Talk about a main squeeze!
Two sons of Flatbush are mixing their entrepreneurial spirit, a love of fresh juice, and their neighbors’ need of get-together and turning it into a successful business model that they say is making their beloved hometown a better place to live.
Jason Young and John Augustin are two Flatbush natives opened The Brooklyn Greenery, a juice bar and meeting place Jan. 28 after figuring Prospect Lefferts Gardens could use a place to pick up drinks usually found only in the Caribbean.
“I did Yoga teaching training and I used to come with coffee and bagels in the morning,” Young, a Brooklyn native and Trinidadian-Martiniquian American, said. “They would tell me you can’t do that, you got to drink a green juice from Liquiteria, go try one. I did eventually and I was like ‘Wow this is amazing.’ I just kept going and fell in love with it. Then I realized there’s none where I live.”
The love of the drinks also came a surprise to his parter.
“I never used to care for smoothies at all,” said Haitian American Augustin. “But when we started making smoothies and juicing on our own, we develop a passion for it,”
Both Young and Augustin saw a need for not only a juice bar in their community but for more young, black men owning businesses in the neighborhood they grew up in.
“There aren’t a lot of black businesses and I think what started to happen after we started, we realized how the image of two black men opening something that is positive and gives back to the neighborhood,” Young explained.
Located on Flatbush Avenue between Lincoln Road and Maple Street, Brooklyn Greenery feels more like a cozy, college campus coffee shop. Grass-like rugs line the front and back of the store, plush pillows along a bench provide comfort for those reading the magazines or books provided via their community book share and counter top, bar-like seating for those needing a table to lay things out on.
Hanging on the walls are colorful art pieces created by young, local artist, Imani Shanklin Roberts, on display to be sold right off the wall to an interested customer.
The business owners stay true to their mantra of making this a community space by opening their space up as a meeting place for people to converge over their tasty juices.
“We have people who come here to study, a few organizations that come here to have meetings; it’s more than just a juice bar,” Augustin said.
With back-to-school signs up, the duo hosted a block party on Beekman Place where they provided 100 kids with fully loaded book bags on Aug. 1.
“Our goal with just the way the community is changing a lot is to just bring everybody together,” Young said. Known as being drug infested and violent, Beekman Place hasn’t hosted a block party in over 17 years, according to the owners. The reaction of the residents cemented their need to continue to provide outlets for the community to be proud of the neighborhood they’ve lived in all their lives.
“We had a conversation with a guy who said his mom died on this block, my brother died on Midwood, my uncle died two blocks from here and he said this was just the best thing he’d seen,” Young said.
“We came outside — we were walking inside all day going back-and-forth — we saw everyone having a water fight, playing with the kids and it was beautiful. It looked like how the community should look all the time,” Augustin added.
The new business owners are taking this day-by-day, implementing feedback they receive from loyal and new customers, trial-and-error menu options, and constantly re-assessing their short-term, long-term goals, the aim is to focus on the now and not down-the-line.
“I feel like because this is still so new to us we try to take it month by month at least for our first year,” Augustin said. “Yeah, you can read a book and figure out how to do a five-year plan from that, but then it’ll be based on someone else’s structure. We really want this to be our own,”
The sleepless nights have thus far proven to be worth it as the owners aim to continuously improve upon their juices and the services they provide outside of it.
“I think the most important thing is that before this neighborhood goes and becomes not our neighborhood we have to establish a staple of something,” Young said.