By: Michael Connors
Article Credit: Daily Hampshire Gazette
Walk into Top-Flight Nutrition and you’re likely to notice what you would expect from many other smoothie and juice bars: a welcoming face at the counter, tables to sit down at and popular music playing overhead.
But Erika Matos’ new store at 594 Dwight St. has a unique twist. At least once a week, Matos clears those very tables away to make room for in-house Zumba and other exercise classes — turning her self-proclaimed “nutrition club” into more than just a spot to buy energizing teas, post-workout smoothies and crowd-pleasing treats.
“We opened a business up for the community, for people to come here and feel good and have somewhere they can feel safe, feel comfortable and feel positive,” said Matos, 44, of Springfield.
Matos’ business, which had its ribbon-cutting in mid-January and has been open since November, provides customers with iced teas and smoothies.
According to Matos, the healthy smoothies range from 200 to 250 calories and have 4 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar and over 21 vitamins and nutrients.
Smoothies come in a variety of powdered flavors, including brownie batter, birthday cake and cheesecake. Some of them have sweet toppings incorporated in the drink, and Matos’ “Muscle Man” post-workout smoothies pack 38 grams of protein, she said.
The store also sells energizing iced teas in flavors such as chai, cinnamon and raspberry, which Matos said are sweetened with aloe and boosts metabolism. In addition, the store sells “boosted” and “lit” teas in more unique powdered flavors such as “sour patch” and “watermelon splash.” “Boosted” teas have a “lift-off,” a caffeine powder, as well as a Stevia-based mix along with aloe, she said. According to Matos, she adds NRG to “boosted” teas to form her “lit” teas — a supplement that she said helps keep a person focused, similar to caffeine.
“I love working here and I felt like Holyoke needed something different,” said Matos, who has worked as a social worker in the city for 10 years. “There wasn’t anything healthy so I did my research before I opened … and people were excited that I was opening this.”
According to Matos, who was born in Puerto Rico and has family who lives there, nutrition clubs are popular on her native island and are starting to open more frequently in the mainland United States.
Each Saturday at 8 a.m., Matos has a Zumba instructor come in for classes in the store; every other Monday Matos’ store also hosts a POUND class, which is a combination of cardio and weight training. She said she’s seen a decent amount of interest from the community so far and hopes to do summer classes in the nearby Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Matos said she receives her product from the company Herbalife, which on its website described itself as “a global nutrition and weight management company.” Matos said she worked as a distributor for the company for four years before opening Top-Flight and that the company guided her on how to run a nutrition club.
Matos said she personally uses her products. She also said the store is food service certified and has the necessary permits from city government.
As an entrepreneur, Matos participates in SPARK EforAll Holyoke, a program located on High Street that Matos said connects those interested in business with mentors to help with their commercial vision. She said she also received a grant from the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce to help redo her store’s floor and sign.
“I feel that a lot of people have been saying that some people open for a little bit and then close down,” she said about the city. “Holyoke needs to be vibrant.”