The same week that The Juice was originally supposed to open on York Boulevard as Highland Park's first cold-pressed juicery, anti-gentrification protestors marched down the street posting fake eviction notices onto a slew of newer businesses claiming offenses such as high prices and ethnic displacement.
Now, the anti-gentrification set has even more ammo: The organic juice haven (which has an original location in Atwater Village) is finally open after a three-month delay due to technical permitting issues. Not only is The Juice the kind of juice bar built for pre-yoga carrot-ginger cleanses and post-hike apple-kale rejuvenations but it's also the kind of place that's selling $9 juices in a neighborhood filled with Mexican-owned fruterías that have been selling $4 jugos for years.
The Juice co-owner Elizabeth Halpern says she's sensitive to the gentrification fears. Although her product and its price point may not be for everyone, she believes that the neighborhood's narrative has become too much about natives versus wealthy newcomers, when it's really more about bringing in new blood to help revive the charming area.
"I think it's scary to feel like your neighborhood is being swiped out from under you," she admits. "It's our responsibility to invite [the original residents] into the metamorphosis that's happening before their eyes. It's up to us to introduce ourselves and to convince them that what we're doing is for the greater good. As for The Juice in particular, it will be a hard sell because the cost of organic produce is insane, but then we need to let folks know the value in spending more for quality, and that every morsel you put in your body affects your whole being."
As a historically Hispanic neighborhood, Highland Park has no fewer than five Latino-owned juice shops within its boundaries, with Jugos Azteca only two and a half blocks down York from the new The Juice location. Most fruterías serve pure fruit juices such as mango, melon and other tropical varieties, plus vegetable juices aimed at easing ailments including epilepsy (carrots, spinach, lettuce, lemon), hypertension (orange, pear) and acne (pineapple, cucumber, apple, ginger).
But even if The Juice is not Highland Park's only place to get your drinkable five-a-day, it is still a significant addition due to it being the first to bottle its offerings, the first to use all-organic fruits and veggies, and the first to offer take-home cleansing packages alongside smoothies, shots and house-made nut milks. Halpern says she saw a lack of these offerings in Highland Park.
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"There's no question, gentrification is actively happening in Highland Park. The question is whether that's a positive thing or not," she says. "I just moved out of Frogtown, where I lived the past 10 years, only to see it gentrified in the blink of an eye. Gentrification is inevitable, but if it's done with respect to the existing people in neighborhood, then everyone can reap the benefits."
The Juice, 4936 York Blvd., Highland Park; thejuicela.com