Erin Horton of Springville knows what it's like to be stretched as a parent.
The Culinary Institute of America graduate has worked in a variety of jobs while she and her husband, Jon Hamann, a small business owner, have raised two children, son, Jett, 12, and daughter Elle, 8.
"Everybody's so busy," Horton said. "We've got jobs and kids and activities. In Springville, there's nowhere to go to get something healthy and delicious quickly."
Gym members and others bent on nutritious foods have begun make the grab-and-go café a regular spot to buy sandwiches, salads, wraps and sides whipped up by a chef who has worked as general manager at the Calumet restaurant on the Chippewa strip in downtown Buffalo, executive chef with the Delaware North companies on the West Coast, and as a chef for Wegmans.
She helped Tops Markets set up its Orchard Fresh health food store in Orchard Park before setting out on her own two years ago with Edible Crush catering. Fresh Smart is an offshoot.
Spring Creek club owners Maria and Gary Wannemacher brainstormed with Horton, who has worked out at the club for several years, about how to make the café work. Horton brings in fresh food regularly and gym staff handles the sales.
"The idea was to fill that niche here and provide a service to the gym members and the community," said Horton, 42, a Springville native. "My natural inclination when I cook food or prepare it is to make it healthier," Horton said, "or how can I sneak in something healthy without my kids knowing?"
Offerings vary but several items have become popular already. They include a spring chicken salad whole wheat wrap that blends chicken breast, greens, Craisins, scallions, roasted almonds and a Greek yogurt dressing that mocks a mayonnaise; a Chipotle chicken breast sandwich with bacon, sharp cheddar, arugula and an avocado spread on an apple oat bread; and a peach Caprese salad with fresh peaches, mozzarella and tomatoes over greens, topped with a balsamic reduction and fresh basil vinaigrette.
"It's all I eat right now," Horton said of the salad.
Costs generally range from $8 to $10 for sandwiches and wraps, and $3 for side salads that include a roasted sweet potato salad tossed with Greek yogurt-based dressing, rosemary, garlic and a grainy mustard; and another with green lentils, fresh orange slices, red onion, cilantro and an orange vinaigrette dressing.
She also offers a natural peanut butter protein bite four-pack with 31 grams of protein – a great post-workout muscle builder.
Beverages include kombucha, iced teas, cold pressed iced coffees and specialty health drinks that range in price from $2 to $5.
Horton described her diet as a fruit-, veggie- and cheese-based. "I combine those in different ways," she said.
The healthiest food she makes at home?
"One of the desserts I make for my children: a dark chocolate and avocado mousse," she said. "They think it's chocolate mousse, so they love it."
The food she finds hardest to resist, though she know it’s not that good for her?
"Pizza," she said. "You can make it healthy – at home we make our own dough and do lots of fun toppings – but I like the unhealthy kind with cheese and pepperoni. Buffalo is full of great pizzerias."
Fresh Smart Cafe is open when gym is staffed, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekends. Horton makes the product in a commercial kitchen in Springville and said, "It's as local as you get."
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon