A Smooth Move
A Whitman couple opens up a smoothie joint
September 25, 2017
I walked past Harvest Smoothie Co. on my way home from town. It sits in the parking lot adjacent to the former Bacon & Eggs, behind Baker-Ferguson Fitness Center. Twinkly lights hang overhead and small metal tables are adorned with mossy plant arrangements. Intrigued by the name, I ordered the “Liger,” a shot of lime ginger with apple and kale juice. I took the shot first and then chased it with the juice, but apparently I was supposed to drop it in like a Jägerbomb. Either way, I could feel the magical powers of ginger at work.
“The whole idea of it is an immunity shot,” Nicole Oriah told me. “So you’re getting a huge gulp of natural medicine.”
I met Oriah and her partner Marc Goff ‘20, who owns the business, a week later in the Reid Campus Center basement. They’re both full time students. He’s a sociology major at Whitman, she studies early childhood education at the Walla Walla Community College. They also have a four year-old daughter who accompanied them to our meeting, and two weeks ago, they opened up Harvest Smoothie Co. in a small red trailer.
“Time,” Oriah said, when I asked what the biggest challenge of the project was so far. Goff agreed, but said there was something else, too.
“There’s a fear barrier, for me at least.”
Goff’s been in the food industry for about a decade, working at restaurants in and around Walla Walla. He grew up with a passion for food, and while he enjoyed the fast paced and team oriented nature of restaurant work, he was disillusioned by other aspects of the industry’s culture.
“[There was] a lack of creativity and a lack of recognition in what you’re trying to do or what you’d like to do,” Goff said. “So I guess Marx would say alienation.”
In a world of Amazonian Whole Foods, haunted by the specter of Wal-Mart grocery delivery, Goff is ready for a change.
“It is my way of resisting some of the effects of this corporate efficiency-based restaurants,” he said of the project. “It’s not about a profit gain. If I wanted to make a profit, I would sell cheap fruit smoothies. It’s my way of giving.”
Giving is the focus of Harvest Smoothie Co. They named their apple juice after Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” Beyond nutritious drinks, Goff and Oriah are brainstorming a number of ways to benefit the Walla Walla community. Locally-sourced produce from small farms is a start, but their vision goes much further.
Among their ideas are a breakfast program at Lincoln High School, a focus on hiring local students and potentially connecting with people who were formerly incarcerated.
Oriah noted that many who are incarcerated have undergone adverse childhood experiences; neglect and various other types of abuse. As a survivor of childhood trauma, Oriah hopes to use her own experience to help others in difficult situations.
“The idea is to help everybody at any stage they’re at, no matter what their age is,” she said.
In hiring students, Goff and Oriah hope to encourage creativity, allowing employees to invent their own recipes and connect with their work. The couple also hopes to show students where the ingredients come from – bringing them to local farms and letting them pick fruits and vegetables.
I asked Goff and Oriah if they’re worried about finances.
“It’s terrifying,” he replied. “We’re all in. Everything we have is in this.”
Goff bought the trailer off a friend in March, and spent the summer with his daughter preparing to open the shop. Oriah was working at Capital Barber Shop at the time – she spent seven years as a cosmetologist, but recently quit. Goff described a feeling familiar to anyone about to start a big project: gingerly stepping out onto a limb – crossing the threshold from imagination to reality.
“It’s as if [future projects] have already happened – it’s as if I’m already there in that future world, but I don’t know if I’m ready for it,” he said. “I’m fearful of completing what I have in front of me, because I know that when I do there’s always more.”
I asked him what keeps him going and he paused for a while.
“It’s a rebellion,” he said. “Fuelled by this desire to somehow justify the world.”
Harvest Smoothie Co, at 509 E. Main Street, is open Friday 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.