“Everybody deserves good food, everybody deserves kindness, everybody deserves joy.” These are the words Baby Greens owner Sharon Mays has built her business on, and she and her staff strive to live by every day. “Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, a meat eater, a blue collar worker, or a student, we have food for you!”
Her mission statement? “Spread joy. We are a drive-thru restaurant so we have a very short amount of time to make an impression on people. Everybody who walks through our doors are going to get good customer service, good food and good vibes. The people who made this food actually care about it, they made something that is good for you.”
This business wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for Mays. Born and raised in Austin, Mays previously worked for the IRS post-9/11. “I remember we weren’t allowed to leave for lunch due to security reasons, so I would be trapped on campus at the IRS cafeteria. I had recently become vegetarian so my options were slim,” Mays recalls. She would come up with business ideas to keep her from falling asleep throughout her training, and one day after a particularly grueling experience in the cafeteria, she came up with the idea of a salad, to go. A drive through salad restaurant.
Shortly after, Wendy’s launched their first fast food salad. Mays thought surely this was it, her bright idea was to be overshadowed by a corporate chain, only to discover the Wendy’s salad backfired containing more calories than a cheeseburger. Mays quit her job at the IRS and started working in the marketing department for Chipotle.
“In addition to marketing, I would do any job in the kitchen and ask a million questions in the process. I told myself I would do this job for one year, learn everything I could possibly learn, and then I would launch my own business.”
And she did just that. After months of tirelessly searching for a place to open her to-go salad restaurant, she and her mother stumbled upon a small “For Rent” sign on the side of the road after lunch on day. Sharon had since become a meat eater again, but she wanted everything on her menu to have a vegetarian option. “It was such a new concept, I think it was hard for people to wrap their heads around. Most healthy food is very expensive and most people did not know what a lot of the ingredients were. When I came up with the menu, I wanted to address all those things. I wanted everything to be affordable, I wanted the ingredients to be familiar, to taste good, and I wanted it to be fast food. Fast, healthy, accessible, scratch-made food, for the blue collar worker, the student, anybody on a budget.”
Mays recognized the financial divide in healthy food and wanted to give everybody access to affordable fast food that was good for you. After what Sharon describes as “the long and winding road” of running Baby Greens, she has experienced closing and re-opening her business.
“It is not about working hard, it is about taking pride in the work you put out,” Mays recently shared with her team in regards to the recent outpour of support due to COVID-19 and racial injustice. “Our customers are coming by every week to make sure we are still here. I want our employees to know and feel what it means to be proud of the work they put out and know it is meaningful.”
This summer, Mays will be launching what she calls the “Summer of Love” campaign in which she and her team will be turning the volume up of putting out much needed joy in the city of Austin with their healthy, delicious, food and excellent customer service.