By Rubin E. Grant
Reggie and Michelle Torbor enjoy bringing people together. The couple figure one of the best ways to do that is over a meal.
“We love people, and we love food, and we believe the best things happen when you put the two together,” Reggie Torbor said.
So, on April 30, the husband-and-wife team opened Taproot Cafe in Hoover. It was an idea that had taken root some time ago.
“My husband enjoys cooking,” Michelle Torbor said. “Back when he was playing football, he said it would be cool to own a little food shop one day. He said that because of a sandwich deli we used to go to.
“One of his friends who he grew up with had a small business and we thought about going into business with him on a smoothie shop. But we decided to go our separate ways, but then we started tossing around some ideas and decided on this.”
Taproot is at 5190 Medford Drive, Suite 124, next door to Jubilee Joe’s. It serves smoothies, salads, sandwiches and toasts. It also focuses on locally sourced ingredients from farmers markets and food makers.
“We believe that this route is worth it,” Michelle Torbor said. “Playing our part in the sustainability of people, the environment and our local economy is worth it. We want to see others understand their power to make a difference, as well.”
The health-conscious and community-focused concept is a natural extension of its owners. Reggie Torbor is a former Auburn football player, NFL linebacker and Giants Super Bowl champion. He currently serves as a motivational speaker and personal development manager at Brasfield & Gorrie.
Michelle Torbor is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Cardinal Wellness, which specializes in anxiety and trauma treatment.
“I just imagine a mom who is trying to be healthy coming here after her workout at the YMCA up the street with her kids, and she can order something wholesome and delicious that keeps her on track.” Reggie Torbor said.
Michelle Torbor agreed, adding, “Yeah. Good food they can feel good about putting into their bodies, and that sense of purpose — knowing that when they visit us, they are playing a part in making a difference for real people, whether that is staff, farmers and their families, or our other partners who work hard to make a living.”
The Torbors do the menu planning and Michelle’s brother Eric Myers is the general manager. He is a former Hoover police officer who retired from the force a month before Taproot opened.
The restaurant specializes in the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables by keeping it as simple as possible. Rather than creating a smoothie with sugar-laden syrups or ice cream, the unique flavors of the fruits and vegetables are paired with natural sugars such as wildflower honey.
“Adding a bunch of sugar to fruit is like dousing a good steak with A1,” Michelle Torbor said. “It’s just a no-no, and you miss the natural goodness.”
Management Is the Challenge
Running a restaurant has been a learning experience for the Torbors, especially making sure the daily operations run smoothly.
“We’re learning the ins and outs as much as we can,” Michelle Torbor said. “So, it’s the daily operation, getting it to where the food is fast and consistent. And we’re learning about managing people.
“We’re also trying to work with suppliers locally, farmers and others, on the inventory, making sure we get the things we need.”
Taproot partners with local growers and curators throughout Alabama, including Ireland Farms in Alpine, Hamm Farms in Cullman, Smitherman Farms in Clanton, Eastaboga Bee Company in Lincoln and Birmingham Breadworks, which is owned by Brooks Taylor on the Southside.
The restaurant is beginning to find its niche since opening.
“Business is going well,” Michelle Torbor said. “We’re as busy as we can possibly be, seeing how we’ve never been in the restaurant business before. There’s been a ton to learn, but we’ve gotten great support from others in the restaurant business. We’ve found there’s a need for faster, healthier food.”