As a kid growing up in Winston-Salem, The Jugo Bar owner William Fulton was a bit of a Kool-Aid connoisseur, mixing flavors and adding chunks of fruit to make his own drinks that were better than the original.
Fast forward a few decades, and it makes sense that Fulton is now the owner of The Jugo Bar (pronounced hoo-go), a pressed juice bar with multiple locations — the newest opened on North Davidson Street in August, tucked in between Sabor and NoDa 101.
Things have changed quite a bit since Fulton’s childhood, however, as he has since awakened to the toxic nature of the processed juices he grew up drinking. That revelation is what inspired him to create his own line.
As he continues to roll out his new tasting room location, which is now open Thursday to Sunday after launching on Fridays only, we spoke with Fulton about how he got involved in the juice game, his history in Charlotte and more.
Queen City Nerve: How did The Jugo Bar come about?
William Fulton: The Jugo Bar has been around for four years. It started in Shelby, North Carolina with my first juice, which was a watermelon juice, I call that Melon Jugo. When I was developing that juice I knew I had a great product, and so I went back home to Winston-Salem, I left my corporate job in digital media sales and went back to culinary school, finished there with The Chopping Block and developed my whole concept with The Jugo Bar. It started with that one juice, now I’m up to 43, plus a book of recipes for additional ones.
I read on your website that your earlier world travels inspired your views on how juice should be done. Tell me about that.
I was traveling through France and Italy and Spain and North Africa and I’m looking at how people actually source their things. They shop the markets daily. Every continent I was in I got fresh juice. We started with a fresh-pressed juice every day.
So coming back home and seeing how we’re preserving and adding longer life to all our products with these preservatives and adding fructose syrups and processed sugars into everything, I wanted to come back with something fresh, something that would be really good for the people, especially during these pandemic times. We wanted to get it as fresh as possible, adding things like zinc and ginger, making sure we get all the antioxidants, the vitamin Cs, all those good things for your daily nutrition.
And how does that differ from the juices you grew up with?
For me growing up in a project environment, that was what was accessible to me — the Kool Aid, what I call the chemical-flavored drinks. Growing up I was what I would call a master crafter of these Kool Aids; I was creative with them at a young age, adding different things like pineapple chunks to it to make it fruitier, but really when I got a chance to look at what I was actually putting in my body, I made that change — looking at the effects of dyes and what they do to our bodies, and all these synthetic flavors and what they can do.
When did that awareness hit you?
It did not hit me until my late 40s. I never took the time to actually look at a back label, but it took my daughter having my grandson for me to look at the back label, because for him I’m like, “OK what’s in it?” I didn’t care what went in my body, and my daughter killed me cause I didn’t look for her, but when she had my grandson I learned about it.
And this is your first Charlotte location, correct?
This is my first Charlotte retail store. So the actual juice bar is coming later, but this space is going to be specifically about retail. I call it the tasting room because I want the community to get a taste of a lot of other entrepreneurs, not only my products. I’m bringing in some other entrepreneurs who have great products that people can come in, get a sample of and find out what’s new. Even artists that are creating new works, I want them to be able to use the space to exhibit their artwork as well, have some art showings, let them get a taste of art as well, so there’s going to be a lot of tastes here.
What’s a top seller or fan favorite for someone who just wants to come into the tasting room for their first taste?
I would say to get a taste of everything because everything is a top seller. Every juice I put in, it has to pass my flavor test, so I like to say they’re all my favorites, but the fan favorites are the Blackberry Sage, the Kale Yea!, Beet It, Pineapple Jalapeño Cilantro, and Bell Pepper Mango.
What made you choose NoDa?
My good buddy Dana [Parker-Burleson], she’s the one who actually owns the building, she connected me with the space and it was like a marriage in heaven. When I came in I felt the energy of the community, and seeing the diversity and change. I lived in the Highland Mill Lofts years ago, in the late ’90s, I used to have a home in the neighborhood as well, so to come back after all these years — talking about over 20 years — and see the change and the energy, I definitely want to be a part of.
The Jugo Bar is currently open at 3205 N. Davidson Street, Unit 103, on Thurs.-Sun. from 1-8 p.m.