On a chance visit to the legendary BJ’s, my parents purchased a Jack Lalane power juicer for the house growing up. That thing would end up traveling with me to Poultney for college, then to Rutland, Putney, Brattleboro, back to Rutland, to Maine and now to my home in Richford.
Because all of my friends are farmers, I abused that juicer on a daily basis: whether it was garlic scapes, fresh beets, lettuce, herbs or sweet potatoes, I tried out thousands of combinations of fruits, veggies and flavors to infuse my diet with an extra dose of the earth’s vitamins.
Alas, my beloved juicer has since been retired after suffering a stripped screw, and being fairly new to town I was elated to find that I would not have to go without my juice fix for very long thanks to the Perez family and their bountiful menu of immunity-boosting juices, smoothie bowls, wraps and toasts, a dream come true for a journalist on-the-go.
Even COVID couldn’t kill the Main Squeeze on Main Street, and co-owner Lucia Perez even said that now going on their second year, their menu will continue to grow.
The juice masters
New Mexico native Lucia and her Texas-born husband Jeremy moved to St. Albans just over a decade ago, she an educator and he an echocardiologist.
“We fell in love with the area, and decided it was a really great place to raise a family,” Perez said.
Once vegetarians, the Perez family now practices a vegan lifestyle, and in making time to raise their family they found that it was finally time to bring the bounty of their kitchen to the streets of St. Albans to share with others.
“Health has always been our passion,” Lucia said. “And the area was lacking a place to get food that was fresh and healthy, so we decided to make a change.”
Beginning with their own family juicer, the Perez' started their health and vitality-minded cafe almost two years ago, offering vegan mylks, customized juices and smoothies, bowls, toasts and kombucha all to promote affordable and nutritious options for the working Vermonter.
“Surprisingly, people here were ready for it,” Lucia said. “They were ready for a healthy option that we thought would do really well, and we’ve been really well received from the community. And from outside the community too.”
My favorite of their juices is their C-Monster, a bright and flavor-packed combination of freshly-pressed kiwi, strawberry, pineapple, orange, lemon, parsley, spinach and water kefir that is both sweet and slightly tart, the perfect pick-me-up for a fast-paced afternoon.
Starting a new business
Starting any new business can be an intimidating endeavor, but the Perez family pressed on, determined to see their dream business thrive.
“We started out with our own personal juicer,” Lucia said. “The most difficult part was figuring out how to manage a business. It was a lot of trial and error, and we really depended on hiring a lot of people to help get us started.”
Because many of their salads, wraps and bulk items were grab-and-go style, the Main Squeeze didn’t feel a crippling pressure during the heat of the pandemic, and found it could quickly adapt to more online ordering and delivering curbside service.
Ever looking onward, the family is dreaming up unique and flavor-packed additions to their menu, all filled with nutrient-dense, plant-based nutrition.
The jars they sell their juices in are reusable, too: whether its 12 or 16-ounces, the glass jars can be rinsed and returned to the restaurant for a 50-cent refund.
Words of advice?
While new businesses can become fragile in their earliest years, the Perez family said the wit, grit and determination to succeed came first from the heart.
“Find your niche, and don’t stray too far from it at first,” Lucia said. “Be passionate about what you do, because that helps keep focus.”