Smoothie operator (I)

Johna Lombardi, owner of The Sweet Spot Nutrition, stands behind the counter of her new smoothie and tea shop, located at 16 Coventry Shoppers Park.

COVENTRY — It’s been a long time coming, and Johna Lombardi couldn’t be more thrilled to finally be serving up “shakes, teas and smiles” to the people of her hometown.

From a small storefront in Coventry Shoppers Park, Lombardi and her team create a variety of Herbalife-based smoothies and teas. Sunlight pours through a large window into the shop, where shiplap flooring meets Tiffany-blue walls. Comfortable seating and plants provide a cozy lounge space by the front door; quirky signs share messages like “be happy,” “sip & repeat” and “oh snap!”

Another sign, displayed behind the counter, reads “our story begins here.”

Sitting on a stool in her new shop, an acai iced tea resting on the bar before her, Lombardi spoke Monday about her vision to create a “fun, positive space” where she could share her passion for nutrition with others.

“I could cry talking about it,” she said, recounting the long road that led to opening The Sweet Spot Nutrition. “There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but seeing people come in here, reading the reviews on Facebook, it’s just rewarding. It’s everything that I envisioned, and for it finally to have come to life, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

A Coventry native and mother of three young girls, Lombardi has worked for the last five years as an independent distributor for Herbalife Nutrition, primarily using social media to sell the nutrition and weight-management company’s products. Her brick-and-mortar shop was founded out of a desire to use what she’s learned to offer healthy meal alternatives to people in her community.

“I wanted to bring some healthier options to the community,” said Lombardi, who graduated in 2006 from Coventry High School. “I grew up here, we bought our first house here, my kids go to school here, so it would almost be silly not to start our first business here.”

Her loyalty to the Herbalife brand has been unwavering since experiencing her own weight-loss success using its supplements.

“I don’t feel like I could speak about something I didn’t really use or know anything about,” she said. “I pretty much live and breathe these products.”

Lombardi turned to Herbalife after the birth of her second daughter. Having gained 68 pounds during pregnancy, she said she was inspired to give the products a try after seeing how they helped a friend of hers.

While her positive results were motivation for Lombardi to begin selling Herbalife, she said she also appreciated the financial independence that it gave her.

“It was almost organic,” said Lombardi, who for years had been a stay-at-home mom. “As I lost the weight, I became more confident, I was a happier person, made some friends, and it just kind of took off.”

And by working from home, Lombardi said, she could still enjoy time with her children.

Even at her new shop Lombardi is able to spend time with her daughters Neva, 7, Cali, 5, and Deveraux, 3. In the back corner, a play area has been set up to keep children occupied. Lombardi said she also plans to begin hosting a “mommy hour,” with Frozen characters on hand to entertain kids so moms can enjoy smoothies and socialize.

“I’ve walked into different establishments where I feel like, OK, I shouldn’t bring my kids here,” Lombardi said as Deveraux played nearby. “And that’s OK, because everybody has their own vibe, but this is my vibe. I’m a mom, so I want other moms to feel like they can have their kids running around and it’s not going to be a big deal.”

Aside from wanting to make nutrition more accessible, Lombardi was also encouraged by her boyfriend, Ryan Bartlett, to pursue a brick-and-mortar location.

“He was like, ‘why don’t we just do it? Let’s go for it,’” she said of Bartlett, a 2007 graduate of Coventry High School. “We’ve invested a lot of love and a lot of money into this place, but it’s still seriously so worth it.”

The menu is laden with nutrient-dense smoothies and low-calorie teas. Smoothies are designed as meal replacements, with each containing between 200 and 250 calories, 24 grams of protein, five grams of fiber, 21 vitamins and minerals and between nine and 18 grams of carbs.

The teas are sweetened with aloe, and flavors range from chai to watermelon. Each tea is packed with antioxidants, Lombardi added, and contains the same amount of caffeine as does coffee.

The 32-ounce mega teas so far have proven particular popular, Lombardi added.

Lombardi is eager to connect further with the community by hosting events like weight-loss challenges and “paint-and-shake” nights.

After many months of hard work building the shop — it was built in what had been a corridor between two buildings — Lombardi finally opened the doors to The Sweet Spot Nutrition last week. And so far, she said, the community has  shown a lot of love to the fledgling business.

“It was an amazing first week,” Lombardi said, adding that the date for a grand opening celebration is yet to be determined.

Lombardi currently has five employees working at her shop. Moving forward, she said she hopes to train more “healthy bartenders” who could potentially open their own nutrition clubs one day.

“I have this vision of opening as many as possible,” she said. “It wouldn’t necessarily be a chain. They would be independently owned and backed by us in some way.”

Just to be able to help others find their way to wellbeing and financial independence, Lombardi said, would be worth all the hard work it’s taken to get to where she is.

“It’s about more than the money,” she said. “Giving somebody the opportunity to do what I did — being able to pass on that feeling on — that’s the reward for me. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

The Sweet Spot Nutrition is located at 16 Coventry Shoppers Park, and is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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