Wake Forest Foodies: Village Juice
Passion in Every Bottle and Bite: Village Juice Expands
Village Juice, Winston-Salem’s cult favorite juicery-turned-restaurant, has outgrown its space on Stratford Road thanks to an ever-growing demand for freshly pressed juice and locally sourced, organic food.
The owners of Village Juice, Nathan Atkinson (’98) and wife Lonnie, along with business partner Clyde Harris (’98), recently opened a second restaurant in the new commissary kitchen downtown in the former Quality Glass building. They are also expanding their partnership with Wake Forest this fall by opening a full-service restaurant in the current Bistro34 location near Farrell Hall.
The owners of the business have their hands full at the moment, but Village Juice has humble beginnings and ties to Wake Forest.
Nathan and Clyde were roommates at the university for two years. Meanwhile, Lonnie was living in Los Angeles before she married Nathan. She wanted to launch her own juice business to share her passion for the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, which helped her mother in her fight with lung cancer.
Clyde’s personal health journey also made him passionate about juicing and healthy eating. Twelve years ago, he was diagnosed with stage 4 sarcoma.
“The first thing I did was buy a juicer,” Clyde said. “I was trying to help my body be healthy and strong by combining modern and alternative medicine. Nathan and I became the support system to make Lonnie’s dream happen.”
The team perfected their recipes and invested in a juicer they still use today. They began production in a commercial kitchen in 2015 and sold juice three days a week. Wake Forest MBA graduate Elizabeth Lucas-Averett (’01) then approached the trio with the idea of taking the juicery to a full-scale restaurant concept.
“Lonnie had the passion and the talent, and we both shared the same vision,” said Lucas-Averett, a Village Juice co-founder and investor, who is now the managing partner of The Trivista Group, a consulting firm that specializes in new business model development. “We worked together to create the business model but also a unique experience that you couldn’t find in Winston-Salem.”
As continued success brings expansion, the Village Juice owners reflected on what it took to grow to this point. Nathan noted how his Wake Forest degree helped him develop important critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and added that the Wake Forest network has contributed significantly to their success.
For Lonnie, passion has been the team’s X factor. “Passion keeps you from giving up when it gets hard,” she said. “We started with two employees, grew to more than 30, and will hire 20 more for the new locations. By feeding people, we’re helping to make them happy and healthy. It’s really energizing to be part of the healthy, sustainable eating movement.”