The ‘Farm to Bottle’ store. Unprocessed Cold Pressed Juices and Juice Cleanses prepared fresh on premises. Committed to supporting local, sustainable farms, and sourcing only the highest quality ingredients.
We sat down with Ash Shoukry, owner of The Big Squeezy, for his own fresh take.
How did you get into the juicing business?
I grew up in Monterey County, attended CalPoly where I was an Ag Business major, and after a year abroad, came back to Salinas Valley – one of the produce capitals of the world. After working in conventional farming for 20 years, I took over an organic farm about six years ago. I initially didn’t want to get into organic farming because it’s a tough business to get into. So I thought, “If I can create my own juice company and farm it – if my beets look small, I can still press them. If my kale doesn’t look great, I can press it.” You don’t really have any ugly stepchildren when you’re your own farmer!
Tell us more about your farm to bottle initiative.
We grow kale, celery, carrots and beets in California as well as some medicinal herbs. We try to support small local farms as best we can, and we rely on them for any additional produce. We’re looking to franchise in 2021, so we’re planning to expand our acreage and grow more produce ourselves.
Is everything organic?
No, not everything. We use about 80% organic commodities, but at times some items are out of season or hard to find. For instance, it’s hard to get organic pineapples!
You mentioned you’re very motivated by health and wellness. What’s behind that?
As you get older, you start to realize that health and wellness are the most important things. Sometimes people are motivated by challenges like arthritis or cancer to make their diets healthier. Personally, I have high cholesterol and I have been working to control that with diet rather than prescription drugs. I juice and eat as fresh as I can. Once your system becomes conditioned to juicing, you feel healthier and like you’re living your life to the fullest. It’s something I’ve done for myself so I can enjoy a long happy life, and I’m glad to make the same thing available and affordable for other people.
We hear you work closely with Carmel High School. What does that look like?
We support Carmel High wrestling and we’re looking into other programs we can help with.
Our consulting member, Sally, was instrumental in developing a great idea for Carmel High where her daughter is a student. As soon as we can, we plan to open a small juice program at the school offering four smoothies, four juices, and four bowls at affordable prices. We’ll supply them after school for students who stay on campus for sports and other activities. Kids today are very health conscious. If you give them the opportunity, they’ll make healthy choices.
How has Covid-19 affected your business?
It has not been easy, but we’ve adapted. We stayed open as an essential business. A lot of the businesses in the area closed, there weren’t a lot of healthy options, so we were here at the right time. Our sales dipped, but the customers were great! People appreciated that we helped them focus on their health, and they really supported us. We had a whole new range of customers who were religious about their juices and about improving their immune systems. It really motivated us. We didn’t have enough personnel to make deliveries, but people were really good about coming to pick up their orders.
Do you have any new products we should be looking for?
So we’re working on some new powdered plant-based diets that will be less expensive than our juices. The powder can be mixed with water or juice to provide most of your daily vitamins. We plan to introduce new smoothies and restart our soup broth program, probably in the fall.
Tell us more about your plant-based program.
We’re excited about these new programs! We’ve been working with professional athletes, who’ve been on these diets for the last four or five months and are helping us perfect these programs before we offer them to the community.
Do you have any advice for people trying to navigate this crazy time?
It’s important to stay focused and enjoy the time you have. We’re in the middle of hard times and more coming. We have to take time to appreciate nature and blue skies. Take one day at a time, one step at a time, and work on each daily challenge separately, one at a time. Remember to focus on your health and well-being—that’s what’s most important.