Emeryville’s newest juice and coffee bar pays homage to throwback hip-hop

Eric Turner stands in front of a poster of Biggie Smalls and a mural by artist Steven Anderson at Hip Hop Juice Box in Emeryville. Photo: Sarah Han

Tuesdays used to be a big day for Eric Turner. That was the day of the week that new records were released (the recording industry started the Tuesday tradition in 1989 but changed the standard release date to Friday in 2015), and for Turner, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation for a new hip-hop album to drop. Turner grew up in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood in the ’90s and he said many of his memories are tied to hip-hop. He fondly recalls hearing Snoop’s first album, “Doggystyle,” when a school friend got a copy, and a couple of years later, he remembers picking up Tupac’s “Me Against the World,” which he listened to on repeat every day when his family was going through hard times.

Turner’s nostalgia for throwback hip-hop is the prime inspiration at Hip Hop Juice Box. So, even though a solid opening date has yet to be determined for his new juice bar and coffee shop in Emeryville, Turner knows it’ll open on a Tuesday. And, mimicking the release of a new track or album, Tuesdays will also be the day he’ll announce new menu items (on Instagram, mainly).

When Hip Hop Juice Box opens this summer, you’ll find a menu of freshly blended juices and smoothies with names like Hella Kale, a concoction of kale, apple and cucumber; 24 Carrots, with carrot, ginger and lemon; Beets By Dre, featuring beets and pear; Bompton, with blood orange, strawberry, banana and mango; and The Chronic, a juice of kale, apple, pineapple, honeydew and coconut water, referring to Turner’s favorite album of all time.

Hip Hop Juice Box is a concept that’s been years in the making. Turner has called Emeryville home for the last 10 years (he calls it “SF East”), and although he helped open Emeryville sports bar Hometown Heroes and works at a local pest control company managing the sales department, he’s always been interested in running his own business. He played with ideas like starting a mobile coffee business before settling on a juice and smoothie bar. He got into juicing a few years ago, he said, when he was about to get married. Wanting to lose a few pounds for the wedding and eat healthier, he started making his own juices on a daily basis with fresh produce, a routine that was new to him.


The “wall of fame” at Hip Hop Juice Box displays owner Eric Turner’s favorite albums, movie posters and other hip hop memorabilia. Photo: Sarah Han

“Growing up, there were no healthy options to eat. When I was younger, I went to the gas station and got chips or went to McDonald’s,” Turner said. And, even these days in Emeryville, Turner says some of the quickest, easiest grab-and-go options nearby are fast-food chains, like KFC and Wingstop.

Although a juice convert, Turner found the typical juice bars in the area didn’t speak to him. “Juice bars are kind of bland,” he said.

While traveling in Europe, Turner was inspired by places that presented juices like cocktails, in tall glasses with fresh fruit garnishes. He wanted to bring that idea to the East Bay, while also creating a place that was more like a lounge or bar than a Jamba Juice. Instead of getting a juice in a disposable cup to-go, Turner liked the idea of customers opening a tab, enjoying a healthy drink and staying a while.

“I wanted a place for our community. I wanted it to be somewhere cool, where I could hang out at. Somewhere to listen to music, talk about different hip-hop albums.”

“I wanted a place for our community. I wanted it to be somewhere cool, where I could hang out at. Somewhere to listen to music, talk about different hip-hop albums,” he said.

So when Scarlet City Espresso Bar closed and the space on Adeline Street became available, Turner (along with three friends who are partners in the business) jumped on it.

And since the area last knew the space as a café, he decided to add coffee to the menu. Turner is working with Emeryville’s Counter Culture Coffee, which has created two custom blends for the new business: Ric Flair Drip (in honor of hip-hop ’s favorite WWE wrestler) and Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Espresso Shop (a nod to Diddy). Counter Culture is not only supplying the beans but training Turner and staff.

Hip Hop Juice Box will also offer craft beers and wines, sparkling water and bottled juices, to drink on site or to take home. There will be a small selection of prepared packaged foods, like fruit bowls, parfaits and salads that customers can grab from out of a fridge. At the counter, there’ll be pastries from Starter Bakery and vegan donuts from Pepples Donut Farm in Oakland.

The former sci-fi-themed coffee shop has been transformed into an homage to Turner’s favorite rappers. Posters of NWA, Biggie and Ol’ Dirty Bastard hang on the walls. There are sneakers, hip-hop-themed toys and other memorabilia on display. One of those items, a cassette of Ice-T’s “Rhyme Pays,” borrowed decades ago from his older brother’s collection, is now framed and hanging on the “wall of fame” in the back of the café. Some of the CDs in a glass display case were ones that Turner bought at an old Wherehouse (Where? The Wherehouse!) at its going-out-of-business sale. Turner considers and treats these items like museum pieces; they speak to hip-hop’s importance not only in his own life, but in Bay Area culture and American history.

An entire wall has been painted by Oakland muralist Steven Anderson. It depicts the old Bay Bridge and a DJ on the ones and twos. When guests order at the bar, the larger-than-life DJ appears to be spinning records behind the counter.

The “living room” is a lounge-like area where Hip Hop Juice Box guests can get comfortable and listen to records. Photo: Sarah Han

Turner wants Hip Hop Juice Box to be an interactive experience. There’s a lounge area he’s calling “the living room,” complete with a couch, chairs, rug and a turntable, where Turner invites customers to choose from a selection of vinyl records he’s provided. There are also two TVs, which will likely play sports or news during the day and movies on special nights. Turner’s four-year-old son has already determined that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will be the first feature film. In the future, Turner aims to host spoken word and poetry nights.

On Instagram, Turner plans to post a daily “album of the day,” reflecting on when he first heard the release and what it means to him. Eventually, he’ll invite employees to share their music picks and stories, too. At the juice shop, there’ll be a chalkboard, where he’ll list different songs and albums, asking customers to chime in with their thoughts about why they like it or don’t. “Everybody has their own reasons,” Turner said. “People listen to music as psychiatry.”

Hip Hop Juice Box will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and will likely close earlier on weekends. Its opening date is still TBD, but Turner aims to open in June with a Tupac Taco Tuesday kick-off, featuring music by Tupac all day and a taco truck out front.