Village Juice Company in downtown Winston-Salem buzzes with energy on a Saturday morning. Couples sit in cozy booths sharing colorful breakfast items prepared with organic ingredients. Attendees of a nearby cycle studio pour into the space post-class to order a refreshing cold-pressed juice but stop to catch up with the company’s owners before heading to the counter. Employees sit at the bar top overlooking the outdoor patio, chatting quietly with one another on their day off.
It’s this sense of community that built a successful health-focused brand in a North Carolina town — a brand that will bring the same ambiance to Charlotte in Optimist Hall around mid-August to September.
Here are 7 things you should know about Village Juice Company before you go.
(1) It started off with a vision of health.
Lonnie Atkinson believes in the power of food — specifically, healthy and hearty food. After working in the health food industry for over a decade in major markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, she returned to her hometown of Winston-Salem to introduce her concept of healthy eating in the Southeast.
Upon founding Village Juice Company in 2014 with her husband, Nathan, and Clyde Harris, Lonnie manufactured and sold cold-pressed juices and almond milks, as well as vegan snacks. The following year, the Atkinsons expanded their trade to farmers markets and mobile food truck delivery.
(2) The original brick-and-mortar location opened in Winston-Salem.
After operating from a commercial kitchen for two years, Lonnie and Nathan decided to expand to their first location, which began as a “pop-up” shop while the couple built out the restaurant. The shop grew organically from the loyal following it garnered from health-focused locals and still attracts quite the crowd today. The space emanates an earthy, yet modern, feel, with shiplap walls complemented by rustic wooden accents, which were hand-cut by Lonnie’s father, Billy Morris, and Nathan.
As the shop continued to flourish, the menu expanded to include smoothies, smoothie bowls and a full menu of health-based food options like salads, grain bowls, raw and vegan snacks, kombuchas and open-faced toasts. Both Wake Forest University and Elon University realized the potential of the family-owned health company and asked the couple to add campus locations, which opened in 2018.
The same year, the couple expanded to a downtown location, as well, which blends an urban ambiance with cozy favorites like hanging pod chairs and booths with fluffy pillows.
(3) The juice is ultra-fresh.
Lonnie and Nathan pride themselves first and foremost on their cold-pressed juices, each prepared with up to four pounds of organic raw fruits and/or vegetables per bottle.
Cold pressed juices are touted for health benefits such as boosting the body’s immune system, lowering cholesterol, helping with weight loss and increasing energy. To make cold-pressed juice, fresh fruits and vegetables are placed into a hydraulic or pneumatic (air-cylinder-powered) press that applies 2,000 pounds of pressure to the produce to extract the maximum amount of juice from the flesh. Extracting the juice without applying heat preserves the integrity of the juice, leaving it packed with its original nutrients.
The result? Clean, crisp juice without any preservatives. Each of Village Juice Company’s juices last about 5-7 days, attesting to the pure, healthy ingredients used in its creations.
Unlike other popular juice establishments, Village Juice Company offers more than just a small selection. Instead, it always offer about 10-15 juices and 5-7 cold nut milks, including seasonal favorites. This summer, it’s serving Melon Berry, prepared with watermelon, strawberry, lemon and basil.
How did the team create an extensive, yet flavorful lineup?
“We spent hours in the kitchen testing a lot of different flavors,” Nathan said. “We made a lot of bad juice before we were able to land on some really amazing flavors.”
Look out for these 100% raw flavors:
Coffee Bender: almond, filtered water, cold brew coffee, date, cinnamon, vanilla bean, Himalayan salt
Feisty Rabbit: carrot, apple, ginger
Majik Milk: almonds, filtered water, date, blue majik, cinnamon, vanilla bean, pink salt
Orchard: gala apple, green apple, extra ginger, lemon
(4) The menu includes incredible food.
Lonnie and Nathan believe food doesn’t contain ingredients, but rather, real food is the ingredients. Each dish is prepared in-house, fresh, and the menu features plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Add meat to any dish — the bacon is highly-recommended, and for good reason.
“We change the way people view healthy,” Nathan said. “That’s our pride — we make really delicious food.”
Each dish is a hearty size and will leave you well-fed and feeling energized. In addition, the team reduces food waste by using products two-fold. For instance, after cold-pressing almonds for almond juice, the remaining almond mixture goes into an incredible almond crumble to top breakfast and smoothie bowls.
Menu items to look out for:
Sunrise Chia Parfait: strawberry, mango, cashew milk, orange zest, almond crumble, G-Money Honey, banana, $7.95
Overnight Oats: almond butter, raspberry, walnuts, banana, almond crumble, G-Money Honey, $7.95
Edie Bowl: organic quinoa, organic kale, roasted squash, nori, avocado, Gnomestead Hollow kimchi, garlic tahini lemon dressing, $9.95
Farmer’s Daughter: organic brown rice, organic kale or spinach, chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, organic apples, almonds, balsamic dijon and roasted carrot vinaigrette, $9.95
Brussels and Bacon: organic quinoa or brown rice, organic spinach, roasted brussels sprouts, organic tomatoes, bacon, parmesan crisp, fig balsamic dressing, $9.95
Village Cobb: organic romaine, grilled chicken, bacon, organic egg, organic tomato, avocado, onion, crumbled cheese, raw organic corn, avo-goddess or village ranch, $11.95
Acai Bowl: house-made almond milk, organic acai, banana, organic strawberry and organic date topped with banana, organic cacao nib, organic seasonal fruit, coconut, $10
(5) It’s a family business.
Lonnie’s father, a former NHL player, settled into the family business when he started creating desserts to add to Lonnie’s carefully-crafted menu. The plant-based, hand-crafted goodies add a sweet finish to any meal. Desserts can be enjoyed on the spot or to-go, wrapped for the perfect midday work snack.
Here’s what to try:
The Boss Bar: almond, hemp, flax, chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, goji berry coconut, cacao nib, cacao butter, almond butter, date, honey, vanilla bean, Himalayan pink sea salt, $5.75
Figgy Bar: oat flour, maple flour, coconut, date, vanilla bean, water, Himalayan pink sea salt (raw and vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free), $4.50
Fun fact: The team sprouts oat groats, dehydrates them and then grinds them down into an oat flour to make the cookie crust. The whole process of making the bars takes 48 hours.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread: banana, coconut flour, cacao, coconut oil, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla bean, Himalayan sea salt (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free), $3.50
Make sure to check out the vegan cheesecake of the day, as well.
(6) It’s all about local.
Village Juice Company’s partnerships with local businesses and farms allows it to serve fresh, organic ingredients daily. The team sources homemade bread from Camino Bakery, micro greens from Fair Share Farm, kimchi from Gnomestead Hollow and kombucha from UpDog Kombucha, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. and Tribucha.
Perhaps the most unique partnership comes in the form of 13-year-old Grayson Linville, an entrepreneur and founder of G-Money Honey, his own bee-keeping business that provides the honey for Village Juice Company’s popular breakfast items, including the Sunrise Chia Parfait and the Granola Girl Yogurt Bowl. An 8-year-old Grayson asked Santa for a beehive and has since learned to care for and harvest honey..
“We’re sourcing as much as we can in Charlotte. As we get more into the community, we’ll build those relationships with local businesses,” Charlotte location owner Brittany Cohen shared. Right now, there’s talks with Verdant Bread in Charlotte for the Optimist Hall location.
(7) The owners are excited about Optimist Hall.
Lonnie and Nathan met with a multitude of individuals before selecting Brittany and Joey Cohen, the owners of Village Juice Company in Charlotte, as their partners.
“We turned down a lot of opportunities because they didn’t match well with the brand we created,” Nathan shared.
Brittany and Joey value a healthy lifestyle and sought a business idea to enliven their passions. Upon stopping in the original Village Juice Company shop on a business trip, Joey called Brittany and shared the news: he’d found their next project. The following weekend, after another trip back to the original location, Brittany and Joey emailed Nathan and Lonnie, who requested a meeting shortly after.
“It was a natural fit from the beginning, and what they are doing is authentic and something we are ecstatic to be a part of in Charlotte,” Joey said.
“Charlotte had such an energy, and it matched exactly where we are trying to go as a company,” Nathan said.
The Charlotte location will start with a smaller menu and evolve over the next year.
“It’s all about learning the dynamic of our space and how to tackle it all. We’ll add as we go, but we will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner items throughout the day,” Brittany said.
“The connectivity to the city and the light rail make this a meeting point for all different communities,” Joey added. “We see this as a gathering place for Charlotte to come together and offer the best of everything while also showing visitors to Charlotte segments of our city’s food scene.”