A Salad Lover Starts A Place In Harlem


By Christine Haughney

For the decade that Milo Meed has lived in Harlem, he has been frustrated with the lack of healthy food.

Watching his 11-year-old son, Danny, grow up, he grew even more concerned, as he noticed far more obese children north of 96th Street.

For a few years, he tried to convince businesses to fix this problem. As a consultant to small businesses in Harlem, he suggested that they open a restaurant specializing in salads. Then he reached out to more than a dozen healthy food chains to see whether they would expand onto 125th Street.

But no one was interested.

So Mr. Meed took Harlem's need for more healthy eating options into his own hands. He opened Island Salads, a Caribbean-theme salad bar and juice cafe, cheered on by his mother, his pastor and workers from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, which provided him with $181,406 to help start the business.

''I got tired of going to 96th and 86th Streets to get a salad,'' he said at the opening last week.

Mr. Meed said he could not have started the salad bar without help from his landlord, Nina Day, who offered him a discount on rent for the space, once occupied by a dry cleaner. But then, Ms. Day had been hankering for a local place with good tuna wraps.

He also thanked Ellingston Clark of the development corporation for his advice, like creating an open refrigerator where customers could see the greens.

He said he was confident about the restaurant's future, despite the recession.

''I'm a big salad person,'' he said. ''It's a needed product and service. Even though there is a recession, the business should be successful, because there's a void in the market.''

Still, Mr. Meed is preoccupied with getting local residents to even step into his shop. The grandnephew of the former Jamaican prime minister Donald Sangster, Mr. Meed tried to incorporate Caribbean themes into the restaurant's design and its salads by offering choices like the Asian Rasta and an island chicken jerk salad.

He is planning Diabetes Mondays, when those who bring a customer with diabetes receive one salad free. He also offers free meals for children of customers who buy a salad on Tuesdays between 6 and 8 pm., and he hopes to attract more children and teachers from the Harlem Children's Zone school nearby.

He admits that he probably could have made more money selling meals that were not so healthy.

''There are better ways to make a dollar,'' he said. ''It's really about the community.'' 

Photo caption: "Milo Meed, in cap, at the opening of his store, Island Salad, with development corporation officials." (PHOTOGRAPH BY BENJAMIN SAMUELS)