abilene from Chicago where she had been working at a juice bar/health food restaurant to help her mother through her chemotherapy treatments and provide support and care.
“Seeing her in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes really affected me,” Brittian said. “I’ve always (been) — ever since I was a young child — an overweight little girl. And I had to teach myself how to eat healthy and exercise. So I’ve been on this journey for a long time, but then seeing the effects of cancer was eye-opening.”
The experience with her mother compelled Brittian to be more conscious of her own health and her job in Chicago made her aware of the potential health benefits of juicing.
Abilene didn’t have anything quite like the juicery she had left behind in Chicago so Brittian ended up purchasing a juicer of her own.
But she stayed in Abilene because, even though it was not at all like her former city, she had formed tight connections with people during her time here. She had taken work at a donut shop and the Kirby House restaurant and grew extremely close with coworkers and friends she made through those jobs.
“Before I knew it, I had created a little family, so I was sticking around and I wanted to be close by my mom,” she said.
Her mother pulled through and has been in remission now for about a decade.
These days, even before she opened her restaurant Brittian has juiced for herself and her yogis at Hapisoul Yoga and Wellness, her Abilene-based yoga studio.
“They love it and I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time,” she said. “I saw the opportunity as far as the space was concerned and I could make it happen.”
Because of her own experience with cancer, she hopes to encourage healthy eating habits that might prevent cancer from blossoming. During her time caring for her mother, Brittian researched foods that might prevent cancer — and also foods that could cause cancer to form, information that she used while forming her menu.
“What we eat matters,” she said. “I definitely am doing this in a way that provides health benefit.”
Food, she said, can have a major impact on health, energy levels, digestion and how people feel from day to day.
“Basically, I look at foods as something that either feeds cancer or feeds your healthy selves,” Brittian said.
Specific foods she recommends that provide antioxidants include greens such as spinach and green tea.
She believes juicing can help people make better nutritional choices.
“If you think about most people, they don’t want to eat a plate of vegetables or people don’t like the texture of fruit,” Brittian said. “Basically, people don’t like to eat fruits and vegetables. Some people do — that’s great. And so we’ll offer (fresh fruits and vegetables) of course.”
Juice, on the other hand, provides the nutrients without someone having to eat an entire plateful of beets, carrots, pineapple, citrus fruits and parsley — the contents of Hapisoul’s beet juice.
“You wouldn’t normally want to eat a plate of that, right?” Brittian said. “But I juice it, it extracts pulp, it keeps all of the nutrients — which, when you drink it in the juice form your body can absorb more easily because you don’t have the function of digestion to digest all of that stuff so it goes right into your system.”
It’s a good way to convince children to eat fruit and vegetables as well.
Now that her business is open, Brittian hopes to provide another option for people who want to eat out in Abilene but who also want to stay health conscious and provide a source of local food.
“I purchased everything nearby,” she said. “I want to have as many local, fresh-grown products as I possibly can find.”
So some of the food she sells will be grown locally. Brittian is a member of the Cedar House Board of Directors and plans to purchase some of her produce from Cedar House founder Patti O’Malley who, as part of her drug rehabilitation program for women, operates the Greenhouse, a farm and a culinary high tunnel, among other things.
The Hapisoul Cafe and Juicery menu will include fresh squeezed juice, protein shakes, smoothies, sandwiches, salads and soup. The restaurant will serve gluten free options, vegetarian options and vegan options for those who want them. There will be a rotating seasonal menu of all-natural, health conscious food.
“You’ll feel better after eating it, not worse,” Brittian said. “I just want to bring that offering to the community.”
Brittian said she has the support of many community members.
“I think that — I know that — the community will enjoy this,” she said.
She knows it won’t be easy, but feels she is ready to face any challenge and looks forward to sharing her dream — and information on nutrition that she feels may not be widely available — with the community.
“I do find benefit from eating clean — eating healthy,” she said. “My saying is that ‘you eat better, you feel better.’ So what we put in our bodies matters and I just look forward to sharing that. But so far what I’ve been able to share through my yoga business has been very helpful to these people. And so now I get to serve more people and children.”
She knows what she offers won’t be for everyone, but she believes enough people will be interested to keep her in business.
“In a small community, I feel like word gets out pretty quickly so I know I need to do it right the first time,” Brittian said. “Because you only get one chance to impress people. So that’s my plan.”
For now, the restaurant will be open from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, though she may expand those hours at a later date.