Leith Hill, Ellary’s Greens, Woman Entrepreneur

bio-photo-leithxLeith reached out to me about Ellary’s Greens.  I got on the website and checked out the menu and was impressed.  I have to admit I also had a soft spot for where Ellary’s Greens is located (their first spot) at 33 Carmine Street.  This is right around the corner from where our kids went to school and many coffees, afternoon snacks took place there.  I would have discovered Ellary’s without Leith if my kids were still young. Leith came over and brought an array of goodies to taste.  One was better than the next.  I kept the leftovers for lunch the next day which Alex (the key to our life over here at Gotham Gal) and I split.  Still really good.

Leith, who is a serious ball of energy, grew up in New Orleans.  Six generations have lived there immigrating from England.  They literally came over on the Mayflower. Her name Leith comes from a tradition of giving your children family names.  She had no idea until she was much older that all the names of her relatives were from centuries ago.

As a kid the family did a lot of traveling starting at 9 years old on a bicycle trip through the countryside of England.  Both her parents are attorneys.  Her father is a tax estate and trust attorney who Leith declares an academic genius.  Her Mom stopped practicing when she had children but went on to have another career in the philanthropic space sitting on a variety of boards and always giving friends a helping hand in law.

Leith graduated high school and decided to defer her acceptance into Harvard by one year.  Instead she spent the first year out of high school in Provence at a university.  Harvard did not accept any of the courses she took there so when she got to Harvard she took freshman year all over again.  She spent two summers in France and the others in Columbia and South America.  In Columbia she worked for a guy who was trying to build an aquarium museum and she would dive for fish for him.  She realized quite quickly that he was using that fish to launder money.  She got out, it was 1984, but decided to stick out the summer as every day was a struggle to survive based on what was going on in Columbia.  Looking back it was an adventure and a place where she learned real life survival skills.

After graduating Harvard she got a job with a company who did PR and development for non-profit companies.  One of her biggest accounts was the Girl Scouts.  She realized how much she enjoyed doing something that impacted children.  She became a big sister to a young girl from Columbia who lived in Boston. It was an incredible experience.  She stayed for two years.

Leith’s next move was to go to Boston College to get her masters in child welfare and clinical work.  It was a super intense two year program in the classroom and also in the field.  It was at that time she met her future husband at a bar after a Red Socks game.  He was getting his Phd from MIT and was from England.  That was 25 years ago.  They got married and moved to Long Island where he had landed a job at the Brookhaven National Lab.

Leith landed a job in the area too working with kids in school through a program called Vibes.  She went into a high school doing individual and group work with girls around dating violence, date rape, sexual abuse and harassment.   She’d see the young girls hang out after school hook-up with older boys who had cars, money and cigarettes.  They would then take those young girls under their control.  It was really a tough job opening the girls eyes to what they were engaging in.

Leith stayed for a year and left after she got pregnant with her first.  She decided she did not want to put her kid in daycare.  She wanted to parent her own kid.  Her two sons are now 17 and 20.

While she was home breast feeding she realized that there was literally no where to go eat.  She lived in Suffolk County.  Although there was Burger King, McDonalds and alike there were zero healthy options.  Her father was a huge health food nut way ahead of his time.  In 1935, he was 12 years old and started to do research on heart disease.  He decided to change his own diet and begin to exercise.  He went from a pudgy kid to a lean young man who lived to be 89 staving off prostrate cancer for 30 years with food.  So even though Leith lived in New Orleans they grew up on a totally healthy diet.

So here she is with a kid and starving.  She realizes that someone should come up with prepared healthy nutritious food in a fast food environment.  Whole Foods was still not in her neighborhood and did not arrive until only 3 years ago.  That idea kept sitting in her head for years.

Fast forward, Leith focuses on her kids and the community.  She spends 8 years on the kids school board eventually running it.  She brought in technology, changed the food program and began an endowment.  At the end of her term she was starting to write and wondering what is my next gig.  Food was always her passion.  Her boys were in boarding school.  The idea for Ellary’s Greens was born although it had always been there.

Leith did a tremendous amount of research first.  Then she started to look for the right location.  She decided it was time to move into the city and begin the business there.  She met a man at an event who ends up was in real estate and had the place at Carmine available.  She met with him the next day and signed the lease.

Ellary’s opened in April 2013.  Leith has drilled down on the business plan and no surprises that she is looking to take this on the road.  The food is all natural, organic and there are many gluten free options.  It is really good.  Even the desserts which I am always wary of were delicious.

Trust me, look for an Ellary’s Greens somewhere in your world sooner than later.  I also love that she got off the train with her kids for many years and returned with a brand new career by following her passion.