Meet the Magic Behind JuiceLand
Founder Matt Shook on Inspiration, Expansion, and Staying True to His Original Vision Despite Growing Competition
Written by Liz Harroun
Interviewed by Weston Carls
Photography by Leslie Hodge
The inspiration behind JuiceLand is as authentic as it comes. Hoping to provide an experience as refreshing and vibrant as a plunge in Barton Springs Pool on a hot summer day, Matt Shook opened the first JuiceLand location in 2003. Shook says that his idea was "built out of the necessity of having a simple lifestyle." He could not have imagined that 15 years later there would be nearly 30 locations around the country.
Shook became passionate about juice while working for a shop aptly named the Juice Joint. He loved the healthy energy of the place and gained valuable experience. It was there that his vision for creating JuiceLand began to form. "I really just fell in love with the product and the people. Not just the people that were coming in the door but the people I was working with," Shook explains.
The real magic began when Shook and a partner opened their own place, where Shook could really commit to his passion for simplicity and to his vision of really connecting his product to customers.
"If you infuse your energy and your spirit into something, more than likely it's going to be very successful."
Things took off quickly, and sales tripled. The original location on Barton Springs Rd., which continues to thrive, was the only JuiceLand store for five years. In 2008, Shook opened his second location, on Lake Austin Blvd. This location, known as the Deep Eddy store, quickly became Shook’s baby. He personally supervised the remodel, while working at the shop up to 50 hours each week.
"It was kind of slow in the beginning, but once it started to take off, it was fun to have two places. Each location served the same product, but there were differences in customers and feel."
Dozens of stores later, Shook’s approach to expansion is the same. Each store has its own character, yet—even through expansions into Dallas, Houston, and Brooklyn—the award-winning menu and overall vibe have remained consistent across all stores.
Shook credits an incredible team for the success and expansion of JuiceLand. The group includes several people who have been with him since the beginning, and for that Shook feels extremely grateful. Maintaining loyalty to JuiceLand’s original mission has also contributed to its lasting success amid increasing competition. "We truly believe that if we go into a neighborhood, let our people and our product shine, people are going to gravitate toward it," Shook says.
Despite the novelty of quality yet expensive "fast food," JuiceLand locations on the outskirts of Austin, including in Georgetown and Anderson Mill, have been successful. Shook admits that he never thought that JuiceLand would do well in those areas but that customers and sales have proved otherwise.
JuiceLand employees and customers alike have embraced Shook’s vision of making the world a better place by providing healthy, convenient food and drink options.
Shook was initially concerned with finding a like-minded tribe of employees and customers for the Dallas and Houston stores. However, he says the stores organically attracted high-energy employees whose vibes have in turn attracted loyal customers. Ultimately, all locations have been successful without sacrificing any of the character that makes JuiceLand unique.
Bolstered by the fact that not a single store has failed, Shook and the rest of the JuiceLand team have gained confidence over the years while expanding into other cities and states. In the beginning, Shook and his team were successful without taking any loans or big investments, because of their ingenuity. They’ve maintained this momentum by finding creative ways to utilize existing spaces or by remodeling to make new locations fit their needs.
Not only is Shook proud of offering a quality product and experience to customers, but he is also thrilled to provide opportunities to his employees, particularly through Fresh4Life, a program that grants $2,000 scholarships to four employees each year who want to pursue a passion project. The program gives employees that extra nudge to pursue their passions outside of work, and the money and support make a huge difference to creative employees. Recipients have pursued individual dreams ranging from yoga teacher training to starting a pickling company.
Another initiative, "Feel Good, Do Good," donates 50 percent of profits from a monthly limited edition smoothie to a selected organization or group focused specifically on underserved communities in immediate need. Previous recipients include the Refugee Services of Texas and the Inside Books Project, which gives books to prisoners.
While JuiceLand’s story might seem seamless, there were definitely growing pains. Shook is no stranger to this month’s theme of surrender. At the beginning, Shook was hesitant to delegate. When one of his star employees was pregnant, Shook decided to give her some of his extensive responsibilities including banking and scheduling so that she could continue working from home. After Shook realized that he could relinquish some of his duties, JuiceLand really started to take off. This woman, Heather Turner, is now the director of operations.
With the rapid expansion of JuiceLand, an additional challenge for Shook has been staying true to his commitment to use only organic vegetables. When there are shortages or during certain seasons, JuiceLand goes very deep in the supply chain to hold true to this promise. However, Shook feels it’s important to have some 100 percent organic offerings, so he continues to make it work. As far as fruit goes, JuiceLand sources organic whenever possible while making sure some of its smoothies stay at a more accessible price level.
Shook attributes much of the affordability of organic produce to the people at Whole Foods Market, "who are bringing organic awareness to the marketplace." Without this awareness, farmers would have no incentive to switch over to organic, and prices for organic foods would rise. Thanks to the growing awareness of the importance of organic practices, more farmers have switched their methods, keeping organic vegetable prices relatively stable and allowing JuiceLand to continue its commitment to quality food sourcing.
JuiceLand’s offerings don’t stop at drinks. They make food and snacks in their kitchen, based on innovative ideas from head chef David Myers. Food selections include a variety of cuisines from Mexican to Mediterranean, recreated with clean, plant-based ingredients. Original signature offerings include kale chips and trail mix, while the business outsources vegan chocolate and cookies to local vendors.
"We've always bordered on doing too much. The menu's a little bigger than it probably should be," Shook admits.
Along with the seemingly overwhelming menu, patrons might notice the lack of cohesiveness in the fonts and signage, an intentional chaos that—to the marketing director’s chagrin—Shook loves.
"I like chaos. I like people coming into a place and there being so much going on that they see something different every single time. [JuiceLand] is constantly changing and yet it's just the same."
You can’t argue with success: People seem to appreciate the consistent chaos, because they certainly keep coming back to line up for their favorite drink. Shook not only relishes his unique approach but relishes the possibilities for the future, "I don't like anything that's stagnant. I think that not only is change a constant in life but you get to kind of reinvent yourself every day if you want to. You really can be a different person and work with different ideas about what would make you happy and what would make the world a better place."
As JuiceLand continues to make award-winning drinks and expand to new cities, its roots are still firmly here in Austin, and it remains committed to fostering innovation and mindful living in Austin and in each new place it expands. Each location may be different, but no matter which you walk into, you can count on good vibes, healthy food, fresh smells, and smiling faces.
Learn more about JuiceLand’s ingredients and find the nearest location at juiceland.com.