Merchants share products, profits with local schools | Emerald City Smoothie, Toni Maroni’s offer healthy drinks and discounted pizza to Island schools

The days of bland tater tots and “unidentifiable meat loaf” for school lunches are long gone. Over the past decade, Mercer Island School District lunches have become fancier, tastier and healthier.

Today, thanks to the districtwide Wellness Policy, Island students have a greater nutritional variety of food than ever before. It is an effort not just by parents and administrators, but by Island food retailers as well.

Two years ago, the owners of Emerald City Smoothie decided to bring their nutritional drinks to Island youth. Tom and Angela Napier, who own the Mercer Island store along with two other branches in Seattle and Redmond, began selling their vitamin-enhanced, fruit smoothies at Mercer Island High School sporting events.

“We noticed that the concessions usually had Red Vines, Coca-Cola, Cheetos and hot dogs. Kids were fueling their body with junk food,” Tom Napier said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s use our trailer and go to sporting events and provide them with healthy options.’”

The idea took off. The couple obtained the permits needed to sell at sporting events and shoved off for Island games. It was not long before they were selling smoothies by the minute.

But promoting nutrition is not Emerald City’s only motive. Twenty percent of all sales goes toward the hosting sports team, Napier said.

“It’s a form of advertising and a chance to give back to the community,” the owner said. “Healthy treats for young athletes is our slogan.”

Emerald City Smoothie also has a business relationship with Mercer Island schools. Last year, the couple began selling at Islander Middle School and St. Monica School. Although district regulations prevent them from selling inside the cafeterias, they are welcome to set up outside the buildings. The retailer visits IMS once a month and St. Monica every other week.

“They know we’re there. We go through close to 100 smoothies every afternoon,” Napier said, adding that 20 percent of sales at IMS goes toward the PTSA. “We sell a 12-ounce smoothie for $2.50, and the PTSA keeps 50 cents. St. Monica is different. They wanted us to bring the smoothies as a treat. We charge $2 and they don’t take anything.”

So far, the response has been “fantastic.” The nutritional smoothies, with only 140 calories and 0 grams of fat per 12-ounce serving, have been a hit with Island youth.

“It’s really fun to see kids get excited for ‘Smoothie Day,’ and the schools have been great to work with,” Napier said.

Emerald City Smoothie is not the only Island food vendor involved with schools and sports. Perhaps a less healthy alternative, Toni Maroni’s Pizza is also waving its banner at St. Monica and MIHS sporting events.

According to co-owner Brian Tremlin, the pizza chain began selling its product every Tuesday and Thursday at St. Monica School in September. Like Emerald City Smoothie, a portion of Toni Maroni’s sales benefits the school.

“We sell pizza to them at 60 percent off,” Tremlin said. “The purpose is to benefit the school because they make money off each slice.”

Toni Maroni’s has also tapped into the MIHS girls’ athletic program, offering the basketball team a stack of discounted pizzas for post-game celebrations.

Such community involvement pays off, Tremlin said. Despite the economic recession, Toni Maroni’s does well on Mercer Island, in part because of student sales.

“It absolutely brings more business,” Tremlin said, agreeing with Napier. “In a time when there’s all this talk of recession, we’re having a great year.”

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