A Concord business continued to receive support from the community and flourish in the midst of a pandemic, thanks to a social media movement that put a spotlight on supporting local Black-owned businesses.
With the economic impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, an employee urged her Twitter followers last month to buy from Pure Juice and Smoothie Lounge – boosting the juice bar’s presence in the Concord community and beyond.
The influx of customers brought joy to owner Jamel Major.
“With everything going on in the Black Lives Matter movement, it was a very good response and people have been very supportive,” he said. “We were hit hard with COVID-19 and the lockdown. We had to cut some staffing and hours, making everything takeout orders.
“It’s been a struggle,” Major added, “but we try to focus on what we can control on our end. We use social media as much as possible and stick it through.”
Against the odds
Pure Juice and Smoothie Lounge’s opened in North Concord on Mother’s Day in 2018, making it Major’s second of three locations. With quirky products like “Can You Feel the Beet” and “Do You Speak Spinach,” Major’s business became a popular spot for health-oriented customers in the Concord community, whom he describes as “loyal.”
Major’s journey from his childhood in the projects of the south side of Buffalo, N.Y., to becoming a Bay Area business owner was not easy.
“All the odds were against me,” the 38-year-old said in an Instagram post. “I didn’t know anyone here, and I didn’t have a car, job or place to stay. All I had was a strong belief in myself.”
A healthy push
Major had a passion to influence others with a healthy lifestyle he didn’t have growing up. Working with foster youth, he realized “there weren’t many healthy options out here in this area. I would meet clients in the community and always want to take them out to a healthy place to eat.”
So he decided to take matters into his own hands. He teamed up with Dr. Derell Blackburn, whom he met at a previous job doing case management work at Upward Bound in Hayward. The two founded their first location in Union City on June 2, 2016.
Blackburn moved to Arizona for a career opportunity, which made Major the sole owner in 2019. Major is also the new co-owner of the Lettuce Inn, a vegan restaurant in Concord. The Lettuce Inn recently announced that they will be opening an Oakland location in 2021.
Through hard work, Major accomplished his dream of having his story heard one day. But he’s not done yet and is already making plans for post-coronavirus life.
“I’m hoping that I can focus on expanding and creating more jobs, and promote more healthy living to other communities,” he said.