WINNETKA – It’s a warm spring day on the North Shore and True Juice, located on Chestnut Street in Winnetka, is preparing for the daily 11 a.m. rush. Wearing crisp yellow aprons, surrounded by baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables, staff members are ready for the onslaught.
Sure enough, just like clockwork, 10 customers stream through the door, parched and hungry from their morning workouts, looking to refuel with one of True Juice’s signature cold press juices, smoothies, shots, salads and soups or acai bowls.
“It’s consistently busy in here all day long,” said True Juice owner Whitney Fitzgerald. “We get a rush after the pre-school drop off, at lunch time, and again after school. We’re extremely lucky.”
Fitzgerald owes her success to more than just luck. When the North Shore native opened True Juice in Winnetka nearly five years ago, she already had 25 years of experience selling wholesale produce to high-end Chicago restaurants. Although primarily devoted to running her two juice bars, (a second True Juice opened in Highland Park in 2016), Fitzgerald still owns a produce business downtown, allowing her to source the best fruit and vegetables for her True Juice customers.
“I have control over the product in a way a third-party buyer never could,” said Fitzgerald, a Glencoe resident and mother of two daughters. “It enables me to buy things direct from produce growers and forecast any potential shortages.”
There’s a plentiful supply of fruit and vegetables in nearly every product sold at True Juice. In a small refrigerator inside the bright, cozy, 700-square-foot store, Fitzgerald stocks an array of blended, cold-pressed juices with whimsical names like Skinny Jeans, a blend of celery, apple, kale and ginger; Finding Dory, a blue concoction made with extract of Spirulina and Blue Majik; and Dwyer’s Gold, a leafy green and apple tribute to Winnetka’s hometown hero: Olympic Gold Medalist Conor Dwyer.
Each 16-ounce, $11 bottle of cold-press juice contains over 5 pounds of fresh produce, painstakingly extracted from greens, fruits and root vegetables, then filtered through cheesecloth to produce a smooth, pulp-free juice that lasts for up to three days when refrigerated.
“When you consider all the fresh produce, time and energy that went into making that one bottle of juice, it’s good value,” said Fitzgerald.
In naming the 30 or so $7.95 smoothies on True Juice’s menu, Fitzgerald – who grew up in Glencoe and attended New Trier High School – pays homage to the North Shore. There’s the Lloyd Beach Breeze, made with blueberries, pineapple, banana and coconut milk; Pretty in Pink, a mixture of bananas, strawberries, and almond milk; and Sheridan Road, a blend of cacao, banana and coconut.
For an extra $1, True Juice customers can add any one of a long list of super foods to a smoothie or Nutrifaster juice – which is made on the spot – including bee pollen (good for immunity), flax seeds (high in Omega 3), camucamu (boosts metabolism) and hemp extract (reduces chronic pain and inflammation).
True Juice’s tiny bottles of high-potency shots are popular during flu season. A shot of Wellness, said Fitzgerald, contains oil of oregano to combat viruses. A swig of Under the Weather, powered with turmeric and cayenne, can alleviate congestion.
“When I drink a shot of Under the Weather, I swear, within fifteen minutes my sinuses open and I feel better,” said Fitzgerald.
And unlike other juice bars, typically limited to just beverages, True Juice offers a wide selection of ready-made breakfast bowls and salads that fly out the door at mealtimes. In addition, two homemade soups – one meat and one vegan – are featured everyday.
“Our menu caters to people who are super busy, looking for a meal on the hop,” said Fitzgerald. “They need something substantial enough to fuel them through the day.”
Fitzgerald said she’s always on the lookout for new juice ingredients and combinations, and she relies on her loyal customer base to offer suggestions and feedback. This summer, True Juice will add frozen, soft-serve “ice cream” consisting of fresh fruit and almond or coconut milk, along with artisanal popsicles made with seasonal organic fruit.
A lifelong athlete who runs seven miles a day, rain or shine, Fitzgerald was inspired to open True Juice when she realized she ate and felt better during her trips to warm-weather destinations like California and Florida, where fresh produce is readily available year round. Fitzgerald recognized the benefits of maintaining a healthy, plant-based diet, without being too rigid.
“The menu at True Juice is all about helping people get back into balance,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s about recharging, resetting and healing yourself. Everyone’s body is different.”
Even True Juice’s $69-a-day juice and soup cleanses are not so much about deprivation as they are about the elimination of processed foods from a daily diet.
“No one can live on juice alone,” said Fitzgerald. “You have to eat.”
This summer, look for True Juice at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, where Fitzgerald and her team of juicers are launching a third location on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day, serving up a healthy menu of juices and smoothies using Windy City Harvest produce grown on site.
For more information, visit www.truejuicewinnetka.com.