Pandemic inspires new juice business
Back in March 2020, Kyra-Lee Van Putten and boyfriend Jamal Woodley found themselves stranded together in Canada during the pandemic.
“It was my birthday and Jamal came up to visit me in Toronto, where I was in school,” she said. “Then Covid-19 hit and flights were cancelled. Jamal was stuck.”
Fast forward three years and Ms Van Putten is now Ms Woodley. The couple have their own fresh juice business, Ital Beverages, and three weeks ago, opened the Ital Juice Cafe at 31 York Street, St George.
“When we came back from Canada, Jamal had no job,” Ms Woodley said. “So he decided to sell juice. He and his mother used to make it and sell it.”
They made up a batch of three different kinds of fresh juice and started delivering them around the island. Ms Woodley was shocked by how fast they sold.
“After that it never stopped,” she said.
At first they bought their bottles from a local company, but their need soon outstripped what it could comfortably provide.
“So we now bring our bottles in from overseas,” Ms Woodley said.
They go through about 12,000 bottles in three months.
“Our house got crammed with juice bottles,” Ms Woodley said. “So in January we moved into the space on York Street. Then we thought since we have a bigger space we should open a café.”
She felt really nervous about taking that step.
“Then my cousin came from Los Angeles,” Ms Woodley said. “She has been helping me, and gave me the courage to just get it over with. The café has been going well, so I was nervous for no reason.”
The café now offers vegetarian options such as açaí bowls and avocado toast. They plan to expand their food offerings in the coming months. But they won’t be offering anything with meat, as they feel that would be against the healthy ethos of their business.
Many of their ingredients are said to have health benefits.
“Hibiscus tea is good for lowering your blood pressure,” she said. “Lemongrass cools your blood.”
Their customers include visitors and locals alike.
“It has been busy since the first day,” Ms Woodley said. “Sometimes other stores recommend that people come here. The most challenging thing about running this so far has been meeting the demand.”
Some of their juice flavours include pineapple ginger, mango melon, cucumber lime-aid, hibiscus tea and carrot ginger, among others.
“The pineapple one is probably the most popular,” Ms Woodley said. “We probably sell about 80 of those a day.”
Everything is made in the store. Mr Woodley spends several hours every evening making the beverages from fresh fruit.
One of the more challenging items to source is hibiscus.
“We handpick our hibiscus,” Ms Woodley said. “That was a lot of work. Now we pay little children to do it. They get $10 per bag. They pick it from around the neighbourhood. The redder the flowers are, the better they are. Hibiscus grows back every day.”
She said that carrots could also be challenging to source, depending on local availability.
Going forward the Woodleys want to add more juice flavours and more menu items including soups and paninis.
Ms Woodley said the best thing about the business is seeing people enjoying their products.
“People always say, ‘Oh my gosh, this tastes so well. I’m addicted’,” she said. “Everybody loves it. And we take a lot of pride in making sure that our products are consistent. We also take a lot of pride in our customer service.”