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Hitting punchline at Julie’s smoothie bar


DONNA SEALY

Hitting punchline at Julie’s smoothie bar

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JULIE GITTENS-GEORGE knows she is onto something good, given the number of customers urging her to expand.

The Lodge School old scholar has been operating Punchline Juice & Smoothie Bar Barbados for about two years and despite the strident suggestions for her to set up other branches, she is taking one step at a time.

The Punchline bar started in New York City where she met her husband, who was into “the fresh squeeze and the holistic type of stuff because he’s Rastafarian”. She said that he had a restaurant/juice bar and the revenue was so good they decided to get into that aspect fully.

“That was about eight years ago. A little less than two years ago I kept hinting to him that I wanted to leave New York. I was tired of New York and he asked where I wanted to go. I said: ‘Anywhere warm, anywhere south’. He asked: ‘What about Barbados?’ and I said: ‘Really? My little island? Sure’.

“It’s been doing okay. With God’s blessing it’s been doing okay and I hope it succeeds even more,” she said.

Gittens-George said that while obtaining the building was easy and hassle-free, organising and dealing with the bureaucratic red tape was not and her husband was ready to give up. He listened to her urges not to and they eventually opened for business.

“Since we’ve been here, I’ve been able to get the welcome back from Bajans, whether they were friends or people who realised I’d been away for so long. I realised that Barbados has become a very health conscious place and I love that,” she said.

Customers get more than a drink when they stop by. They often ask her about the various juices and ingredients to use when they are not feeling well or if they just want to boost their immunity. She also shares what they can purchase to blend their own juices at home. She loves their interaction and “helping them in any way”.

“Whether it’s dieting, whether it’s things they want to do to lose weight, iron complex, a skin problem . . . That’s what we try to do here. We do a lot of fresh squeeze blends and we have a list of different ailments you might have and you blend what we tell you is there on it.

“I let them know they can take a picture, take it home, use the same items at home to make whatever drink, or if they want to eat it. It’s all good for what they might have.

“We also do drinks protein wise, for people who want to build muscle, for those who want to have a shake rather than a meal. We do a lot of different types of drinks here,” Gittens-George said.

In addition to the vegan offerings, fish and non-dairy ice-cream that she makes are also on the menu.

Which aspect of the business does she like the most?

“I love the customer interaction but I love being my own boss. I love it. It is a change, it is a little challenging but I like it. I try to know everybody by name. If there’s a casual customer that I don’t know by name, I talk with them and hopefully they will be back and if they are, it’s even better. I try to remember certain things about them that we can talk, have conversation and keep them invited,” she said.

Starting any new business is not easy and the businesswomansaid that when Punchline opened the “weekend just before Crop Over 2014”, they made drinks for sampling outside the store and “different places around the area”.

As word spread, they got more customers when the business was really up and running.

Now back to those calls for expansion.

“I’ve been asked, I’ve been requested to put one in Warrens, put one in Town and put one somewhere up in Speightstown. I tell them: ‘Listen, if I can get some collateral and get someone to sponsor me in all kinds of ways, believe you me, I would love to do it.

“I also have people coming from Warrens and Wildey who say: ‘I’m coming over here just for your food. Then they’re others who say we need to deliver. Don’t worry, we’re getting there, give us some time and keep praying for us. I would love to have a few more here but I don’t want to compete with anyone either,” Gittens-George said with a smile. (GBM)

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