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Newlyweds open organic juice bar at Thornes Marketplace in Northampton



Last modified: Monday, December 14, 2015
NORTHAMPTON — Nourish Juice Bar, which opened in September in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace at 150 Main St., has been three years in the making.

Ashley Niles, of Colrain, and Ethan Vandermark of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, met in the summer of 2012 while working as wilderness therapy guides in Vermont.

“We started dating pretty much as soon as we met,” Niles Vandermark said.

The couple moved to Hawaii where they worked at a horticultural therapy program. They missed the change of seasons and felt isolated, so they decided to move to Northampton, where she had received her bachelor’s degree in 2010 as an Ada Comstock Scholar and two years later her master’s in elementary education, both from Smith College.

When they returned, she taught at the Smith College Campus School, and he worked as a therapeutic mentor, teaching life skills to clients at ServiceNet.

“We’ve always been into growing our own food and educating people about nutrition,” said Vandermark.

“When we moved back to this area, we felt like this was something that the area was really lacking,” Niles Vandermark added. “It’s been something that’s been in the back of our minds ever since we met: ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to own a juice bar?’ ”

Looking for a space

About a year ago, the duo began looking for a space. After one potential site in Florence fell through, they found one listed on the third floor of Thornes, but it had already been taken by Cookie Works. Richard M. Madowitz, co-owner of the Hampshire Property Management Group which owns Thornes, put them in contact with Bud Stockwell, owner of Cornucopia natural foods store, who in May offered to rent them the space across the hall for $600 a month.

The space has housed many storefronts before Nourish — Heavenly Chocolates, Cornucopia skin-care products and even another juice bar called Juice Caboose in the 1980s.

It “wasn’t in bad shape, but it was a blank slate,” Niles Vandermark said, adding that shelving, other furnishings and electrical and plumbing had to be purchased and updated, costing an estimated $10,000 to $12,000. “And we were planning our wedding in the middle of all of that.”

The couple was married Aug. 8 and opened Nourish on Sept. 12, and so far, they say business has been pretty good and steadily increasing.

“You usually see nice groups of people after a yoga class or a family coming in to try smoothies — there’s just great conversation,” said Nate Clifford, an employee of Cornucopia and regular Nourish Bar customer. “It’s been such a complementary business for us to have right across the hall. No matter what we try to carry in our store, we can’t carry fresh pressed juice … (but) anytime there’s a crowd over there, they come over here and hopefully purchase something of ours.”

Jody Doele, marketing manager for Thornes, said, “Nourish provides a wonderful service for our health-conscious shoppers. Ashley and Ethan are smart, energetic entrepreneurs and we are pleased that they have chosen to make Thornes their home.”

Challenges of organic

Nourish serves juices, smoothies and teas made from only local, organic ingredients.

“Everything we serve is 100 percent organic—always will be, we’re not going to waver from that. We source things locally whenever possible, but it’s challenging, especially with” tropical fruits, Vandermark said.

It is also difficult to keep a supply in their small space, the couple explained, as small farms only deliver one or two times per week, and they do not have the room to order in bulk.

Providing primarily locally sourced food during the winter is also a challenge.

What “we’ll get for the winter is root vegetables—beets, carrots and kale which is available for a big portion of the winter. We’re getting sprouts locally now, and those are year-round since they’re grown indoors,” Niles Vandermark said.

“We actually at this point don’t know how it’s going to work out yet since we haven’t been through it—it’s something we’ve been thinking about,” added Vandermark.

They are so dedicated to being sustainable that even their cups, gloves and straws are compostable and recyclable. All of the pulp and unused parts of fruits and vegetables are composted.

The couple is also aware of ensuring they are buying their ingredients from fair-trade producers.

Despite the challenges of buying locally, Vandermark said, “You want to support the local economy, local farmers, and you don’t have to use as much fossil fuels or whatever for transporting them.”

The couple noted that their customers are genuinely concerned about their food’s origins. “People really care about where there food is coming from — they care it’s organic and environmentally friendly,” Vandermark said.

Jeremy Earp of Northampton said he does not “consider myself an extremely healthy, juice or smoothie kind of person. I checked this place out and it’s kind of converted me.”

He added, “The two of them are excellent people, and they’re running an excellent operation.”

One of the most popular items is the “Detoxinator” juice, a beet juice with a kick of ginger. The couple describes it as the “perfect hangover cure,” because it aids in releasing toxins and does so rather quickly.

“I think it’s more than just your average organic juice bar … A lot of times the people who work there aren’t fully aware of the (health benefits), (but) when you talk to Ethan and Ashley, you know they’re trying to bring good energy and vibe in the little storefront,” Clifford said.

Nourish Juice Bar, which employs three people, is open Mondays through Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

As for the future, the owners plan to keep it simple. “Bigger isn’t better, and that’s what our motto is,” Vandermark said.