Tropical Smoothie Cafe adds international flavor
© Virginia News GroupSteve Harwit-Whewell has traveled all over the world, but he decided to settle down at someplace tropical.
Harwit-Whewell is the owner of the Culpeper Tropical Smoothie Cafe, taking over for Lisa Michano who opened the franchise in February 2009.
“My wife Emily is American and we were living and working in France and Belgium,” said Harwit-Whewell, who is actually from England, about 30 miles northwest of Manchester. “We decided to make a change.
“Emily's parents live in D.C. and so we started looking for a business opportunity in the U.S. We flew in after a big storm for a visit and wound up in a Tropical Smoothie as customers.”
Harwit-Whewell said he and his wife try to eat healthy and they liked the smoothies so they started exploring the idea of a new franchise in D.C.
“We saw there was a franchise for sale in Culpeper. That was in 2012,” he said. “I'd never lived here, but I went through the green card process and here we are.”
Harwit-Whewell said he and Emily were married in 2006. She was working in Paris with a non-governmental organization.
“This is exactly what we had anticipated it would be,” said Harwit-Whewell of the Tropical Smoothie franchise. “It's healthy casual dining. The name implies smoothies, but actually about 40 percent of our business is food. We aim to push the food part of the business and increase catering. We're moving forward in a positive way with the slogan, 'eat better, feel better.'”
Harwit-Whewell said he wants all those who come into Tropical Smoothie to have a consistently good experience. To help insure this he said he hires a certain kind of employee.
“I look for bright, intelligent people with a personable nature,” he said. “However, the very people I want to employ, those who give me that, are always going to be moving on to bigger and better things. So, there is a constant renewal of staff.”
One regular Culpeper customer said Harwit-Whewell is succeeding at providing good food in a pleasant atmosphere..
“The staff is really cheerful and helpful,” said Katie, who asked that only her first name be used. “They know what I want and I enjoy knowing I'm getting good quality, healthy food.”
In the U.K., Harwit-Whewell ran a post office agency for a number of years. He spent a couple of years in Australia traveling around and then returned to the U.K. where he worked with computer systems. He became an internal auditor and eventually would up in Paris, which is where he met his wife-to-be.
“She was living in France, but working out of Brussels, Belgium,” he explained. “I did a month consulting with the same NGO for which she worked. Then she was sent to Afghanistan. Our honeymoon was a month in Kabul.”
Harwit-Whewell also worked five years in Brussels.
“We've done the big city, big organization thing,” he said. “She's going to scale back her work and become more involved in this business. We bought a house in Culpeper. We're here to stay.”
What: Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Owner: Steve Harwit-Whewell
Address: 15315 Creativity Drive
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.