BY CAROLINE SELLE — On a Friday morning in late January, there was a consistent flow of customers at the new Mount Rainier juice bar, The Waterhole. Two women chatted at a table, another worked alongside a wall in elevated seating, and a regular customer stopped by for a “three kings” smoothie made with beet juice.
An orange smoothie bike — a bike fashioned so that peddling powers a blender — sat in the window, and above the bar, bright signs announced various items “coming soon” along with the ingredients of the café’s juices.
“I always wanted to open up a café,” said Lisa Harris, the 26-year-old owner and founder. Harris, a musician who grew up in the area and who currently lives in local artist housing, said she saw the need for a welcoming, healthy gathering place. “I knew that I loved the bar vibe and being able to engage with your community,” she said.
The Waterhole just opened on Nov. 15, and “I already have regulars,” she said. “I have some guys who have been taking wheatgrass shots for over 30 years.” Since the juice bar opened its doors, “They come here every morning for a shot.”
“My family is really healthy and I grew up healthy,” she said. “When my father started passing of cancer … I really started diving back into health and juice and started doing detox programs … when he passed, I decided to give birth to my dreams.”
In addition to the fresh juices, her menu includes a few food items like a Caribbean “burger” made from pumpkin seeds. Everything served is “live, vegan and raw,” said Harris, although she does offer half & half and coffee for customers who need a caffeine fix. All the coffee is from locally-owned Zeke’s Coffee, and the wheatgrass is from Randallstown, Md.
She is working to expand her offerings and plans to reach out to local farms and other businesses as the growing season approaches.
“I want to keep everything local,” she said. “I opened in the winter, so that’s kind of hard … the main thing you can source right now is kale.”
Harris built and decorated the space with help from an artist friend, Dale Blackwood. “He did the floor, the tables, he built this bar,” she said. Blackwood also created all of the (for sale) artwork currently hanging on the walls. Harris built a table out of the vertical cross section of a tree.
While days start with coffee, Harris invites bands to set up in the window and play live music for customers in the evenings.
The Raw, a Virginia-based company, makes all of the food for the Waterhole, and the event is “a restaurant style pop-up,” Harris said.
The Waterhole offers wifi and is open every day of the week, and Tuesday through Friday, Harris is on site from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Harris’ mother and her mother’s best friend work on Saturdays, and a friend swings by most afternoons to help clean up during the last hour of service. But on weekdays, with the exception of that last hour of help, Harris runs the space by herself.
“My biggest focus is on providing some consistency to the neighborhood,” she said. “For so long I would have to go to 7-11 to get coffee.”
Now, her local watering hole is right around the corner from her home.
More information about the Waterhole is available at www.thewaterholecommunity.com/. Parking is available in the lot around the back, off the intersection of 34th and Bunker Hill Road.