Thursday, April 2, 2020
A visit to High Vibe on 3rd Street
Text and photos by Stacie Joy
Editor's note: The interview and visit took place on March 4.
When I arrive to interview Dagger (officially Robert “Bobby” Dagger), owner of the health/natural foods and goods store High Vibe, he and his son Jude are inside creating and playing music together.
After learning more about the guitar Dagger made (it’s a beauty), we take a tour of the shop, where he points out some immunity-boosting supplements, favorite crystals (which he calls rocks), ethically sourced foods and products as well as essential oils.
He tells me the store, located at 138 E. Third St. Street between Avenue A and First Avenue, is not only for raw foodies, vegans and vegetarians, it’s also for everyone.
Can you speak a bit about the history of High Vibe?
High Vibe started in 1993 not as a plan — we saw a need for pure information about raw foods and dietary fasting and cleansing to help heal our bodies from the inside, and to take control of our own health.
You started in a basement space on Third Street next to the Hell’s Angels, and eventually relocated to this storefront in 2003. Did you ever consider moving into a different neighborhood?
I started in a basement space that was my photo, music, jewelry and creative space. I used to make belt buckles, and one of the Angels when he was still alive made the leather belts. I eventually relocated to this storefront.
I have thought of opening in other neighborhoods but I am a Lower East Side/East Village lover. So I will, as long as I can, be part of my community here! It is the best spot in NYC.
You are a musician and a musical-instrument creator, as well as a jewelry-maker. When did you envision becoming a business owner?
As a freelance artist/photographer/musician/jeweler/luthier I’ve always been a part businessperson. As for having an actual retail business I never thought about it and it took over naturally and I am so blessed I let it take me to where we are now.
Why does High Vibe often look like a plant shop from the outside?
I love plants! I actually have had way too many and as I am not a great businessperson per se and treat High Vibe as if it’s my home. I have the plants, objects, crystals, and guitars around so I can enjoy the days we have here and hopefully it transcends to our friends and clients.
As a kid, I was also obsessed with plants and think they are needed to help heal the world. So it’s been a life-long obsession. My retirement job will probably be creating and designing indoor and outdoor plant spaces that can feed and beautify. Plants and music are my joy and comfort and healing. Long live the sound and beauty of the Earth, especially in these changing times.
What items have remained perennially popular through the years? What’s your favorite?
Our popular items have always been our own amazing products, which I designed. “Shine” for one, as it is for hair, skin, nails and overall immunity. Our dried fruits, nuts, and seeds are so great. My personal favorites are our dates, nut butters and all our algae products.
How were you personally able to stick with a raw-food lifestyle through the years? What do you recommend for those interested in a plant-based diet?
I was totally raw in the 1990s and early 2000s and then went to a more balanced diet. We encourage people to go toward simple diets, not just plant-based diets.
How have you seen the neighborhood change during your time here — for better or worse?
I have been in the ’hood on Ludlow Street and on Third Street since 1980, so it has changed a lot. Some for the better — Tompkins Square Park is now great; and some for the worse, as storefronts are just too expensive for local shops to be here.
What’s next for High Vibe?
We will be continuing the work we do here and maybe open a whole new concept that will incorporate less plastic and waste and a spot where I can have a stage where we can have more music played all the time. We shall see.
[High Vibe employee Erika Barrett]
[Jude and Dagger]
High Vibe is considered an essential service during the COVID-19 outbreak and plans to remain open. Hours are every day from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. You can keep up with the shop on Instagram here.