Romeo’s Smoothies and Juices in Salem Spice at Pickering Wharf gets upgrade with new kitchen, new possibilities.
by Joey Phoenix
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Romeo’s Juices opened their juice bar inside Salem Spice at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA in 2019. In doing so, they brought their pop-up smoothie and juice stand to where their customers will always know where to find them.
Jesenia Morales, an alum of the EforAll Business Accelerator Program in Lynn is the talent behind Romeo’s Smoothies and Juices, serving up smoothie bowls, wellness shots, alternative milks, mocktails, and traditional smoothies.
Her decade to becoming master of juices started when her cousin pointed out a juicer that had been collecting dust in her kitchen. “When I started loving juice and incorporating these juices and smoothies into my diet, it had an immediate impact,” Jesenia recalled, “Within two weeks of starting to make these smoothies and juices, my migraines disappeared.
“I used to take preventative medication for them because they were so severe.”
A former bartender and mixologist with a penchant for fusing fresh new flavors together, Jesenia admitted that health and wellness just had never been a priority for her. She quickly transitioned from the bartender lifestyle which she described as “off-scale,” with late-night meals and a laissez-faire attitude about eating well.
When she started juicing, it started changing the way she thought about taking care of her own health and wellness as well as her interactions with others.
“The deeper I got into it, the more I started knowing about myself, about plants, and about the benefits of community and having accessibility to things.
And then I thought, wait, I should make this a business.”
But How Do You Start a Business?
Jesenia went to school at Lynn Tech and always hoped that she would one day be able to become an entrepreneur. When she decided to turn her new passion for making juices into a business, she wasn’t quite sure where to start. So, in 2018, she started talking to people about it and putting out feelers to see what was even possible.
Her first stop was at the Enterprise Center at Salem State University, where she attended enterprise workshops and started to form a plan about how to form her business. It was also around that time that she met up with an advisor who was part of the Salem Small Business Association to talk about what it would take to open a juice bar.
“She crushed my dreams,” Jesenia remembered. “She said, you don’t have enough money to start a business.”
This realization broke Jesenia’s confidence for a little while. Yet, with the support of friends, she was able to quickly recover and start looking for a second opinion. This search brought her to the North Shore Latino Business Association (NSLBA) in Lynn, and through them, EforAll, a non-profit specializing in helping budding entrepreneurs launch new ventures.
Unfortunately, however, the timing seemed to be off. Jesenia had just missed the deadline for being accepted into their year-long Accelerator Program. Undaunted, she went in for an interview anyways.
“I went in there and everything just came spilling out. I told them I wanted a juice bar and I don’t have money and what do I do, please help me?
“They just told me ‘You’ve come to the perfect place.”
Although she had missed the deadline for the Accelerator program in English, she wasn’t too late to get on board for the pitch contest that coming Saturday. The catch? It was in Spanish. Although Jesenia is fluid in Spanish, it wasn’t her primary language.
“I knew I could do it, but I also knew I really needed to rehearse and go over it a million times, which is what I did. And then I won the grand prize.”
From Pop-Up Juice Bar to Brick and Mortar
This contest opened the door for Jesenia to be able to finally have the resources she needed to open her Juice Bar, but the issue of capital was still at the forefront. While someday she would most likely be able to open a brick and mortar location, Jesenia, with the encouragement of the instructors and mentors through EforAll, started her business juice journey with a pop-up model.
“I started making the juice, I started sampling it to people, I started selling it to people,” she said. “I wanted feedback and knew all of the details would be able to come later. And hopefully, the money would too.”
In the early months, she brought Romeo’s Pop-up Juice Bar to wherever it made sense: including farmers’ markets in Salem and Danvers, festivals in Lynn, block parties, and events in Cambridge. But the beginnings were difficult.
“I had spent my last dollar from bartending to transition into the juice bar, and then money coming in from the juice bar was invested right into the company. I learned a lot, it definitely humbled me,” she said.
Now, in 2020, Jesenia has a permanent spot with a kitchen inside of Salem Spice, where she is open Wednesday through Sunday. When the kitchen opened in January, it made her business processes much more streamlined.
“It’s so much easier working in a kitchen that’s a foot away rather than a kitchen you have to drive to, take everything with you, and once you’re done in an event you have to dump everything because you don’t have a kitchen to put it back into.”
And while she’s still doing pop-ups all over the North Shore and in Greater Boston, she’s really grateful to have a place she can call home.
“It changed my business dramatically, in such a good way, it also opened up my eyes to what I can do. It gave me so many more possibilities.”
Romeo’s Smoothie and Juice Bar is open daily from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm (except Tuesdays). Check out the menu here.
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