Southside Squeeze ramps up efforts after Springfield Hustles win

Mix up some fresh fruits and vegetables, and you have a tasty drink.

Add in a dream of owning a small business, and you have Southside Squeeze, a juice bar that officially celebrated its grand opening earlier this month after winning the Springfield Hustles entrepreneurial competition late last year.

Co-owners Craig Williams and Earl Taylor, along with a handful of friends who are involved in the business and also grew up with them on the Southside of Springfield, watched as grocery stores slowly disappeared in their part of town and access to fresh fruits and vegetables diminished.

Williams says they wanted to create something that could give back to the community.

“This could be an alternative, something the city needs, something the city wants,” Williams says.

Southside Squeeze’s all-natural, fresh-pressed juices are prepared the same day or the day before they are sold, he says. Each drink includes no additives, no preservatives and no added sugar.

“Our ingredients are as listed. If you get a Black Excellence, you’re going to get raspberries, pears and apples,” Williams says. The menu includes five other drinks – including The Purple Tape (grape, blueberry, mint and aloe) and Glow’d Up (orange, carrot, apple and ginger) – along with wheatgrass shots and wellness shots. Taylor created the recipes.

“He’s our certified juice-ologist,” Williams says.

Although Southside Squeeze officially launched this year, the business first began its juice sales last fall. The business started with a tent, now operates out of a trailer, and Williams hopes to use a small, motorized vehicle within the next three years. The next goal is to have a brick-and-mortar location and to offer its juices in grocery stores and small businesses.

Winning Springfield Hustles – the small business contest inspired by “Shark Tank” in which local entrepreneurs pitch their business plans and concepts to a panel of judges – and the $25,000 in capital and array of other prizes the business was awarded helped Southside Squeeze get to where it is now, Williams says.

“It put us about two years ahead of where we planned to be at this point,” he says.

The business competed as Main Squeeze Juice Bar, but as it applied for an LLC, Williams and the others realized that there were a number of registered companies with the same or a similar name. At one point the Springfield juice bar was erroneously tagged in a social media post intended for another business of the same name in a different city.

The juice bar worked with the marketing team that was part of the Springfield Hustles winner’s package and decided to go with an alternate name that would set it apart.

“Something that fits us more, because we want to represent the Southside of Springfield,” he says.

While Williams and Taylor are the co-owners and run the daily operations of the business, it was founded with the help of other graduates of Springfield South High School: Jafar Jones, Melvin Hardnick, Marcus Clark and Jason Allen. The others assist with the logistics, events, preparation and operation meetings.

All count Southside Squeeze as a side business and hold full-time jobs. Williams works for the Social Security Administration, and Taylor is a financial coach with Wright-Patt Credit Union.

Southside Squeeze can be found this Friday at CommonsFest in Downtown Springfield. The event will be from 3 to 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 6, at National Road Commons.

The business has been embraced with open arms by the elders of the Southside community, including the individuals who Williams says have set the standard for small businesses and who they looked up to as kids.

“They’ve really, really helped us out a lot and shown their support for us,” Williams says, adding that those involved with Southside Squeeze “hope to carry the torch to the generation below us.”

Although Southside Squeeze happens to be black-owned, Williams says they want to be known for more than that. They want to be known for their customer service and as a reliable source for fresh juice. They want to be as synonymous with the city as Schuler’s and other Springfield staples.

Williams wants others from his same background and from his same part of town to know that with dedication and determination they too can follow their dreams.

“It’s doable,” he says. “We’re here. You can do it too.”

Williams knows about the hype surrounding the business, and he asks customers and supporters to be patient as they continue to build the business. Everything the founders of Southside Squeeze are doing is not for themselves alone, but for the benefit of the community, Williams says.

“We have no plans to go away,” he says.

Read more articles by Diane Erwin.