Driving down Jackson Street toward Commerce, parking spaces are sparse near the old intersection that’s a historic crossroads in downtown Harlingen.
The MOFI Nutrition – Energy Bar has something to do with this new burst of energy near Jackson and Commerce. Walk into the business and you get a warm welcome with the music of a fitness gym beating behind the shortened wall of the MOFI’s front counter. Kaci Spikes-Kemp stands behind the nutrition bar’s counter, exchanging greetings with gym patrons.
An array of powders, nuts and juices are all around her, the stuff that powers her wide selection of “Mega Teas” and protein shakes. The workout place behind MOFI is a separate operation with a different owner. The gym’s customers walk by the MOFI bar on their way to and from their workouts. The two businesses blend nicely and contribute to the vibe and mission of what Spikes-Kemp is seeking to accomplish.
“I wanted something that adds positivity to my life and to the lives of others,” she said.
The capitalized words behind her shop’s name define Spikes-Kemp’s objective.
“Make Others Feel Important,” she said of the meaning behind the acronym of her shop’s name.
The last few years have mournful ones in dealing with the realities and effects of COVID-19, she said. Now more than ever, communities need positive places where residents can go and feel welcomed.
“You can take only so much sadness until you’re filled up with another source,” Spikes-Kemp said.
In Harlingen, she wants her MOFI to be one of those sources.
Spikes-Kemp is an East Texas native who came to Harlingen in late 2018. Her husband is retired military, Air Force, and took a job with an energy company at the Port of Harlingen. It was starting a new chapter in their lives. They knew little about the Rio Grande Valley. It had mostly been a drive-by on the way to South Padre Island.
The newcomers came to like the Valley culture, which Spikes-Kemp described as being family oriented and friendly. Harlingen appealed to her as being a city of respectable size but still small enough that when going out “you’ll probably see someone you know.”
The pandemic put a dent in community spirit, as it did everywhere. Social distancing and limited access to public places brought mental health issues of loneliness and separation. Spikes-Kemp was familiar with those issues in working as a peer support specialist for an organization in San Antonio that helps the homeless. During the pandemic, Spikes-Kemp was involved in online counseling to help people struggling with mental health aspects associated with the time.
She did so from the perspective of someone who has worked to overcome addiction.
“Seven years sober,” Spikes-Kemp said.
She made a trip back home as the pandemic eased and enjoyed a visit to a protein shake shop owned by a friend in East Texas.
“You could just feel the positivity,” Spikes-Kemp said. “That’s what I needed in my life, a place like that one.”
Getting back home, she set out to do just that, in Harlingen.
Flavors Of Life
It starts out with the teas and there are plenty of them.
Most are served cold but hot is an option if that’s what a customer wants. The choices include coconut dream, cotton candy, gummy bear, and red high heels with strawberry, kiwi and raspberry among the ingredients. On the protein shake side, there’s banana crème pie, lemon ice box, pistachio delight and dulce de leche, just to name a few.
All drinks are sugar free and sweetened by organic Stevia. It’s not just about the colorful drink selections. Spikes-Kemp wants it to be about making healthy lifestyle choices, citing a mother who became a regular customer and used MOFI’s teas as a form of “clean energy.” The teas when combined with other positive lifestyle changes led to weight loss.
“She started noticing she had more energy to do more with her kids,” Spikes-Kemp said of the customer. “A story like that makes everything worth it. I’ve had people like that come in for a drink and turned it into an entire lifestyle change.”
Big windows bring in lots of natural light from Jackson Street. Some MOFI customers enjoy sitting by a small counter, sipping their drinks, looking out on downtown Harlingen going by. It’s that kind of place, a hangout to enjoy, with more seating on the way, Spikes-Kemp said as she continues to redesign and tweak her shop at 214 West Jackson.
“I love being downtown,” she said. “I feel like the community wants to grow and improve. I’m happy to be part of it.”