When you walk through the front doors of the Flint Farmers’ Market it’s easy to be taken aback by the forward design, the hustle of the crowds
and the amazing sights and sounds spilling forth from the individual vendor stalls. It can be hard to stand out in such a scene. But in the midst of all this activity stands a small stall adorned with distressed wood and occupied by two smiling faces.
Robbie Lash Jr. and Sarah Johnson are the duo who run Willow’s Garden Juice bar. Their enthusiastic approach to healthy living and creative spin on fresh juices and smoothies have been a favorite at the Flint Farmers’ Market for quite some time. Going back prior to the move into their space in the new building market Willow’s Garden was creating a following of sorts. “Our business changed immensely when we moved from the old location,” said Lash. “We went from barely staying afloat to our sales easily being 4-5 times higher at our peak.”
Having a steady stream of customers is important in any business but in a public market that only operates 3 times a week it is essential. “I would say our customers base is at least half regular customers,” added Lash. “Tuesday’s and Thursday’s definitely but on Saturday it goes down a little and we have a lot more diverse customer range.” The steady line of customers are often met by Lash’s partner, Sarah Johnson. Their long list of creative juice and smoothie combinations are easily explained by Johnson who is accustomed to helping folks find just the right flavor for what strikes their mood.
With such a variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to choose from the combinations can seem endless. For Lash and Johnson coming up with new combinations is a welcomed challenge. “I would say around 70-80 percent of our product comes from the market itself,” he said.
They often feature specials which highlight the ever changing seasonal offerings at the Market. “We have various books and did a lot of research on the Internet, but ultimately it was a combination of that and trial and error,” explained Lash. “A lot of our daily specials are the latter, experimenting new things for the menu.”
Along with experimenting on new menu items comes the thought of expansion into new products. Raw juices and freshly created smoothies have been popular for years. But the new kid on the block, so to speak, is Kombucha Tea. Willow’s Garden may soon carry this fermented brew. “We are currently working on brewing kombucha tea, we are starting some batches at home and are working on how to scale up the process,” said Lash. “Also we are going to start selling acai bowls, a blended base with various fruit and nut toppings.”
As for plans to expand beyond the Flint Farmers’ Market, Lash and Johnson are taking it one step at at time. They are in no rush to take on more than they can handle and do not want to jeopardize their current business by spreading themselves too thin. “We absolutely will but we are waiting for the right time for us,” he added.
Serves 2- Makes approx. 32 oz.
1 Cup Crushed Ice
2 T. All Natural Peanut Butter
1 Cup Organic Vanilla Yogurt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 Cup Quick Oats
2 T. Honey
Add all ingredients to blender and puree on high until well combined. You may need to stop half way through and scrape down the sides of the blender. Divide into 2 cups and garnish with dusted cinnamon.