Ruby Jean’s Juicery Lifted by Community Support as COVID-19 Pauses 2 Locations
For Chris Goode, founder of Ruby Jean’s Juicery, 2020 has been terrible … but also good?
“It’s weird,” he says. “It’s been a great time, business-wise, but it’s also been challenging and eye-opening for me as a leader.”
The new normal
In 2015, Chris founded Ruby Jean’s Juicery in memory of his late grandmother. Chris’s passion for healthy eating and longevity lit a spark in the Kansas City community. By 2020, Ruby Jean’s Juicery had locations in downtown KC and inside Whole Foods south of the Plaza, with its kitchen and juice bar a fixture at 30th and Troost.
Then coronavirus came knocking, and everything changed.
“The hard part has been closing two locations,” Chris says.
The Whole Foods location is closed temporarily, and the grocer extended positions to some Ruby Jean’s employees. The future of the downtown location is up in the air. And the Troost location is open with limited hours and no dine-in seating.
“The first two and a half months, I worked the front counter myself,” Chris says. “It was eye-opening to be put back into my business – I’d grown accustomed to working on it. But it allowed me to see some things firsthand and understand how to pivot.
“Our biggest pivot has been offering half and whole gallons of cold-pressed juice. It’s helped us survive the pandemic — if it’s even over.”
Leading and responding to social change
The Black Lives Matter movement has put Black-owned businesses in the spotlight. The attention has helped Ruby Jean’s Juicery.
“We’ve gotten a lot of attention in the midst of the Black-Owned Business and Buy Black KC initiatives around the city,” Chris says. “It’s put us in a pretty good position for people to at least learn about us as a company.”
When the Pray on Troost initiative set out to create a multidenominational human prayer chain on Juneteeth, Chris was excited to collaborate. He created Black Lemonade, a blackberry lemonade with activated charcoal.
Photo courtesy Prentiss Earl
“We’ll continue to carry it,” he says. “It’s been pretty popular.”
Support from other businesses has been crucial as well.
“The owner of Monarch Coffee is the person who kicked off the initiative from the white community to support Black businesses in KC,” Chris says. “There are numerous Black entities that focus on supporting Black-owned business, but when a white business owner says it, it speaks from a totally different perspective. For us, it was impactful.”
These initiatives have been important. But Chris has been surprised by how individuals have worked to support his business as well.
“I’ve seen people intentionally try to keep us in business,” he says. “I had a lady come in and put a $100 bill on the counter and say, ‘I need you to be here when this is all over.’ I have a particular customer who has come in every single day we’ve been open and hasn’t left less than a $5 tip each day. I’ve seen people really be intentional about supporting us.
“You kind of know your position in the community, but until things go really bad, you don’t know how deeply embedded you are. It’s given me a better opportunity to see how well received our presence is in this community and how tangible it is. To see people repay that — it’s been pretty amazing.”
Chris isn’t exactly sure what the future will look like for Ruby Jean’s Juicery. But he’s impressed by how the entrepreneurial community in Kansas City has come together.
“At every angle, people have tried to support each other,” he says. “The Parking Lot Provisions that J. Rieger & Co. does every Saturday is amazing. They haven’t charged us to come out there and sell our products. They’re doing a crowd-marketing effort with multiple local suppliers. Everybody’s looking out for everybody. If I post about it, I’m going to bring customers to the area who might buy something from another vendor.”
Trying new things and finding ways to adapt has been educational for Chris. He’s also learning to let go.
“For me, the biggest thing is not to be afraid of the worst-case scenario,” he says. “Being able to take the positives out of this and be able to hear and see what I need to and gain from this moment as much as I can is important. Once things are outside your control, stop trying to control them. It just doesn’t help. For me, when I let go is when I get a better grasp on things.”
This mindset helps Chris concentrate on why he started Ruby Jean’s Juicery in the first place.
“Our whole focus is on allowing people to become healthier versions of themselves,” he says. “In that process your immune system gets stronger. You can’t become a healthier person and leave your immune system behind. For us, the pandemic puts us in a prime position for people looking at it through that lens.”
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