Meet the Juice Bar That Wants to Be the Starbucks of the Wellness World

Photos: Joe & The Juice

Imagine you're hanging out at Starbucks, surrounded by people drinking lattes while tapping away on their laptops, reading magazines, and catching up with friends. Now imagine that the majority of people around you are sipping green juices instead.

Sound a bit like heaven? That's the exact vibe you'll see IRL at juice bar-cum-cafe Joe & The Juice, a Danish-born mini-empire that's set to majorly expand in the US this year.

If there's a chain that's up to the task of enticing more people to drink down their greens (and their carrots, and their beets, and...), it could be this one. After all, when Joe & The Juice first opened in Denmark in 2002, there were no juice bars to speak of in the Scandinavian country. Now, 40 percent of their sales in Northern Europe come from veggie-packed orders alone (more than double that of coffee).

As for that US invasion: Although currently in just New York City and San Francisco, Joe & The Juice has ambitious goals for 2017. It helps that, in late 2016, US private equity firm Valedo acquired the brand, ensuring that expansion stateside remains a priority.

Could a Scandinavian chain finally offer up a healthy alternative to the coffee behemoth?

Keep reading for five things to know about Joe & The Juice—before you start seeing it everywhere.

Joe & The Juice juice bar

1. It was started by Denmark's youngest black belt in karate

Founder Kasper Basse was, at the time Joe & The Juice opened, the youngest black belt in karate in Denmark. "He was a professional athlete and really into nutrition," adds Kasper Garnell, one of the brand's partners. After traveling to the States and Japan, Basse saw juices were totally a thing and brought the concept back home with him—with the twist of selling them in a Starbucks-esque setting.

2. It's already huge in Scandinavia

Step inside any one of the 161 stores scattered throughout 11 countries (the bulk are in Scandinavia, where Joe & The Juice is as recognizable as that green mermaid) and you'll find a menu of coffee, juices, wellness shots, sandwiches, and even healthy milkshakes (think vanilla milk with avocado and banana), as well as plenty of couches and leather chairs to sink into after you order.

Joe & The Juice seating area

3. It's way bigger than your typical juice shop

Not only is Joe & The Juice cozier, it's also much more spacious than the standing-room-only setups you're probably used to. When the brand opened its first US location in New York City in 2015, they opted for a 2,200 square foot space on a coveted Soho street. According to Garnell, there were plenty of critics. "People were like, 'Are you insane?' All the other juice bars in that area were about one-tenth of the size," he says. "But after we opened, everyone was like, 'I get it now! This is more of a place to hang out and chill.'"

More than a year later, the Soho shop has shown to be fruitful enough that the brand is now expanding to Miami next month, Los Angeles in March, and more US cities to come. (Garnell says they plan on starting with the coastal cities and working their way inward—saving the best for last, Midwest!)

4. Even though it sells coffee, juice is its thing

"In the Soho store, 20 percent of sales come from coffee, 30 from juice, and the rest is from food," Garnell says of the split between coffee-lovers and juice-sippers. Finally, a neutral ground where everyone can peacefully coexist!

5. Staying a while is encouraged

"We believe in the healthy things we're providing, but we're really focused on the in-store experience," Garnell explains. "We want people to feel like they're hanging out in someone's living room, having fun, and just feeling an overall good vibe. It's something that doesn't really exist in the US in the juice space." For now, at least.

While you're waiting on Joe & The Juice to come to your city, check out these healthy drinks you can order at Starbucks—it turns out there's a whole better-for-you secret menu. Plus, these are the inflammation-fighting seasonal beverages that are replacing pumpkins spice lattes and eggnog.

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