I Love Juice Bar: Jason Collins

You know the old childhood adage — the one your mom used to sing as she spooned more greens onto your plate. Turns out that the much-used “you are what you eat” aphorism is truer than anyone thought way back when, and that clean eating is much more than a fad.

That’s why Jason Collins opened the “I love Juice Bar”—the business’ grand opening was just last week–a whole-fruit-and-vegetable juice and smoothie bar with grab ‘n’ go lunch options like salads, soups, spring rolls, local gourmet snacks and more.

Located on Fifth Avenue North, it’s as overwhelmingly vegetarian, gluten-free and organic a restaurant as one will find in downtown Franklin, with locally sourced product and plenty of “superfood” options.

“The more I’ve learned about healthy produce, its preparation and where it comes from, I’ve realized how important fresh produce and products are,” said Collins, owner of the I love Juice Bar’s downtown Franklin location.

John and Vui Hunt opened the first I love Juice Bar in Brentwood in 2013, after John lost nearly 50 pounds “juicing.” Since then, the brand has added several new locations throughout the Southeast, largely thanks to the rising popularity of juicing and the recipes created by the Hunts. Collins, who had previously worked with John on other ventures, was immediately drawn to both the Hunts’ business model and mission.

The menu, same as the one at the flagship store, works to maintain the same flavor profiles throughout each season. The Juice Bar master juicers taste test everything before juices are poured; as Collins explains it, flavors change based on season and the produce originality, and it’s key to keep the brand flavor profiles DNA consistent.

“Our founder and executive chef, Vui [pronounced Vu-EE], owned and operated VeggieLand in Atlanta for over 20 years, and she’s done some really unique things with the menu to make sure we’ve got a nice balance of core items that can create different taste profiles, whatever the time of year,” he said.

Collins and partners bought the dilapidated building back in early 2014, and spent the better part of his time since renovating and restoring the space to its pre-flood condition. Today a wooden deck ushers guests into a naturally lit dining area with locally reclaimed, hand-crafted tables and floors and framed, vintage collectables lining the walls. The result is a bright and cheery spot on Fifth Avenue that ushers drivers into Historic Downtown Franklin.

“The Heritage Foundation has long made it an objective to help with the redevelopment of the stretch of Hillsboro Road that leads into Main Street,” said Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County. “We are appreciative of Jason’s repurposing the Old Meat Locker building and bringing vibrancy to the Hillsboro Road Gateway into our downtown core.  Jason and the Juice Bar team are to be commended for making this investment in our community.”

Pearce also says that the area where the Juice Bar now stands was once the catalyst for her organization.

“A 19th-century home once stood right next door, where the strip shopping center is located,” she said. “It was torn down, too, to make way for a gas station (that was later bulldozed to make way for the present-day development). It was the loss of this house that spurred the formation of the Heritage Foundation, and to save places that matter to our community character.”

Collins says he hopes the Juice Bar will become a hub in downtown Franklin — a place where locals, walkers, joggers and cyclists will take their breaks; students will take advantage of the free Wifi; meetup groups will circle up; and professionals will strategize over the long, wooden bar that was dragged straight from the bottom of the Tennessee River.

“I’ve always wanted to open something like this in downtown Franklin. In the 1940s where once the Old Meat Locker stood now stands a spot where fresh fruits and vegetables are served daily. That’s cool,” Collins said.

The Juice Bar, located at 232 Fifth Ave. North, is open Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.ilovejuicebar.com.