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How sweet it is in Medford shop

Island Juice keeps customers happy with lots of fruit smoothies


— —


: Island Juice


: Fruit smoothies, with — optional herbal boosters available


: Behind Barnes and Noble — Booksellers, on Biddle Road, Medford


: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. — Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday

Franchise owner

: Bob Husel — —

One rainy March Tuesday Bob Husel walked into a shop serving fruit smoothies in Salem, and it was swamped.

He remembers the thought that hit him: This might work in Medford.

And so Island Juice, a new shop featuring fruit smoothies, opened July 19 in the shopping center behind Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Biddle Road in Medford.

Island Juice offers smoothies and 20 different vitamin and herbal boosters that can be added to drinks.

On a hot August afternoon, it's swamped, keeping two counter people busy as customers of widely varying ages line up for drinks such as the berry splash (raspberries, strawberries and blueberries), white sands (pineapple and coconut) and the rind (orange, strawberry and banana). Most are in the $3 to $4 range.

Options range from soy protein to bee pollen to lecithin. Spirulina to glutamine to echinacea.

A whole 'nother thing is wheatgrass juice, a drink made from the red wheatberry and said by aficionados to contain in a single ounce the vitamins, minerals and amino acids of more than two pounds of leafy green vegetables.

Asked if the substance's reputation for healthfulness isn't matched by its reputation for a foul taste, Husel chuckles.

We give you a piece of lime to clear your palate, he says. And some club soda for a chaser to rinse out the taste.

The stuff has its fans. The shop started with two flats of wheatgrass, ordered six the next week and now runs through three flats a day.

Husel says he figures the products appeal to young people, cyclists, athletes of all stripes, health conscious people generally. He figures the location _ he's surrounded by a bookstore, an outdoor outfitter, a cycle shop and a fitness equipment shop _ is ideal.

Husel, 48, grew up in Michigan and moved to the Rogue Valley almost 30 years ago. He started New Stage Collision, an auto body shop, in 1974.

I've seen a lot of things come and go in Medford, he says. I'll talk to shop owners who have months of backlog. We're lucky if we have a week or two. This looked like something where people will come back.

He says he told one acquaintance, Come by my new business.

My punch card's almost full, the man said.

Husel did some homework before buying a franchise. The first fruit drink shop he saw was in Mount Vernon, Wash. He says he bounced some locations he was thinking about off several Island Juice managers, and they all told him to go for one next to the bookstore.

Husel says he took his kids to an ice cream shop once after a movie and saw how happy the people were to be there _ something you don't usually see in a body shop.

I thought if I could have a business people wanted to come to, I'd like to try that, he says. I think Medford's ready.

Barbara Williams of Lake Shasta, Calif., ponders the offerings at Island Juice in Medford as employee Amber Spoonts helps another customer. - Photo by Drew Fleming