Dateline: The first week of January 2021. The hellscape of 2020 is over, your clothes are tighter than they were in the spring, and resolutions are now etched in your head. "Erase the bodily sins of the last nine months," they might as well read.
As a professional juicer, Ronald "Six" Montgomery knows how people approach self-improvement, as an all-in-one-shot. He’d tell you this: Getting healthy, like anything else, is a long game.
"You have to be realistic," said Montgomery, 44, founder and owner of Garden City-based Six Juice and trainer. "None of us are going to go overnight from bad habits to changing to healthy habits. It’s not going to happen. Don’t let your new year’s resolution be the only time you’re going to decide to change your life. It’s about being a healthier version of you."
That long-term persistence is Montgomery’s magic tool. Inside an empty Sayville space that will eventually become Six Juice’s first brick-and-mortar juice bar, Montgomery’s hands are jammed in a black hoodie emblazoned with a neon-green number 6 as he scans the drywall and raw floor. He knows it will be months before he gets the permits needed to begin ordering equipment, he said.
But he’s patient. The road to this juice bar — the first of what he plans to be a franchise — has been at least five years long, and began when his mother, Willie Mae, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. "I was really raw. I didn’t know what to do," said Montgomery, who was raised in Central Islip. (Though he was the baby of the family, he eventually grew to 6-foot-10, hence his nickname). "I couldn’t handle her not being alive. I had to do the best I could, so I began to juice."
Montgomery grew up eating berries, greens and other veggies from his mother’s garden, and had read about the benefits of juicing these for cancer patients. Using a $40 Breville juicer he picked up at Bed Bath & Beyond, he pressed fruits and vegetables in his kitchen — oranges, pineapple, beets, spinach, apple, celery. He poured the juices for his mom, to boost her healing process, but shared them with friends, too.
"It could be better," he recalls a friend Jackie Midiri telling him, shaking his head. As he honed his juices, each with a handful of ingredients or less, Montgomery posted them on social media and sold to friends. Eventually, he launched Six Juice as a side business — his day job is as a mechanic — and he scaled up his shopping from grocery stores to Restaurant Depot to, eventually, wholesalers in Hunts Point, in the Bronx. "Then Power 6 changed everything," said Montgomery.
Power 6 was created on the spot at an even in a Bohemia gym, when Montgomery juiced kale and spinach with lemon and pineapple; the sugar content of the pineapple tempered the bitterness of the greens. "People loved it," said Montgomery, who began to juice commercially at Kitchen Co-op in Amityville, then sell at farmers markets around Long Island. In 2016, he opened a kiosk at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. "There are times I only sold a juice a day," he said. "Still, I had to be there. You have to be consistent."
Montgomery taught himself business, management and production skills as the business grew, and decided to close the stand in 2018 and revert to direct-to-consumer sales. This past year, he’d pack coolers full of juices and drive them around to quarantined customers himself. "People needed help," said Montgomery, who himself weathered COVID last winter and lost his sense of taste for weeks. Even so, he looked at dozens of spaces along the South Shore for a juice bar, eventually settling on a former jewelry store on Main Street.
For now, Montgomery’s juice portfolio is focused on about six blends, among them Power 6, the jewel-toned Inferno 6 (beets, ginger, watermelon, orange and lemon) and Fresh 6 (orange, lemon and mint). Besides his website, he also drops off bottles at Pro-Fit Deer Park, SwoleHouse Meals in Centereach and Tullulah’s in Bay Shore. "I can never have enough juice," said Montgomery, who regularly sells out of each 6,000-bottle run, now produced in Garden City every few weeks, and said he sells about $25,000 in juice each month, much of that via his website. More blends will debut in 2021, when Montgomery will also begin selling in two New York City supermarket chains. "I have 75 flavors in a book, locked away in a safety deposit box," he said.
The Six Juice bar will be a bright, upbeat takeout spot, said Montgomery, with lots of subway tile, a Pac-Man machine and juices for all ages, from a scaled-down children’s juice line to blends spiked with alcohol. He’ll also debut a wholly green, fruit-free line. "A green drink is for a very acquired taste. People who want green want green, they don’t want any fruit," said Montgomery.
One of the driving principles of Six Juice is that Six, as everyone calls him, wants to show other people of color the possibilities of entrepreneurship. "We’re told, as Black men, that we can play sports, or we can rap," he said. "I want to show people of color and women that you can do more. It’s not just about the product, or money, it’s about people."
His mother is cancer-free now, and jokes with him that she should get half of his profits for inspiring his business. Montgomery takes her ribs with a broad smile, and seems relieved she’s still around to tease him.
"A juice a day could really change your life," he said.
Six Juice, sold via the Six Juice website or at a handful of Suffolk County retailers. the6juice.com
WHERE TO GET FRESH JUICE ON LONG ISLAND
There are almost endless places to get fresh-pressed juices on Long Island, from taquerías serving fresh fruit and tamarind juice and juice counters inside of gyms to health-food stores and dedicated juice bars. Here are a few where the juice is especially on point:
Food For Thought (157 Seventh St., Garden City): Juices at this health-focused café start at $6.59, and among the made-to-order blends are Liver Cleanse (beet, cabbage, carrot, lemon, ginger, parsley and turmeric) or the chlorophyll-loaded Green Machine, a powerhouse of spinach, kale, parsley, cucumber, green apple, celery, ginger and lemon. More info: 516-747-5811, foodforthoughtgc.com
nice n natural (351 Old Country Rd., Carle Place and 47 Mineola Blvd., Mineola ): The organic, cold-pressed juices offered at two locations start at $2.50 for wheatgrass shots and top out at $7 for juices such as Deep Detox (celery, cucumber, flax oil, ginger, kale, lemon, parsley, spinach). Multiple-day juice cleanse programs start at $66. More info: nicennatural.com
Organic Krush (locations in Amagansett, Plainview, Woodbury, Roslyn and Rockville Centre): The growing Organic Krush chain serves bowls, wraps, salads, bone broths, and gluten-free baked goods — but also finely tuned, cold-pressed juices that cost $10 for a 14-ounce bottle costs $10. Among them is the jewel-toned Smooth Sailing (carrot, green apple, beet, lemon and ginger) and zippy Flex Appeal (pineapple, spinach, cucumber, kale, mint, ginger). More info: organickrush.com
Plant Wise (15 E. Deer Park Rd., Dix Hills): The batched oat- and chia-based smoothies at this vegan eatery are downright addictive, but fresh-pressed bespoke juices (starting at $7.95) combine citrus, beets, apples, greens, herbs and spices in any combination you can think of. More info: 631-486-9222, eatplantwise.com
Real Food, Real People (249 Main St., Huntington): This tiny spot feels a bit like a stylish apothecary, and the juices here are cold pressed to order and come in unlabeled bottles — such as Good AM (orange, ginger and cayenne) and the refreshing Body (coconut water, cucumber, celery, basil and mint). Hardcore detoxers can go for $3 charcoal-lemon shots. More info: 631-425-7325. rf-rp.com
SariKopa Organic Coffee & Tea House (226 Riverleigh Ave., Riverhead): Despite its name, SariKopa also has a full roster of smoothies and cold-pressed-to-order juices that run the color and nutrient spectrum from carrots and beets to kale, ginger and apples. More info: 631-591-3444. sarikopa.com