Truce Juice serves up hard-core product
Like any good dealer, Allie Pohlad knows not to steal from her own supply. That's why, when we meet for the first time, she's sipping lemon water she brought from home instead of the raw, organic, fresh-pressed juice that she and her business partner, Blaire Molitor, make, bottle, and sell each day at Truce, a first-of-its-kind (to the Twin Cities) juice bar. The difference here, at the bright and beautiful spa-like space a few blocks from Calhoun Square, is that instead of illicit substances, the pair are slinging health, and based on the response from customers thus far, it's just as addictive.
"We get calls from people in Wayzata, St. Paul, wherever — who are asking us to start home delivery and open up more stores," Pohlad says. "Almost immediately we had to change our opening hours," Molitor adds, "because people wanted to get in and get their juices for the day before work. So now we open every day at 7 a.m. during the week."
That means Truce's juicers (the employees who physically make the juice, not the customers who drink it) are up early, at 4 a.m. to be exact, receiving and organizing the bounty of produce it takes to make all the varieties of juice for the day. It takes roughly four to seven pounds of produce, depending on the recipe and the specific fruits and vegetables involved, to create one bottle of juice, Pohlad explains. "It's a highly concentrated product." At $9 for a 16-ounce bottle, it's also a somewhat expensive product, but that poundage figure is the justification for the price. As I sipped a bottle of the Morning Greens — a blend of apple, kale, lemon, cucumber, ginger, romaine lettuce, and spinach — I realized that I would easily and gladly pay $9 for all these organic veggies if they came on a plate as a lunchtime salad. It's just that for many of us, getting nutrients in liquid form is still a relatively new concept, but it's on the rise. That's part of the reason Pohlad and Molitor decided to get a jump on the Midwest market and open their own shop.
The pair first met in high school and reconnected as graduate students at the U of M, where Molitor was pursuing a master's in business development and Pohlad in holistic health. Both had gotten turned on to raw juicing while spending time in New York and L.A. and, still needing a fix when they returned home, started ordering juices online.
"The companies have to overnight ship them in cold packs, so that gets expensive really fast," Molitor says. "We both knew how great it feels to get a juice after a workout or to start your day with one, and realized it could be a really great idea to start a juice bar here," Pohlad says. "We kept waiting for someone else to open one up, and finally we decided to do it ourselves."
Pohlad estimates that it's an approximate 60/40 ratio of customers who come in to the shop knowing about the benefits of juicing versus having no prior experience with it, so the pair consider it part of their business to educate and evangelize about the raw juice movement. They're certainly good poster children for their product: As I listened to them explain about the hydrating properties of coconut and watermelon and the many ways their juices work to boost the immune and digestive systems, I have to admit I was mainly focused on their enviably dewy skin and the general halo of health that seemed to radiate off of them. If they told me that all came from their no-blade, never-heated (and thus never deteriorated) hydraulic press process, I'd be completely convinced. "Our process really focuses on quite literally squeezing all the most potent nutrients out of the produce so they have the greatest health benefit," Pohlad says. The result is a 100 percent organic, light but ever-so-slightly viscous product that is a far cry from the thick, sugary Naked (owned by PepsiCo) or Odwalla (owned by Coca-Cola) "smoothies" you get in the grocery store or gas station. "Those products have so many things added to them they can't even legally be labeled natural anymore," Molitor says. "They're using GMO fruits and vegetables. Ours come daily from local co-ops."
While the freshness factor is a big selling point with Truce's juices, it's also somewhat of a limitation. "Because the juices are raw, they only have a three-day shelf life," Molitor explains. "We also can only make so much in a day due to the size of our operation and storage capacity for all the produce. Sometimes we run out of juice before closing time and people want us to whip up another batch, but it just doesn't work like that." So Jamba Juice it ain't? "Right," Pohlad says with a laugh. "We're like the opposite of Jamba Juice."
What they do make is a spectrum of brilliantly colored juices, ranging from "ooh, this would be a fabulous cocktail mixer" (the Restart, made with cucumber, watermelon, and mint) to "mmmm...earthy" (the all-greens Hardcore, made with celery, kale, chard, parsley, spinach, cucumber, and squeeze of lemon). Somewhere in the middle of that palatability continuum was my favorite, the Roots blend, with beet, carrot, ginger, and orange juice. "We wanted to make it so that someone new to juicing would be able to get into it gradually by starting with one of the fruitier juices, but that those who are more practiced at juicing would be able to find what they are looking for too," Molitor says.
For the even more deeply devoted, Truce offers specially designed one-, three-, and five-day juice cleanses (Pohlad is also a certified health coach) in two different levels: one for beginners and one for juicing veterans. You can also start with one of the bottled juices and get a made-to-order smoothie (those are blended with blades, but it's a great way to get some added protein) with avocado; peanut or walnut butter; and chia or flax seeds.
After a daunting but exhilarating three months in business, Molitor and Pohlad say they're constantly looking to the future of their operation, especially as juicing becomes more and more mainstream. "We are definitely planning to expand, we're just figuring out what that might mean for us, whether it's adding another store or doing offsite production," Pohlad says. "We want to make more juice," Molitor adds. "That's our number-one goal."
That's good news, because it appears we already have a healthy thirst for these healthy drinks.
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