Thirty years after Chris Goode’s grandmother helped drop him off for daycare at Operation Breakthrough on Troost Avenue, the entrepreneur is expanding the juicery that bears her name — Ruby Jean’s — to a site less than a block away.
“It’s crazy how life comes full circle,” said Goode, Ruby Jean’s Juicery founder. “I’m 33 now and I’m standing literally across the street in a beautiful space that we’re about to open to the public.”
The move to 30th and Troost wasn’t intentional, but came thanks to another business owner who is a staunch proponent of the east side and urban development, Goode said.
While working to relaunch his juicery’s location in Westport, he was connected by Sheryl Vickers, owner of Select Sites, to a developer working on the Wonder Lofts project in the Troost corridor. The idea: Bring Ruby Jean’s to a catty-corner storefront — a former Wonder Bread bakery outlet, he said.
“The irony of it floored me,” Goode said of the proximity to Operation Breakthrough, which offers daycare and afterschool activities, health services and parent programming for income-restricted families.
When the new Ruby Jean’s store opens in October, he said, his grandmother’s face will look down across Troost from above the front door of the 5,000-square-foot space.
“This is a great move for us to be a part of the resurgence of Troost,” he said. “We’re kind of an early adopter. There’s a lot of development that’s slated for this corridor, but we’re one of the first to really have a true, brand-new buildout.”
The size and versatility of the space was a big draw as the Ruby Jean’s brand — along with logistical demands — grows, he said.
“We needed a feeder to satisfy orders for our own cold-pressed juices, our cleanses. We needed a hub with space to maneuver, to have storage for pallets and bottles and packages,” Goode said. “So, now we have that, and I think it’s in the perfect spot.”
The Troost facility will be Goode’s fourth location, with a Ruby Jean’s launched this summer downtown, an in-progress site in Westport, and a juice bar located within the coincidentally-named Ruby’s Market in Springfield, Missouri. A fifth Ruby Jean’s is expected to open inside the Price Chopper at North Oak Trafficway and NE Barry Road, Goode announced this week. A launch date for the grocery store location has not yet been announced.
Debuting as the first Ruby Jean’s Kitchen and Juicery concept, the Troost store is set to offer the business’ full line of juices, but also made-to-order, fresh, healthy foods, Goode said.
The new menu will feature such fare as salads, gluten-free pancakes, loaded sweet potato bowls, rice cake sliders and a healthy spin on kale and collard greens, he said. Serving breakfast, lunch and heavier afternoon options, Goode said he expects the store to close at about 6 p.m., after serving people traveling home from work.
“I look at Ruby Jean’s as a beacon of light, a way to unite people, no matter what they look like, how much money they have, whether they’re healthy or not already, where they came from. None of it matters,” Goode said. “We service CEOs, banks and professional athletes, but also … diabetes patients, obese patients, cancer patients, and everything in between: young, old, rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, everybody.”
“I don’t care what you look like,” he added. “Come hang out in a cool environment around the topic of health.”
The space will have an open-air, welcoming feel, Goode said, in part thanks to three large, glass garage doors that open to the sidewalk outside.
“And when we close them, we still have that light feature,” he said. “To me, it feels like Saturday. Saturday has a feeling, and this space already has that really airy vibe.”
The store’s bar — where customers can order food and juice items — features a wood component that mixes natural elements with pops of color that speak to the vibrancy of Ruby Jean’s juices, Goode said.
A long communal table running through the store also has a meaning beyond its practical purpose as a place to set drinks, he said.
“The goal is to create a sense of community where you maybe are not sitting across from someone you know, and there’s a conversation that spawns just from the seating,” Goode said.
That sense of dialogue and unity will be reflected in a mural set to span the whole south wall of the store. Goode wants the artwork to be a message that the city’s past doesn’t define it, he said.
“Troost is the red line for Kansas City. Back in the day, it was the line of segregation. East of Troost was dedicated to minorities and the poor. West of Troost was for the more affluent groups. The city was strategically made that way,” Goode said. “Now, we get to be a part of that conversation, to say, ‘That’s a thing of the past. And this is about unity.’ I want our mural to show multicultural families drinking juice and enjoying this corridor for what it truly is, and what it should be, as opposed to what it was made to be in the past.”
What about Westport?
The development of the Troost project put the relaunch of Goode’s original, flagship Ruby Jean’s store on hold, he said.
“I’ve delayed Westport until spring to really give this Troost launch the attention it deserves, not to be overshadowed by anything else. Because it’s special. It’s monumental,” he said. “This place is going to be super dope, beautiful.”
Still, Westport remains a significant part of Ruby Jean’s brand, he said. The location is expected to reopen in March, two doors away from its previous location — also with food offerings.
“I look at Westport as such an opportunity,” Goode said. “We had a really good customer flow, but people were getting a drink and then going somewhere unhealthy to eat.”
He’d rather hungry Westport-goers get their fill of Ruby Jean’s rice cake sliders than less-healthful nearby tacos or pizza, he said.
“Choosing that is OK, but if we can instead capture those customers, and they can stay and have coffee and food, it’s much more of a well-rounded concept,” he said.