If the owners of Wilmington’s newest juice bar had any question about whether the city’s Riverfront would be a good locale for their business, selling out of product on their opening day was certainly a strong endorsement of their choice.
The Juice Joint, at 323 Justison Street, welcomed throngs of customers to its soft opening on Friday starting at 7 am. Fully stocked with enough fruit and vegetables to serve 75 people a day, the new restaurant was sold out of its delicious drinks by 10 am. Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, Police Chief Robert Tracy and a colleague stopped by and enjoyed their first Juice Joint beverages on Saturday morning.
Owners – and twenty-year friends – Lanice Wilson and Renee Sellers said they never expected their day would end so quickly.
“This was beyond what we expected. We were really pleasantly surprised that everybody came out to support us even with our limited menu today,” said Sellers.
Until The Juice Joint ramps up with staffing (they are still looking to hire about a dozen employees) and gets the timing of some of the labor-intensive drinks down, it is only offering a selection of menu items – three cold-pressed juices, two smoothies and two smoothie bowls.
The salads and open-faced sandwich items also sound delicious, but Sellers says that, due to supply chain issues, it could be a while before those food options become available. She says they wouldn’t dream of stockpiling produce. “We buy limited fruits and vegetables to ensure our customers are always getting the freshest product.”
For the record – the drinks and smoothie bowls are absolutely delicious. We tried the Keto Nay smoothie, Green Tonic cold-pressed juice and Açaí Base bowl, and each more than lived up to expectations. The fresh lime juice and ginger made the other flavors of the Green Tonic sing – a tasty blend of fresh spinach, two whole pears, fresh kiwi and mint.
A spoon may be preferred over a straw to tackle the very thick Keto Nay smoothie, which is made with banana, almond milk, cacao powder, peanut butter, honey, and Himalayan sea salt.
The yummy Açaí Base smoothie bowl was layered with frozen açaí, banana, kiwi, mango, granola, coconut and drizzled honey. Both the Açaí Base and Dragon Base smoothie bowls are made in small batches throughout the day.
2.5 pounds of fresh fruit in one drink
Depending on which fresh-pressed juice you order, Wilson says you could be getting up to two and a half pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables in one 16 ounce cup. Cold-pressed juices range from $9/16 oz to $16/32 oz. But Love Potion 323, with red beets, strawberry, red apple, orange, rose water, Matcha, and horny goat weed costs a bit more – $11/$20.
Launching their new business with an eye toward environmental sustainability was important to the new owners. Their biodegradable plastic drink cups are made with corn and the mini soufflé cups for salad dressings are made with sugar cane.
“We’re just super responsible, and we’re trying to respect our planet. So, we have recyclable packaging, and most of our packaging is biodegradable,” says Wilson.
They also sell stainless steel straws and other eco-friendly products on a gift wall.
Specialty sandwiches with sunflower seed butter and lavender honey
A few of the “Fancy Toast” offerings (all $7.50): the SB+J with sunflower seed butter, cherry jam and optional sliced almonds, Figs & Brie with fig jam, brie cheese, Granny Smith apple and lavender honey drizzle, and The Heart Throb with sunflower chocolate spread, strawberries, coconut flakes and honey drizzle. The Chick Pea sandwich is actually a vegan spin on a tuna fish sandwich.
The Juice Joint plans to operate 13 hours a day – from 7 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday and 8 am to 6 pm on Sunday. That could change depending on the level of traffic into the restaurant and whether experience high demand early and run out of food supplies.
“People have stopped by all week to tell us how excited they are that we were planning to open. They love the store, the experience and they can’t wait for our fresh-pressed, healthy drinks,” said Wilson.
The café is located a few doors down from Riverfront Bakery, which opened last month, and directly across from the entrance of Constitution Yards.
The inviting spot, with a lofty ceiling, pretty coral-painted walls, and decorative knick knacks on floating shelves, can currently host up to a dozen people inside with seating for four outside.
“We wanted a lounge – we wanted a café vibe. Due to COVID, we had to re-engineer some of our designs with regard to furniture. But we wanted people to be able to hang out, use their devices, have a meeting or catch up with friends,” said Wilson.
There are even two basketweave swing chairs facing each other, anchored from above and on the floor so that you more or less can rock in them.
Cold-pressed know-how stemmed from a trip to California
Self-described foodies, Sellers says her father worked for years in the restaurant industry and was a big inspiration for her interest in opening a restaurant. And it is was Wilson’s daughter who lives in California who first introduced her mom a few years ago to the satisfying tastes and health benefits of juicing. Wilson has been juicing at home ever since.
Sitting down to dinner at Big Fish Grill on a cold night back in January of 2019, Sellers and Wilson decided they wanted to open a juice bar at the Wilmington Riverfront. And while this requires a drive for each them (Sellers lives in Newark, Wilson in Middletown), Sellers said, “The Riverfront is really just the place to be.” They said it was important to them that people living and working nearby could regularly walk to their restaurant.
Sellers and Wilson put some thought into their menu, wanting to introduce unique flavors and stand apart from other nearby fresh-pressed juice spots located on North Market Street. The Juice Joint will eventually offer bottled juices in a variety of flavors as a grab and go option. But patrons at the Juice Joint will always be able to order menu suggested or custom fresh-pressed drinks at the counter.
“Our drinks are not the typical kale, mango recipes. We have different ingredients like rosewater, lavender honey, and horny goat weed [for adults only!], and we also make our own simple syrups for making things like sno cones,” said Sellers.
Yes, they also sell those frosty delights in several flavors, including basil, lavender, lemon, lime, apple, strawberry, passion fruit and blueberry and maca.
This isn’t the first business collaboration for the duo. Sellers and Wilson continue to run Lush Oasis Med Spa and Retreat in Bear, and 13 years ago they opened a dance studio.
At times on the opening weekend, the demand led to longer than anticipated waiting times. If you’re in a hurry, the Acai and Dragon bowls, which do not require blenders or juicers, come out quickly. Turnarounds on smoothies can be brisque.
“We are excited to train a few more folks how to use the juicer ad make these amazing recipes,” said Wilson. “We know what we like and we don’t feel like it’s too unique. We think the flavor profiles are amazing, and we have great teams that are providing feedback to us. And of course, we welcome new customers and look forward to hearing what they think about our offerings.”