East Oakland has a Black-owned juice bar within its vast food desert

Elliot-Terrell, East Oakland has a Black-owned juice bar within its vast food desert, Local News & Views News & Views
Elliot Terrell

by JR Valrey, The Minister of Information

In parts of Oakland and San Francisco’s Black neighborhoods, it is common for the youth and older people to be living off of a diet of chips, pre-packaged burritos, taco truck dinners and soda. How do I know? I lived off of this poison for two decades myself, until I was educated on how food affects the body and mind. If we think about it, most of us would spend more money on shoes, clothes, jewelry and cologne than we would on quality food. 

Why? We must realize that it is no one else’s responsibility to look after our health more than it is our own. We must re-program ourselves to take our health seriously, and the owners of the East Oakland based “Got Juice,” located at 3843 MacArthur Blvd in East Oakland, are doing just that by opening their juice bar in the middle of a food desert and allowing people to shop in their community instead of going downtown or to San Leandro to seek out healthy snacks for their family. 

With the economy on the downturn and crime on the rise, “Got Juice” has faced a number of social challenges, but they understand that the race belongs to those that are able to endure. Check out one of the co-owners of “Got Juice,” Terrell Elliott, as he explains what it’s like doing business in Oakland after the pandemic.  

JR Valrey: What inspired you to start a juice bar in the middle of East Oakland? How did you come up with the name? 

Terrell Elliott: I was inspired to open up a juice bar in East Oakland because we really didn’t have those types of spaces in our area. Oakland is like a food desert for healthy food choices, so I felt there was a need. My cousin Brandon and business partner actually came up with the name “Got Juice,” and we agreed that it was a perfect fit for our company.

JR Valrey: What exactly do you offer? Can you also speak to the nutritional value of some of the drinks? 

Terrell Elliott: At “Got Juice” we offer healthy, grab and go drink and food options. A lot of people have difficulty getting their fruits and vegetables daily, so we felt it was our job to help provide that to people. We also use a lot of enhancers like herbs, spices, proteins and natural items to help compliment our juices, smoothies and bowls.

JR Valrey: You also have a gym that you own two doors down for the juice bar, can you talk a little bit about that and how those two go hand in hand? 

Terrell Elliott: You’re right. I am also the owner of Body MECHANIX fitness in the Laurel District of Oakland and it was only right that I created another stream of revenue that I can attach to my fitness facility, because fitness and health is my life. That’s what I’m really into. They both compliment each other perfectly: After you have a good workout, you go get you a recovery smoothie; or if you need energy or need a quick snack before your workout, you can come get your protein shake to help you get through your training session. So yes, both go hand in hand and compliment each other perfectly.

JR Valrey: What kind of response has your juice bar gotten from the surrounding community? 

Terrell Elliott: I think we got an overall great response from the community. I mean I think it’s an added bonus to the Laurel District, which is a nice up-and-coming area. So it’s good to have something like this around here. I think a lot of people from Oakland are proud, because we are from here and we’re creating something that people love. And we’re showing people from our City that they can also give back to the community and be awesome entrepreneurs in the community that they were born and raised in. 

JR Valrey: Do you see more Black young people getting their health in order and being more health conscious now than before? What is motivating that motion? 

Terrell Elliott: Yes, I do see a lot of young Black people getting their health in order. A lot of people are working out. A lot of people are getting the proper nutrition to help them live a healthy and sustainable life. I believe that the internet has also made that popular. A lot of people want to get on social media and post they’re working out and post that they’re eating healthy, so I think that’s played a big role for a lot of people to live a healthy lifestyle. 

JR Valrey: How is it doing business in Oakland? I heard that you have been through a series of robberies. Can you talk about it? 

Terrell Elliott: It’s an honor doing business in Oakland. I love my City. I’m very proud of my City. Ideally, we would love to get a little bit more support from the City, and more outside people coming in to support us, but overall we had a good experience. The break-ins, you know, happen anywhere where people lack resources and people are hungry and can’t get jobs or sometimes don’t want jobs. So that comes with the territory. Fortunately it won’t stop us. We’re gonna keep pushing and stay positive through it all.

JR Valrey: What advice can you give other Black entrepreneurs about creating a successful business within a health pandemic? How did y’all do it? 

Terrell Elliott: The advice I will give Black entrepreneurs is to network, create spaces where you can network and tell people about your businesses. Get your name out there, your business and let everyone know about it. That way you can get raving fans, and you can have other people talk about your business, and that’s the best promotion you can get.

JR Valrey: Your juice bar was the first place where I saw a wall to take a photo. What gave you that idea? 

Terrell Elliott: That idea was actually my partner Brandon’s idea. Brandon is really into trendy things. He has a high for that type of stuff. His girl runs a successful floral business in LA, and she does a lot of those walls for a bunch of celebrities down there, and they came up with the idea, and it was perfect because it’s an eye catcher and it makes people want to come in. 

You know nowadays everyone is on social media, and everyone is taking pictures, and everyone loves to take cool pictures. It was only right that we added that to the space to attract people.

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, is also the editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. He teaches the Community Journalism class twice a week at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper office.