I’d be the first to admit that I’m not really a juice person. Sure, from time to time, I’ll slowly sip on a bottle of green juice when I’m in a rush and feeling particularly low in vegetable intake. But juice bars are not typically on my list of must-visit businesses.
Still, it’s hard to not want to drink gallons of the stuff after talking with Emanne Desouky, the owner of Oakland’s Super Juiced, which opened in Old Oakland’s Swan’s Marketplace last fall. Her energy is infectious.
After mixing up a bright red, tangy “Rose Glow” juice (beet, celery, pear, ginger, cucumber and rose water) for me to sample, Desouky gives me a quick tour around the small shop. White subway tiles provide a blank canvas for the fruits and veggies poking out from various bins and baskets. A wall of shelves holds herbs and other products from local partners. Vitamix blenders stand at the ready for smoothie orders. Honey and cup lids sit on a repurposed bar cart below a “Black Lives Matter banner.” A pink neon sign on the back wall proclaims, “Oakland is Juiced.”
If you’re thinking that this all sounds just like other new, hip juice shops, you’d be right about one thing — Super Juiced certainly looks the part. But there’s more than meets the eye.
“We’re different,” said Desouky.
Not only is Super Juiced one of the only 100% organic juice bars in Oakland, it is run entirely by women of color with a social justice mission.
Part of this mission is to bring more of these organic fruits and vegetables to the greater public. “Oakland has historically had a lack of healthy food options,” said Desouky. “There’s not a culture of healthy eating, but there have been lots of people involved in food justice,” she said, citing the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program. “Yet this didn’t translate to healthy, easy to grab food options. We wanted to change that.”
In addition to juicing only organic produce, Desouky sources all of her almonds through Kashiwase farms, which she uses to make the shop’s raw almond milk.
Super Juiced started as a pop-up in 2012. It partnered with other justice-oriented, women-owned food businesses like Mamacitas Café and Reem’s Traditional Arab Street Food to offer food at places like La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley and the Lake Merritt farmers market in Oakland. Super Juiced moved into its brick-and-mortar spot in November 2015 and held its grand opening this past June.
Both Desouky and her partner Rana Halpern have a background in social justice, and they wanted to carry that practice on with Super Juiced. They have partnered with Beyond Emancipation, a nonprofit that provides support programs for foster and probation youth making a transition to adulthood. Super Juiced currently has one fully paid intern, Sundara Englin, from Beyond Emancipation’s ELEVATE employment program.
“It’s been amazing,” said Englin. “I love this job to death.”
Desouky and Halpern hired Englin despite the fact that she had mostly only worked in retail jobs before. “We want to help train and lift up young women, and help teach them how to have your own business,” said Desouky. “We were mentored by elders as well, so we want to pass that on.”
Englin’s six month internship ends this month, but she hopes to stay on at Super Juiced. “I like that our juices make people happy,” she said. “One customer came in and signed up for a cleanse after he had a juice that I made. He really liked it.”
Plus, she added, the work environment has been key. “It’s like a family here,” said Englin. “Everybody knows everybody and is really close. It’s really nice to have a family outside of your regular family.”
Besides Englin, Super Juiced has three other employees, two of whom are students, and all who live in Oakland. It is important for Desouky for Super Juiced to reflect the community of customers it serves, which, she said, runs the gamut from business people visiting the convention center to queer people of color she brings in from her DJ sets, where she performs with Soulovely as DJ Emancipacion. “We really do have a diverse customer base,” she said. “It’s really beautiful to see all these folks who love this city so much.”
This diversity is reflected in the customer base in Swan’s Marketplace as a whole, which is bustling with local residents at lunch and dinner daily. Desouky particularly likes the fact that the Marketplace is full of other women-owned businesses. “I love being here so much,” she said. “We’re surrounded by so many badass women business owners.” Desouky cited Dominica Rice-Cisneros of Cosecha and Alexandra Lopez and Celeste Cooper of Hen House, in particular, of being supportive neighbors.
Ultimately, Desouky hopes that small businesses like hers will prove to be an “antidote to gentrification,” she said. She and Halpern have started a network of small business owners of color to share questions and “help each other out.”
“We want to keep asserting that [these businesses are] Oakland’s culture,” she said. “We’re the reason people are moving here. … With rising costs and displacement, we need to assert ourselves. The more people see that we’re not going anywhere, the better.”