Some friends of ours opened a smoothie and juice bar at the entrance to the public gardens, called “JUICED”. Like many small businesses here it’s built from a shipping container. They were able to get permission to have the container moved right on to the garden’s property, adjacent to the entrance, but behind the garden’s fence. They pay rent for the location but they get the advantage of the garden’s security. Also, they were able to put in their own entrance so you don’t have to pay the garden entrance fee of 500BF (about a quarter) if you just want a smoothie.
It’s very tastefully designed with a shady, flagstone patio and a grassy area so you can meet up with friends to enjoy your smoothie. Our book club met there this month as well as the last women’s Bible study before taking our summer break. It was delightful! If you want to get some exercise, you can pay the garden fee, walk around the outer track several times, then end at JUCIED for a healthy, refreshing drink. With a constant supply of fresh fruits there’s never a shortage on ingredients or a lack of new combinations to try. That, coupled with affordable pricing, as they are the lowest priced smoothies in town, makes JUICED a new favorite for many.
This past week I visited JUICED every day because our friends, the owners, were out-of-country and asked if I would “business-sit” for them. I was happy to oblige since the last time they asked, I was unable to do so since I also was out-of-country. It was a time full of good challenges and blessings for me. One challenge meant driving every day into the chaos of the city during the week of parade practice for Independence Day (July 1st) when many roads when closed with detours. This provided me with more opportunities to exercise patience and humility towards other drivers and to be thankful for continued safety. (This is a little “tongue-in-cheek” for those who know about driving in our country.) Another challenge was it pushed me into more situations to speak French as I searched for certain items, like straws or chocolate powder, things not on my usual shopping list. Stepping out of my usual comfort zones was energizing because I was doing it for someone else and was happy to do so.
The blessings came in getting to know the friendly, competent staff over the week, trying different smoothies and being surprised by the spirit of generosity shown to me in several situations.
For example, I asked the staff where I could find a red cabbage (since my usual store didn’t have one), they mentioned several places which I thought I’d try the next day. When I arrived the next day at JUICED, to see if they needed anything, the manager, Claudine, placed a huge red cabbage on the counter. She said she’d gotten it at the market for me. I was so surprised that she’d done this for me! I had no idea if she’d made a special trip, if the market was on her way to or from work (nor would she tell me) but the fact that she even remembered, bought it and carried it into work was humbling and impressive. Thankfully, she did let me pay for it, which was cheap for me ($1.00) but likely expensive for her, and I’m sure she got it for a lower price than I would have. Our friends have said what a great staff they have, my experience this week certainly confirmed that.
Whereas I am not ready to take on a business myself after this experience, I am happy for those who are opening businesses that fill a niche, use local resources and promote good customer service and business practices while providing a quality product. I can only hope JUICED will inspire other similar types of ventures and I will happily “business- sit” again should the need arise.