Lanice Wilson credits her daughter for beginning the journey that ended with the Juice Joint at Wilmington’s Riverfront. It began with a visit to her daughter in California – the epicenter of natural and whole food eating — some six years ago. Intrigues, Lanice tried a fresh juice for breakfast one day and became a convert to healthy eating.
“I was surprised at how much fresh produce goes into 16 ounces of juice,” she said. And so began the quest for unique juice and smoothie recipes that incorporate healthy greens, vegetables and fruits into nutrient-packed taste treats.
Returning to Delaware, Lanice consulted with her sister and business partner in a nearby Spa, Renee Sellers, about ways to put the passion for healthy food into action. Renee, who suffers from some health conditions that can be addressed with healthy diet choices, agreed that a juice bar was just what the Wilmington Riverfront needed.
Full speed ahead, the café was due to open in October, 2019, and when construction delays pushed opening to January, 2020, and directly into the path of COVID-19. Her confidence slightly shaken, Lanice asked herself, “who starts a business in the middle of a pandemic?” The answer now is clear: a very astute person! A pandemic, it seems, makes people more aware of their health and the importance of healthy eating. And that’s probably why on July 17, 2020, the soft opening was an eye-opener. The shop opened at 7 a.m. and everything was sold out by 10 a.m.!
Lanice and Renee decided to pivot their business plan away from solely offering fresh, cold-pressed juice made to order into a model offering more variety including their own bottled juices, fresh fruit and veggie bowls, salads, vegan pizza and waffles, and delectable smoothies.
Difficult times were ahead, as COVID restrictions kept Riverfront businesses closed and store traffic to frighteningly low levels. The business plan was based on a projected 75 to 100 customers; reality was that some days, they saw as few as a dozen customers. And as a brand-new business, they weren’t eligible for paycheck protection loans to protect staffing levels.
A grant from True Access Capital saved the day, and possibly the business. The funds gave the sisters time to regroup, add new menu items such as soup and hot apple cider, focus on catering, and institute a subscription delivery service.
Now that Delawareans are vaccinated and coming back to Wilmington offices, business is “100 percent better and driven by word-of-mouth praise from the Joint’s customers ,” said Lanice. “We relied heavily on the expertise True Access Capital offered, even after the loan was complete. They offer a huge support system, and we really appreciate it.”