How the House of Juice Is Becoming a Community HomeDanii Oliver is building a healthy, juice-focused oasis in Brooklyn.Published: March 04, 2019
Danii Oliver’s inspiration for launching a business came from a personal place.
“Having grown up very sick with food allergies and gluten intolerance, it got to the point where my weight was continuously increasing and that bothered me,” she says, sitting at the bar of House of Juice’s taproom on Rogers Avenue in the heart of the Prospect Lefferts-Gardens section of Brooklyn. “I thought I was being healthy, but I decided to figure out what I really needed to make my body function.”
This experience sent Oliver on a deep dive through the American food system. She devoured articles in medical journals devoted to researching pesticides and chemicals and their effect on the human body. She binged documentaries on the subject, most notably the 2007 film King Corn. (“If I had known what I know now back then, I would have created a documentary, not a juice bar,” Oliver says). One scene resonates with her to this day, an incident where the documentarians request information from the corn syrup manufacturers, only to be stonewalled.
If they won’t tell you what’s going on, how could it be good for you? Oliver wondered.
“So I learned about everything and I made changes,” Oliver said. “And as I made changes, the weight melted off.”
Then, Oliver got pregnant, effectively doubling down her desire to unlock the secrets of good health. Reflecting on her experiences as a sick child, she knew that it wouldn’t be that way for her baby—and that’s more or less where the idea for House of Juice originates.
"I was just alone and like, ‘hey guys, want to come have a drink with me?’”
“I was working as a bartender and mixologist. So in my postpartum time, I would practice my craft but with fruits and vegetables, no alcohol,” Oliver says. “I started to juice and publish my results on Facebook. I wasn’t even thinking about it as ‘part of my journey’ or what have you. I was just alone and like, ‘hey guys, want to come have a drink with me?’”
Almost immediately, Oliver’s community on Facebook began bombarding her with interest. Friends would ask if she delivered, despite the fact that she hadn’t planned to make the juice for anyone but herself and her child. To really gauge interest, Oliver outlined a 10-day juice program for her Facebook friends to follow along on. The results were undeniable—rave reviews flooded in from the Caribbean, Europe, anywhere that Oliver’s network extended.
So Oliver incorporated.
The House of Juice taproom on Rogers is a railroad style layout, with an open kitchen towards the back of the space and a patio in the back of the building. In the basement is a small but extraordinarily efficient brewery setup, complete with fermenting tanks for kombucha and kegs for spirits.
Part of House of Juice’s mission is extreme transparency, which takes form in the operation’s “seed to spirits” program. No matter what you’re drinking, Oliver and her staff can show you every part of their process on site. Whether it’s the the exact fruit and vegetables that went into your drink, the seeds those vegetables came from, or even eerie-looking fermented phase of your beverage, you can see it all. Take the elements presented as a flight or simply look around the space.
The government did not understand what the hell kombucha was.
This is informative, but it’s also part of the fun. “Instead of sitting here and watching sports on a TV screen, you can look at the jars of fermented fruit and vegetables and think, what the hell is that?” Oliver says.
While part of House of Juice’s mission is to serve the community, that’s been the toughest goal to achieve so far. Oliver wanted her friends and neighbors to have access to her product, but landlords and farmers bristled at her vision. They told her that it wasn’t possible to establish a high-end juice business in a neighborhood with a median household income of $45k, not to mention a franchise that offered liquor, beer, and food alongside juice offerings.
But Oliver kept pushing. House of Juice has only been a business for four years, but the taproom operation continues to expand. Each year, they’ve acquired new permits and permissions, and House of Juice is finally beginning to grow into Oliver’s dream location.
“I intended to open with all three aspects of the business in place, which was which was non-alcoholic, fermented and alcoholic all together,” Oliver says. “But landlords did not see that vision. The government did not understand what the hell kombucha was. And then I had to have everything up and running to show the federal government to get my brewery license. Things didn't happen all at once. People thought I was lying, they gave up on me. But I stuck with it.”
As Oliver learned during her initial sojourn into the world of juicing, education takes time. House of Juice hosts classes and events at the brewery and also sponsors a program called “Feed 1000 Kids,” where House of Juice takes free juice and smoothies out into the community. It’s a process—one that might be a little longer than Oliver would like—but the early returns are promising.
“You won’t find that most of my customers are local and that’s just not something I can fight” says Oliver, reflecting on the state of the business. “We started in containers in Brownsville, and did pop-ups all over the city. And then finally, we got our own space.”
“Having a single location is the world.”
This story is a part of The Goods™, a series about the stuff we have, the stuff we love, and the intersection between the two.