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BY MEG RYAN
Wilmington Nonprofit Juice Stand Opens Vegan Restaurant on Market Street
Green Box Kitchen, a fast-casual plant-based eatery, is now open
A colorful mural greets Green Box Kitchen patrons./Photo by Meg Ryan
Between the birth of his baby girl and developing a new restaurant, Jason Aviles has learned the true meaning of patience.
Three years after opening Wilmington Green Box, a cold-pressed juice kiosk, the concept is expanding down Market Street with Green Box Kitchen. The fast-casual, vegan eatery will serve breakfast and lunch items like waffles, grain bowls and smoothies.
Alongside his team of John Naughton, Angela Wagner and their teenage employees, Aviles has found time to breathe between his daughter’s arrival and the planned opening of the new restaurant just a few weeks apart.
“We have this really well-balanced approach to bring the people something that’s very well put together and well thought out,” Aviles says over the phone in September.
And now they officially can—Green Box Kitchen's co-founders were joined by Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 25, and they hosted a block party for members of the public on Oct. 26. As of Oct. 28, the restaurant is officially open and is offering its full menu.
Wilmington Green Box originated in 2016 as the kiosk located at 420 N. Market St. Aviles, a New York City native, wanted to bring the city easier access to fresh, wholesome and plant-based foods.
The kiosk is a nonprofit project giving at-risk teens entrepreneurial jobs while supplying the city’s communities access to healthy goods, according to the organization’s Facebook page. Aviles says that will continue to operate alongside its sister company, Green Box Kitchen.
Aviles has been a vegan for about eight years and after relocating to downtown Wilmington, he saw how difficult it was to access healthy foods.
With parts of downtown meeting the USDA’s definition of a food desert, or “low-income census tracts with a substantial number or share of residents with low levels of access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable foods,” Aviles wanted to give city residents more.
“People didn’t know that carrots could make juice, let alone that you could make salads out of kale,” he says.
But Wilmington Green Box was more than just a juice stand. The kiosk employs at-risk Wilmington teens ages 16-19, giving them reliable employment making at least $10 an hour. Now, the eatery can offer its teen employees part-time and full-time hours that weren’t possible with the kiosk.
The decision to expand down the street to a full-service eatery felt like a natural progression as demand for Green Box kept growing and the kiosk faced weather limitations.
“We always ran into issues come wintertime because people wanted what we had but we had nowhere to sell it out of,” Aviles explains.
(From Left): Co-owners of Green Box Kitchen John Naughton, Angela Wagner and Jason Aviles./Photo by Meg Ryan
Now, Aviles and the team can offer their customers more with items like smoothies, acai bowls, soups, salads, grain bowls and waffles. Almost everything on the menu is made in-house, down to the dressings.
“Our focus is really on wholesome, nutrient dense, plant-based menu items,” Aviles says.
Items like a falafel waffle with hummus, tomatoes, onions, parsley and lemon tahini dressing or grain bowls with a base of black rice, wild rice or red quinoa topped with a variety of fresh toppings will be found on the menu.
Aviles wants people to see a plant-based diet is more than processed frozen goods and bland vegetables.
“People believe that you’re restricted to iceberg lettuce and cucumber salad, or frozen veggie burgers that are hard and tough,” he says.
The restaurant’s interior—conceived in part by its teen employees—will match its leafy green menu with a modern, clean space and an urban feel. The eatery is incorporating moss, live air plants, a plant ceiling installation and raw concrete walls with exposed brick into the space. Aviles says he hasn’t seen anything like it in Delaware and wants customers to feel as if they’re in Philadelphia or Baltimore.
But, he notes, without the entire Green Box team bringing their skills together, none of this would be coming to life for downtown Wilmington.
“We tackle everything as a collaborative,” Aviles says.
Green Box Kitchen
400 N. Market St., Wilmington