On Dunville Avenue there’s a beard floating in the air, it’s subtle at first but then you catch yourself smiling and mouthing to yourself, ‘is that wooden beard a shop sign? Woah, now that’s pretty cool!’
‘We went through thousands of names and bought thousands of domains before we settled on Green Beards,’ says Kevin Johnstone. ‘When we were planning the business we wanted to make it approachable, it’s about two guys getting into green and having fun with it.’
Ray O’Hara and Kevin Johnstone founded Green beards twenty-one months ago. Their store is in the pretty village of Ranalegh, just a short distance from Dublin’s City Centre. It used to be an a shoe shop but now it’s cold press juice joint. The style is sparse but warm, a paradox of sorts.
Firstly let’s do a crash course on juicing and why it’s a secret to immortality… OK that’s a tad facitious however the founder of the movement did live to the grand old age of ninety-nine with all his marbles intact.
Regular blenders that people are more familiar with for juicing create heat as they use centrifugal force to pulverise fruits and vegetables into juice. The key difference is that cold press, as the name suggests, does not use heat. It crushes the fruit and vegetables first and then presses them. You retain the most amount of nutrients with this approach as mimimum heat is created, heat breaks down nutrients. Cold press juicing machines are for the most part more expensive then blenders, however if you want the best return in health investment then this is the option you should take.
The Norwalk is the name of the first cold press juicing machine that was invented by Norman W. Walker. He’s the chap that lived to nearly one hundred and the more astute readers will note the name of his invention is his first and last name combined… blended even. He’s a very intriguing character in his own right. He became a convert to the benefits of cold press juices when he was recovering from a nervous breakdown in France. He watched as a woman was peeling carrots in the kitchen and then felt the moistness of the underside of the peel. He then decided to try grinding them and had his first cup of carrot juice.
He had quite the chequered career, in 1933 the New York Times wrote, ‘an indeterminate penitentiary term of not more than three years was imposed by Judge Allen in General Sessions yesterday on Norman Walker, 47 years old.’ The reason for this was that he advertised that if people embarked on a six week course at The Broughton Institute of Ortho-Dietetics for a fee that he would have a job lined up for them after, however no jobs materialized so the students took him to court.
After that he moved west to California and started a juice bar, then he invented the Norwalk and started producing it out of a barn in Utah along the way he had frequent run ins with local authories. The Norwalk is still being made today out of The States and Green Beards make their juices from it. It’s a beautiful machine with a timeless design that does not betray the chaos of it’s inventor’s history.
Their friendship began in University College Dublin, both were studying commerce. It’s a risk going into business with a friend, ‘it’s like sharing a house with a friend, there are ceratin traits that you look for. Neither of us realised it at the time that we were so well suited. A year down the line we work so much together but we still go out and socialise together too,’ says O’Hara.
O’Hara was working in tech before Green Beards, ‘I used to find that I was lacking in energy which I found odd especially as I was only in my twenties. I started to develop an interest in diet and nutrition, that’s what led to getting a juicer.’
Johnstone started off in finance and then moved over to advertising whilst living in London, ‘I was coming to the realistation that the corporate life was not for me so I knew I had to make a jump eventually.’ And so they jumped into juice but it took several years for them to realise that that was what they wanted to do. They both say that the seed for the business took a while to develop. ‘I lived in Toronto and London and could see how far ahead they were, the lines outside salad bars at lunch times made me take notice,’ shares Johnstone. O’Hara too was noticing this trend whilst in The States, ‘when I went to a wedding in Santa Babara and saw all the salad bars and juice bars, it reaffirmed what I was thinking. Even talking to taxi drivers reinforced that, they would talk about drinking wheatgrass, I could sense a wave turning.’
Both these men radiate health, yes what a shocker! But they do, and they are not one bit smug, it would be so much easier for people to begrudge them if they were but they ain’t. They are humble, polite and very handsome, so the moral of this story is that if you drink their cold press juices you too can be a likeable good looking person. For the record there was no sarcasm implied in that last sentence.
There is no denying that both these men have a presence, an innocent self assuredness combined with a very approachable laid back nature. They are at Snoop Dog level of chill. It seems to run in O’Hara’s family, ‘I was in NYC with my cousin once and this guy tried to rob his bike, he pulled a weapon on him. Anyhow my cousin was so relaxed about it, he gave the guy the bike which shocked the would be robber so much that he gave him back the bike!’
Johnstone puts it down to the juicing, ‘we never thought that we would be working with fruit and vegetables, it’s actually quite Zen! We are definitely really happy with what we are doing.
When Ray and I first started out we were working in his kitchen doing fourteen hour shifts, we just were making juices for family and friends. We prepped, chopped, peeled and juiced. We’d be working for hours and would just get into a routine, listening to music as we worked. It was during that time that we figured out a production system, we were constantly chipping away at it and making improvements. There was something really nice about doing something very manual, we slept so well!’
A key brand tenet for them is to be approachable. ‘When you go into traditional health food store there are so many products and it can be overwhelming! We only have a certain amount of produce and it’s stuff that we are familiar with. We realise that it’s a struggle to be healthy, we want help in a non-judgmental way,’ says O’Hara.
The quirky sign and name betrays the fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously. When challenged that their world can be isolating maybe even elitist to some people they smile, ‘we see ourselves as educators. People are really curious about it all. We offer them a sample and talk them through the menu. The samples help give them a little push, we convey to them that the juices are a tasty addition to their diet.’
They really don’t need to defend their business as it’s thriving, over the summer their pop-up on Baggot street helped them get the concept in front of more people.
These friends love explaining to people about the benefits of cold press juices, their personalities are no doubt one of the biggest reasons for their success. They put you at ease regardless of your age or background and the world needs more welcoming people like them.
You can learn more about Green Beards here.