North Minneapolis was once known as “the food desert,” but over the years, it has slowly seen improvement in the local quality of life in terms of economics and social enterprise. Eateries and markets such as Kindred Kitchen, Green Garden Bakery and North Market have recently established themselves as valuable resources in the area.
Got The Juice (GTJ) is the latest establishment to make a welcome addition to the North Side. The fresh juice and smoothie bar opened its doors last week on Lowry Avenue. It is the brainchild of New Rules founder and President Chris Webley and The Zen Bin creator Sierra Carter.
“The idea is to provide fresh options for the North Side, which there seems to be a lack of,” stated Carter.
The shop’s menu features items such as fresh ginger and pineapple juice, green juice for detoxing, and vegetable juice, along with protein powders and protein. GTJ currently has bakery items as well, with plans to add soups, salads and sandwiches.
“The fun part was being creators of the recipes,” said Carter. “We did some research and they are very culture-based.”
Viewing the menu reveals exactly how Carter and Webley were inspired. Juices such as “Jamakin’ Me Crazy” include carrot, ginger, lemon, pineapple and orange; and Wakanda North includes ginger, lemon, pineapple and mint. Smoothies such as “So Fresh and So Green Green” include pineapple, mango, spinach and apple.
The favorites among customers, the owners said, seem to be “Green Tings” and “Jamakin’ Me Crazy.”
The juice bar falls in line with work Webley started with his New Rules organization, which was built on the idea of developing ecosystems and solutions for Black and Brown communities where structures of oppression – economic, health and wellness and educational – create dysfunction. New Rules also works with real estate in urban areas, taking unproductive buildings in overlooked communities and turning them into innovative spaces such as the building that now houses Got The Juice.
“For a lot of folks in the neighborhood, we want to try to get them out of survival mode.”
“We want to give the community a transfer of power. If we can fix one Black neighborhood, we can fix all Black neighborhoods,” said a motivated Webley.
Carter’s The Zen Bin was founded in January 2018 and hosts events for social and mental wellness, including yoga, dance, painting classes and parties for the children and teenagers, as well as adult game nights. It also hosts workshops on a number of issues such as healing trauma and financial intentionality.
“I always was a go-getter,” said an elated Carter. “I created Zen Bin because being in Chicago and L.A. provided a different perspective. I wanted to provide tools for people in this area. You can find coffee in any corner store, [but] fruits and smoothies, not so much. Different markets give you different ideas.”
Opening Got The Juice was not an overnight effort. “The juice bar took at least two years to be exact,” Webley said. “The license requires a food component, and the community wanted healthy food alternatives.”
He added that a lot of the work was inspired by community feedback. “Feedback is the number-one priority. We are not food experts, so we find folks who are already in that space to become supportive allies.”
Webley also described a situation in which kids in the neighborhood are tempted to buy products such as Cheetos and Little Debbie snacks because they are often the cheapest and most convenient. “A few of the kids that hang out here will go right to the gas station across the street and grab a sugary drink. One of the kids literally came in with a whole bag full of pennies for juice and a muffin.”
This caused Webley to also start looking at what shops are needed on the North Side. “We have other spaces we are looking at to fulfill the food entities throughout the North Side area.
“We know that health and wellness is only one part of this success,” said Webley. “For a lot of folks in the neighborhood, we want to try to get them out of survival mode. In order for that to happen, this component is needed. We can’t take from the community and not give back to it.”
Got The Juice, located at 2015 Lowry Avenue in North Minneapolis, celebrated its soft launch opening last week. Visit their Facebook page, Northside Juice Bar, for more details on events hosted by Zen Bin and New Rules.
Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org