Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at one of the most well-known smoothie bowl places on Grounds? Well, look no further. I’m here to take you behind the scenes of Juice Laundry, and reveal what makes each of their bowls so delicious.
Juice Laundry is a University establishment started by Michael Keenan, a Class of 2008 alumnus from the School of Law. With three locations — one in the Aquatic Fitness Center, one on the Corner and one on Preston Avenue — the staff is primarily made up of University students. As an employee at the AFC location, my commute is only a five-minute walk from the Alderman dormitories, which proved to be very convenient.
Juice Laundry kindly accommodates its employees and understands that its staff consists of students with classes and clubs whose schedules are constantly changing. Luckily, our staff is diverse enough in their time commitments that I have found work shifts to be very flexible. Additionally, our staff and managers have a good relationship with each other, and communication is easy through text messaging or email.
I first learned about working at Juice Laundry through other friends who had started in the fall semester and suggested that I apply. Since then, I have been able to grow closer to those friends and have met many other student employees through working different shifts. I’ve also admired the family business situation that Juice Laundry resembles as I’ve had the pleasure of working with both of Keenan’s parents who are often there lending their help.
Since working there, I’ve grown to appreciate the process and effort that this establishment goes through to uphold a standard of fresh and healthy ingredients. Juice Laundry prides itself on the fact that it is 100 percent organic and plant-based, which appeals to many health-conscious people and creates a high-quality taste. As an employee, it is my job to prepare the fresh produce and replenish any ingredients during my shift. I’ve personally cut close to 1,000 strawberries and mangoes, cleaned bundles upon bundles of kale and peeled enough bananas to feed an entire island of monkeys. After this preparation, we make sure to add expiration dates — three days after we cut the produce — to all of our fresh fruit, which indicates when the store should use it by.
Our cleaning supplies also adhere to our natural and organic mantra. We use a concoction of vinegar and baking powder — which acts as an effective antibacterial solution — to clean our surfaces all around the store. Recently, precautions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic include an acrylic screen separating the cashier and customer at the counter. However, I will admit that this addition made it quite difficult to hear the customer’s order, who were wearing masks of course, while blenders were also in use. I made do and learned to project my voice loudly and customers also had to do a bit of yelling.
There are four types of vegan liquid bases provided — cashew milk, almond milk, coconut water and guayusa tea — which are all made in the store, excluding the coconut water. The guayusa tea is brewed, while the cashew milk and almond milk are blended and strained. As a newer employee, I have only been able to observe this process and not actually partake. The job of preparing the liquid bases is usually designated for higher up managers, a position I one day aspire to have. I was also pleasantly surprised at how accommodating Juice Laundry is with their allergen conscious options where we use separate and sanitized blenders for students with nut or any other allergies.
My shifts are typically two to three hours long but can often feel a lot longer. I’ve noticed that there are certain times when a rush of students will come in, which can typically be in the mornings after 11 a.m. classes or in the afternoon around 2 p.m. During those rushes, I can feel overwhelmed with the amount of orders and the never ending line of students, which ends with me leaving my shift feeling a bit drained. However, throughout the shift we are able to try the smoothies we make if there ends up being an extra amount, or we can make our own bowls with a discounted price. Many employees even have their own signature custom bowls that they make for themselves after having a chance to taste many different combinations and have finally found one that they like.
During my first few days of working, I struggled to remember all of the ingredients needed in the different bowls, but luckily, the recipes are posted behind the counter where I could easily sneak a peek at them. Now, as a seasoned smoothie maker, I no longer have to look at the recipe cheat sheet.
Take the Coco Verde smoothie bowl, for example. I start by grabbing a blender and pouring in coconut water which acts as the liquid base. Next, I add dates — the natural sweetener — coconut oil, kale and spinach. Moving onto the frozen ingredients, I throw in frozen bananas, which give the smoothie its thick consistency, and frozen mangoes to give the bowl a bit of a tropical tartness. After blending for about half a minute, I pour the now-bright green smoothie into a clear bowl where a bit of granola is added to the bottom. I top it off with another scoop of granola, fresh blueberries, neatly sliced bananas and coconut flakes. I announce “Coco Verde bowl!” to the store, and then it’s off to be eaten and enjoyed.
With friends who are regular Juice Laundry customers, I encourage them to come during my shift so I can say hello. On other occasions, I’ll see my other classmates come through and, funny enough, most times it’s the first time I am seeing them in person and finally off of a Zoom screen.
Although the most popular orders at Juice Laundry are its smoothie bowls and regular smoothies, customers also come for the hot chili, overnight oats and pre-prepared juices. Aside from their aesthetically pleasing look, the juices themselves are very healthy. On select bottles, facts and tips about certain ingredients are also included to give customers more information about their juice. Personally, I’ve learned that activated charcoal, which is found in our “The Darkness'' drink, is a good source of antioxidants that can clear out chemicals and toxins in the digestive tract.
One perk as an employee is that we are able to taste test the different juices. My personal favorite so far has been the “Strawberry Shake,” which consists of filtered water, almonds, dates, strawberries, dragon fruit and pink salt, creating a pastel pink, creamy and delicious drink.
During the warmer months, more and more students lined up to order their very own refreshing bowl or smoothie. Although we closed for indoor dining, there is a patio with tables and chairs right outside of the AFC location where students could enjoy the spring weather along with their Juice Laundry order. As both a student and employee, I understand how important the aesthetic and presentation of each bowl is. With this in mind, I try my best to create an Instagram-worthy bowl for every customer.
All in all, as an employee at Juice Laundry, I am glad to be representing a healthy and ethically-sourced establishment that students genuinely enjoy.