As a child, Chris Goode spent days playing in his grandma’s front room. And everyone knows you’re not supposed to set foot in that room.
But for this youngest of four kids, those bright orange pillows on the couch in front of the china cabinet were fancy, bold and enticing. He, his brother and two sisters would toss them back and forth, running around the house at 39th and Wabash.
“I’m going to whip them pillows,” his grandma, Ruby Jean, would warn them.
Chris, 31, says he can still smell her corn bread and fried pork chops. She cooked everything in a cast iron skillet that she always kept on the back right burner.
Back then, they were on a steady diet of Southern soul food. The healthiest thing he remembers eating is turkey spaghetti. This is before people openly acknowledged the food deserts in the city, the lack of access to affordable fruits and veggies. This is before there was a national movement to eat healthier.
“We ate whatever was made in big batches,” Chris remembers. It was common for a breakfast at his grandma’s to include fried potatoes, cheese eggs, sausage and rice with butter and sugar.
Now, he’s all about a healthy lifestyle. He hosts pop-up 5Ks and fitness challenges. And two months ago, the former insurance adjuster opened Ruby Jean’s Juicery in Westport. Specializing in juices, smoothies and healthy snacks, the shop at 4001 Broadway sits on top of another business — the Port — a gym.
He chose the space because it complements his goal: creating a health movement.
You can change your life when you change what you put in your body. That’s impact.
Four years ago, a documentary would change his attitude on food and exercise. He and a few friends saw “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead,” about the weight-loss journey of Joe Cross, who was once at risk of dying due to poor health. He changed his life with diet, fitness and lots of green juice.
“It blew my mind,” Chris says. “As a football player (Missouri State), I’d grown used to eating a lot of food and just working out. But it changed the way I think about overall health. It made me think hard about what I put in my body. Food really is a matter of life and death. It’s serious.”
He also thought a lot about his grandma. Ruby Jean died when she was just 61. He was a freshman at Ruskin High School, and it hurt to lose the woman he loved so dearly. But the documentary made him realize that diabetes and high blood pressure could have been turned around if his family had known more about healthy lifestyles.
Maybe if the urban core had more grocery stores, vegetarian restaurants or juice shops like the ones he saw when he traveled the country as an insurance adjuster, the culture would change. In Kansas City, he says, when we talk about food we talk barbecue. We talk soul food. But healthy food is niche and often in the posher areas of the metro. He decided to be the change.
“I wanted to open the juicery to create accessibility to all kinds of people,” he says. “Health doesn’t care about your profile. It doesn’t care if you are black, white, Latino, gay, straight or how much money you make. Everyone should have access to healthy options. And if we can become healthier as a people, we immediately become stronger. When you are eating clean, you are lighter and brighter. You think with more clarity. You can change your life when you change what you put in your body. That’s impact.”
Right now the biggest challenge is getting customers to think beyond smoothies. The Big Chief ($6.75) is a fan favorite, just a basic strawberry and banana combo with Greek yogurt and your choice of almond or coconut milk.
The concoction he is most proud of is the Orange Pillow ($6.75), in honor of his grandma. The juice is a mix of orange, carrot, bell pepper and peach. It’s got a kick, a punch to it. It’s surprising, the citrus with the spice. I like it. But my favorite is the Citrus Detox ($6.75). The blend of orange, grapefruit, lemon and ginger gives me a power boost.
This winter Chris is rolling out a juice truck and cold-pressed juice delivery. He also just debuted his fall menu that includes a healthy hot chocolate and Grandma’s Pie — a smoothie that can be made with sweet potato or pumpkin.
It’s clear his grandmother inspires him not just in name and juices, but in atmosphere, too.
When you walk into Ruby Jean’s Juicery, the energy is warm. The orange walls are vibrant, adorned with a painting of Ruby Jean. There are iPads (and free Google Fiber WiFi) for customers to use, a Zen back porch and, just outside the front door, jumbo Jenga and Cornhole. Art work by Allen Village students hangs on the wall. On Facebook, he posts about working out and occasionally invites the community to run with him up and down the steep stairs outside of Paseo Academy.
“Chris is leading by example,” says his cousin George, 27, a former basketball player for the University of Louisville. “Me being an athlete, he has always tried to guide me to do more, to eat better, to be the best. Now he’s showing the community.”
Chris says he is just walking by faith, having patience and believing in people.
“God led me to this,” he says. “I’m actively learning to genuinely engage with people. We have an eclectic customer base, and what I’ve learned is people, no matter what they look like, are generally good. You just have to go for your dreams.”
Ruby Jean’s Juicery
Drink up at Ruby Jean’s, 4001 Broadway Blvd, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Juices and smoothies are $6.75 to $7.50. Customize your drinks by adding more fruit — 50 cents per addition.