Meet the duo with long-held plans to open Root Juicery in downtown Port Huron

·4 min read
Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker, left, have plans to open Root Juicery at 206 Huron Ave., hoping to serve as a to-go option for healthy foods in downtown Port Huron.
Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker, left, have plans to open Root Juicery at 206 Huron Ave., hoping to serve as a to-go option for healthy foods in downtown Port Huron.

The juice bar long-slated to open inside the Ballentine building in downtown Port Huron has a name.

So far, however, the partners developing Root Juicery don’t have a firm timeline to open.

Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker have been chipping away at the storefront and basement space at 206 Huron Ave. for a couple of years already.

A custom wooden counter area and booths are installed, and a spiral staircase leads to a basement where they plan to keep an assembly of refrigerators and a wheatgrass grow operation. They also envision large screens to keep updated menus instead of chalkboards along the main level’s brick wall, as well as a refrigerated area where they’ll put to-go items on sale.

And while they don’t have an opening date, they have figured out much of the other details about menu offerings and who they hope to serve.

Chiefly among those goals, the duo said, is to serve as a daytime option for healthy eaters — both those exiting the nearby Afterburn Fitness Club and lunch-goers looking for to-go items.

Payton said that includes cold-press juices and a variety of already made foods, such as wraps or salads, as well as dry goods that could be “a healthy alternative to potato chips” and protein bars.

“You’ll also be able to order a smoothie with banana or steel-cut oats, or those wheatgrass shots in addition,” Payton said while touring the space early Wednesday. “The only thing they’ll try to make sure people know is if you’re trying to get that eight minutes, you’re not going to if you’re ordering a smoothie. If you want to grab and go, we can probably get you in and out.”

“If people only have half an hour for lunch, and they’ve got to wait in line for 25 minutes, it’s just not going to work. So, we’d like to give people their lunch so they can enjoy it,” Becker added. “And we want to keep the menu simple because our prep area is not huge.”

The Root Juicery’s signage — bold lettering accented by the graphic of a beet — got the OK from the city’s historic district commission on Tuesday.

After the meeting, Payton acknowledged it as a tangible step that helped propel their project forward. But on Wednesday, he said they “want to have more ducks in a row” before setting a firm timeline for other steps needed before they open.

Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker, right, chitchat inside the storefront for 206 Huron Ave., where they plan to open Root Juicery, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Though some renovations have begun, the two had no set timeline to open.
Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker, right, chitchat inside the storefront for 206 Huron Ave., where they plan to open Root Juicery, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Though some renovations have begun, the two had no set timeline to open.

How the juice bar idea came about

Payton and Becker, who also works at the Vintage, said they’ve been friends since they were teenagers.

On Tuesday, Payton said his friend had originally approached him about opening a business, though it took time to determine what that would be.

In all, Becker said they went through several different concepts.

“Completely different. Farm to table. There was a ramen shop on the table at one time, and we looked at quite a few locations in town and then just stumbled on this place,” he said Wednesday. “We sat down and said, ‘Well, what does downtown need and what do we want to do?’ And Jeff has a lot of experience in just his personal life in juicing. We thought, ‘Let’s do something healthy.’ We got this great location, and it is right down here on Huron Avenue.”

The redeveloped Ballentine building itself, including upper-story lofts, was unveiled more than two years ago. Developer Larry Jones has been open about keeping the space at 206 Huron for a juice bar, though he was initially mum on who’d operate the business.

Last week, he said he agreed the juicery and Afterburn would complement each other.

Payton said that Jones had been generous with letting them take their time in getting things for Root Juicery off the ground after its development was stymied by COVID, material and equipment delays, and permitting logistics.

The space for the juice bar long-slated to open in downtown Port Huron's Ballentine building includes a basement where Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker, right, said they plan to refrigerator an array of produce and keep a wheatgrass grow operation.
The space for the juice bar long-slated to open in downtown Port Huron's Ballentine building includes a basement where Jeff Payton, who owns the Vintage Tavern, and long-time friend Craig Becker, right, said they plan to refrigerator an array of produce and keep a wheatgrass grow operation.

He and Becker expected to toy with when they’d be open daily once business starts, but they planned morning and afternoon hours overall.

Becker said the establishment wouldn’t “lend itself to a dinner” spot.

Payton said they were also weighing ideas like including refrigerated setups within or nearby other establishments centered around health and fitness, such as the YMCA or Port Huron McLaren.

Their goal to help people stay, as Payton put it, “healthy, healthy, healthy” was somewhat backed by the pandemic. Becker said they hoped to create a bigger awareness among customers about what they’re eating and how it boosts their immune systems.

Payton said part of that is helping people’s palate adjust to the natural tastes and sweetness of fruits and veggies they’d keep as ingredients with others like sprouts, field greens and quinoa.

“Big healthy words like that,” he said. “If you want to add a supplement of, let’s say, turmeric, glucosamine, protein power, immune boosters, wheatgrass, we could (do that).”

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: Meet the duo with long-held plans to open juice bar in downtown Port Huron

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