Keva Juice is coming to South Reno this spring
The buzz of blenders and customer chatter is not isolated to Gary and Jennifer Thomas’ Northwest Reno Keva Juice location. Gary estimated they have about 68,000 loyal juice customers in northern Nevada.
“We have an insanely loyal fan base,” Gary said.
Gary and Jennifer Thomas announced the addition of their newest Keva Juice location early in December 2016.
They project to have their South Reno Keva Juice open by April 1. Gary Tremaine of Dickson Commercial Group helped them secure the location at The Village at Double Diamond in South Reno, which will mark the fifth northern Nevada location for the Thomases.
While Keva Juice has franchised locations, the Thomases independently own and operate their Keva Juice locations and have built Keva Juice in northern Nevada over the past decade.
“We have learned a lot in 12 years,” Jennifer said during an interview with Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
The Thomases have experienced a great deal of ups and downs since they first opened their Carson City location back in August of 2005.
Part of the challenges they faced in their ventures with Keva Juice was surviving the recession in 2009. Struggles with landlords and out of control rent were just some of the difficulties they faced.
Gary noted that there were 32 juice type businesses in northern Nevada in 2009 and that number dropped down to six or eight.
“Who can hold their breath the longest,” Jennifer summarized as to how the Great Recession felt.
A lot of competitors tried to change to survive but “we stuck to our core, which is smoothies,” Jennifer said.
Gary spent part of his career as a Senior Apple Manager. When he wasn’t there he would help Jennifer run three stores plus their built out space at the convention center.
“We practically live there during volleyball tournaments,” Jennifer said. They sell about 2,000 smoothies per day when they operate at the convention center.
Their Sparks location will celebrate its third anniversary in February and their Northwest Reno location will mark its second at the end of March.
Some of their successful growth can be attributed to gut intuition and other parts were very strategic.
“We have fun, offer a great product and have a great fan base,” Jennifer said.
When they look at locations they assess different parts of northern Nevada and work to narrow it down.
Initially, South Reno was not of interest because it struggled with low population density, but as the area has grown so has the population.
“We saw potential for a store was there,” Jennifer said.
They often ask themselves, “What’s the opportunity when looking at locations,” Gary said.
“Working for the franchise, I was able to understand what works and what doesn’t,” Gary added.
They have distributors that service each of their northern Nevada locations. Gary highlighted their ability to buy bulk items, such as 40,000 pounds of yogurt or 300,000 cups to help keep their cost down during the year.
“It helps us keep our prices reasonable,” Gary said.
They sold 300,000 smoothies last year, and anticipate that number will be more this year.
During Summer months, the Thomas’ ramp up to about 50 employees across their Keva Juice locations. Jennifer estimated that with the addition of the South Reno location that number will move up to 62 to 65 employees.
“We care about our employees, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be where we are,” Gary said.
The Thomases are realistic about Keva Juice not being a career choice for a lot of people so they work to incorporate competency-based training for their employees.
“How do we help make them a better version of themselves?,” Gary said. “We want people to walk away with skills like being approachable and a good listener.”
The Thomases pride themselves on being very community oriented and have always had help from their three children: Kylee (4), Karson (18), and Kelton (21) at their Keva Juice locations. Karson recently received a scholarship to play for the Nevada Wolf Pack football team.
“The recession forever changed how we look at business,” Gary said. “Our business being able to grow is an indicator of the region coming back.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.