So let’s start with your background.
I went to the University of Virginia and graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce in 2015, specializing in finance and entrepreneurship, as well as the real estate track. So, that’s kind of me in a nutshell. I started off investment banking, really didn’t like it. Time wasn’t the issue. It was the feedback. I really like getting out what I put in, and I found out, with that industry, it wasn’t exactly correlated. I was looking for something a little more rewarding, and that led me to the restaurant industry.
Before this venture, you helped found Roots Natural Kitchen?
Yeah, I helped found Roots right after I graduated in May 2015. We opened in June 2015, so I just got thrown right into the fire. That was two years ago now, which is crazy; it feels like yesterday. That was with my three other business partners. This is a new venture and it’s just me and my family.
How were you able to help launch Roots so quickly? And when did the banking job come into play?
I was working on it my whole fourth year. I skipped some classes — sorry professors — but I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept. I worked in banking between third and fourth year. It was a three-month summer internship for TD Bank in Toronto. I was working in diversified industries for my bank and, as I said, it was a lot. It was a lot of hours, which wasn’t the problem, but it was a lot of work.
So talk to me about Corner Juice, where’d the inspiration come from?
It came from a lack of access. Corner Juice is more than just a restaurant. What we’re doing here is trying to create a wellness brand that caters to the lifestyles of students. Not only are we a restaurant, but we have a yoga studio that we’re building out in the basement, and they go hand-in-hand. That’s kind of the inspiration behind this, and more so, it’s also just making this kind of eating sustainable. You go to McDonald’s, and you can get a $4 burger that feeds you. That’s not how you should be eating, but it’s so cheap that it compels you to dine there often. What I’m trying to do is bridge that gap and make healthy food into sustainable living for the masses. This medium that I’m using is juice and other forms of blended beverages because the quickest way to get the nutrients is just by drinking it.
It definitely has similar tones to Roots — where’d that focus on healthy eating originate?
I was a student here for four years. Necessity is the mother of innovation. When I was here, I had to deal with the issue of ‘healthy lunch’ being the avocado slice at Christian’s [Pizza]. That’s not that healthy. Being a student here for four years and actually struggling to get healthy food, I just saw a gap in the market, an opening. I thought as a first-year that whoever would do this would make a ton of money. It took me realizing that I didn’t want to be a banker to hop on the opportunity myself.
That bridge between being affordable or sustainable and being healthy is obviously a tough one to build. What’s your plan for achieving it?
I’m running my margins a little differently. I’m hoping to be able to drive profits through the yoga studio, and in doing so, I can make this kind of eating and this type of food cheaper, making a little less money up here and trying to make it up in the basement, where there’s a fixed cost and there isn’t a variable cost per unit sold.
Besides juices and smoothies, what else are you offering?
I want more than just a juice place. We’re having healthy toast, healthy sandwiches, all under this healthy umbrella. Everything we do goes through this lens of, ‘is it good for you?’ If it isn’t, we wouldn’t sell it.
What’s the response been like from the student community so far?
I’d say one of every two people that walks in here inquires about yoga. That’s really exciting for us to see, that there’s a lot of anticipation and demand for what I consider to be the heart of this brand, our wellness and fitness studio downstairs. That’s been really exciting. Also just the amount of people that come in and come back is really cool. We’re getting repeat customers, it’s insane. Seeing those same customers on a daily basis, seeing them happy — there’s nothing more rewarding.
What would you say to younger students, who aren’t yet gripped by the need to live healthier?
The saying goes, ‘you are what you eat.’ That couldn’t be more true. I started eating this way for the last two years, and I haven’t been sick. I wake up every morning feeling better. What you put into your body is what you get out of your body, and by coming here, by making this a sustainable part of your lifestyle, you will feel the benefits and realize them.
Ward off the ‘Freshman 15,’ perhaps?
This is the place to do it.