Small Business Spotlight: Essene Market and Cafe

Founded by brothers Howard and Denny Waxman in 1969, Essene Market and Café is a Queens Village staple that provides delicious health-focused products and cuisine to Philadelphia citizens. Essene evolved from humble roots as a small juice bar with a few food items into a well-respected, full functioning retail store and restaurant, famed for its nutritious selection of goods including rare macrobiotic products. For vegetarians, vegans, health-conscious individuals and people with dietary restrictions of any kind, Essene Market and Café is a goldmine of nutritious and delicious selections.

Recently, Essene has come under new ownership and it has fallen into capable and dedicated hands! New owners and recent newlyweds Steven Clofine and Janice Ianella both have strong ties to Philadelphia and the health food community. Steven has a background in organic farming and has worked as a Real Estate professional in Philadelphia for many years. Janice has extensive experience in the in the beauty industry and spent much of her life working as a vegan, vegetarian and raw chef, earning her the title of “The Beauty Chef.” Together, they bring business sense, culinary skills, extensive knowledge and a talent for presentation to the table. By combining their skills and expertise, they create a foolproof recipe for success (pun intended).

Clofine and Ianella were inspired to take over Essene for multiple reasons. Janice was hosting food parties all over the city, educating people about healthy diets and how to prepare nutritious food. Her “Goddess in the Kitchen” parties were a continuous hit, so much so that she could no longer find a big enough venue to host them. Steven was ready to retire from his career in commercial real estate and development, but didn’t want to retire completely. They began seeking out opportunities that would allow them to work as partners and spend time together. Essene appeared to be the perfect fit, allowing Janice to work her magic in the café and Steven to utilize his business and food industry knowledge. After negotiations with Essene’s original owner and longtime friend of Steven, Howard Waxman, the dynamic couple took over and got to work in December of 2013.

The new owners had a complicated mission to fulfill. They wanted to honor Essene’s original mission statement, especially in regards to supplying macrobiotic resources, while making changes and upgrades as they saw fit. Clofine and Ianella moved forward extremely conscientiously, taking customer input to heart and responding to any suggestions they received from Essene’s loyal fan base. They began introducing new recipes to the café, renovated several areas of the store, increased the inventory and introduced a new selection of raw foods and desserts.  So far, Essene’s long-term customers have been pleased with all of the new changes.

There are also some exciting new plans in the works for Essene. Steven is dedicated to bringing in a wide variety of events including live music, comedy and book signings, while building up Essene’s presence as a community space. Janice and her kitchen accomplice, Chef Eric, are determined to provide tasty food at the Café and create the best dining experience possible. They will be opening a juice and elixir bar in the very near future. The couple hopes to increase their charitable contributions to local non-profits and food trusts. Most importantly, they want to continue providing delicious and healthy food to the people of Philadelphia, especially those with dietary restrictions and health issues.

Watching Steven and Janice interact and talk about their business is a lot like watching proud parents doting over their child, joyously pointing out accomplishments and dreamily explaining all of their plans for the future. This image is only increased as you watch them interact with their employees, chatting and laughing all day long. Their passion is even more apparent as they describe their favorite menu creations, raving over the raw, vegan cheesecakes and pies as well as their specialty salads. At the conclusion of our interview, Janice immediately dashed back to the kitchen as Steven gleefully chatted with some of the regular customers, showcasing their hands-on approach and sense of pride in Essene. With owners like Steven Clofine and Janice Ianella, who truly put their heart and soul into their business, it is clear that Essene is on the road to even greater success and, personally, we can’t wait to see what they do next!

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