Carlos Taylor was standing there encouraging violinist Michelle Hines, a student from the nearby School for The Arts. "Play. Let me hear it," he said.
Nervously, she played -- beautifully.
The sweet sound of the music went perfectly with the atmosphere; bright yellow-green decor, the natural smells of herbs and spices in the store, and the tasty aroma of food in the restaurant.
Pauline Taylor and customers watched with warm smiles.
What a way to be introduced to Live It, Not Diet, a health food store and restaurant owned by Carlos and Pauline Taylor.
This kind of positive energy is one of the attractions of Live It, Not Diet, now one year old, at Cathedral and Read streets.
"We try to create a warm, uplifting atmosphere that will make people feel good when they come in here," says Mrs. Taylor. "And we hope they take this feeling and pass it along to others. When people come by just to see what we are about, we educate them about eating healthy. They taste something and are sold."
The Taylors hold free community seminars at the restaurant to educate the public on "eating healthy" and taking care of the body. They also run a community food co-op which provides discount organically grown fruits, vegetables and other products.
The restaurant has attracted customers from all walks of life. "People who have eaten here tell their friends and they tell others and that is how we have grown," says Mr. Taylor.
"Taste is worth a thousand words," he continues. "We cook wholesome home-cooked vegetarian meals that taste like meat. Even the most carnivorous person would be satisfied. I have people call me up and say, 'Brother, I am a vegetarian. Are you sure there's no meat in this food?' "
The menu offers a variety of entrees and sandwiches, desserts, and other delights. Meatless pepper steak, lasagna and vegetarian chili are among the items featured.
The Taylors, who moved to Baltimore from Long Island, have many loyal repeat customers, like Zima who helped them put the place together from the beginning, and Jennifer Downs, who says:
"I love the great atmosphere, the good people and those vegetable pies."
"We are bridging a gap for those who would like to get into eating healthy," says Mrs. Taylor. "Most people perceive vegetarians, or just eating healthy, as somewhere in the clouds. We want people to know that eating healthy is not a phenomenon and that it is a privilege that any one can aspire to and enjoy."
The Taylors have been married for 13 years and have a 10-year-old daughter. They describe themselves as each other's strength. Mr. Taylor is a skilled tradesman -- carpenter, painter and electrician -- who did all of the renovations for the health food store and restaurant.
Mrs. Taylor is a native Jamaican who worked for the state as a supervisor for a number of years before deciding to work full-time in the business.
"Our decision to open the store was a spiritual one," she says. "We wanted to do something for God and his people," he says. "We look at everything in life from that perspective."
"Like the scripture says," Mrs. Taylor says, "whatever your hands find to do, do it well. We want our lives to have true meaning. For us it is really about healing. Health food is preventive medicine. Natural remedies go to the root of the problem."
Live It, Not Diet is not just another catchy name. It has true meaning, say the Taylors. "When people want to change the way they eat to better themselves," Mrs. Taylor says, "they say, 'I'm going on a diet.' I mean, just check out the sound of it. And diets are always so gruesome. I think it is subliminally associated with death. I've never seen a happy dieter.
"If you are eating something to nourish you and sustain you, it should be about life. Food is just one part of that. We should wake up every day filled with life. Every morning is fresh and brand new. We should live it."
The store, which sells a variety of health-oriented items, is open the same hours as the restaurant: Mondays to Fridays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. They also do party spreads. For more information, call (410) 234-0845.