[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Fresh to Deaf is a plant-based, quick-service, food stand dedicated to food coaching, meal prep and plant-based fresh cuisine.
Tiffany Hamilton, owner of Fresh to Deaf, at 20 Federal Plaza, said the name is to give recognition to her hearing loss.
“[It’s] paving the way for functionally disabled people like myself to be entrepreneurs and to branch out,” she said.
Hamilton told Mahoning Matters that her hearing loss began in 1999, when she was “struck” with an illness that resulted in a hospital visit, and lifelong hearing loss that has gotten progressively worse.
“They’re not even sure what [the illness was] to this day,” Hamilton said.
Before Fresh to Deaf, Hamilton was an assistant manager at New York & Company, but said she quit as her hearing loss progressed.
“It just became really hard communicating and trying to bridge the gap with customers not understanding that I couldn't hear,” she said.
After leaving her retail position, Hamilton said she went down a “rabbit hole” of educating herself on herbal and food medicine.
She initially wanted a way to naturally ease her menstrual migraines but became a master herbalist and psychological food coach in hopes of sharing the effects of herbal healing with others.
With that thought in mind, Fresh to Deaf was created amid the pandemic.
“I was prescribing things to [friends and family] and having them try herbs. So I was like,‘If these people need it, there has to be a bigger crowd of people who can benefit from this.’ So, it's bigger than just female issues,” she said.
Fresh to Deaf’s menu includes a mixed fruit, seaweed and salads — like their signature strawberry fields with house-made honey lemon vinaigrette — but its sea moss items are what makes Fresh to Deaf stand out from the rest.
Hamilton said she specializes in sea moss, a nutrient-dense seaweed that contains “92 trace minerals of the 102 [minerals] your body needs” and offers sea moss water — a combination of fresh fruit and sea moss, sea moss gel. It is available in original, strawberry, pineapple, blueberry or mango flavors.
Fresh to Deaf also has a rotating “$5 fresh menu” which includes sea moss water, sea moss gel, and salads.
The swift shift from New York & Company to Fresh to Deaf might have seemed abrupt to outsiders, but Hamilton said her prior experience as a server helped with the food side of the restaurant, and her tenure as a retail manager helped on the business end.
“God takes us down a path and I believe I worked in restaurants to have that education of food service [while] still not knowing that that was my path,” she said.
In addition to its flagship location in Youngstown, Fresh to Deaf is available for delivery on Doordash in Youngstown and in Coconut Creek and Miami Beach in Florida. In addition, Fresh to Deaf is opening a location inside of Austintown’s Paladin Brewing this summer.
“It's gonna be a great mix of beer and plant-based cuisine,” Hamilton said.
Another initiative for Fresh to Deaf is its ongoing partnership with Inspiring Minds, which started when Hamilton visited the group of young scholars last summer and introduced them to exotic fruit.
“Currently I have a food pantry with them … and so we've teamed together to collect nonperishables and hygiene items for people in the city,” she said.
Overall, Hamilton said her goal for Fresh to Deaf is to educate the community on self-healing and healthful foods. More information is available on her website.