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In the warehouse at Dixie Produce, Asa Swift, operator of three new Juice Bar franchises in Chattanooga, holds examples of fresh produce that will be included in his healthy drink treats.
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Asa Swift, right, operator of three new Juice Bar franchises in Chattanooga, stands with his North Market Street General Manager Hannah Snyder outside the soon-to-open Northshore location.

Juice Bar locations and opening dates

502 North Market St. behind Publix due to open Dec. 16

At 5546 Highway 153 in a new strip mall across from Target to open on Jan. 6

At 7407 Igou Gap Road Suite 113 just off Gunbarrel Road near a strip mall anchored by Target, EarthFare and Kohl’s that should open on Jan. 20

Dixie Produce has a huge, fruit- and vegetable-filled refrigerated warehouse at 803 E. 12th St. in downtown Chattanooga.

Since the produce supplier is basically a giant fridge filled with fruits and veggies, it's a natural fit for it to open three new "I Love Juice Bar" franchises in Chattanooga.

The idea came from Asa Swift, a 25-year-old Dixie Produce account executive who sold coconuts and other items to juice bars in Knoxville and Nashville and pitched the idea to his boss.

"I just noticed, this is everything we're already selling. There's no reason that we couldn't do this," Swift said. "Mr. Pittman essentially gave me his blessing."

Swift is now the district manager for the three new I Love Juice Bars to open here: one in North Chattanooga to open in mid-December, another on Highway 153 in Hixson to launch in early January and a third near Hamilton Place mall to come in late January.

Pittman and Swift aren't just opening the juice bars here because they get their fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. They both believe in juicing's health benefits.

"We drink a lot of juice," Swift said Monday, partway through a multi-day "juice cleanse," or period of only drinking juice and no solid food.

"It really helps with your energy levels," he said.

I Love Juice Bar's menu offers juice cleanses — though Swift said that's not something beginners usually start with.

The chain's motto is "juices, smoothies and more." Its offerings include beet juices and juices made from greens, including kale, spinach and parsley. Other menu items include essential oil "shots," whole coconuts and a "superfood" salad. Customers can mix their own juices and smoothies, too.

Some juice bars can be expensive — especially those with organic fruits and vegetables that are "cold-pressed," or extracted with a hydraulic press, which can run around $10-$12 for a 16-ounce drink.

I Love Juice Bar's are less expensive, Swift said. The juices aren't necessarily organic and use a centrifugal extractor.

"It's $6 for most of them," he said. "Only one or two is $8."

Chattanooga already has a number of independent juice bars.

Juicing accounts for about $5 billion in sales annually, according to I Love Juice Bar, a chain founded in 2013 in Nashville by married couple John and Vui Hunt. She had run a successful vegetarian restaurant in Atlanta, and he worked in private-label manufacturing for major retailers in the cosmetics industry.

Hunt grew to 50 pounds overweight while working a corporate job in China, and was inspired to pursue juicing after he saw the 2011 documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" in which 310-pound Australian entrepreneur and investor Joe Cross loses 100 pounds in 60 days during a cross-country trip of the United States during which he only drinks fruit or vegetable juice.

I Love Juice Bar now has 34 stores in a number of states, 16 under construction and another 23 in the works, the company's website says.

Dixie Produce has more than 100 employees and ships fruits and vegetables to stores, restaurants, schools and other customers in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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