Dr. Juice and His Holy Fruits

by Leslie Minora

Junior Morgan, "Dred", shows off his new White Plains Road juice bar. Photo by Leslie Minora

Junior Morgan, "Dread", shows off his new White Plains Road juice bar. Photo by Leslie Minora

It took a love of juice bordering on obsession to open Holy Fruits, a new Bronx juice bar, this past July.

“Whenever I see a juice bar, my skin catch a fire,” said Junior Morgan, the 45-year-old juice visionary, with his Jamaican lilt and his welcoming smile.

Morgan, who wears his faith in the form of a weighty crucifix on a big beaded necklace, never goes by Junior. Most people call him “Dread,” in honor of his tightly wound hair. And some customers at his wildly colorful establishment on White Plains Road call him simply “Dr. Juice.”

For “Dr. Juice,” juice is not simply, well, juice. His special combos have advertised powers beyond the obvious.

“I can taste something without tasting it,” said Morgan. He whips up concoctions like Sexy Body A, which contains apple, ginger, aloe vera, and pineapple. These are all ingredients that are very good for the physique, he said, especially when combined with his “Get Svelte” herb packet from Chinatown.  Other herb combos he buys there are “Happy Garden Tea” for stress relief, and Chinese Angelica Root for diabetes.

His research and palate led to an extensive portfolio of purposeful juices including Radiant Skin, Weight Loss, Hemorrhoids, and the stamina enhancing best-seller, “Tear Up Sheets.”

“Tear Up Sheets is tearin’ up the Bronx,” said Terence Ford, 31, who began working at the store in August.  The drink is a blend of okra, sea moss for stamina, ancient tree roots which “strengthens your back and sperm count,” and horse tonic.

Yes, horse tonic, a dark liquid in an industrial size plastic container that reads “Liquid Multi-vitamin Supplement for Horses,” which Morgan buys from a horse supply store. “You see how fast the horses run, right?” he said. “It’s for energy.” Who knows what horse tonic really does for humans, but it’s a hot seller nonetheless.

Morgan is unfazed by the dire economy and the neighborhood’s penchant for fried chicken, pizza, and Chinese takeout. Apparently, his customers are unfazed as well.

His business sits defiantly in the Williamsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, where food choices are about as healthy and diverse as a Kennedy Fried Chicken menu.

Customers flow into the shop for the juice as well as comforting hospitality: “I am a people’s person,” said Morgan, with his welcoming smile. “Food sells. People are still living through this economy,” Morgan said. “People have to eat, and people have to drink juice.”

While some of his male customers come to the store for a “Tear Up Sheets” bedroom boost, many others are vegetarians who want a satisfying, healthy meal, which is hard to come by in Williamsbridge. “I like the way the food is, and I’m a vegetarian so I like the way he deal with it,” said Trace Jackson, who comes to Holy Fruits every other day and usually orders a protein shake.

“It’s the healthy food. That’s what I need,” echoes Idrissa Dhiam, who comes daily for carrot juice. Dhiam no longer has to order; Morgan sees him walk in and starts making his usual.

Morgan’s hospitality is likely the key factor in his success. “He’s really cool. He brings a warm environment to the community,” said Ford, one of three employees. Morgan gives free juice to customers who come without enough money, and he makes up deals on the spot. If a customer comes to the store to buy both herbs and juice, the juice is usually free.

The store is adorned with a lemon yellow awning, a neon green cardboard palm tree, and walls that look like they were peeled from a ripe orange. “Nobody has this color,” Morgan proudly said of his paint selection, which he chose to set his store apart. But for Morgan, opening a juice store has not been as simple as choosing paint.

He did all the tile work himself, and installed equipment he bought at an auction. Running the store costs about $3,000 per week in addition to the $2,550 per month rent and utility bills, Morgan said. Sales have been strong enough for him to keep up with his rent and employees’ pay checks, but he says it will take more time before he sees a profit at his current sales of $500 per day.

For Morgan, juice has always been part of his life. He spent his childhood in Jamaica, where he learned about medicinal herbs and juices from his grandfather, an herb doctor. Throughout his life, his grandfather and his mother would make special juices on Sundays. He loved papaya juice when he was young, he said, and he also would look forward to his mother’s carrot juice with condensed milk and nutmeg.

Morgan has lived in the Bronx since he was 18-years-old, and opened his first juice bar, Holy Grail, in the Castle Hill neighborhood in 2003. Two years later, he rented a larger space across the street, where he planned on renaming the store Cup of Life. He renovated the space himself, but construction took months longer than expected. Unable to pay the $2,700 per month rent, he was forced to leave.

Next, he made plans to reopen the store a half-mile away. He rented the space, but then learned that the building had a previous violation, and that he could not build his shop unless he paid someone else’s fine. So he moved on, but did not give up. “It’s crazy,” he said.

Morgan rented a fourth location in 2008, but he said, “Boom, I ran out of money again, for real.” So he paused renovations and worked doing odd jobs in construction for two months. After that, his juice bar dream once again became a nightmare. During the two months he left the store to work and save money, someone stole all of his tools, scaffolds, and building materials, about $40,000 worth, which he had left in the partially constructed juice store.

Having been defeated so many times in a three-year period, Morgan set aside his juice bar plans, and sold his restaurant appliances, which lead him to another job: selling restaurant equipment that he would purchase and refurbish. He rented a space on 215th Street and White Plains Road to sell his goods, but the restaurant equipment store never came to fruition as his plans morphed into a hybrid restaurant supply/juice store, and then the juice store gradually overtook the restaurant supply store in his mental floor plan.

“When I saw this location, you know what comes to mind – juice bar,” Morgan said. So that’s exactly what he built, designing and constructing the shop himself down to the colorful logo of a tree bearing many types of fruit that looks like it was carefully drawn with colored pencil.

Morgan has been fruitful in more than just his juice store. Perhaps “Tear up Sheets” is the reason Morgan has 16 children with 5 different mothers. He becomes serious when he talks about his children, and said he is close to them and does his best to support them, but he would not say anything further.

Morgan’s dream for the future is to own a chain of juice stores with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some day, “Tear Up Sheets” might be tearing up every borough.

3 Responses to “Dr. Juice and His Holy Fruits”

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  2. Great post but you’re missing a lot of points. Nevertheless on the whole a cool article, I’m intrested to see how this developes.

  3. avatar Carmen says:

    One of my favorite juices. Thank you very much for sharing.


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