In our opinion there are two South Beaches: the one that tourists see, marked by flyer-ridden dirty sidewalks, $400 Grey Goose bottles, and fly-by-night restaurants attended by stoned waiters; and the one that locals enjoy, marked by eccentricity, health- and body-consciousness, and solid, "take care of our own" business practices. A new eclectic emporium called Under the Mango Tree encompasses all the things that make South Beach an awesome place to live and consume.
Owner Patricia Olesen is a pretty Peruvian with a soft, smiling expression and a serene demeanor. A ten-year Miami Beach resident, she opened up shop about four months ago with little in the way of fanfare. She put a sign up and a chalkboard by the sidewalk, advertising her fresh juices. One day the store wasn't there; the next, very quietly, it was.
It's wedged between a funky little internet cafe and a decades-old salon owned by a Mexican family. The street is traveled mostly by residents walking to the beach, to the yoga studio on the west side of the block, or to Meridian Food Market a few hundred feet further along. Between her juice shop, the yoga center, and Vita Life, a vitamin and health food shop, the funky little strip of 6th Street in the middle of a South American neighborhood is becoming something of an unexpected holistic haven.
Olesen keeps the juice menu basic; there are no crazy "power ups" on it, just basic fruits and vegetables. "We have a few juices," she said. "We stick to the greens, for example celery. Like it says on the board, it's made with organic products when available. And we have beets, ginger, lime, kale, and also now that we're in mango season, we have the "Under the Mango Tree" smoothie, made with coconut milk and mangoes and strawberries."
The rest of the shop is filled with soaps, handbags, honey, crafts, and other sundries, 70 percent of which she says are made by local artisans.
"The first thing that came to my mind [when I was opening the shop] was that I wanted to gather a lot of the local people here from South Beach. I had a lot of friends already that made candles, that made jewelry, that did soaps and everything. So I talked to them and they all gave me their products. So I opened it up starting with that. And now with time, I have more people giving me their handmade products. So that 's what I'm trying to stick with. We have purses jewelry, painted pots, for plants," she said. She also sells actual plants her mother picks up from a grower in Homestead. "I think [keeping it local] decreases the footprint, that we don't get everything from China, even California. I think it gives it more of a feeling that we are a community, and we're helping each other, and I think a lot of people need that."
Short Order was about to leave the shop when some laughter from the back room spurred our curiosity. Investigation revealed that there is actually a whole other business operating in the back room of the Mango Tree.
Naomi Seifter is a young yoga instructor turned entrepreneur with the feather hair extension business she's run for the last month out of Olesen's back room. She said she learned the process from tutorials she watched while she was traveling in India.
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"I was just looking for a creative outlet, something that kind of inspired me and allowed me freedom with my dog and freedom with my schedule, and someone sent me a link about these extensions," she said. "They lived in California, and it was huge, and I started doing a lot of research and there was no one even in the South Florida area who was even offering it, salons or anything. So I talked to Pattie, and I knew she had this space for lease in the back, and I talked to her about this concept. I opened two weeks later, and it's been very well received so far. Maybe the first day it was friends, and then after that I didn't recognize anyone. I've done no advertising, just business cards and Facebook. Whenever anyone comes in [to get an extension], I give them a business card for a free extension, and then they can take the business card and give it to their friends."
Prices range from $10 for a thin feather, to $48 for a bundle of seven feathers. The accessories are essentially dyed rooster feathers, but Seifter says she thoroughly grilled the distributor about the ethical treatment of the animals. "I've had very direct conversations with them about the treatment of the animals... They work directly with a single farm... and the birds are treated very humanely, and are not used only for their feathers, they serve other purposes as well. So that was very important to me, especially being a yoga instructor, being vegetarian, these are things I keep in mind."
Both shops are open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.