story Marcus Coker
images Marcus Coker and Courtesy Native Nectar
Wilson Wood, who’s thirty-one, recently opened Native Nectar – a juice shop – in the same shopping center as Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Well, sort of. It’s actually behind the other stores, through the parking lot and around the corner, a bit hidden away. “It’s not the ideal location,” says Wilson with a smile. Any extra effort it takes to find Wilson’s juice shop is well worth it.
Native Nectar opened in mid-October with a simple goal: provide the highest grade fruit and vegetable juices possible. Wilson says, “People of Arkansas deserve to have the best quality and healthiest product, and we want to do our part in Fayetteville. We’re focusing on health and quality of life, and that has everything to do with everything.”
Hopefully, the location won’t be permanent. “This is just our temporary space to see how things are going to go,” says Wilson. If social media is any indication, Native Nectar has nothing to worry about. In their first five weeks, they went from 200 to 1,200 followers on Instagram, which, along with Facebook, is the only advertising Wilson does. “The amount of people that have posted about our product without even being asked is stunning. We already have so many loyal customers.”
Megan James is one of them. She made a special trip to Native Nectar on her twenty-eighth birthday. She says, “I taste other juices, and Wilson’s are better. They’re fresh and not like something that’s been done before. I’m partial to Phunky Beets (apples, beets, carrot, lemon, and ginger) and Buddha (green apple, kale, celery, spinach, parsley, and lemon).”
Each 160-ounce drink packs in three pounds of produce and only 80-160 calories. Megan says, “I use this juice to fight off illness. As a teacher, I’m around kindergarten kids, so I’m exposed to a lot of germs. Anytime I feel a cold coming on, I drink a lot of this juice, and I swear I don’t get sick.” Perhaps the juices help Megan’s immune system because they are pure, without any added sugar or water. Plus, Wilson only buys organic produce, most of which comes from local farmers’ markets.
For Wilson, it’s important to keep things local, so all his juices are packaged in glass bottles made in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Wilson says, “There is less oxidation with glass bottles. For health concerns, we don’t reuse them, so we encourage people to recycle. We like to be as green as possible.”
Being green and organic is part of a philosophy that Wilson developed a few years ago while living in Santa Cruz, California. Having grown up in Little Rock, Wilson went to college in Fayetteville and started working in real estate and insurance, but quickly realized the corporate world wasn’t for him. “I moved away to clear my mind and refocus. Well, in Santa Cruz, there’s such an emphasis on health – their food is the most important thing to them. It’s all organic, and there’s no fast food. That was eye-opening to see a city that focuses so much on health and fitness.” As part of Wilson’s transformation, he started frequenting juice shops and got “hard core” into juicing.
He started doing research and discovered that juicing has a lot of benefits. “Juice is instantly absorbable, and the best way for the body to get nutrients. They go right to your blood stream because your body doesn’t have to break anything down.” By the time he returned to Arkansas a couple years ago, Wilson had discovered one other cool fact: “The main juicer that everyone in the juicing world that does what I do uses is called the Norwalk. It was invented by a man named Norman Walker and is actually made in Arkansas. It’s like no other juicer there is.”
What makes the Norwalk unique is that it’s a cold-press juicer. “If you go into most chain juice stores, and they throw a piece of produce in a machine, it immediately liquefies. The process that allows that to happen produces tons of heat, and the heat kills important nutrients and enzymes. So you’re getting a good juice, but not the best you can get. The Norwalk uses 2,000 pounds of hydraulic pressure to squeeze every bit of juice out, which keeps all those nutrients and enzymes intact.”
All Native Nectar juices have a short shelf life (three days), which is why most of their business is pre-order. The short shelf life is due to the fact that the juices have no preservatives and are unpasteurized. It’s one of the reasons it took Wilson the better part of last year to open his store. “There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through to open a business like mine. My product is raw, so the health regulations are strict. In my mind, I’m giving someone a really healthy product. If it were a candy bar, it wouldn’t be this regulated. It just seems backwards.”
In addition to fruit, vegetable, and root juices, Native Nectar also offers detox waters, which are water-based drinks that include ingredients like ginger and cayenne. “Ginger is a great anti-inflammatory for fighting off colds and boosting the immune system, and cayenne breaks up congestion.”
Wilson believes that both the detox waters and the juices are a great way to cleanse the body, and Native Nectar works with a naturopathic doctor to help promote juice fasting. “Cleanses are something everyone should do. When you fast, it gives your digestive system a break so it can focus on healing. Digestion takes up to forty percent of your body’s energy, and your body redirects that energy to healing when you’re just drinking juice.”
For those new to juicing, Wilson recommends fruit juices like Pinky Up (watermelon, apple, and lemon) because they are sweeter. Then as people get used to drinking juice, he recommends their vegetable or root juices like Old School (carrot, spinach, celery, and parsley). “Before long, you’ll realize how good you feel.”
Native Nectar juices are seven dollars for eight ounces, ten dollars for sixteen ounces, and thirty-five dollars for a half gallon. “Some people are like, ‘Ten dollars for a juice?’ but I usually don’t have to explain it – all organic produce, glass bottles. Some people will spend five grand on a TV but not five grand on their health in a year. What’s more important? Hopefully we can help shift the paradigm on that.”
Before long, Native Nectar plans to expand to other locations in the area. “We’d like to start a slow food revolution and get people to focus on health rather than fast food or cars.” It may sound like a big task, but it’s certainly worth undertaking. And if any juice shop can do it, it’s the little juice shop that’s through the parking lot and around the corner.
Native Nectar is located at 1442 North College Avenue in Fayetteville and is open Monday through Saturday from 7 AM to 6 PM. For more information, including detailed directions, visit nativenectarjuice.com or call 501-681-0740.