by Alyssa Vera |

Dennis Hernandez and Benjamin Duarte went from living in Honduras as children to running a health food store together in North Babylon.

The two met when they were 10 years old in Port Washington and both graduated in 1991 from Paul D. Schreiber High School.

Hernandez went on to work for a printing company, later opening a cleaning business. Duarte worked with his dad all those years, painting homes.

But the two remained close.

Then on Sunday, Duarte, now 44, found himself standing outside Blue & Red Mango at 781 Deer Park Avenue, enticing passersby to check out the store with samples of spiced mangos.

“This is something new for us and we’re learning quickly that it’s really fun,” he told a GreaterBabylon reporter.

The men took over the business last week from a friend who was recently injured in an accident. It had been open for seven months.

Blue & Red Mango is serving up fruit and veggie smoothies, an array of salads and other lunch options such as wraps and panini. The store also offers carrot juice, ginger shots, and an all-natural weight loss juice containing pineapples, cucumbers, apples, and oranges.

The key to good traffic, they believe, is a positive engagement with all visitors. Hernandez and Duarte have been offering food samples and taking suggestions from customers since they opened.

“We’re still trying to finalize our menu by asking our customers what they want. But what they’re mostly buying right now are our natural juices. That’s what they’re coming in here for,” said Hernandez, 44.

The Blue & Red Mango is a family affair, and the owners use local, farm-fresh ingredients where and when they can.

“My wife buys our vegetables and fruits [from Schmitt’s Family Farm in Melville] because they’re all organic,” Hernandez said.

He says that’s the secret behind the fresh, hand-picked flavor in every bite.

“The goal is to teach our community how to eat healthy,” both Duarte and Hernandez said in agreement.

“We see a lot of high schoolers walking by our storefront,” Hernandez said. “What happens is they’ll stop in, look around, and leave to a nearby sugar shop. But a percentage of them come back when they realize what they’re eating is unhealthy.”

The store also opens early, at 7 a.m., to cater to North Babylon’s populous jogging community.

Joggers can be spotted running through the area all morning long, the friends say, making the Blue & Red Mango a perfect addition to their routine.  

“We want to feed everyone, including the joggers,” Hernandez said.

photos by Alyssa Vera

Top: Dennis Hernandez (L) and Benjamin Duarte outside Blue & Red Mango in North Babylon on Sunday.

Featured:  The shrimp salad is served over vegetables of your choice.

Benjamin Duarte helps a customer navigate the Blue & Red Mango menu.

Some of the ingredients at Blue & Red Mango.

Alonzo, 5, of North Babylon, enjoying a chocolate muffin.