Situated at the corner of Lagrange and Raymond, All Shook Up! Cafe & Juice Bar is changing how we think about healthy eating. With its candy pink walls, checkered floors and neon lights, the cafe isn’t exactly comparable to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Instead, it is an old-wave malt shop, new-wave juice bar mash-up—a distinct college town gem.
This week, I sat down with owner Michelle Morrill to talk more about the restaurant’s inspiration and origins. Shortly after I settled into one of the neon blue chairs, Morrill emerged from the kitchen and welcomed me with a bright smile. In contrast to the flair of our throwback surroundings, Morrill sported an all-black outfit and spoke in a quiet, but kind voice.
I asked her if she had been open long and if All Shook Up! had come from any particular inspiration. She nodded, “Actually, Aug. 3 will be nine years. So, we opened Aug. 3, 2009.” She continued, “And I’ve always had a passion for eating healthy, but it still being tasty. It kind of escalated when my mom was diabetic, so I had to figure out ways to make things so that she could eat them and like them.”
Morrill discussed her history in the restaurant business and her belief that if she were going to share her love of healthy eating with the public, it would have to be in a place that would attract folks. Besides the range of fresh smoothies and juices, All Shook Up! offers clean, locally-sourced lunch options. From classic hamburgers to gluten-free, vegan sandwiches, Morrill and her team try to find all of their ingredients in the surrounding Hudson Valley—not exactly a small feat.
She explained the reason for the ’50s theme: “I just like the era. And I figured that if I have to listen to music all day, I want it to be music that I like!” She laughed, “I didn’t realize it would be so confusing because there are still a lot of people that think I’m just an ice cream shop or greasy spoon diner … When people actually come in, they go, ‘Wow, what a neat idea!’ ”
Morrill was right about the novelty of the cafe’s retro decor paired with the modernity of a juice bar. Intermingled with “I Love Lucy” posters and vintage records were advertisements for organic wheatgrass juice.
Morrill felt positive toward the cafe’s relationship to the Poughkeepsie community: “I think I have a good local clientele because of what I do. There are very few places where you can get clean meat and cheeses, and there are no real juice bars around.”
Just as she said this, an older man rambled into the shop and the two greeted each other enthusiastically. Once he had settled in, Morrill turned to me and explained that she had recently put on her annual party for the nonprofit park, Peach Hill, and that the man happened to have been one of the guests. The timing was serendipitous, to say the least.
Morrill also talked about the business’s relationship to Vassar: “When the kids find me, they’re very committed … I’ve considered doing a Vassar night once or twice a month because I’m not open for dinner.” She joked about the restaurant’s location: “If there’s anything we can do to inspire students to walk two blocks instead of one, I’d like to know!”
Like any business owner, Morrill faces challenges. She specified some of hers: “Well, marketing—because everything is done so much with social [online] networks now … I’m a little older, so it’s not like I grew up with it.” She continued, “One of my biggest challenges is because I’m always working in the business, it’s hard to find the time to work on the business.”
Morrill also discussed her favorite part of owning and managing the business. “Obviously, I love people. But I also like sharing the whole aspect of tasty but healthy food. Nothing makes me happier when people are sitting here eating and they go, ‘Wow, this is so good! This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had!’ ”
I then asked Morrill if she considered herself a chef. She shook her head, “I love to eat…I don’t consider myself a chef. I just really like good, tasty food! I think I have a flair for putting combinations together.” After hearing her describe some of her creations—a chocolate, peanut-butter protein shake, or a roasted chicken and red pepper sandwich—I wholeheartedly agreed.
Once we wrapped up our interview and chatted for a bit, Morrill sent me off with a smile and one of her homemade almond-coconut bars (which I promptly devoured on my way back to campus). So if you’re looking for a place near Vassar that offers healthy food and a unique, inviting atmosphere, look no further than this throwback juice heaven!