It’s a rainy Wednesday morning in the Sawyer Village Chevron parking lot in Maple Valley, and Sara Johnson is sitting in her juice truck waiting for customers. The words juice truck may bring to mind an image of something similar to the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile or the Bluth’s frozen banana stand — something hokey and silly.
Johnson’s juice truck is different. It’s shaped like a regular food truck, with a dark brownish-black paint job and a simple logo. It looks like any other food truck one may find in a trendy part of Seattle or Tacoma, but it’s different.
Those other trucks aren’t home to a budding business that came out of a young woman trying to figure out her food allergies.
“I seriously came back from a trip to Paris all puffy, I was so inflamed, I was like, something is poisoning my body and I don’t know what is,” Johnson said. She eventually found that her body was intolerant to gluten and whey and began juicing as a way of staying healthy.
Johnson, who is originally from Enumclaw, was working for a tech company in Seattle when she began juicing and it caught on with her co-workers in a big way.
“We would always go to yoga and dinner and happy hour together and we didn’t do much without each other. They were like, ‘I want to juice too, but I don’t want to buy a juicer. It’s a mess, so can I give you money and you just do it for me?’ And so I said sure,” Johnson said.
She talked about how she would bring Mason jars full of homemade juice in her backpack to the office and how she eventually had to upgrade to a roll-away suitcase.
“I needed to get help to get it on and off the bus, because I couldn’t lift it,” she said.
Johnson wasn’t just supplying juice to her co-workers, she was supplying convenience.
“I’ve gotta do this. They could walk up the road six blocks to a juice bar but they’re choosing to use me instead,” she said.
She decided to create a business from this and started Grass & Root Juice Company.
She presented her business plan to the Lion’s Den — Seattle’s own version of Shark Tank — and she received a handshake deal from an investor. It took over a year for Grass & Roots to get on the road.
On Mondays, the truck is parked outside Kelly’s Mercantile in Enumclaw from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the Tahoma Athletic Club in Maple Valley on Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m. With currently three locations to park her Grass & Roots Juice Co. truck, Johnson’s juices consistently sell out each week.
On this rainy Wednesday morning, however, things are going just a little bit slow.
Parking the truck outside the Sawyer Village Chevron on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. is a new expedition for Grass & Roots, and it’s all a part of a small business on the move. Having only been active since September of 2016, Johnson’s company is still growing and finding its footing. Despite this, Grass & Roots has found a lot of success in Enumclaw.
“Enumclaw has been so nice. I feel like it would be different if I was in a different area that didn’t know me or didn’t know that I was local,” she said.
Johnson’s juices are all made from fruits and vegetables from Charlie’s Produce, a large produce company out of the Pacific Northwest. She also includes various herbs and plants that supplement her juices, like turmeric, ginger and mint to help with flavor. There are several different juices on the menu, each one filled with no more than seven ingredients and a unique name.
“I made a special in December with apple, cranberry and mint and I named it ‘Cran-ma Ellie’ after my grandma Ellie,” Johnson said with a smile. “She’s always the first one to show up at the truck every Monday and she’s so cute.”
Coming up with the juices took a lot of practice and experimentation, Johnson said, but she says she knows what’s going to work, and this shows.
“People find their way to the juice,” she said.
One thing that helps Grass & Roots Juice Co. is Johnson’s strong social media presence and transparency in her products. With careful instructions for the various juice cleanses that she also offers and a personal blog that details her victories, struggles and discoveries, Johnson is showing her passion through her work.
“I made the juice, I wrote the Instagram post, I made the recipe, I bottled it, I drove the truck here and now I’m here selling it to you – it’s just all me. Hopefully I just stay on a good track,” she said.
Despite her personal touches on everything in her business, Johnson says she couldn’t have done anything without her family and friends.
“When they rally around you it’s very uplifting,” she said.
As Grass & Roots Juice Co. continues to grow, so does Johnson’s ambitions. She said she wants to be a part of more local farmer’s markets and has played with the idea of one day upgrading from a juice truck.
“I would like to have a flagship juice bar where I could sell online and delivery to people. It goes back to where it all began, being convenient for people,” she said, referring to her juices-in-a-suitcase days in Seattle.
Until then, she’s confident in her customers and hopeful for her new parking spot in Sawyer Village and for more locations in the future.
“I already have so much blood, sweat and tears into this baby, and I just keep going” she said. “You get rejected all the time, and it means nothing, I can’t hear the word “no” or any type of rejection — I just don’t hear it. You just keep going.”
More information on Grass & Roots Juice Co. can be found at www.grassandrootjuice.com.