Little Neck actor finds business success in Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com |

Images Courtesy of Johnny Solo
Images Courtesy of Johnny Solo

Actor Johnny Solo is the co-owner of three establishments in Astoria, two of which opened in the past few months.


Actor Johnny Solo is starring in many different roles in Astoria.

The 39-year-old Little Neck resident is the co-owner of three establishments in the western Queens neighborhood, two of which opened in the past few months.

The first of the trio, Grand Café located at 37-01 30th Ave., was started eight years ago and opened for brunch because “there weren’t that many options [on 30th Avenue] back then.”

The corner café has since attracted guests wanting indoor or outdoor seating for all meals of the day.

Then an idea for a new establishment came after an unfortunate circumstance of a partner’s wife being diagnosed with breast cancer, causing the team to change their lifestyles and eating habits to all-organic. She has since recovered.

“It started to slowly go into our lifestyle,” Solo said. “Once you get into the lifestyle, you don’t feel like you’re missing anything. We said that we are enjoying this so much, why don’t we build it in the back room of Grand Café.”

Two months ago organic juice and smoothie shop Ginger opened its door in what used to be Grand Café’s private events back room. Ginger offers all-organic smoothies and cold-pressed juices bottled on site, salads, kale chips and much more.

“The idea was to make the most flavorful, all-organic natural juices and smoothies, but also similar to what Starbucks did, make it the most comfortable, coolest place,” Solo said about the interior design of the shop, which features a large cushioned seating area, benches, antique decorations and walls made up of recycled wood.

Ginger also offers organic liquors, wines and champagnes. The shop provides customers with juicing programs, ranging from one- to three-day options. Juices come packaged in recycled cardboard six-pack beer containers.

The shop’s items will soon be fully available on the Grand Café’s menu as Solo looks to give customers “healthier options.”

“We feel the way we changed the landscape with Grand Café, we feel now a decade later we will change the landscape again,” Solo said. “Part of our job now is reaching out and make [customers] understand. I don’t feel you’re really juicing if you aren’t going organic.”

Together with working on his acting career, during which he has starred in movies and television series such as Law & Order, and this September will debut a film he produced, Solo also co-owns Republic located at 33-29 Astoria Blvd.

The bar, which opened in April, is located at the site of a former wholesale meat packing warehouse and its menu features a Nutella calzone, salads, cocktails and “fun” pizza with names such as “The Queen,” Cherry Jackson!” and “Killa Kale.”

Opened Tuesdays through Sundays starting at 6 p.m., Republic offers music from DJs, screenings of artistic documentaries and the excitement even stretches to the unisex bathroom where patrons can pick up a piece of chalk and write all over the walls.

The exterior and interior of the bar also feature artwork from Brooklyn graffiti artist B.D. White.

“The locals were very happy because nothing was here,” Solo said. “[Republic] is building slowly.”

 

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