Owen + Alchemy
Juicing as a movement is not exactly new, but we're thrilled that this trend has thus far stood the test of time. We've had our eye on a few select juiceries for some time, admiring their branding, mission, and the vitality they exude, which is why we jumped at the chance to feature Owen + Alchemy, the celebrated Chicago juicery with a dark, brooding look and a chef's special touch in all their recipes. More than just veggies squeezed for all their worth, the blends at Owen + Alchemy are created with a mind to the palate, ensuring that the experience is as tasty as it is good for you.
We were also attracted to Owen + Alchemy because their environmental practices are sound. Their juices are packaged in glass, which is 100% recyclable, and they use nontoxic UV ink to imprint labels on the bottles. All of their packaging is completely compostable or recyclable, and perhaps coolest of all, they work with a local composing company called Ground Rules, which turns waste from the community and from restaurants into compost to be redistributed in the city.
In this Q&A, photographer and longtime PGM collaborator Julia Stotz captured one of the founders in her home space, Anne Owen. She discusses Owen + Alchemy's sustainable approach, why all juice is not equal, and her own survival advice for female entrepreneurs.
WHAT WAS YOUR BACKGROUND PRIOR TO OWEN + ALCHEMY (O + A) AND HOW DID THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE O + A PRESENT ITSELF?
Prior to Owen + Alchemy, I was publisher of a luxury lifestyle magazine in Miami; obviously a very different world. I had been brainstorming plant-based food business models for a few years when I reconnected with my now business partners and discovered that they were also looking to launch a plant-based concept here in Chicago.
WHAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE OF GROWING A BUSINESS FROM THE GROUND-UP BEEN LIKE? WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED?
It definitely hasn’t been easy. I’ve never felt more personally challenged than I have over the past two years. One of the most difficult parts of being an owner of a new business is finding people who truly understand what you’re going through. Some of my very closest friendships have been challenged because people don’t realize how little time you actually have.
But, all that being said, it’s been a fantastic journey, filled with beautifully supportive and imaginative people, so all the hard work has definitely been worth it.
WHAT SETS O + A APART FROM OTHER JUICES?
My business partner, Jared Van Camp, is an extremely talented chef. He has created some amazingly unique and balanced menu items that are unlike anything most people would associate with plant-based food. Instead of simply replicating what’s already out there in the marketplace, he thinks outside the box and builds the menu with a chef’s palate.
WHAT ARE THE BASICS OF JUICING AND WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS TO THE BODY?
Cold-pressed juice is incredibly nutrient dense; you are essentially removing the fiber, which allows your body to quickly and easily access the nutrients and live enzymes. When juice is cold-pressed and unpasteurized or HPP’d (essentially untouched by heat or pressure that kill living elements), it’s alive and raw and you reap the full benefit of all the produce that’s in there.
YOU WORK HARD TO ENSURE THAT YOUR JUICES DELIVER NUTRIENTS IN THE PUREST FORM POSSIBLE. PART OF THIS IS A COMMITMENT TO ORGANIC PRODUCE AND LOCAL PRODUCERS—CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT THIS AND WHY IT'S SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR ETHOS?
We use the term “beyond-organic” when referring to our sourcing. Some of the small local farms we work with aren’t certified organic, however we know them personally and know their practices are impeccable and essentially equal to or better than some of the larger, certified organic farms. Unfortunately, being based in the midwest, it’s not possible to source everything locally all year long, however, we try to stay as local and small as possible.
IF ONE DOESN'T LIVE NEAR A FRESH JUICERY, CAN YOU REOMMEND YOUR FAVOURITE HOME COLD-PRESSED JUICER?
Home cold-press juicers are expensive. If you’re going to invest in a home juicer, I’d recommend the Omega J8006. It’s not a cold-press juicer, but it’s solid. If you’re okay with a splurge, then check out the Norwalk. It’s what we use for small batches at the shop.
WE REALLY LOVE THAT O + A HAS MADE SUCH A STRONG COMMITMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT. WHY WAS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU, AND WHAT STEPS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO RUN THE BUSINESS AS SUSTAINABLY AS POSSIBLE?
It’s incredibly important to me personally. The traditional westernized diet and big food industry is wreaking havoc on our planet, and it’s heartbreaking. Eating more plant-based food is a huge part of the equation, but so is being conscious about the way we consume and the footprint we leave behind. As consumers, we have incredible power. By being informed and purchasing with purpose, we are able to make changes.
As a business, we are very focused on being eco-friendly and are constantly seeking new ways to improve our carbon footprint. We work with a local composting company, use as little plastic as possible, source as locally as possible and are (obviously) 100% plant-based.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR OTHER FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS?
Keep your head up and shoulders back. It’s not an easy road, but the journey is so very worth it. Also, seek out other local female entrepreneurs! They are the best for moral support, brainstorming, creative partnering, etc. I have no idea what I’d do without the powerful, incredibly supportive, and inspiring network of female entrepreneurs whom I call my friends.
IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE, WHAT DOES LIVING SUSTAINABLY MEAN TO YOU?
For me, living sustainably really just means living consciously and making intentional decisions. I understand that as a consumer, I have power. I try to be as thoughtful as possible with how I spend my money and try to only spend it with companies or individuals who are running sustainable, eco-friendly businesses.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE HOPES AND DREAMS FOR O + A?
I hope that we stay around and relevant for a while and can continue slingin delicious plant-based food.
CONTRIBUTORS & CREDITS:
JULIA STOTZ, Photography: Julia is a freelance photographer with an enthusiasm for food, adventure, and the simple everyday moment. Some of her favorite things include ramen, foggy days, coffee, reading, green veggies, yoga, and giggling uncontrollably with her sister. View her work, follow her on Instagram.
She lives in Los Angeles, plays in Chicago, and grew up in Northern California.