Monday, June 17, 2024

Clean Juice closes downtown, Mayfaire still open

Clean Juice shuttered its downtown location at the corner of Grace and Front streets on Sunday, Sept. 10. A note tacked to the door thanked customers for their “loyalty and patronage.” The Mayfaire location will continue to operate. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — A popular healthy food restaurant with two locations operational in Wilmington has now dwindled to one.

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Clean Juice shuttered its downtown location at the corner of Grace and Front streets on Sunday, Sept. 10. A note tacked to the door thanked customers for their “loyalty and patronage.” The Mayfaire location will continue to operate, according to owner Lane West.

“My hope is at least some of the business that we had at the downtown location will transfer back out to Mayfaire,” he said.

A note was tacked to the door on Sunday, Sept. 10 announcing the downtown store’s closure. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

The restaurateur purchased both local Clean Juices from Dawn and Allen Tyndall in January 2023. West has owned a Clean Juice franchise in Pinehurst for five years now and also owns a Pure Barre with his wife in the sandhill region of the state.

According to West, the downtown Wilmington Clean Juice faced setbacks and challenges over the last few years. Aside from overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic, it also was shuttered for months due to the North Front Street Streetscape Project.

The city, in partnership with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, had to tear up the roads to replace 1940’s water and sewage piping in a $3.5-million project along two blocks of North Front Street. It closed the 200 and 300 blocks — Clean Juice was located at 300 N. Front St. — to road traffic, though sidewalks were open. The project began in April 2022 and wasn’t completed until January 2023.

At least one business closed during its construction — Local 910 — while others confirmed the project hindered their bottom line. 

New Elements Gallery manager Daphne Cole told Port City Daily last fall she was able to pinpoint at least one $5,000 sale the gallery missed out on due to the construction. A couple that traveled from Raleigh to make the purchase turned around and drove home when they couldn’t find access for a wheelchair due to limited parking options and road closures.

Smoke Box manager Robbin Emarn called the construction project part of a financially burdensome “domino effect” for businesses coming out of a pandemic and related shutdowns. She also told PCD last year customers “couldn’t find their way” through the maze of construction to open businesses.

West confirmed Clean Juice took a hit.

“It did very little business on a daily basis, but I could see what it had done in the past, and I just thought it would rebound since they opened the streets back up from being closed for almost a year,” he said. “I thought there would be tremendous foot traffic that would come back to Clean Juice. Quite honestly, it just didn’t happen.”

The restaurateur — who also has a full-time job in corporate America and believes in processes that keep a consistent product — said he spent money on advertising, community engagement, and invested in the downtown operation to salvage it.

“It’s a great product, a good brand,” West said. “And, you know, I believe in it or I wouldn’t have bought into it.”

Clean Juice started in 2015 in Huntersville, North Carolina, founded by Kat and Landon Eckles. A USDA-certified organic juice bar, it specializes in fresh juices and smoothies, as well as healthy food items, such as avocado, almond butter and seasonal sprouted toasts, oatmeal bowls and acai bowls, granola and fruit. 

Before moving to Pinehurst, West lived in nearby Cornelius when the first Clean Juice launched in the Birkdale shopping center in Huntersville. West’s wife always worked out at Pure Barre there, located beside the flagship drinkery. 

“In conversations with the owners, we basically kept telling them they needed to open a Clean Juice down here,” West said of the sandhill region. “They finally had enough and said, ‘Well, maybe you guys need to open one.’”

Today, Clean Juice has more than 100 locations in multiple states. The Mayfaire operation opened in 2016 and was corporately owned until 2018. The Eckels sold it to the Tyndalls, who then opened Wilmington’s second store downtown by the beginning of January 2019 (they also own a Durham store). 

A little more than a year later, the pandemic swept across the world and changed the restaurant industry, as well as other business sectors in ways unimaginable. West said he was able to stay afloat in Pinehurst due to a hefty takeout program and curbside pick-up offerings. He had DIY options for people to build their own favorite Clean Juice items at home. 

“And it really worked for us,” West said. 

“Still, in recent years, the economy hasn’t been good. It is just tough right now,” he added. “Ask pretty much anybody that’s in the restaurant business or the fast-casual business — it’s difficult.”

West is in the process of clearing out the Front Street location. Aside from investing “thousands of dollars” on improving the downtown space, he said he is leaving it in a better condition than before. A sign was already up for lease inquiries on Sunday; West said he wasn’t privy to information regarding interested renters or businesses moving in.

The restaurateur is looking to donate the commercial equipment to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which he works with in Moore County. The downtown store housed a large three-door freezer and refrigerator, as well as one-door refrigerator, two freezer drawer units, floor cooler and a cold prep table.

While a third franchise isn’t in the works quite yet for West, it doesn’t mean there isn’t potential in the tri-county region, he confirmed. In fact, he and his wife plan to eventually move to the southeastern North Carolina coast in coming years, one of the main reasons they bought franchises here.

“It’s always potentially on the table,” he said about expanding — with a pause. “I’m weighing my silence because I have looked at another area there, but before something like that would happen, I would have to get downtown fully closed and be sure that Mayfaire is up and running well. … but Mayfaire’s always been a good spot.”

Mayfaire’s Clean Juice at 917 Innovation Drive will continue to operate Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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