The founders of DROUGHT, a Royal Oak-based cold-pressed raw juice company, always meant to open a location in Ann Arbor, but it wasn't until this July that they finally felt the time was right.
"We've always been quite interested in the Ann Arbor market," says Julie James, one of four sisters who founded DROUGHT a little over five years ago. "It's always been on our radar because the Ann Arbor crowd really embraces wellness."
The juice company now has two locations in Royal Oak, one in Plymouth, one in Detroit, one in Bloomfield Hills, and now a sixth location at 204 E. Washington in Ann Arbor, which opened for business July 14.
Ann Arbor's Wednesday night farmers market was one of the first places the sisters tried out their juices before launching into full-scale production.
DROUGHT's first retail location was in Plymouth, and the James sisters expected to expand into Ann Arbor next. However, because they decided to use a space in Ferndale for production, James says it made more sense to expand into the Detroit suburbs first, especially since the sisters were initially transporting juices using cooler packs.
"Since we got refrigerator trucks, it's now easier to expand further away from our production space," James says.
In addition to cold, bottled juices now available at the Ann Arbor store, this autumn the sisters will add a line of curated wellness products, such as supplements and hand and body lotions, James says.
James says she expects DROUGHT to catch on quickly in Ann Arbor, because Ann Arbor area residents are "already very educated about the benefits of raw juicing."
James says the co-founders do little formal advertising and tend to thrive on word of mouth.
"True customer testimonials are our best resource," she says. "It can be an emotional purchase to spend that much on yourself, $10 for a bottle of juice, but that's because it takes three to five pounds of organic produce to make one bottle. We're not out there trying to convince anyone, but they'll often hear about it from a friend who recommends us."
James says DROUGHT is currently in the process of building out a 15,000-square-foot production facility in Berkley, which will allow the company to expand both its retail operations and its wholesale market. About 30 markets around the Midwest carry DROUGHT juices, but James says the company will be able to expand into many more markets when the production facility remodel is done.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of DROUGHT.