Tyler Lafferty and Nick Murto, arguably two of Spokane’s busiest entrepreneurs, are intensely passionate about socially responsible business practices as well as sustainability and good health, a few reasons they opened Method Juice Café two years ago in downtown Spokane.
The café is an all-organic juice bar and cafe located at 718 W. Riverside in downtown Spokane. Choices at the all-vegan breakfast and lunch bar include plant-based juices and smoothies, salads and rice bowls as well as a few other specialty items. The café occupies about 1,800 square feet of space, with the seating and prep space taking up about 800 square feet of that.
Food items include rice bowls made with quinoa, brown rice and vegetables, salads, soups and Good Oats, a mixture of oats, raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon, made especially for the cafe. Hummus with vegetables is also on the menu, as well as other healthy, snack foods.
Juices and smoothies sell for $7, salads for $6 and rice bowls vary in price.
About 10 employees work both full and part time at the café, including full-time manager Amy Robinson, who has been with Murto and Lafferty since the idea for the restaurant was hatched more than two years ago.
Murto says he started toying with the idea of the vegan lifestyle and then got into juicing for the health benefits a little over three years ago.
Although business has been good and the café has a loyal following, it’s just breaking even, Murto says, largely because of the high cost of organic produce. Murto says being all organic isn’t as easy as it seems. He says it had a hard time finding a source for organic turmeric, which has been touted for its anti-inflammatory properties and is used in some of the café’s juices. The owners had to go to Hawaii to find a farmer who grows it organically.
“This farmer grows only three things on this little three-acre farm, and one of the things he grows is turmeric,” Murto says. While on vacation there, he says he stopped to visit the farm, which has been operating for many years.
Murto says Method Juice Café is committed to keeping prices low, and as long as the business can “take care of itself,” the benefits of the restaurant outweigh the risks. He says the benefit to the community is paramount.
“It doesn’t really make money for Tyler and I, but we think it’s a good thing, and we’re proud of it,” he says.
Lafferty and Murto also co-own two digital ad agencies called Seven2 and 14Four, and operate three other Spokane startups. Those include Access2Experience, an online site matching volunteers with education programs; Passenger Pets, an online photo business featuring life-sized photos of favorite pets; and Good Oats, an organic oatmeal food distributor. For every Good Oats container sold at the café, the restaurant donates one container to Second Harvest Food Bank, the Spokane-based regional food bank, Murto says.
Before deciding to open the café, Murto says he and Lafferty had been eating all sorts of processed, artificial and less-than-healthy foods. After trying a plant-based diet that incorporated daily juices, they were amazed they had more energy, lost weight, and just generally felt better, Murto says. They experimented with their own organic recipes, blending juices from fruits and vegetables and say they soon incorporated a daily juicing routine.
Travel to both coasts is a big part of his job at the digital ad agencies Murto says, and finding juice bars in New York and Los Angeles was easy, but not so much in Spokane.
“Juice bars were everywhere when we traveled,” Murto says. “But then we’d get back to Spokane and there were no juice bars here at all, especially organic juices.”
He says besides eating healthy and having food that is easy to transport back to work, the idea of sustainability and providing organic and local food were high on the list of priorities for the business.
In keeping with those ideals, all the items used in the café such as napkins, utensils, cups, and rice bowl clamshells are compostable. Even pulp, extracted from the fruit after juicing, is donated to a local farmer who puts it in her soil, says Murto.
Manager Amy Robinson says everything sold at the café is vegan, which means no animal products are used. The menu includes fresh juices made from both fruits and vegetables, smoothies containing fruits and ingredients like peanut butter, rice or almond milk, and “cold press” juices that are made by pressing fruit juices through cheesecloth rather than putting them through a juicer.
Robinson says cold press is a different juicing technology.
“It’s done more slowly than putting it through a juicer where the fruit is spun off of the pulp, so all the enzymes are kept intact. Which means they last longer,” she says.
Robinson says many of the café’s customers use juices to give their digestive systems a break, whether they do a fast or cleanse using juices, or simply want to incorporate juices or smoothies into their diets.
“With juicing and smoothies, the nutrients are assimilated more quickly,” she says “They can give your digestive system a break. Smoothies have fiber kept intact and can help with the absorption of sugar.”
She says smoothies are always more popular in the summertime, but after Thanksgiving many people do juice fasts to clean out their system.
“It helps with inflammation in the body,” Robinson asserts. “It revitalizes my energy and I don’t crash and burn like with coffee. And I feel like my skin looks better.” She says one of her favorite Method juices has apple, kale, carrots, beets, lemon and ginger which are high in iron, vitamins and have lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lafferty and Murto recently opened a yoga/spin studio called The Union, in downtown Spokane.
“They are passionate about health, and The Union is a new concept for Spokane, with workouts occurring under black lights and neon accompanied by upbeat music”, she says.
“It’s hip-hop yoga,” she says. “It’s a fun way to get a workout in. We share a lot of similar customers … those who want to stay fit.”
Robinson says the owners are fun to work with and the business looks for people who are passionate and enjoy what they do.
“We absolutely have a casual atmosphere, and it’s important to me that people have fun while they’re working. It helps retain better employees and serves our customers well. If our employees tend to be health conscious, it helps to nurture our customers,” she says.
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