How do you take something you do every day and make money from it? For Toni Tarbutton, that meant turning her juicing lifestyle into a business after buying mobile juice bar Gin’s Juice. Her new business venture also lets Tarbutton be able to interact more with the community.
By Charnita Mack
Nov. 23, 2015
For Toni Tarbutton, the new owner of Gin’s mobile juice bar, “juicing” is more than a business. It’s a lifestyle.
When she and her husband, Josh, married in 2002, not only did they take a vow to love each other until death do them part, but also to live a healthier lifestyle while doing it.
Now, Tarbutton is also hitched to the mobile vegan juice bar, Gin’s Juice, she bought in August. It’s a common sight at places like Soda City Market and the Healthy Carolina Farmers Market and around Rosewood, which she now calls home.
Tarbutton said her husband became curious about healthier lifestyles after losing his mother from cancer when he was 13. She said their life changed for the better after wactching the 2010 documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” which follows a man’s health journey through juicing. He was able to help himself and someone else become healthier by choosing the juicing lifestyle.
Juicing is a part of their everyday life now, so when the chance came to purchase the juice bar, Tarbutton knew she couldn’t pass it up.
Even with more food trucks in Columbia, Gin’s Juice remains the only juice bar among the 12 trucks listed on the Midlands convention authority’s website.
Tarbutton says she’s now looking to find a permanent home for the juicing truck so she has room for more fruits and vegetables and can serve more customers with a drive-thru. A store, however, will have to wait; she says the costs are prohibitive.
The former special education teacher spent more than a decade as a stay-at-home mom home-schooling her four children – the oldest is now 11 and the youngest 5. But she still wanted a career where the two boys and two girls could be nearby.
I have attachment issues,” Tarbutton joked.
Tarbutton says the juice bar is like a platform for her children, having at least one of them with her every time she juices. Her half-sister, Sierra Sias, a frequent customer, said Tarbutton is a hands-on learner who loves doing new things. Sias said her sister helped raise her and taught her a lot, so when Tarbutton tried juicing, she was happy to try too.
Tarbutton says she wants her children to learn from her and see she’s doing all this with their best interest in mind. She’s getting into a business that, according to a number of recent reports, has gone from boutique to mainstream in recent years.
Columbia Voice sat down with Tarbutton at her juice bar to talk about the juicing business and how she handles both being a business owner and her devotion to her family.
This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity. (Listen to the entire interview.)
You said you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over 10 years now, so what is it like to jump back into the business world, like owning your own business now?
Well, it’s kind of like that Bob Dylan song, you “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and so I have been serving my family from the kitchen for over a decade, and for me to be able to do that for the public and get paid for it … it’s kind of like cooking with an audience that’s willing to pay you. So it’s energizing, it’s exhilarating to be in the community and to network and to meet people outside of my family. …
So owning a business is one thing, but you also said you home-school all of your children right? So how do you balance being a mom and being a business woman?
So I tell myself the truth, and that is I can do what I can do at this moment, and anything can be done in 15 minutes. … I can’t do everything perfectly, and some things have to give, and that’s OK.
Food trucks have been a popular franchise in Columbia, they’re becoming a popular franchise in Columbia, and your juice bar happens to be the only mobile juice bar in Columbia, so do you have any plans to expand it into something more solid? …
I am toying with the idea of a drive-thru juice bar just because the kitchen space doesn’t have to be much, and often we get nurses who are getting off duty or going back to work, when I’m here in Rosewood, or we have students. Everybody’s on the go. … I would like to have a brick and mortar store, but the overhead is just unbeatable with the food truck.
I think being a mom of four children, some women would say it’s too hard for them to own their own business or like get out, so what would you say to someone who might want to, like you did, take juicing, something that’s in your everyday life, and make something better out of it? …
As self-sacrificial as being a mother can be, it is very important for one to sharpen their skills and to maintain those skills over time so that you can provide some value to society. … For me, what often pushes me to push through is that I’m setting an example for my daughters and for my sons, and I hope to encourage in them a strong work ethic. …
So you kind of got into what my next question was going to be. I was going to ask you what do you hope your kids learn from you seeing you being all these different things? …
For me, I hope they learn that, that they were always my priority and that the juicing and home schoolings was my attempt to love them in different ways and to prepare them for success. … And to not be afraid. To take risks because it’s worth taking.