Written by Steve Mosco Saturday, 14 September 2013 00:00
Eating is more than just stuffing food into one’s gaping maw; and Dr. B Well Naturally is more than just a market.
At the same location in Plainview since the early 1990s, but under new ownership since 2009, the natural foods and vitamin market offers hot prepared food, juices, smoothies, soups, groceries, produce, vitamins and even health counseling.
And it is that counseling that sets Dr. B Well, 8 Washington Ave., apart from the rest. Owner, pharmacist and healthy lifestyle promoter John Azzarelli dispenses homeopathic knowledge on his loyal customers, some of whom actually bring in their blood work so that he can better understand their physiology.
“I’ll spend a half hour with each patient going over their history and help them figure out what kinds of vitamins they should be taking and what they should be eating,” said Azzarelli, who has been practicing pharmacy for close to 30 years and nutrition for more than a decade, adding that he does not charge customers for his free health consultations. “I’ll spend as much time as needed with them to find the best way to help with their problem.”
Azzarelli owns another store, Natures Apothecary in Brooklyn, and has since 1986. In the summer of 2009, he was looking for another store to run when he heard about Dr. B Well in Plainview. He made his way to the mid-island neighborhood store and tasted the General Tso’s chicken, a salmon burger and sliced soy turkey – and immediately knew he had to own the place and keep the entire kitchen staff onboard.
“I bought the store because of the chef,” Azzarelli said, referring to Chef Karen Bonfield, who has been conceiving the menu at Dr. B Well since 1991. “People say healthy food can’t taste good, and that’s just not true. Our chef is very into spices. And her seasoning makes up for all the garbage others put into food in the service industry.”
And while most eateries’ offerings consist mostly of meat-based protein and a small selection of vegetarian fare, Dr. B Well offers the exact opposite. The store’s huge selection of vegetarian meals ranges from more than 10 varieties of veggie burgers to full hot meals.
But for a plate of the full meal, be sure to get there early. Chef Bonfield puts unveils the meal at around 11 a.m. every day, but by 2 p.m. it is gone. A recent hot meal selection included gluten free dueling creole chicken, wild mushroom tempeh, green curry broccoli and tofu stew.
Azzarelli said his chef arrives at the store to begin prepping food at around 2 or 3 a.m.
“She does a lot of work to get the food out tasting as good as it does,” he said, adding that he takes pride in giving residents the chance to not only eat well, but to eat healthy. “I want to help people stay away from processed food and the garbage that you really don’t want to eat. Genetically modified food is like science fiction food, you don’t want to eat it.”
And Azzarelli, who owns the store with his brother Anthony, said the more his customers learn about the food they eat, the more they choose to eat at Dr. B Well.
“A lot of people have food allergies and intolerances to gluten and dairy,” he said. “But even if you don’t have allergies, you can still make choices to avoid bloating, cramping and the general bad feeling you get when you eat garbage foods.”
The pharmacy, the healthy food with flavor, the groceries – it all boils down to helping people, according to Azzarelli. Growing up, Azzarelli’s spent a lot of time in his father’s shoe store. There, he learned the importance keeping customers loyal with impeccable service and a genuine concern for their well-being.
“My father taught me that at the end of the day, you don’t want to have patients or customers – you want to have friends,” he said. “When you take time to help people, it is amazing how much they appreciate you. I go home a very happy person.”
As for the future of the store, Azzarelli hesitated to give too much away. But he did reveal that he hopes to add more seating, as well as table service, so that more people can benefit from unique food and precise care at Dr. B Well.
“People need a place to sit and eat healthy food,” he said. “I love to see people eat well so that they feel well.”