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How Thrive Juices is feeding the underserved in Houston

The Black-owned juice bar was founded on a mission of healthfulness for everyone

A childhood spent in the projects of New Orleans watching his father die from poor eating made James Kelso want to break the cycle. That’s how Thrive Juices started.

“Health and wellness were not a part of my childhood,” Kelso told Restaurant Hospitality. “I grew up in New Orleans, we eat the best food in the world, but it's not the healthiest food in the world.”

Kelso, a self-described health-conscious fitness enthusiast, started Thrive Juices in 2020, right before the pandemic, which forced it to shut down. It reopened in a new location in the Post Houston Market last month.

It was one of the first Black-owned businesses to open in the market.

“Founding Thrive has given us an opportunity to make people feel their best every day, all while lifting communities that deserve a fair chance,” Kelso said in a statement. “Our priority is to focus on offering healthy food options and educating consumers who are traditionally at a disadvantage on the scale of food intelligence about natural ingredients that boost their mind, body and spirit.”

Thrive Juices was founded with the intention of helping communities impacted by food deserts. According to the USDA, an estimated 18.8 million Americans live in low-income and low access tracts more than 10 miles from a supermarket.

500,000 of those Americans live in the Houston area, according to Thrive Juices.

Kelso is going to provide families in the food desert with fruits and juices monthly as part of the brand’s community outreach element so others don’t see their parents die or their children suffer in school.

“They’re eating junk food and chips and candy which makes them sluggish [and they] can’t focus. These are the types of things we forget about when we think about the ways we’re trying to help the community,” he said.


James Kelso (right) is trying to help underserved communities.

The menu at Thrive includes drinks like their most popular, Late Night Good Morning, good for hydration and muscle recovery with coconut water, watermelon, pineapple, lemon and cantaloupe; the Halle Berries, good for skin health with blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry and watermelon; and the Money, good for digestion and has green apple, cucumber, kale, celery, mint and ginger.

All juices are priced at $8 for 12 ounces.

Wellness shots are also available for $3 and smoothies like the Ninja Turtle, good for immunity, vitamin c and digestion, are served in a 16 ounce size and priced at $9.

Kelso wants the underserved communities in neighborhoods across the country to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and it takes support from the community to make it all happen.

“This mission has to be backed by all these communities. Finding our roots and grounding ourselves within a community, identifying everything that does benefit it, as well as being able to provide our menu to those communities [is crucial],” he said.

Thrive Juices is eyeing plans outside of the Houston market, both for their mission and new locations.

“We plan to grow to all the major cities in the U.S. and grow from there,” he said.

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