Health-food market Essene changes hands after 4 decades

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Steven Clofine and Janice Innella at the cafe counter at Essene.

Health-food store Essene Market & Cafe in Queen Village, which grew out of a juice bar that opened near Rittenhouse Square nearly 35 years ago, changed hands this week.

Saying he was seeking a change in lifestyle, Howard Waxman confirmed that he sold to Steven Clofine, a longtime commercial real estate broker, and his wife, Janice Innella, a chef who specializes in vegetarian and raw food.

The two plan a six-month project to upgrade Essene, a combination market and cafe that, after moving to 320 South St. in 1970, settled into the corner of Fourth and Queen Streets in the late 1980s. The initial juice bar was at 2030 Sansom St.

Innella already is working in the kitchen of the popular store, which began selling tofu and wheatgrass way before Whole Foods and other retail giants made the products mainstream.

Though Clofine, 64, has been selling commercial real estate for 40 years, currently with Mallin Panchelli Nadel Realty Inc., he has a long association with the food business. He opened health-food stores back in the 1970s and ran an organic farm near Reading 30 years ago. He and his brother sold produce to Waxman and his brother Denny in Essene's early days.

Innella, 58, a graduate of Radnor High, worked as a hair stylist and makeup artist for Broadway touring companies. While in Chicago for an extended period with Phantom of the Opera, she took macrobiotic cooking classes. When she moved to Los Angeles, she took classes at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute - widely credited as the birthplace of raw foods. She helped open a health-food cafe, Buddha Garden.

After moving back to the Philadelphia area, she sold food at Ardmore Farmer's Market and the Fresh Grocer store in University City.

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