The Organic Food Cafe of the Capital

Washington, D.C.- According to figures of the Organic Trade Organization, located in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the consumer sales figures for the organic industry at the end of 2005 reached $14.6 billion. As the largest player in the industry, the organic food market's size is $13.8 billion.
Since 1997 the sector has shown a 15-21 percent increase and it comprises 2.5 percent of the whole of the US food sales market.
Uzay (Uzi) Turker at his cafe.

Among the increasing numbers of organic food outfits throughout the country, Wellness Cafe is a staple among the Washington, D.C. lunchtime elite. It is found on one of D.C.'s busiest avenues, Pennsylvania Avenue, and located in the same neighborhood as the White House, Congress, and the Library of Congress.

Many congress representatives, such as John B. Larson (D - CT),  Mario Diaz-Balart (R - FL), Walter B. Jones (R – NC),  Dennis Kucinich (D – OH), David Wu (D – OR), and Senator John Warner (R – VA), choose to frequent the locale. The cafe was opened in 2000 by Uzay Türker (also known as Uzi).

Two and a half years ago the Cafe shifted its focus towards organic food and was one of the first deli-style eateries in the D.C. area to sell organic food. Chosen by “The Natural Foods Merchandiser” in September 2005 as Store of the Month, the Wellness Cafe also sells vitamins and specially blended organic foods and drinks. In 2004, its sales volume reached 250,000 dollars. Currently, the cafe earns 50 percent of its money from the deli and 40 percent from vitamin sales. The remaining amount comes from refreshments.

A graduate of Izmir's September 9th University, Türker did his Master's at Florida International University. When he initially started in the cafe business, he had no prior knowledge of organic food, having worked as a manager for three years at a five-star hotel in Turkey. “Either you have to know the business really well or you have to open the place in an excellent location. I did the latter,” he says.  

It was painfully clear from the start that the dilapidated building in which Türker wanted to house the deli was badly in need of renovation. The restorations he undertook in the 120-year building brought the deli to a modern state and he became the fourth operator of this deli, which had started out as the “Good Health Natural Food” store in 1964.

The sandwiches, toasts, and panini varieties sold at lunchtime are all made with organic ingredients. Türker indicates that the costs of the ingredients that he uses are constantly increasing, with blueberries formerly costing $48 dollars for 30 pounds (13.3 kg) and now costing a whopping $76 for the same amount. Türker sells his sandwiches for about seven dollars, while the drinks go for $3.99-4.99. He points out that 70 percent of his customer base are regulars and that “no one can beat our work ethic.”
Wellness Cafe in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the business generated by the 790 square-feet deli area, the Cafe also does business on the Internet, at Four people are employed at the Wellness Cafe, a name given by Türker's wife, who is also his most valued resource. The couple have a son named Kaan.  

Uzay Türker
325 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
(202) 543 2266

(December 2007, 27th Issue)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07