Derek Fleming, who owns Thrive Café, wants the juice bar-cum-restaurant at 169 Mass. Ave., East Arlington, "to be the friendliest place in town."
The 30-year-old [CHECK] has much wider goals, but let's focus first on his broad smile. It signals a way he aims to undo what he calls an "overarching stereotype" -- that only earthy-crunchy folks frequent juice bars.
Au contraire! He said his customers include "big, burly landscapers" as well as a lot of trades people -- electricians, plumbers. After these customers expressed initial doubts about his menu, he told some to consider the falafel salad: "I think you'll like it."
They did and said they would return, he said.
Fleming smiled again. "It's not double cheeseburgers," he said.
On a recent afternoon interview near a front window, warmed by sun, Fleming spelled out how Thrive's "concept is working for the town," since he opened in May 2018. He called his menu what "the area really needed."
In the past 19 months, he has expanded his menu, so that it is "no longer just drinks and smoothies." The latter, he said, are seasonal, but juice is not.
Thrive now has tacos on Tuesday, heroes on Thursday, all following his healthy aims. Coming in October, he said, are soups from scratch five days a week. [CHECK]
Soups include black bean, tomato basil and poblano corn chowder. Fleming called the latter's smokey essence a fave. [I DO NOT SEE ON MENU -- ARE THESE COMING?]
To give you a further taste, consider his tikka masala and vegan chili. See the menu >>
Other changes include a small TV-like screen on the counter showing rotating images Thrive products. On the wall are cards aimed at educating the consumer. One briefly explains turmeric, an Indian perennial herb of the ginger family.
"Flavor is the main driver in what we eat," he said.
In June, Fleming began a monthly newsletter (sign up for it in the store), and it has more than 500 subscribers.
He has initiated a rewards program. [PLEASE EXPLAIN DETAILS BRIEFLY]
The green-tree logo continues to identify Thrive Café, as it has since it opened, but its branches are trying to extend beyond the logo's constricting circle, to far-away places, in the West and South.
Fleming has established a organization spanning the U.S. representing his industry -- the National Juice Bar Association. He said he began it "as a place for juice bar owners like myself to connect, share our knowledge, our struggles and our successes.
"We are not a fad. We are a thriving segment in the restaurant industry and we are here to stay. We have a goal of pulling our industry together in a way never seen before, in a way that everyone benefits." [I TOOK FROM THE WEBSITE -- WANT TO REWORD?]
That juice spreads out across America -- to an estimated 6,000 locations. [CHECK] Fewer than 1,000 in the U.S. are independently owned. [CHECK]
Progress to date in gaining members has been a "trickle." Fleming's fledgling organization represents only 12 so far. He's looking for more -- 25 or 30 to get momentum going.
All current members are out of state -- in California, Texas, Mississippi and Florida.
His goals for the national group are to connect independent juice bars to give them a broader platform to improve the industry as a whole.
He also seeks ways to have juice bars viewed as restaurants.
[MAY CUT THE FOLLOWING DOWN]
Joining the NJBA gets member a snazzy window decal telling all that you're part of something national, which will help spread the news about how amazing juice and smoothie bars are. Attract additional followers from your posts being shared by a national company. Gain more traction online and be easier to find by adding a web touch point with your profile on The NJBA website. Connect with our brand sponsors and our approved vendors to find new, healthy and delicious food to sell at your check out counter. Join us on our mission to connect the country's juice and smoothie bars and join the fun in competing in our monthly social media contests. We aim to please so never hesitate to make a suggestion for something you would like to see us do or a benefit you would like to see us add. We might be just starting out, but we know we can provide much needed resources to an amazing industry.
To inquire about membership, click here >>
With all that going on, Fleming has a wife, behind Thrive's social media, and a daughter, Adalyne, now 4 months old, born May 3, a day after the store's anniversary.
This business-news feature was published Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.