Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor
Tucked away near the outer portions of downtown Waco sits a small store with “Luna Juice Bar” plastered across the windows. Inside, customers are welcomed by smiling faces, colorful murals, comfortable seating and a huge variety of delicious juices, salads and more; however, Luna Juice Bar is far more than a hip smoothie shop.
Luna Juice Bar owner Summer Shine was born in Temple, an hour south of Waco. Shine, who dealt with various forms of neglect in her youth, was introduced to alcohol at the age of 10 through the daughters of her father’s girlfriend, and its consumption became a common pastime in her life. In early high school, Shine searched for a supportive community, but only found friendships with students who used various drugs.
“I felt like an outcast, and there was a group of kids who all felt like outcasts, and we all did drugs,” Shine said. “I really wanted to be a part of a group — any group — and what I quickly learned is that the thing that I thought was make me ‘a part of’ was actually making me ‘apart from’ … It was more recreational for them, and it was more of a way of life for me.”
After moving to Austin at the age of 15, her alcohol and drug abuse only grew. Without a support system, she was unable to see how her life was being overtaken by substances.
“Austin was like throwing lighter fluid on a fire,” Shine said. “There was a lot of partying to be done there, and there was not a lot a community. It was really hard to find community.”
Drugs and alcohol continued to consume Shine’s life, but, at age 19, a huge change planted the seeds of desire for recovery in her heart — pregnancy.
“I had my son, and I had no clue what love was until I had him,” Shine said. “It was this overwhelming sense of, ‘I really want to take care of this tiny human being and I want him to have the best life ever.’ That was the first time I wanted to get sober.”
Shine entered a period of sobriety for a year and a half, but eventually relapsed back into her addictions to various drugs and alcohol. Over the next several years, Shine faced ups and downs in her battle against addiction. At the age of 27, Shine found that her desire to reach sobriety was finally supported by an newly realized grit and resolve to conquer her substance abuse.
“When I started legitimately trying to stay sober, I would get longer periods of sobriety and shorter periods of relapse, and I felt like that was a win,” Shine said.
During her final severe relapse, Shine found herself in complete despair and faced a pivotal crossroad.
“Five years ago, I had lost everything, and I wanted to die,” Shine said. “I was actively trying to die every single day, and I realized at some point that God wasn’t letting me die. I was trying everything that I could to die, and God wasn’t allowing me to. I was going to either keep living the way that I was, which was awful — the worst life —or I was going to try to get clean one more time.”
She moved to a recovery center in Victoria called the Perpetual Help Home and faced her addiction in a radical way. Previously, Shine had never experienced peers and leaders challenging her and her beliefs about her addiction in the way the people at the Perpetual Help Home challenged her. The accountability and strict environment were exactly what she needed, Shine said. During her time at the center, Shine noticed a pattern in her life that would eventually become her business.
“I am either burning everything to the ground, completely destroying my life or I am waking up at 5:15 in the morning to go to Crossfit, having a super scheduled life and making my own breakfast and making my own lunch and eating very healthy,” Shine said. “There is this dichotomy with who I am and how I live. It’s either the good angel or the bad angel and juice is a part of my good story. It’s part of the way I take care of myself.”
The recovery center required that all of its residents either pursue a form of education or a business after leaving the center. After her four-month stay at the Perpetual Help Home, Shine received her income tax return in the mail and knew exactly what she needed to do with it.
“It was exactly enough money to buy a juicer,” Shine said. “So I bought the juicer and, I am telling you, I had a juicer and a dream. I didn’t have anything else to start off with.”
With the juicer she purchased, Shine started testing different flavors of juices by combining unique fruit combos in hopes of discovering one that she would later sell. Finally, she came up with Liquid Sunshine, a blend of grapefruit, orange, apple and ginger. She developed several other flavors, including her now favorite, Green Goodies.
Before she was able to hit the farmers market to sell her juices, Shine needed to find a name for her business and the inspiration came from someone who had been with her through her addiction and had inadvertently planted the first seeds of her fight for sobriety — her son, whose middle name is Moon.
“He was the most innocent bystander during my addiction, and so I wanted to honor him coming out of [my] addiction,” Shine said. “I wanted to show him that lives can be rebuilt and people can do good things and so I named the business “Moon Juice.’”
Unfortunately, fate would have it that a juice shop in Los Angeles had already claimed the name, so Shine found another word with the same meaning through which she could honor her son — ‘luna,’ based on the word ‘lunar.’
In April 2014, Shine started selling her juices at the farmers market with only one other person helping her a few days a week.
“The first week I went, I took three different flavors of juice and pitchers and sold out,” Shine said. “The farmers market was really successful for us.”
Luna Juice quickly became a popular farmers market booth. In October 2014, Shine decided to expand the business into a food truck and park it in one part of town sure to draw customers—Magnolia Market; however, the first few months at the popular tourist attraction didn’t go as planned.
“The day we opened, it started raining and it rained all the way until January,” Shine said. “October, November and December was just constant rain or cold weather, and so we thought we were doomed because nobody wanted juice and smoothies in the rainy cold weather.”
In spite of the glum prospect of a juice truck in persistent rainy weather, Shine pushed through the rainy weather, and, once spring came around, her patience paid off.
“Spring rolled around, and when spring came around, it was just incredible,” Shine said. “The first summer we were at the Silos was just insane, and business was just crazy.”
The food truck required a bigger team, and so Shine hired a few more employees to ease the load. Luna Juice experienced so much success over the past few years that Shine was able to open a brick and mortar location in downtown Waco this March.
Houston senior Caroline Krempa is one of many Baylor students that are growing to love Luna Juice and now frequent the new location in downtown Waco.
“I love it,” Krempa said. “I am going to come study here … and I for sure want to come here over a Smoothie King or a Jamba Juice … I am a total green smoothie girl, so I got the Pina-kale-ada, and 10-out-of-10 recommend it.”
Luna Juice Bar offers salads, wraps and other treats, as well as the classic juices the community has grown to love. Most importantly, many of the employees at Luna Juice Bar are people in recovery with similar stories to that of Shine herself.
However, Shine has done more for the community than simply provide refreshing juices in the Waco heat. After her time in Victoria at the Perpetual Help House, Shine felt compelled to open homes to other women recently recovering from addiction, a previously unmet need in Waco.
“We were renting a house from some friends, and they bought the house right behind us and I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we move some girls in there?’” Shine said. “There is a need in this community. There is no housing for women who are early in recover and it’s a really pivotal step. It’s super super important to have a transition period between rehab and living on your own.”
Her friends agreed, and in July of 2016, the house opened. Five women moved in within the first week and the house has been full with a wait list ever since. A year ago, Shine and her husband moved out of their rental house, purchased their own home and turned their previous residence into a second home for women just out of rehabilitation. Both homes are called the Sunshine Recovery Houses.
“In the last two years, there has been at least 50 women come through,” Shine said. “It has been amazing.”
One of those women is Jessica Dugan. Originally from Dallas, Dugan came to Waco for rehabilitation. She met Shine at the Sunshine Recovery House.
“I moved there after treatment, and I lived there for about six months to get on my feet,” Dugan said. “Summer has done a lot for me. She gave me a car. She’s going to court with me.”
Disrupting her previous experiences with unloving and unsupportive communities, Shine has found deep, authentic, caring community in Waco. The Waco community has been fundamental to her recovery, five years of sobriety and her relationship with Jesus.
“I didn’t know God,” Shine said. “I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus before I moved here, and people have really shown me what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Jesus here in this community. I have had so much love, and I have been able to give it.”