July 14 2010 12:00 AM

’Drinking your lunch’ is hardly a disgrace at Eden’s Juice




Patrons recently celebrated the grand opening of Eden’s Juice in downtown Lansing. The juice bar, in business since March, welcomed friends — both old and new, celebrities and average Joes — to select from an expanded menu of healthy juices and more.

Owner Vernon Richard’s vision is to make a slice of the Midwest trimmer and healthier, thanks to an array of delicious drinks — sans artificial flavors, preservatives, added sugar or syrup — all made with whole, natural foods.

“I’m proud to say we have nothing but healthy foods here,” Richard said. “It’s important because childhood obesity and diabetes have become such big problems.”

Richard says having run a soul food restaurant — with its delicious but calorie-dense and often nutrient-sparse foods — in Detroit a few years back helped open his eyes to how important it is to eat and serve meals that build up the body.

“Doing that made me conscious of what we are eating, even though at the time we were doing very good business,” Richard said. Inspiration hit as he walked through an airport and noticed a juice bar, spurring him to think such an enterprise just might work in Lansing.

Having family and friends in professional sports helps keep Richard thinking lean. When the idea for Eden’s Juice lit Richard up, he was on his way to visit his cousin (and biggest cheerleader), Steve Smith, former NBA and Michigan State University basketball star. Smith stopped by for the grand opening, along with another former MSU basketball icon.

“I know this is going to be a success if it’s run by Vernon,” said Mateen Cleaves, the leader of MSU’s 2000 National Championship team.

“I told Vernon this will be my second home away from home, I’m going to hold all my meetings here,” Cleaves added, with his characteristic shining smile. “I might ask him for a key.”

Charles Tucker, longtime local basketball guru, frequents Eden’s Juice and admits to being a proud health nut.

“I usually stop at the health food store every day. But my favorite drink here is the banana nut bread,” made with bananas, almonds and soy milk, Tucker said.

For the business crowd downtown, Eden’s Juice can be a quick, healthy lunch. The juices and smoothies act as a meal replacement and pack a nutritional punch with multiple servings of fruits and vegetables.

The Body Cleanser ($4.59) is a raw juice drink that combines apples, beets, carrots, cucumbers, ginger and parsley. The passion fruit ice tea ($2.79) is hand-shaken and filled with probiotics, little micro-organism critters believed to confer health benefits on their host once ingested.

For a quick jolt in the middle of a never-ending Tuesday, there are the matcha energy shots. Matcha is a green tea rich in antioxidants; a double shot of it is served with 8 ounces of soy milk or orange juice for $3.59. And frozen yogurt ($2.99-$5.25) makes for a less guilt-ridden afternoon treat, offered in flavors ranging from blueberry to pomegranate to key lime.

For a quick bite in the morning breakfast is available, too. Parfaits are $4.25, or a quick bowl of oatmeal is $2.49. If you have a couple of minutes, a homemade Belgian waffle runs $4.99.

Like most downtown eateries, the 9-to-5 crowd will be Richard’s bread and butter — or maybe his fruit and yogurt?

However the metaphor works, Richard is happy to set up shop in an area experiencing growth.

“I wanted to be a part of the movement happening downtown, with Cooley, the Accident Fund, LCC. I wanted to attach myself to a thriving community,” he said.

In the end, Eden’s Juice will depend on how enthusiastically the area embraces better eating habits. For some, like the perpetually health-conscious Tucker, it’s an idea long overdue.

“I’m very glad to see a place like this operate in downtown Lansing,” Tucker said. “Now I don’t have to go to East Lansing all the time.”

Eden’s Juice

111 S. Washington Square, Lansing 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday- Friday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday Closed Sunday TO, $ (517) 372-7700 www.edensjuice.com