Photos Cameron Flaisch
J.J. Johnson, Owner and Operator of Rome’s Smoothie King, found himself lying in bed one night after a high intensity workout, yearning for a peanut-power-plus protein smoothie from Smoothie King.
But he was now living in a new town and there was no Smoothie King within the city or county lines. He mentioned to his wife that Rome, Ga. needed a Smoothie King, and maybe he should open one himself. Johnson rolled over and went on to sleep that night. Little did he know, his wife was sending an email to the Smoothie King Corporation.
Jarrod Johnson is from Houston, Texas. If you have seen him around you have likely heard his friends and family call him J.J. or Jay. No one calls him Jarrod and he does not seem to mind the nickname. According to him, the moniker was born from family and those closest to him. Prior to owning and operating Smoothie King, He was a11-year veteran police officer and was quite content with his job.
“I thought I would retire as a police officer,” he says.
His wife, a pediatrician at the time, was finishing her fellowship in neonatology and was being recruited by Floyd Medical Center, here in Rome. The opportunity presented to his wife meant Johnson would have to resign his position in Houston and relocate with his family.
For a time, Johnson was considering joining the police force here in Rome. He loved police work, and still misses his time on the force, but he said that the Good Lord opened another door for him. That is what made that night’s conversation about a Smoothie King franchise so important to his family’s future.
Smoothie King is a national brand that has been around since 1973. Smoothie King opened its first U.S. juice bar franchise in New Orleans, La. The company’s goal was, and still is, to inspire people to live healthy and active lifestyles.
The health-and-community-centered company currently has 1100 stores nationwide and they have grown to offer their products internationally.
Many different cities in Georgia have Smoothie Kings already, but there was not one in Rome or Floyd County. Johnson went online and saw that Rome was a targeted area for a franchise store. He inquired about the process to bring a Smoothie King to his new hometown. When the research was done, he decided that Rome could indeed be a great possibility for the Smoothie King franchise.
“In my mind, I was thinking this is a no-brainer. Everyone knows Smoothie King,” says Johnson. “Market research suggested it would succeed here, so I was beyond ready to do it.”
After handling the financial obligations required, finding a location was the next priority and that was not an easy task. “We almost went to Cartersville because I could not find a satisfactory spot in Rome.”
Things were looking bleak for the possibility of finding a home for the franchise in Floyd County. Then, just as he was going to close the door on the opportunity, Johnson heard that Ward’s Pharmacy had moved from their building on Turner McCall beside Subway and Applebee’s.
“I contacted the landlord of the building and Smoothie King Corporate. Representatives from Smoothie King flew out and approved the spot, and it was a go on the location.”
The process was long and involved. In 2016, after a year and after all of the leg work was done, Rome had a Smoothie King, owned and operated by Johnson.
“I grew up on Smoothie King, so opening one here felt great. Where I’m from, it was natural to immediately go to Smoothie King after working out. Rome is a very active community and there are plenty for folks who wish to be healthy. Sports and working out is a big part of Rome, which is why I felt we needed a Smoothie King. I wanted to change the perception that a Smoothie King smoothie is just a snack,” Johnson says. “I always try to educate people about the differences.
“It was very difficult the first year to roll out our methods and information about what our smoothies are. It seems the only kind of smoothie people were familiar with was a slushie or something from a fast food restaurant. Thankfully, three years later, our sales are up. Guest are coming in after their work outs and getting their favorite post-workout smoothie. Many guests have transitioned from getting a chicken biscuit every morning, to now getting a meal replacement smoothie for breakfast. It is getting better every day, but there many who are still unaware of the great options Smoothie King has to offer to help with their health and fitness goals. I thought people knew Smoothie King was the premium smoothie brand that desires to be a part of a community’s healthy fitness goals. I assumed everyone knew many Smoothie King smoothies can consist of protein, fiber, amino acids, energy boosts, fruit, ice, water, etc. I grew up on Smoothie King smoothies as a kid in Houston. There are also many locations in Atlanta, and Rome is surrounded by them. So, I figured that people knew Smoothie King smoothies were based on a healthy concept.
“Initially, I had customers coming to the store asking for slushies,” Johnson continues. “No one knew what a Smoothie King smoothie was. I was totally surprised that people didn’t know the health benefits of our brand of meal replacement drinks. I started thinking I had opened up the wrong kind of business. So, I decided to go on a full-fledged educational marketing campaign in an effort to educate the market on what Smoothie King was.
That was the biggest surprise and challenge of the first three years.”
Smoothie King smoothies are purposely blended with protein-rich ingredients and vitamins essential to help fuel up, recover from workouts, or to simply maintain a healthy body.
“We are something like a health store and yogurt shop put together,” explains Johnson with a laugh. “I try to use whatever language I can to help people get some type of understanding of what we offer. You can come in and get your spinach, your kale, and your carrots and it still will taste great. Do we have snack items? Yes, we carry protein bars, protein chips, healthy trail mix, protein powders, and a gamut of healthy products. Kids and adults do like them. We like to say that we are a better alternative to fast food. We’d like to be a part of our community’s fitness goals.”
His hopes are that Smoothie King becomes a vital part of your daily routine. The company’s goal is to serve you a “Smoothie with a Purpose.”
That is why the menu is set up in a purposeful way. Smoothie King’s menu is separated into four sections. Those sections include: Fitness (purposefully blended with protein rich ingredients to help you fuel up or recover faster following workout), Slim (purposefully blended to help you stay on a weight maintenance plan), Wellness (purposefully blended with vitamins and vegetables essential to maintaining a healthy body) and Take A Break (purposefully blended to help you reward yourself or simply enjoy the day).
There is even a kid’s section that has special smoothies blended to help them stay healthy with flavors they will love. Every ingredient is listed on the menu board, and every ingredient is individually added to the smoothie.
There are also specialty smoothies. Examples include: Keto smoothies, prenatal smoothies, vegan smoothies, and even high-calorie smoothies for cancer patients having trouble getting the proper nutrients into their system after treatment efforts, or those who just need help gaining weight. Smoothie King protein powders are diverse and formulated to meet most dietary restrictions. They are also high-quality proteins and their veggies are organic. There is no high fructose corn syrup in their smoothies, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; they are gluten free, and many have zero grams of added sugar. The fruits and vegetables used in preparing their smoothies have natural sugars that are not able to be extracted during the process.
“I feel like I have opened the minds of people as to what we are,” he adds. “I’ve had cancer patients come here to get their meal replacements, pregnant ladies get their prenatal vitamins via our smoothies, and others who just want to start feeling and living better. It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping people. Customers tell me that we have helped them to lose weight and helped them change their eating habits.”
When people visit most run-of-the-mill smoothie shops, their smoothies are likely premixed and give them little to no choice in what they decide to order. The shop makes it the way they make it, with little to no variations to the recipe.
“People thought everything was pre-made and we just pour it like Kool-Aid. But everything here is customizable. So, if you want to come in and switch pineapples for mangos or whey protein for vegan protein; we can accommodate your needs. People also thought it was all sugar, or that the smoothies all have milk. That’s not the case; our bases are water and ice. And we don’t use tap water. All water used in Smoothie King comes through a double-filtration system. I would say it is the cleanest water in Rome,” Johnson says.
There is a simple yet distinct difference between Smoothie King and a mom-and-pop place making smoothies.
“At Smoothie King Corporate in Dallas, Texas, we have a dedicated research and development team full of food science nutritionists who are constantly testing and introducing new smoothies to help meet the health and fitness goals of our health-conscious guests. As a franchisee, and an avid smoothie drinker, I trust the brand.
“It is my goal to make people understand, we are trying to be a part of your health and fitness journey,” Johnson says again in an attempt to drive home the philosophy behind the Smoothie King brand. When you think of healthy snack or a quick meal replacement, we want you to think of Smoothie King. When you leave the gym, we want Smoothie King to be the first choice for your post-workout food item.
“When I look at it from the standpoint of those I’ve helped,” he adds, “I know I’ve changed the eating habits of a lot of people who necessarily wouldn’t have known the alternatives to eating unhealthy foods. People used to come in lost; now they come in ordering smoothies and customizing it themselves with added enhancers, switching fruit, changing protein. It’s just amazing to see the change.
“The same way you can go get a burger or salad, you can come in and order a nutritious meal replacement smoothie,” he says. “My biggest challenge, at first, was getting people to realize we are not just a sugary treat place. We have a wide array of things that may change your perception of the Smoothie King brand.”
Slowly but surely, people are finding out. Let Johnson and his staff make you a smoothie with a purpose at Smoothie King located at 832 Turner McCall Blvd., Rome, Ga 30161