New businesses move into downtown Waco

Businesses Hey Sugar, Alpha Omega, Pinewood Coffee Bar and Oh My Juice take their place in Downtown Waco. Graphic by Gavin Pugh | Digital Managing Editor

By Bradi Murphy | Arts & Life Editor and Rachel Mower | Staff Writer

Oh My Juice

Inspired by healthier living, owners of Oh My Juice Tierra Barber and Denitia Blount, are making an impact in the Waco community by offering local healthy treats.

Barber and Blount met at a Baylor Fiesta Bowl and instantly bonded over their mutual interest in healthy living and juicing. They use juicing as a generic term for eating healthy. For example, in their smoothies, they use natural fruit and vegetable juice with no preservatives or chemicals.

With Oh My Juice, Barber and Blount hope to spread the message that eating healthy does not have to be a bad thing; it can taste really good. With their juices they offer a healthier diet for customers, which increases their energy boost, improves weight loss, reverses health condition and much more.

Blount struggled with lower back pain for years and decided to undergo surgery. However, a month later, she was involved in a severe car accident. The force of impact tore her sacroiliac joint, and left her in excruciating pain for months. Realizing pain killers and pain management was not helping, Blount began a healthy diet after a friend introduced her to juicing.

“I went off [pain killers] cold turkey and started juicing,’ Blount said. ‘It’s not a quick fix, it took about seven weeks but I woke up one morning pain free. I had slept through the night and I couldn’t believe it,” Blount said.

Blount and Barber advocate real, whole food without preservatives. Nothing comes into their store that is pre-made; they make it, then they sell it. Oh My Juice provides a creative menu that helps educate their customers.

Oh My Juice began at Waco Downtown Farmers Market where a number of people were crazy about their smoothies. Even though they opened their storefront last September, they continue to be at the farmers market every Saturday morning.

“The farmers market was a great foundation for us to test the waters to see how [Oh My Juice] would be received,” Barber said. “Going into it, we never knew we were going to open a store, we were just two women with a passion.”

Blount and Barber offer more than just juices, they offer salads, energy bites, avocado toast and acai bowls. The acai bowl has the thickness of a smoothie, only is in a bowl instead of a cup and can be topped with fruit or granola.

It takes hundreds of samples and hours of work to make a new flavor, but their dedication pays off as they expand their unique menu. A few examples include the cucumber lemonade, a green acai bowl, which is made to be more diabetic friendly, and a beautiful purple colored peanut butter and jelly smoothie.

“It’s made me stronger and braver and more willing to put myself out there and try new things,” Blount said.

Alpha Omega

The Mediterranean restaurant Alpha Omega is changing Waco with their Greece inspired, healthy fast-food dishes.

Owner Dorothy Lentis is originally from Greece and always had a passion for their healthy meals. Growing up, Lentis’ father had owned multiple business. So when Lentis finished culinary school in 2011, it made sense that she, too, would open a business of her own. She was able to open Alpha Omega with her husband on June 8.

Her husband, who is also from Greece, used to own two restaurants similar to Alpha Omega. The two met one summer as Lentis was interning at a bakery in Greece. After getting married, he moved with her to America and was able to leave his mark in the restaurant by making the pita and gyros each morning.

“Alpha Omega’s kitchen is visible from the seating area, allowing guests to experience the food being prepared,” the Alpha Omega website said. ‘The two gyro machines positioned in the middle of the kitchen allows guests to see the classic Mediterranean meat preparation style.”

In Greece, the gyro usually consists of a chicken and pork, but in American, gyros are ground beef and lamb. At Alpha Omega, they do a good job of mixing both cultures as they offer pork, chicken, a ground beef mixture and a very tender weathered lamb.

“Every time we go [to Greece], we eat like pigs and end up losing weight! Then we come back here and are on a strict diet but always start gaining weight. Once we started looking into it, we found out that it’s actually a lot of the preserves here can actually make you gain weight … So my goal eventually is to have it all natural and all organic,” Lentis said.

Alpha Omega is located on 929 Franklin Avenue in what used to be a vacant radiator shop that needed a lot of tender love and care. When Lentis and her father first build.

“It’s an old transmission shop, so the walls are worn brick and plaster. Very cool. It looks like it belongs in Austin. There’s also pictures hung on string around the restaurant of Mediterranean cites and artwork, so I think It’s a nice place to go when you’re wanting to go out but don’t want anything right across the highway from campus,” said Vinton, La., junior Victoria Herline.

Alpha Omega also bakes pastries such as moose cakes, cream horns and fresh gelatos. They make it all in house based on what ingredients they have, so the sweets have fewer sugars and customers are able to taste the natural flavors.

“We keep it traditional and very simple and very healthy,” Lentis said.

Hey Sugar

Hey Sugar Candy Store, located at 808 Austin Ave. in downtown Waco, has been making Waco a little bit sweeter since they opened their doors on May 30. Hey Sugar Candy Store offers a wide variety of sweets and treats including handmade chocolates, jelly beans, ice cream, hundreds of retro sodas and much more.

Manager Ashley Majors and owner Kristin Brittan had an outpouring of support from their neighbors and downtown Waco during the opening.

“Peoples’ reactions to our opening were what we anticipated and more. It was unbelievable when we opened the door. We did not expect the amount of people and customers that we got,” Manager Ashley Majors said. “We were beyond thrilled to see everyone, and it was so much fun. It was a packed house to say the least.”

Majors said one of her favorite features of the shop is their large ice cream selection. Hey Sugar offers 30 different flavors of ice cream, including.

“I am an ice cream girl. Every day, I don’t eat lunch and eat ice cream. I think that makes up for missing a cheeseburger,” Majors said.

The old-fashioned sodas are Major’s favorite item that Hey Sugar offers because she thinks that their selection of retro sodas is truly unique.

“We get our sodas from all over the nation,” Majors said. “We try to stock stuff you cannot find at H-E-B or your local gas station.”

A unique flavor Hey Sugar oers is Big Red.

“This bright red, cream soda-ish drink is beloved throughout Texas and the south for it’s sweet, bubbly properties. Some say it’s cream soda, some say Big Red is flavored like bubble gum. What we can tell you for sure: it’s really sweet…” an article by the Huffington Post said.

Customers can order a Big Red float if one form of Big Red is not enough, which is a combination of the Big Red soda and ice cream.

Major believes customers will especially love the store’s care packages, which can be delivered or picked up. She thinks they have the potential to be a big hit amongst Baylor students and their parents.

“We make the packages with soda carriers and fill them with their favorite candy,” Majors said. “Parents can even order them over the phone to deliver to their children at school.”

Waco sophomore Keelie Compton is excited that there is finally a candy shop that offers such a variety of candies in Waco. She thinks Hey Sugar is unique because there is nothing else like it in the city.

“When I walked in, it wasn’t what I expected. When I heard about a new candy shop in Waco, I was expecting something small, but it was actually really big, and they had a ton of variety when it came to the candy,” Compton said. “It was really cool to see something like that in Waco.”

Majors said the most rewarding part of managing is when she sees the joy that Hey Sugar is bringing to the community.

“My favorite part is the happiness, the smiles on everyone’s face when they walk inside and just all of the joy in the environment,” Majors said.

Pinewood Coffee Bar

Two Baylor alumni, J.D. Beard and Dylan Washington, opened Pinewood Coffee Bar this summer in pursuit of sharing their specialty coffee with the Waco community. Located in downtown Waco at 927 Franklin Ave, Pinewood differs from most coffee shops in that they have a unique mission – to build relationships and make people feel at home.

The name of the new coffee bar, Pinewood, was chosen because both Beard and Washington are from East Texas, which is sometimes nicknamed the Pine Curtain, due to the large amount of pine trees in the area.

“Pine wood or pine trees has always felt like home to us,” Washington said. “We wanted a name that would basically make us help people feel like they are at home. Our brand is all about being comfortable, being happy, and enjoying things.”

Washington wants people to know that they truly care about each of their customers and love to see them every time they come in.

“Our coffee bar is specifically designed for customer interaction,” Washington said. “Our mission is to have a barbershop kind of feel. We want you to feel like you can talk to your barista about anything.”

In addition to having a customer-friendly atmosphere, Pinewood strives to have exceptional coffee. They take extensive measures to ensure that the cup of coffee customers receive is phenomenal.

“The main thing about our coffee bar is that we were roasters first and then became baristas. We are different compared to other shops in Waco because we are connected with the coffee throughout its entire journey until it reaches you,” Washington said. “We buy green coffee beans from farms, roast it ourselves, and then prepare it for you. I think that is a really special thing, that we are connected with that coffee throughout its entire journey until it reaches you.”

Beard and Washington have both become de eply invested in their roasting process to produce high-quality coffee. “Coffee quality is strictly related to its flavor and aroma developed during the roasting process, that, in their turn, depend on variety and origin, harvest and post-harvest practices, and the time, temperature, and degree of roasting,” an article by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry said.

Joshua Modisette, Operations Director at The Foundry Coffee House, can vouch for the quality of Pinewood Roasters coffee.

“We have carried a couple of their coffees. They had an Ethiopian coffee that was really fantastic. It was smooth and really well balanced. It had a pretty good berry note, but not citrusy, just really sweet. It was really good, we liked it a lot,” Modisette said.

Since opening their doors this summer, Pinewood Coffee Bar has had a positive response from the Waco community.

“We’ve been really busy,” Washington said. “We’ve been told that the sales are supposed to be super slow in the summer but it hasn’t been slow for us at all; it’s only going to get busier.”

Aside from being successful in terms of the number of customers they have had thus far, Pinewood has also seen great success in its original mission –– building relationships.

“People come in and tell us all kinds of things,” Washington said. “Our biggest shareholders we have in this business are our customers. We will never think we are too good for them; we love chatting with them.”