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A smoothie bar sprouts amid Iowa cornfields

(Photo: Jenna Holt for Well+Good)
The Purple Cucumber is set in the tiny college town of Grinnell, Iowa. Customers who bring back the mason jar containers for their next smoothie get a discount. (Photo: Jenna Holt for Well+Good)

In tiny Grinnell, Iowa, in a storefront where a BBQ joint stood just last year, Midwesterners are now ordering Piña-Kale-Lottas instead of pulled pork.

Located smack dab in the middle of the cornfields, Grinnell is home to about 9,000 residents and the small but highly regarded liberal arts school Grinnell College—and until now its dining options have not extended much beyond steakhouses and fast food.

But that didn’t stop Melissa Berman from opening a cozy smoothie bar, The Purple Cucumber, in March.

“Grinnell deserves a smoothie shop,” the former stay-at-home mom says. “I want to get people to look at food in a different way. A change needs to happen, and if it can happen through food, let’s do it.”

After years of struggling with health problems, Berman took an integrative nutrition class that inspired her to make serious changes to her diet, but she was frustrated by the lack of healthy options in Grinnell.

(Photo Credit: Jenna Holt for Well+Good)
(Photo: Jenna Holt for Well+Good)

So she set up shop with her Vitamix just two blocks from the college campus, where she created a menu that includes green smoothies with added superfoods like chia, ginger, and flaxseed and “gateway” drinks, AKA fruit smoothies, for those who may be new to sipping blended spinach. All have been taste-tested and approved by Berman’s three kids and her husband, who she claims is more of a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy.

The shop also supports local farmers and grocers and stocks as much organic produce as possible. And, so far, in this unlikely town, the Purple Cucumber is catching on. Says Berman, “People who haven’t been exposed to real food, locals, college kids—they’re all excited.” —Jenna Holt

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