Issue: September 2007 Issue
Local Robeks franchise owner, Jerry Luce, has hit it big with the chain's healthy food options.
It was a cold, snowy day in February when Jerry Luce discovered smoothie-chain Robeks at the regional director's store in Akron.
For the past 18 years, Luce had worked in corporate America in marketing and advertising, heading departments for three Fortune 500 companies. But after the birth of his twins three years ago, Luce realized he spent more time on planes than with his family. Something had to give.
This is what led him to Akron last year to possibly purchase a franchise of health-food chain Robeks. Luce couldn't believe what he saw.
"It was the middle of February and there was a line out the door," recalls Luce, an Avon resident and Rocky River native. "And I thought, 'Apparently there is something about these smoothies that is phenomenal. This may fit a very nice niche that Ohioans are going to need.'"
Seemingly, Luce, owner and CEO of area Robeks, has filled a great need. This year, Luce's North Olmsted location boasted the highest first-year sales in company history for the Robeks franchise. The location, opened in May 2006, was also one of the five highest-grossing locations in the country.
"Knock on wood, this has been awesome," Luce says. "We've been really lucky."
Luce also owns a Robeks franchise in Warrensville Heights. He plans to open an additional location in Columbus suburb Upper Arlington by the end of this year. In addition, he has plans to open three more locations by the end of the first quarter in 2008: Westgate Shopping Center in Fairview Park, High Street on The Ohio State University Campus and Solon.
Luce contributes the attraction to Robeks to two things: healthy food — fast — and the lack of competition in the smoothie industry. While there are other smoothie chains, Luce says the California-based Robeks serves all natural foods with nonfat, premium yogurt — something its competition doesn't.
Robeks adds nutritional supplements, or boosters, of the customer's choice to each smoothie, such as creatine, Vitabek and Kidbek. All are available in flavors like "Berry Brilliance," "Pomegranate Passion" and "Big Wednesday."
The latter is Luce's favorite — a tropical smoothie with orange and raspberry sherbet, papaya juice, mangos and peaches. It's a "phenomenal" smoothie if you like tropical flavoring, he says.
"It's very good for you, very nutritional and gives you a lot of energy and makes you feel good," Luce continues. In today's society, people eat a lot of subs and pizza because those are readily available options. Robeks offers made-to-order wraps, salads and fresh-squeezed juices.
Since opening the franchises, Luce has lost 35 pounds, thanks to his diet of a 12-ounce smoothie for breakfast, a half wrap and G-snap (Robeks' fresh- squeezed juice) for lunch and a Cliff Bar for a snack if he needs a quick pick-me-up.
"It's really a meal in a cup," Luce says. "It makes you feel full to the point [that] you're satisfied and it gives you this natural energy. It's incredible how many people walk up to me and say thank you."
As the company grows, Luce plans to bring other concepts to Ohio that fit a niche not already fulfilled. His next business venture will be opening several branches of Hurricane Grill & Wings, a restaurant that will offer 40 different sauces for wings, fresh food and a Key West motif. Luce plans to open six Hurricane Grills by March 2008, with plans for three openings by the end of the year.
"We're trying to bring a whole bunch of hip new concepts to Ohio," says Luce. "These are markets where you've got so many of the same old things. We're looking for new and unique."
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