LANCASTER, Pa. – Pulling into the tiny parking lot of the Marion Street Palate Company reveals the most modern piece of architecture I’ve seen in miles. The exterior matches the chic décor of the interior that seems to have transported me to somewhere in Seattle. And with large burlap bags of coffee beans lying around, I’m convinced this isn’t Lancaster, Pa.
This is a shared-space office, where multiple businesses maintain operations in a single environment.
“It’s probably a by-product of a poor economy but it’s also smarter,” co-owner of ríjuice Cullen Farrell said. “Everyone saves on rent and the owner is almost ensuring that they get the rent that they’re asking for.”
At its basic product level, ríjuice is a raw, organic juicing company. They extract the raw juice from fruits and vegetables through a hydraulic cold-press juicer. Farrell tells me they also handle the bottling and distribution.
“But what is it? I guess, you could say it’s more than a juice company,” Farrell said. “We’re trying to pitch individual health on people but also through that we have a whole mission to educate people on environmental health and how that’s associated with our diets as well.”
Both Farrell, 24, and his business partner, Kyle Ober, 24, attended school at the University of San Diego where they picked up the culture of Southern California including health, wellness, and especially diet.
“I used to just make smoothies for myself and then I came across juicing and I realized juicing was an industry kind of taking off,” Farrell said.
According to the Houston Chronicle, sales of bottled veggie juices are up 58 percent since 2004 and totaled $2.25 billion last year.
Although Farrell now holds a certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, he earned a degree in business while Ober majored in architecture.
Both were out in the world, working for somebody else, until Farrell proposed the idea to Ober in 2013. The company began commercial production in March 2014 at their original retail outlet, Tellus360, which serves as an Irish pub, music venue, and art gallery in Lancaster.
“For me, it was very easy,” Ober said. “My parents weren’t very happy with my decision because just coming out of college with student loans, they wanted me to have a more secure job that would have a solid income.”
Ober admits he was not happy with what he was doing in architecture and he felt he had nothing to lose.
One thing that ríjuice stresses in its business model is the local supply chain.
“All of [the produce] is sourced from companies within Lancaster County,” Ober said. “For things that don’t grow in Lancaster County, things like lemons, limes, tropical fruits, pineapples, we use a distributor called Four Seasons, which is one of the largest distributors in the Northeast.”
ríjuice hired local graphic designers and website developers as well as using bottles from Fillmore Container.
“They probably get their glass made somewhere in China but they’re sourced in a wholesale at a local level for other small businesses,” Farrell said.
With a mentality first and a product second, ríjuice focuses much of its marketing strategy towards educating customers about the nutritional value of each blend through pictures and posts on social media outlets.
“I think the obstacles are really all the perils of the current food landscape,” said Ober. “It’s so easy to go to get something that’s quick and convenient especially in a place like Philadelphia. But, ultimately, I think as you start to slowly educate people and businesses like us become more available, people will start eating healthier.”
And soon, they may be venturing out of Lancaster County.
“It’s in really early development but essentially what we’re going to do is create a product that uses the newest form of pasteurization in commercial beverages,” Farrell said.
High Pressure Pasteurization, or HPP, is attractive to ríjuice because it uses pressure instead of heat to extend the shelf life of their product.
The main reason for the product would be accessibility. Because the raw juice has a 72-96 hour window, ríjuice has limited its business territory to Lancaster County.
“Flash-pasteurized juice has almost no real health benefit for anybody in my opinion,” Farrell said. “It’s juice that’s had all of its nutrient content and all the living enzymes completely burned away at a high temperature. And then they add the vitamins and sugar back in.”
ríjuice will have to be careful in marketing its HPP product due to ongoing debates to whether the product is still considered raw.
The company currently retails raw juices at Prince Street Café in Lancaster and juice cleanses can be ordered online with home delivery or scheduled pick-up.
“We don’t think of this as just a product, we see it as a mentality,” Farrell said. “That’s really what we’re hoping for because that’s where change happens.”