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New Businesses Raise the Bars in Grinnell


Grinnellians can now grab delicious drinks in the two new businesses in town. The Purple Cucumber is a smoothie bar that offers organic and vegan smoothies made with locally-grown ingredients. Solera, a chic wine bar, specializes in a menu of drinks and delicacies that are sure to win the hearts of wine-lovers. Eric Mistry ’14 visited both the Purple Cucumber and Solera, and delivers the inside scoop. Photos by Eric Mistry.

The Purple Cucumber

Health-conscious locavores have a new smoothie sipping spot to check out. The Purple Cucumber is a quirky smoothie shop focused on fresh, local and vegan food. Melissa Lewis, the founder of the Purple Cucumber, was sick and tired of the overly processed, relatively unhealthy options, especially after going through a 12-month integrative nutrition course.

Purple Cucumber - Eric Mistry
Photo Credit


“The basic principle of [integrative nutrition] is to avoid the frankenfoods … the additive-ridden, mutated food that we’ve been forced to eat because we have no knowledge of what’s really going on,” Lewis explained.

As a parent, Lewis often encountered trouble finding nutritious and healthy foods in Grinnell, especially when time was short.

“The options here for healthy food are pretty limited, especially if you’re looking for a quick snack that isn’t going to break the bank,” she said.

Consequently, Lewis set about designing a smoothie shop that would serve healthful, nutritious and real ingredients in an environmentally and socially responsible way. However, throughout the process of preparing to open her business, Lewis kept in mind an overarching attitude of having fun.

“One of the things that annoyed me about super health conscious people is how overly serious they can get. Let’s have fun with our food,” she said.

The Purple Cucumber features a vast menu of healthy options with unique personalities. The main focus is on drinks, although a few tasty homemade snacks grace the menu, as well. The smoothie selection is creative, if slightly overwhelming, on first exposure. Luckily, that overwhelming feeling is simply a reaction to the impulse of everything sounding delicious. The menu has more than 25 different smoothie options, but custom smoothies are also available. The pre-designed smoothies, with funny names, such as “Joe Bananas,” “Luau In My Mouth,” and “Just Beat It” are extremely fresh and flavorful.

“We’re kind of quirky and off the wall with some of our items’ names. We have a lot of satire humor,” Lewis said.

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In addition to its delectable offerings, the business was intended to maintain environmental consciousness, as well as support other local and community businesses and suppliers—a feat  verified by the Purple Cucumber’s menu. Much of the food is locally sourced and the Purple Cucumber plans to be a local Community Supported Agriculture pickup point soon.

Also, the shop has a “Rockin’ the Reusable” promotion, which gives any customer who brings in a reusable container a discount on their purchase. They even sell large mason jars that fit the smoothies perfectly in order help a customer begin his or her own reusable collection.

The Purple Cucumber blends the local foods movement, environmentalism, humor and delicious smoothies into an extremely enjoyable experience. Though it is tough to decide exactly which smoothie to enjoy, the fresh ingredients and creative combinations ensure that it should be fantastic.

Colleen Klainert is bringing the big city to small-town Iowa with her new wine bar, Solera. A wine aficionado, Klainert has years of experience of both selling wine and running a wine bar.

“I sold wine to wine bars and wine restaurants in the Twin Cities for years, and what I missed most living in small town Iowa was a big city wine bar. I missed a wine bar that had 50 to 60 wine selections. I missed drinking out of clean, crystal clear glassware, just relaxing with some soft jazz in the background,” Klainert said.

Solera is a wine bar based around socializing. Everything in Solera—from the menu to the seating options—is designed to encourage relaxation and conversation. Klainert’s philosophy of looking at wine as something anyone can enjoy has deeply influenced the environment of Solera. According to Klainert, the world of wine should be accessible to anyone, not just connoisseurs. Ultimately, wine encompasses more than simply a drink.

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“I think its about making connections, about socializing. Wine facilitates socializing, but there is a common denominator … It facilitates getting to know strangers. Already here in three weeks, I have seen friendships starting across my bar,” she said.

With the interior of Solera, Klainert has created a fantastic setup. The bar is huge and gently lit, and a variety of different sets of furniture round out the space. The front seating area is wonderfully vintage, with 60s-style furnishing and accessories. Other seating areas have their own unique, artistic flavors, including some Mona Lisa and American Gothic inspired collages on the walls. Some gentle music adds a bit of nice background noise. Wine is served in beautiful glassware, with specific glasses for each type of wine, something Klainert believes is absolutely necessary for the best wine experience.

The menu at Solera offers a plethora of wines, with prices ranging from the economical to more luxurious choices better suited to celebrating. Most are sold by the bottle to facilitate sharing, but there are also nine by-the-glass options spread across the categories. There is also a limited food menu dedicated to options, such as breads, savory pastries and desserts that change regularly. Solera also offers a variety of high-quality beers either for individuals or for sharing. The menu is carefully curated by Klainert, who has honed her tastes for many years working within the wine industry.

Wine - Eric Mistry
Photo Credit

“If  it’s not good enough for me, it’s not going on the menu,” Klainert said.

Overall, Grinnell is gaining a true gem with Solera’s opening. The space is beautiful and imaginatively decorated, the wine and beer selection is superb and it promises to be an excellent space to meet and interact with a variety of people. Klainert’s past experience and expertise are demonstrated in the details that pepper the wine bar, from the eclectic collection of furniture, to the plethora of proper glassware, to the name itself.

“Solera is a wine term. It implies a winemaking process by which some wine is preserved and blended into the next batch. I chose that word not only because it’s a wine word or because it’s easy to say, but I like philosophically taking something from your past and blending it into a better future,” Klainert said.

Solera impresses from the start, and its future looks bright.

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