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June 17, 2004

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Jamba: Drink the Juice, Join the Cult +

All I've been hearing about from friends, people at work, and random young women on the street or waiting in line at Tasti D-Lite is the new Jamba Juice stores that have opened in a few midtown locations. If you're still among the unenlightened, Jamba Juice is a huge chain based in San Francisco. My native west coast colleagues say that out there it's "everywhere, like Starbucks." The comparison appears to be accurate, based on the enormous list of California stores on the website.

The new New York flagship store at 47th St and Broadway had its official Grand Opening yesterday, after being open for a week to work out all the bugs. I stopped by at 5:30, and enjoyed the in-store DJ spinning No Doubt remixes on his set of fancy Pioneer CD turntable mixing decks, the live bongo player, the live snare drum player, and the troupe of 9 people dressed in banana suits dancing half-heartedly on a stage set up outside on Broadway. I could understand the boredom of the dancers--they had probably been there since 8:30 that morning when Agent 0019 took this photo of them. Some of them looked young and spry in their fishnet tights, and they juggled and kicked with some enthusiasm, while the guy who looked like an aging, haggard Joshua Jackson mostly stood around and talked to the other bananas, oblivious to the crowd of juice-sippers watching the show.

The juice was pretty good, and I sucked it down in about 6 minutes. I had the Caribbean Passion smoothie with a free "Femme Boost" supplement that apparently will help "let my girl power prevail," even though most of the "femme"-oriented nutrients in the boost, like folic acid, calcium, and soy, are really only needed specifically for women when one is either pregnant or menopausal. I encourage as many men as possible to order a Femme Boost with their Jamba Juice.

There were a few design flaws. The counter area that you first see when you enter the store from either entrance (on Broadway or on 7th Avenue) is the place where drinks are picked up. Every single person who entered the store while I was in there first joined the crowd of people waiting to pick up their drinks, looked around confusedly, then eventually realized they had to order their drink from the counter area in the middle of the store. Not the most intuitive layout.

Whole Foods grocery stores have a licensing agreement with Jamba Juice, and many of their stores have Jamba Juice stands in them. However, due to Whole Foods' commitment to selling only products made from natural ingredients, they do not offer the low-calorie "Enlightened Smoothies" in their stores. These drinks are made with Splenda¬ô, a sweetener that is some kind of creepy synthesized form of sugar that contains no calories. Jamba Juice goes out of its way to state that Splenda is natural and non-carcinogenic, but apparently it still does not conform to the Whole Foods philosophy. [tx Emily]

15 more stores are planned for New York over the next year or two. I doubt that New Yorkers will become as entranced by this chain as west coasters are, but who knows? Maybe one day our most beloved frivolous specialty snack shop Rice To Riches will open an L.A. branch. - Amy

Actually, Amy, both men and women only consume about half the calcium they need, and your folate can be depleted through excessive drinking. It's never too early to start protecting your bone density, people - so take that free Femme boost!

The sadder thing about Jamba Juice is that a company based on providing a natural, healthful snack/beverage is forced by the market to introduce artificially-flavored drinks and defend the fact that its product contains carbs. But it seems to be working - there were at least 20 people in front of me in line at the Columbus Circle branch a few weeks ago, and the line at the 42nd street store was out the door yesterday afternoon. Damn, that Berry Fulfilling is some good shit. - Emily

categories: Business, NYC
posted by amy at 12:38 PM | #