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How Green Juice Saved a Man's Liver and Launched Juice Shop

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There's a lot of hype when it comes to juicing and cleansing, and we're never really sure how much of it's legit. But Charlie Gulick's health journey tells a much greater tale than that of just another fad diet. As a freshman in high school, he returned from a surfing trip to Central America having contracted a rare liver condition called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. Doctors told him he faced a lifetime of health battles—and that he would eventually need a liver transplant. Gulick and his family sought alternative solutions, and he eventually checked into the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he was placed on a strict regimen that emphasized raw, vegan foods and juice. After six weeks, Gulick's health improved drastically and his liver checked out as normal. The doctors called it a miracle.

Juice Shop officially began a few years after Gulick's recovery. Following his return to his family's home in the Outer Sunset with his health restored, Gulick's family joined in on the green juicing to support the eldest son's health journey. Eventually friends and neighbors were asking for juice, and that's how the Gulick brothers (Charlie, Ben, and Jake)—and now, Charlie's wife Lina—decided to launch the business. Currently with three store locations in SF (Cow Hollow, Hayes Valley, and FiDi) and one location at the Town Center at Corte Madera in Marin, Juice Shop continues to grow with demand. The fifth shop will open by the end of this month in SoMa. Read on to learn more about Gulick's thoughts on juicing and cleanses, the challenges of growing his juice business, and his own personal juicing (and surfing) schedule.

Your health journey is astounding. How did your personal relationship with juicing shape Juice Shop into its present form?
"After that surf trip and being sick for about six years, and to finally feel better—it really helped me to see the transformational power of juices and what I like to call a regimen. When I first came back from the Hippocrates Health Institute, my family was making quarts of juice, fresh everyday, out of our home kitchen. Friends and neighbors would ask for some for themselves. Eventually it grew to a point where we had to move into a central kitchen to keep up with demand. But by then, we knew we had something that people wanted and needed. And we actually approached the guys at WoodShop to learn about growing a brand and a business before we attempted building Juice Shop. Then we started with home delivery before growing into our first store on Union Street.

When did you launch? What was the juice landscape in SF like at the time you decided to sell your juice?
"It was 2008 and there weren't any retailers at that time that sold fresh, green juice from thoughtfully sourced ingredients and in glass bottles. It wasn't like what it's like now. From what I learned at the Institute, it's best to drink fresh and live. But it's not always possible for people to make their own juice in their own kitchens every day. So that was the goal of opening Juice Shop: to provide people with an alternative source for the freshest juices with a real focus on the ingredients. The sourcing was the most challenging part. Oh, and working with the health department to ensure the quality and safety of our live, non-pasteurized juices."

What's your current relationship with juicing? How frequently do you juice cleanse?
"I still drink juice everyday—at least one time per day and up to four to five times tops. For cleanses, I'll do one a few times a year. But I plan in advance for them and roll it into a monthly plan. My wife, on the other hand, likes to do one day per week, and that regimen really works for her. She looks forward to that day every week."

And what's your stance on cleanses? They always seem to be a controversial topic in the health and fitness worlds.
"I don't think cleanses are for everyone. Cleanses need to be used intelligently, and the person using the cleanse needs to consciously think about food before and after the cleanse. You can't finish one then eat a steak. In the cold-pressed juice form, the nutrients are in an instantly absorbable state. And it's a great resting period for your digestive tract. That being said, we don't like to push the cleanses. And in general, people should be really aware of the company's practices going into a cleanse and to be sure that the juices aren't compromised—that they're really live, fresh, organic juices."

Do you have any tips for those looking to try a juice cleanse for the first time?
"We offer four super-basic levels and one is an intro level that uses both fruit and veggie juices. Even though strictly green juices lie best within our core values, we think it's important to offer an easier regimen for those starting out with cleanses. And to start, any incremental amount of time is a good starting point. For the full benefits of a juice fast, we recommend five days. But to begin with, one day is a good start."

What have been some of your biggest challenges with growing Juice Shop?
"I think a big challenge is trying to educate and inform our customers about juicing and not just selling the product. It's also been a challenge working with the Health Department from a food safety standpoint. But it's also rewarding to be a guiding force for developing the proper protocol for raw juice."

What are the biggest rewards?
"One is the opportunity to create a business that supports our "family," which includes all our great employees, too. Another is working with my siblings and my wife. I get to spend a lot of time with the people I love. And finally, to be a part of something that I'm committed and passionate about is very meaningful for me."

And, just have to ask, are your killer posters for sale? The ones that say "Drink Juice, Go Surfing"?
"No, not yet, but so many people ask for them, I think we'll have to start! Those posters are from Western Editions. Those girls are amazing. They make all our letterpress."

Okay, now for the lightning round…
Veg or Fruit?
"Veg"

Sweet or Bitter?
"Bitter"

Ocean or Mountain?
"That's easy, ocean"

Twin fin or quad?
"Twin fin"

City or country?
"Used to be more city, but now, more and more, country"
· Juice Shop [Official Site]
· All Better Know A Store Owner posts [Racked SF]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked SF]