Juice Boost: Village Juice Co. Squeezes into the Innovation Quarter

5 minute read

Healthy eating is no longer a pipe dream.

In fact, Pipe Dream—a delicious concoction that includes cucumber, apple, kale, ginger and turmeric—is now a part of the lineup of cold-pressed juices making nutritious choices a snap in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The vividly named juices by Village Juice Co.—Moose, The Whole Farm, Quit Your Job, Coffee Bender—are made from an array of fruits, vegetable, nuts and spices. All are completely plant-based with no additives or preservatives.

Village Juice recently branched out into vending machines, installing their very first in 525@vine as part of owner Lonnie Atkinson’s mission to introduce raw foods and juicing culture to the City of Arts and Innovation—one bottle of Feisty Rabbit at a time.

For Atkinson, a self-proclaimed homegrown, Southern girl from Winston-Salem, experimentation and energy are the drumbeats driving her own brand of innovation.

The Juicing Experiment

Atkinson wasn’t always a juice promoter. She grew up a bona fide Southerner, which meant eating traditional Southern fare—lots of fried food and carbs. Her teenage metabolism didn’t mind, but once she got to college, Atkinson started to feel the toll this diet took on her body—low energy, bad digestion, poor complexion.

She began studying diet and nutrition, experimenting by removing different foods from her diet and adding others back in—looking for the combination that would leave her feeling energized and well.

After moving to California, Atkinson finally found her key to healthy eating—in a restaurant.

Café Gratitude, a small chain of restaurants in California, serves all organic, locally-sourced plant-based raw foods. The day she walked into the Café Gratitude restaurant in Berkeley, Atkinson found the catalyst her nutrition experiments had been missing.

“I wasn’t trying to be a raw food vegan,” she says, “The food was just so good. I felt completely energized.”

Already working a full-time sales job, Atkinson got a second job at Café Gratitude’s juice bar—just so she could eat there all the time. That one-night-a-week job turned into two nights a week, then three.

“I soaked up everything I could about juicing, bringing the concepts home with me and creating my own recipes,” she explains. This passion followed her through subsequent moves to New York and back home to Winston-Salem.

Building a Better Juice

By 2014, Atkinson was settled in Winston-Salem and decided to take a risk: she opened her own juice business.

“People in this city were getting a lot more interested in healthy eating options and looking for ways to improve their diets. They became really open to juicing as a lifestyle,” she says.

In the beginning, Atkinson spent a lot of time experimenting with juicing techniques and flavor combinations that transformed two to four pounds of fresh, organic produce into one bottle of cold-pressed juice.

“I wanted to develop a versatile palette, to have something for everyone,” she says. “I knew if I could get my husband, who is not as enthusiastic about healthy eating, to like the flavors, it would be good.”

Flavors were not the only thing that Atkinson expanded. Atkinson opened a commercial kitchen at Beta Verde and began hand delivering juices to her clients. Demand grew to the point where she was able to buy a food truck, followed by a brick-and-mortar store, located in The Towers shopping mall off of Stratford Road. Currently a retail space for her line of juices, the Stratford location is soon to become a lot more.

“It’s going to be a full-concept restaurant,” Atkinson says. “We’ll serve juices, smoothies, smoothie bowls, salad bowls and grain bowls, all made fresh in front of you.”

Why the Innovation Quarter?

When Atkinson began thinking about vending machines as her next business platform, she saw Innovation Quarter as a natural fit.

“We have a lot of existing clients that work here,” she says. “The Innovation Quarter is the perfect place for us to be. It’s full of open-minded, creative people wanting healthy options while living a hundred miles a minute.”

So the first ever Village Juice vending machine found its home in the Innovation Quarter. Nestled in the first floor lounge of 525@vine, it offers 9- and 13-ounce bottles of several flavors, all made from fresh, organic ingredients.

Atkinson believes that people in Winston-Salem want to make nutritious decisions; all they need are healthy options. She makes the mission of Village Juice to provide one of those healthy options.

“You don’t have to do any one thing to be healthy,” says Atkinson. “We believe that Village Juice can fit into whatever your diet is. The vending machine just makes it easy to make an energizing choice during your workday.”

Explore Village Juice Co. or check out their cold-pressed juice offerings located on the first floor of 525@vine.

by Jessica Brown