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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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(Courtesy Shizu Okusa/Jrink.)

Catching up with Jrink: new stores, new flavors and plans for Spring Valley shop

Health-conscious AU students, especially those who frequent The Davenport Coffee Lounge, are probably already familiar with Jrink. For a time, the company’s colorful, cold-pressed juices were available as a healthier alternative to the campus mainstay’s usual caffeinated concoctions. While the company no longer delivers to The Dav, Jrink may be back in the AU neighborhood soon — and that’s because co-founder Shizu Okusa has had a very busy year.

Since speaking with The Eagle about a year ago, Okusa has opened three more retail spaces in Blagden Alley, Metro Center and Fall Church — plus three or four more scheduled to open by the end of the year, with one confirmed in Foggy Bottom. Jrink has also created several new flavors, including the recently released Stateside Superfood and the October-appropriate Pumpkin Chai.

The cold-press process keeps more nutrients intact than traditional centrifugal juicing, making Jrink one of the healthiest and freshest beverages you’ll find in the city. But the process also means the juices are unpasteurized which, for some wholesale partners like The Dav, proved difficult to keep up with.

“Things sent out wholesale tend to be processed, so they have a longer shelf life,” Okusa said. “But for us, it’s just the shelf life of the fruits or vegetables, about five days or so.”

Keeping up with fresh juices proved challenging, especially for coffee shops where health drinks are hardly the focus, according to Okusa. Deliveries to campus became tougher to pull off, but Okusa thinks there’s still a market in the AU neighborhood.

(Courtesy Laura Ting.)

“We’re thinking about opening a location in Spring Valley, so we’d be right near AU, ” Okusa said.

While no official word was given as to when the opening could be expected, students may find more than just juice moving into the neighborhood in the coming months.

“We’ve done a lot of hiring, but we’re always looking for good people for our retail locations,” Okusa said. “We’d definitely consider candidates from AU, we’ve hired [AU students] before, and they’ve been great.”

More retail locations means Jrink needs more juice, and Okusa has been equally busy ramping up production as she has expanding the company’s brick and mortar retail. Once a prime example of the small, endearingly local businesses that populate Union Kitchen, Okusa decided the company needed more kitchen space to accommodate Jrink’s year long growth spurt.

“We moved out of Union Kitchen not quite a year ago, but we love our new space,” Okusa said. “It’s our own kitchen, it’s 2,500 square feet, we have tons of cooler space — we had maybe three shelves at Union Kitchen — so that’s been very exciting.”

Even the nimblest of niche and local businesses can get worn out after a year of rapid expansion. At this point, Jrink could take a moment to breathe easy — Okusa has definitely earned it. But her forward momentum is unyielding, and the company’s growth is unlikely to stop here. Okusa’s Wall Street background imbues her with a “what’s next?” attitude that’s constantly pushing Jrink onward.

“It’s been a humbling year, I think. We’ve grown a lot, but I also don’t think we’ve outgrown anyone,” Okusa said. “We have a great team right now, but we’re still figuring lots of things out — and I think that resonates with students more than anyone. We’re still expanding, we’re growing as a business, but it’s important for us to remember we’re growing as people too.”

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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