A new addition to the Skaneateles YMCA aims to help members squeeze more out of their workouts, or at least help residents get a little more out of their snacks.
Sprouts Alternative Juice and Smoothie Bar opened in the Y Monday, with owner Elizabeth Wicks at the counter.
The bar will be open from 6 a.m. to noon, and 4 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, closed Sunday. Those hours will flex and change as programs and seasons impact traffic at the Y. It accepts major credit cards. As an additional service, people can place orders before exercising and pick it when they're done.
She tossed around the idea of starting a juice and smoothie shop for a year, but recently had someone mention the possibility of bringing one to the Y. Within a month, she put in her two weeks notice from the YMCA's members service desk to head up the venture full time. When she reached out to management, the timing was perfect, she said. They were just about the advertise for a vendor for that space.
"I didn't know I had a dream until it came true. I've always wanted to do something like this," Wicks said. "I already have an established kitchen, an established clientele. All I have to do is show up and give them an amazing product."
The extensive menu includes juices and smoothies made for each order, but also salads, soups, zucchini-nut-quinoa muffins, Greek yogurt and homemade granola, chocolate chia pudding, among many other items. Her friend Michael McDermott, founder of the Kids' Cooking Network, helped her develop a healthy, well-rounded menu.
She's putting thought into even the base ingredients; she will make the almond and coconut milk herself, and has locally produced bee pollen and honey. She aims to buy local products when possible, frequenting area shops and farmers markets, as well as pushing for organic items that are free from dairy, gluten and genetically modified organisms. People can pick up organic, fair-trade coffee from Syracuse's Recess Coffee.
She'll offer 20 additives, such as hemp protein, brown rice sprouted protein and whey protein. A believer in the power of good, fresh food and micro-nutrients, Wicks filled the menu with offerings to help increase metabolism, energy and general well-being. She'll offer a three-day juice cleanse in May for people who sign up for it.
"There's such a need, this is for members and the public, for something healthier because people are working out for their outsides and they need to take care of their insides," Wicks said.
She called wheat grass "elixir of life." She created samples of her drinks for Y employees at the front desk featuring the ingredient, and many people said they loved the wheat grass, even if they didn't know what it was. Wicks said it helps give people energy, a key detail she kept in mind as she concocted her menu.
"This is what I get to bring to the community: goodness and health ... and I'm so excited to bring it to the community, and bring it with integrity," she said.
Already familiar with making smoothies at home, she knew what direction she wanted to take her start-up. The hardest part was collecting all the nutritional data on the drinks, based on the various food combinations.
Her crew of friend and family help clean the space, paint and redo menu board from a broken barn window found at the swap shop. She credited the Y, too, for embracing her idea.
"It's been overwhelming," Wicks said of the community support. "Anyone who knows me says, 'This is such your thing. This is so you.'"
She first became interested in the organic movement after working for a local restaurant that grew its own produce and becoming impressed with the operation's consideration of producing food with "the highest integrity."
"They cared for their vegetables like they were their children. And I've had carrots and broccoli before, but it tastes completely 100 percent different," Wicks said.