Organic, fresh, and delicious—the smoothies, snacks, and power bowls at Juicekeys come from the nutritional expertise the owners gained through their personal journeys back to health.
By Beth Peterson
Photos by Joe Reale
What kind of key can open the door to better health? A juice key! But this is no riddle; siblings and Raleigh natives, Kelly Young Weger and Chris Young, are co-owners of Juicekeys, a 100 percent organic juice and smoothie bar located in North Raleigh.
“Let food be thy medicine.” Hippocrates was really onto something, and after a long and winding health journey of her own, Kelly vouches for the ancient physician’s 2500-year-old claim. A competitive gymnast until she was injured at the age of 16, Kelly says she merely “got by” on the standard American diet. It wasn’t until after her injury—which prevented her from maintaining the level of physical fitness she was used to (and that competitive gymnastics required)—that she felt the pressure to diet.
Kelly counted calories. She used artificial sweeteners. She avoided fat. She tried all of the fad diets, but slowly realized that dieting was not synonymous with healthful living. As she learned more and more about nutrition, she focused less and less on dieting.
“Little seeds were planted along the way,” Kelly says. The first small step toward helping her body “run toward better health” was simply to choose more organic foods over conventional foods.
It wasn’t long before Kelly had acquired a juicer, to the end of incorporating more fresh fruit and vegetable juices into her diet. She felt she was now solidly on a path to a healthier self—her energy levels increased and she felt stronger and healthier than she had in years. Her passion led her to the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she earned a second degree as a health educator.
Naturally, Kelly was eager to share what she was learning with her loved ones. Her brother, Chris, a marine deployed overseas, began receiving increasingly unusual care packages. Along with favorites from home, such as store-bought energy drinks, Kelly stashed algae supplements into Chris’ care packages, hinting at a healthier alternative. (By the way, if algae supplements sound strange to you, you’re not alone: Chris thought the same thing when he received his first shipment in Afghanistan, and the supplements in question may or may not have found their way to the nearest trash bin—but that’s classified.)
Chris had to forge his own path to better health. These days, he prefers chugging a glass of freshly juiced wheatgrass over any unnaturally blue energy drink. His first exploits into the world of juicing came while stationed in Twentynine Palms, California, where he worked as an instructor for the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. Enter Natural Sister’s Café, a juicebar and restaurant located about 15 miles to the west of Twentynine Palms in Joshua Tree, California. The café became an oasis of healthier food choices for Chris, sustaining him physically and emotionally during his grueling stint in the desert. Before leaving California, Chris earned a business degree from the University of Southern California, all the while experimenting with juicing in his own kitchen.
“Hey, do you want to open a juice bar?”
Chris, ever the go-getter, went after his sister, Kelly, as soon as he finished business school at USC. He couldn’t think of anyone better suited as a business partner. Holding a communications degree herself from N.C. State, Kelly’s gifts included extreme attention to detail, extensive nutritional training, and creativity in the kitchen.
Thinking big, Chris and Kelly started small. Their father and uncle, co-owners of Heritage Remodel and Design, kindly shared a bit of their office space in North Raleigh.
Nowadays, Juicekeys commands the entire lower level. The living room–like storefront, which is a happy result of sharing space with a home-remodeling business, opens to a seating area that looks and feels like sitting in a friend’s kitchen. Beyond that, you’ll find an al fresco–style space that makes you feel like you’re lounging on a lovely patio. The kitchen is just beyond that and, while it is a busy place, Kelly and Chris have done an excellent job of making the entire store feel restful and rejuvenating.
So, what’s to eat (or drink, for that matter)? Well, both, actually. Kelly has created an extensive menu of juices, power bowls, smoothies, snacks, hot beverages, “power shots,” and cleanses—all 100 percent organic, all from scratch. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the selection, but the friendly faces running the registers are more than happy to make suggestions. The Mo’ Mocha smoothie is the perfect solution for a chocolate craving, sans guilt. The Orange Vitality juice is truly vibrant, and the Pear-Licious tastes infinitely more complex than the three simple ingredients it contains.
Kelly and Chris have found a delightful way to share their knowledge and passion. Visit them at the original Juicekeys location, 5011 Falls of Neuse Road, or at the new Juicekeys store, located in Lafayette Village at 8450 Honeycutt Road. Connect with them at Juicekeys.com and on Facebook and Instagram.