What Happens if You Open a Juicery in the Middle of a Pandemic?

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December 14, 2021

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(HUNTINGTON, N.Y.) — As one small business prepared for its grand opening, the surrounding world suddenly began to shut down. Ryan Schmidt opened Roots, a juice bar and café, in February 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit just a month later, Schmidt was smart to have made his juicery a grab-and-go style business. 

During the shutdown, lengthy outdoor walks, at-home workouts, and home-cooked meals became a new part of people’s daily routines. “You are what you eat,” said Schmidt, “If you eat healthy, you’ll probably be healthy.” 

Due to the circumstances, Roots had to raise its prices, and higher prices can make it much more difficult to draw in new customers. “We had to raise them a little bit, not much, a dollar per item,” said Schmidt, noting that an extra dollar per item isn’t much to the customer but goes a long way for business. 

Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci explained that throughout the town, “downsizing of staff was certainly a trend in many businesses, large and small.” 

Schmidt also faced staffing shortages. “It’s so hard to find people to work,” he said. “All summer, there was always something for why someone couldn’t work, or they’d just say they were never coming in again.”

He struggled to find affordable necessities for the store, such as take-out boxes and clear plastic cups. “12 months ago, take-out boxes were $25 for a case, and today it’s $100. Every little thing, down to even the straws, has gone up like crazy.”

“I’m scrambling,” Schmidt said. “I can’t find 16 oz. clear cups anywhere, and when I do, they’ll be skyrocketing in price. Our smoothie that costs us four dollars to make now costs us six dollars. We’re selling them for seven, so then it’s like, is it even worth it at that point?” 

Roots is not the only business struggling to find goods for their store. Due to the current supply-chain crisis, businesses all over the country are having trouble keeping up with supply and demand as many distribution centers are facing labor shortages and excess congestion at shipping ports. This not only causes an increase in prices but delays shipping times as well. 

Since the juice spot wasn’t around prior to the pandemic, it is unclear what revenue would have been like then, but when asked if he believes business is booming due to the pandemic’s push for a healthier lifestyle, Schmidt said, “one hundred percent.” 

Green Mamba Smoothie

Green Mamba smoothie from Roots in Huntington [Credit: roots_ny/Instagram]

“The customers I converse with say, ‘Look, I’m changing my lifestyle because of what’s going on, or so many people have said they gained all this weight during COVID, and they’re finally ready to get back on track,” Schmidt said. Roots’ menu contains many immune-boosting, detox, and weight-loss products, aimed at helping customers live a healthy lifestyle. The café’s best-selling wellness shot is the Flu Shot (a blend of açaí, lemon, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper), using antioxidants to boost one’s immune system and turmeric for anti-inflammation. 

“Fast food is a thing of the past,” said Justin Diorio, a regular customer. “I think little cafés like this will become more and more popular as now people are so focused on prioritizing their health.” Diorio’s favorite bite is the Thai salad mixed with hummus and a poached egg. “It’s amazing,” he said.

Juice Shots

Juice cleanse shots from Roots in Huntington [Credit: roots_ny/Instagram]

Locals are constantly popping into Roots, whether it’s to grab an early morning bite, afternoon treat, or to simply refuel after a workout. “Overall, most people come, grab, and go,” said Schmidt. “We made it that way just in case we did get shut down again.”

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