It was during her 20-year reunion in 2013 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., that Jenny Adams got her first taste of juicing with fruits and vegetables.
She stayed with a close friend who lived in the area, one she recalls sharing the “typical college girl diet of Diet Coke and bagel for breakfast” with during those college days. Healthy foods and eating habits weren’t exactly in their vocabulary at that time.
But her friend “had a cancer scare as a young adult — and I’m happy to say that she has beaten cancer and it’s wonderful — but it really caused her to look at her lifestyle and everything she was putting in her body,” Adams said.
Thus, her friend took up juicing and introduced Adams to the I Love Juice Bar in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood. Adams, 43, and her husband, Philip, quickly took a liking to the various juice and smoothie tastes on the menu and made the decision to open one in her native Columbus.
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The local Juice Bar opened in December and is off and running on bottom level of The Landings shopping center on Airport Thruway, near the Kinnucan’s outdoors store. It’s 1,900 square feet and seats 49, with a “community room” for group gatherings.
It’s there that juices such as “Sweet Greens” and “Orange You Glad” are served up, along with smoothies that include “Berry Good” and “Blue Chocolatta.”
Adams brings those concoctions to the market with high hopes and with a juicing product that began to gain national popularity in the early 1990s, according to the American Cancer Society. Some people also may remember exercise and fitness icon Jack LaLanne, who peddled juicing machines and lived age 96, passing away four years ago.
Adams has hooked her healthy wagon to Nashville-based I Love Juice Bar, founded in April 2013 by John and Vui Hunt, who were searching for ways to eat healthier and feel more energetic. The founders were scheduled to be at the Columbus grand opening Friday, with the company now at 13 locations. Columbus is one of only three locations in Georgia.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited with Adams, a former labor and employment attorney with a Columbus law firm, to discuss Juice Bar, her plans for it, and why she believes it is the lifestyle wave of the future for many people. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity, with an expanded version at www.ledger-enquirer.com.
Where did juicing originate?
Like many healthy trends, I think it started on the West Coast and moved eastward. Today, if you go to cities like Austin and Atlanta, there are a lot more juice bars than we have here. I think that we’re on the forefront of something in Columbus that folks are really responding to as far as trying to make healthy choices.
We have a lot more information available to us today as consumers and we can really be a lot more critical about what we’re putting in our bodies and what the effects are from what we eat.
How does juicing impact longtime recommendations to cut down on sodium and sugars? Those aren’t added to your products?
That’s right. Fruits and vegetables. It’s all natural. It’s nutrition for the way your body was designed to process it.
As far as juicing itself, many of our customers who are new to juicing come in and say: Well, what’s the difference between a juice and a smoothie? In a juice, the fiber is removed and we extract only the liquid, the nutrients themselves, and your body immediately gets the benefit of those nutrients because your body doesn’t have to go through the robust digestion process like if you were to eat an apple, with the pulp and all. There’s nothing wrong with eating an apple, but this is a very quick and efficient way to deliver nutrients to your body. And with a smoothie, of course, we use the entire fruits and vegetables.
A lot of folks have blenders and things like that at home and will do that. And a lot of people have juicers, too. But we found folks come in who do understand juicing, and their comment is I’m so glad you’re here because I hate to clean my juicer (removing the pulp.)
But we’re so pleased just to be a healthy spot for folks on the go. Even folks who may make juice at home in the morning ... if they’re out running errands or between meetings at work, they can pop in, get something healthy to eat. We do have salads and soups that we make fresh. Everything is vegan and gluten free.
Are a lot of people coming in desiring vegan and gluten-free foods?
I’m seeing a lot of gluten-free folks coming in, folks who are dealing with health issues. I guess it was Hippocrates who said let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food. I think folks have really taken that to heart and they’re trying to look for natural ways to help with some common ailments.
Research that I have read shows that a lot of sickness, a lot of problems with joint pain and digestion issues, can all be attributed to inflammation. So a lot of what we offer is really anti-inflammatory, particularly when you get a shot of ginger in there. Ginger is so good.
What’s the most popular things you sell?
We’re selling a lot of smoothies, and the sales of juice are on the rise and we’re happy to see that.
We have some people come in who are interested in doing a juice cleanse, which is where you consume nothing but juice for all of the meals and snacks that you might otherwise eat during the day. We provide six juices.
We encourage lots of water consumption and folks do that either to reset after maybe a vacation and they’re trying to get back to a healthy lifestyle. Some folks do it just to rid the body of toxins because when your liver is free from its normal routine of digesting solid foods, it can then go in and remove toxins that are stored up in the body.
You would do that for how long?
Three days, five days, a week.
But you eventually have to get back to foods with protein?
Absolutely. We offer things with plant-based protein. We have organic wheat grass from a farm just outside of Atlanta. And we offer spirulina, which is a seaweed-based plant protein. There are, I believe, two grams of protein in a spoonful of spirulina. It’s like liquid sunshine by the time that you juice it. So it’s really good for you.
So there are foods to go along with the drinks?
We make soups fresh almost every day of the week. We have salads; the spring rolls are delicious. We have fresh cut-up fruit.
What’s your favorite drink or smoothie?
If I had to pick one, my favorite is ‘We Got the Beet,’ because I love ginger.
Can people feel more energetic after drinking one of these?
The way that I describe it to customers is if you’ve never had fresh juice before and you come in and drink one, you get what I call a caffeine-style buzz about 20 minutes after you drink a fresh juice, because the nutrients are going straight into your cells and into your bloodstream, and really giving you a pick up.
We’ve started to see mothers come in on their way to pick children up from school. Instead of getting an afternoon coffee, some of them are opting to come in and get an afternoon juice.
The Super Bowl is on Sunday. People are going to be eating chicken wings, pizza, meatballs, sandwiches and stuff like that. How do you feel about that?
(Laughs) We’re going to see ’em on Monday, ready for some juice to clean themselves out.
That sounds like a good thing to do, after you’ve consumed a bunch of ‘junk’ food. But you’re not saying to give up all of the ‘heavier’ foods, right?
The world view of Juice Bar is that life is all about balance. We believe this is something people are responding to because it tastes good ... We give every customer who’s a first-timer a little plate of samples — just a two-ounce cup of the orange one, the green one and the We Got the Beat. So it’s Sweet Greens, Orange You Glad and We Got the Beat. And we walk them through it. It’s been so refreshing to see folks say, oh, I don’t know about that. And then they taste it and their eyes light up and they say, you know, that’s a lot better than I expected.
Do you plan on opening more Juice Bars?
We’re in the process of doing more. The next stop is Auburn. Possibly downtown (Columbus). I would really like to offer our products to everybody in Columbus, offer healthy options.
How fast might you start adding locations?
My best guess is that any next store or stores we do will come on line far more quickly than this one did. This one was such a learning experience on equipment and timing of orders for tables and chairs and things like that. And this was a little bigger space to plan around. So I would like to think certainly within the second quarter we’ll be adding some stores.
Do you have a goal? A half a dozen?
Oh, more than that, I think. We really believe in this concept and think that it’s a risk worth taking to open several. Of course, we’ll be smart about it. That’s what the founders of the company want as well. Everyone wins when we make well-informed decisions about where we want to be. But this is definitely something where we’re jumping in with two feet.
Have you ever run a business like this?
No. I’ve always told people how to run their businesses as a lawyer.
Has everything gone smoothly, pun intended?
(laughs) Everything works well because we’ve got a great team. I have an incredible general manager — who does have a restaurant background — and a team of folks who are some of the hardest working and kindest people that I’ve ever run across.
What really makes me thrilled is the feedback we get online and in person from our customers who are just always complimenting the staff here. We feel really lucky and really blessed to have gotten such a great team of folks.
In fact, the mission of the company is creating an extraordinary experience for our customers to create daily regulars. Our view is if they come in and get something healthy, but not only that, are given a healthy product in a fast way, by friendly folks, in an environment that’s very welcoming, then they’ll be back.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far?
The hardest part was managing the timeline when I wasn’t in control of, for example, the equipment. I was placing equipment orders all through the holidays. So we had expectations that things would come in at a given period of time and they didn’t. So it had a domino effect on other parts of the buildout.
But we learned a lot and that’s why I feel like with the next Juice Bar or Juice Bars that come on line for us, we’ll be able to do it far more quickly and efficiently with the knowledge we gained from this one.
What are you finding to be the most rewarding thing about this?
Interacting with customers ... I know this is going to sound like a platitude, but lives are being changed.
We have a customer who came in and was one of the first people that darkened the door. She came in and was just curious and, at that point, we didn’t even have a cash register open. We were making juices and giving them away. Of course, we had all of our appropriate licenses and things like that. But we were giving them away so that the staff could continue getting the flavor profile right. That’s very important to us.
So this gal came in and said that she had anemia, and she’s on medication for it. She came in faithfully every day for a couple of weeks, and still is a very regular customer. She always got something with spinach in it, one of our green juices or something like that. And her numbers have gone up. Her iron counts are getting better. That’s been amazing.
My sister is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and she has noticed that she doesn’t have to take as much medicine when she’s juicing regularly. Beyond the obvious — you get folks coming in and looking to drop a few pounds — but it’s more about the lifestyle changes that people are making. If this can be a jumping off point for that, we’re just delighted to see it, because folks can live their best life when they feel good.
Name: Jenny Adams
Current residence: Columbus
Education: 1989 graduate of Pacelli High School; earned bachelor’s degree in English from Vanderbilt University in 1993; earned law degree from University of Georgia School of Law, J.D. cum laude, in 1996
Previous jobs: Associate attorney with Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford, PC; in-house counsel for TSYS and Aflac
Family: Husband, Philip M. Adams Jr. (also a Columbus native), and three children, Philip III, 14, a freshman at Columbus High School, and Locke, 12, a seventh-grader at St. Luke School, and Sally, 10, a fifth-grader at St. Luke School