NORTH TAZEWELL, VA – August 16, 2018 — Tazewell County native Omar Reed and his wife, Jelicia, were living in Texas when the couple made the decision to open their own business. They considered their options there, but the Southwest Virginia mountains kept pulling Omar home and they decided to return to Tazewell County to open The Juice & Her Smoothie Bar.
A $10,000 seed capital matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) sealed the deal and the Reeds opened the North Tazewell business at 113 Shire Lane this past spring.
“We wanted to do something positive in the community,” Omar says of how the couple arrived at the plan to open a smoothie bar. “The VCEDA funds gave us the seed money to use toward the renovations we did to the space and we used it to supply the store with some of the ingredients we use.”
“Assisting entrepreneurs like the Reeds to take their business plans and turn them into reality is what the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant program is all about,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “They presented a strong application with a good plan to provide healthier food options in the community.”
Since May, The Juice & Her Smoothie Bar has been doing just that. The business is named in part after Omar, whose nickname, because of his O.J. initials, is “The Juice.” He grew up in Tazewell County and after graduating from Tazewell High School and from Bluefield College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management, he went on to play basketball internationally for eight years through a minor league NBA team. He and Jelicia, who grew up in California, met in Texas through mutual friends and later married and decided to return to Omar’s childhood home to open the business. Jelicia holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Houston.
The Reeds worked with Margie Douglass at the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College to develop their grant application to VCEDA.
“We came back here for Omar’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony (at Bluefield College) and I went to the Y for a workout and afterwards, wanted a Smoothie, but there was no place to get one,” Jelicia recalls of how the couple decided to open the Smoothie bar. They returned to Texas, but the idea of opening up a healthy option location in Tazewell stayed with them and shortly thereafter Omar returned to Tazewell to search for a location. He found the current location and Jelicia says within a month, they and now two-year-old son, Julian, were packing up to return to Tazewell to live and work.
Renovation of the space which now houses the smoothie bar was the first order of business and a counter was built and paint was applied to give the space its current look.
Natural smoothies, juices, parfaits, fruit bowls, protein bottles and other healthy snack choices are on the menu, Jelicia says, noting 15 constant smoothie selections are on the menu daily with a specialty smoothie alternating every one-two weeks in part based on the fruit in season.
“Eighty percent of the smoothies on the menu are my own idea, or ideas suggested by friends for what ingredients to combine,” Jelicia says.
The Smoothies are predominantly named after the places in which Omar played ball overseas and in the country giving the drinks names like “Hiroshima,” “Panama,” “Dominican Republic,” “Venezuela” and “Summer in Boston.” All natural ingredients are used, right down to the protein powder which is plant-based.
And, then of course, there is a smoothie named after their son using his nickname – “The Juice Box.” It’s a little coconut water, strawberry, pineapple and honey mix.
Using all natural ingredients, Omar and Jelicia agree is one thing that sets the The Juice & Her Smoothie Bar apart.
“We wanted to offer healthy options to people,” Jelicia says. “What I make for my family is what I serve to your family.”
Since the new business opened, in addition to Omar, who is full-time, five part-time workers have been hired. The new business has been active in the community, hosting a charity cornhole tournament earlier this month to raise money for school supplies to assist children in need and they are now offering a special Tazewell Bulldog discount card.
The Juice and Her Smoothie Bar is active on Facebook, posting regularly about healthy food options and new products and is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, Monday-Friday. Saturday hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vaceda.org or www.e-Region.org.
About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.