This column is a look at brave souls who have taken a leap of faith to open their own businesses in and around Ann Arbor. What follows are personal profiles of business owners following their dreams and thriving despite the odds.
Thriving in Ann ArborUnlike many new business owners, Anna and Andy Mignery, the power partners behind Thrive Juicery in Ann Arbor, opened their juicery not because they were interested in starting a business, but because of their experiences juicing at home with their children, where they found amazing health benefits for the whole family. A juicery was something the Mignery’s agreed was missing in Ann Arbor, and together decided that the benefits were too great not to share with their local community. In other words, they want Ann Arbor to thrive with them!
The Mignery’s have always enjoyed living healthy lifestyles and introducing their children to the same. The two met in college, at Ann Arbor’s own University of Michigan, where Anna ran track and Andy was on the football team. While a healthy, active lifestyle was their foundation, their health journey took on a more urgent motivation when Andy was diagnosed with a cancerous carcinoid active tumor in his right lung at age 37. Andy spoke humbly of this experience, saying, “It was wreaking havoc throughout my body. Luckily, I was able to put together a great team of physicians here in Ann Arbor, where I was diagnosed and had surgery, losing over half of my right lung. I’ve been able to live through it, but through this journey, I had to put the brakes on life and figure out what I can control.” He understood that being thoughtful and deliberate about what one consumes is an aspect of life you have some control over. He continued, “So we did tons of research and, when you’re faced basically with death, you figure it out pretty quickly. For us, it was cold press juicing along with just doing a 180 diet-wise from the typical American diet (a highly acidic diet), and we really wanted to stay hydrated, consume low refined sugars, low breads, and really focus in on consuming so much more green vegetables. I’m down over 60 pounds, I feel unbelievable.” With a smile on his face, he happily reported, “I’ve been able to beat what was thrown my way. It was a very difficult journey, to say the least, but Anna was right there with me every step of the way.”
Anna, right on cue, jumped in to say, “We ate vegetables anyway, but now we consume far more because we really believe that that is the key to being healthy. But, you can only eat so many salads, right? You can just only consume it [salad] so many ways, so when we found juicing it was like, ‘Oh! This is good and it is really easy.’ Especially with kids, this is a no brainer.” In this last comment lies one of the primary reasons that the Mignery’s pursued raw cold press juices over other diet changes they could have made to increase their intake of vegetables—it is as delicious as it is easy, and a sneaky source of superfoods that even their kids loved.
In their own exploration of cold press juicing, they learned a lot about best practices, as well as what you’re getting when you go to a grocery store and pick up a “cold pressed” juice. Andy explained, “It’s really important when others read about cold press juices, [to understand] there’s a lot of cold press juicing out there, and it’s a play on words where you can produce something by cold pressing it, but the real worthwhile piece of knowledge is what happens after it’s cold pressed. We don’t add anything to our juice, and it’s imperative to have individuals understand that. We don’t add water, we don’t add heat to it, we don’t boil our juice, we don’t put sugary syrups in our juice.” Andy spoke passionately about this, and Anna lended herself to finish his thought, “So, cold press is kind of this buzz word, you’ll see it on olive oil, you’ll see it on all sorts of products. It’s called cold press because there is not any heat exposure, like in a blender, heat is exposed to the produce and then it starts to oxidize immediately, but the important part is not only that it’s cold pressed, but that we don’t pasteurize it afterward. So, for this product to be sold, if we were to buy a cold pressed juice at Whole Foods or any other grocery store, if it’s not juiced in house, it has to be pasteurized.”
Food law also doesn’t require that companies put “pasteurized” on their products, but Andy and Anna learned two big “tells” of pasteurized juices that they wanted to share. “You know immediately if it’s in a plastic bottle. You can’t pasteurize in a glass bottle or it would shatter. Also, if your shelf life is 45 or 90 days from now, you know,” said Anna. She added to this, explaining why Thrive is unique in the world of juiceries, “Here, our shelf life is four days, and we choose to shelf for four days because you get the most nutritional benefit the sooner you have it. The health department would allow us to stand nine days, but we choose not to. And we have a clientele that supports us. We have a hard time keeping up making enough juices as it is, but we want our customers to have the best and most delicious juice. We could make a lot more juice and sell a lot more juice if we decided to extend our shelf life, but that’s not our mission, so we don’t do it. And that’s what sets us apart from what you might buy in a grocery store for the same price point or at other juiceries.”
Another thing that sets Thrive Juicery apart from others is their commitment to sustainability. They only use glass bottles, never plastic, and they have a recycling program for these glass bottles as well as the jars they sell their to-go salads in. Customers receive 25 cents for each bottle or jar returned. They also donate their excess pulp back to local farms, because in the process of juicing, a lot of pulp is made from the produce that has gone through the juicer. Thrive Juicery takes pride in their reciprocal relationship with local farmers in buying their seasonal produce (and therefore curating their menu seasonally), as well as sharing their nutrient-rich pulp with the growers in this community.
In addition to offering eight raw cold pressed juices, which each have three to four salads worth of vegetables and fruit in each bottle, Thrive Juicery also sells ionized alkaline water by the jug. As a health-focused business, they only put on the shelves what they are most passionate about providing. In their quest to learn about cold pressed juicing, they found the health benefits of ionized alkaline water and decided to start a re-fillable jug offering program as well. Ionized alkaline water has strong antioxidant properties that attach and neutralize potentially harmful free radicals in the body. But, as with cold pressed juice, the quicker you consume it from when it is ionized, the greater the health benefit. Which is exactly why the Mignery’s have such a successful ownership of their mission—they are making people feel good and often feel better than they did before. Anna warned of this positive change, “You don’t know that you don’t feel great until you do it and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh!’” Andy agreed, “You can tell the difference. It’s very calming.”
From raw cold pressed juices and smoothies, to ionized alkaline water, toast, and salads to-go, Thrive Juicery is an amazingly convenient place to grab an on-the-go healthy and fulfilling treat. And in keeping with their mission of providing a convenient way to enjoy superfoods rich in nutrients and antioxidants, the Mignery’s have been awarded an opportunity to open a second storefront in downtown Ann Arbor, hoping to access even more of the Ann Arbor community with the benefits of a “thrive diet”—transparent ingredients (you know exactly what is in your juice or smoothie), raw, and unpasteurized. This second location will be at the corner of Liberty and Main Street. Andy spoke passionately about the future development, saying, “We’re so excited. We feel like it’s meant to be almost. And we’ve only been open six months!”
As independent business owners, the Mignery’s have had a very exciting six months, and they are looking forward to the future of Thrive Juicery. After trying only two of their eight juices, I must say—I’m hooked. I cannot wait to keep drinking what the Mignery’s are juicing, and I know you’ll feel the same way after your first taste. Personally, I recommend their Sweet Root juice to start, but I am still shopping around for my favorite. I have a feeling it will change with the seasons and the storefronts, and I am looking forward to seeing where their juicing journey will take them!
You can visit Thrive Juicery at their location in Lamp Post Plaza, 2420 E. Stadium Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI, 48104 or online at www.thrive-juicery.com. Thrive Juicery is open Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Friday 7:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. If you have questions or wish to contact Andy and Anna, you can call Thrive at (734) 585-5221. Thrive Juicery is also on Twitter (@thrivejuicery), Instagram (@thrivejuiceryaa), and Facebook.
Ann Arbor Pharmacy: Bringing the Pharmacy Back to the Community
The Ann Arbor Pharmacy opened its doors to the community last November, but has already established itself as a destination in town for high-quality care as well as high-quality products. Here, you can expect to pick up your prescription drugs quickly and without fuss or hassle, but I would urge you to carve out more time in your day for a visit than you might think you need. Browsing the shelves of international and high-end hair and skincare products, high-potency nutritional supplements and vitamins, and unique soaps, among other items, is a treat best enjoyed at a casual pace. You might even get the feeling that you’ve stepped into a European boutique—which, in many ways, you have—because this pharmacy is anything but ordinary. Ziad Ghamraoui, owner of Ann Arbor Pharmacy, said that this is the pharmacy he has always dreamed of opening. “I wanted to create a pharmacy just like [the pharmacies in] Europe and back home. This is how our pharmacies are. I wanted to give the Americans a taste of internationalism—a taste of France, a taste of Europe, a taste of the Middle East. When it comes to pharmacy choice, you walk in, you get quality healthcare items, you don’t have to rummage—I’m not here to give bargains, I’m here to give people the best bang for their buck.”
You can find the Ann Arbor Pharmacy conveniently located in the Lamp Post Plaza on the southeast side of the city. It is designed with an open concept that makes this space easy to navigate and holds the pharmacists to their in-and-out promise of short wait times. It is small, but fully stocked, and the ambiance of the store reflects its status as a boutique apothecary, complete with healthy green plants intermittently spaced on the shelves and product samples galore. But what will really make you think you stepped off of American soil are the products—products with unfamiliar names that are a far cry from what the chain pharmacies offer. International brands such as Avène, BioDerma, Klorane, Benamôr, and more fill the shelves to the delight of the American browser.
My first time entering Ann Arbor Pharmacy, I wasn’t only struck by its special collection of products whose names I did not recognize, I was also happily surprised to hear laughter and conversation—lengthy conversation, too, and not just your typical “How can I help you?” or “Have a good day, come back again soon!” What I witnessed were relationships that clearly took time to build, where the questions asked were about families, or about that vacation someone had recently come back from. Relationships between not only pharmacist and patient, but between pharmacist and community member, such as the delivery driver that dropped off a shipment and was greeted like an old friend, the driver staying to chat a while. Each person that interacted with Ziad Ghamraoui seemed to be treated in this way, and he appeared to be in his element. “I love my position. I like to communicate, I like to joke around, I like to humor people when it comes to taking their medications and ease off the pain.” Bri (one of the pharmacists at Ann Arbor Pharmacy) added, “Laughter’s the best medicine!”
This community-centered, high-quality care was exactly Ghamraoui’s hope and vision for Ann Arbor Pharmacy, as well as the other two pharmacies he owns in Southeast Michigan—Saline Pharmacy and Little Pharmacy of Milan, opened in April 2011 and October 2014 respectively. In his experience working for a chain pharmacy for six years, Ghamraoui was disappointed by what the healthcare profession he had pursued had become in the United States and the degraded relationship between pharmacist and patient. Ghamraoui holds a particular frustration with the chain pharmacies that provide most Americans with their prescription medicine, saying, “The chains have ruined the pharmacy image in the United States. It’s pretty much, you go in, it’s a dollar store, and with it you get a prescription—but, you know what, it’s a pharmacy. It’s healthcare. I’m not saying they’re bad companies, but I believe healthcare should be individualized. I just don’t think the profession is getting the respect it wants, or it needs.”
For Ghamraoui’s vision of what a pharmacy can be at its best, he drew on the pharmacies of his home country, Lebanon, and on his education and professional experience there. He earned his Bachelor of Biology in 1997, Bachelor of Pharmacy in 2000, Doctor of Pharmacy in 2002, and Master of Business Administration in 2003, immigrating to the United States in 2004. He has always been interested in the business aspect of the pharmacy business, so when he found himself disillusioned by the experience at the typical American pharmacy, he felt he could step up and make a change himself. “By virtue of my education and my experience and my willingness to help, I know the patient and I know the medication. This is a chance where the patient can discuss their medications, if the pharmacist has time, and independent pharmacists will always have the time.”
Before Ann Arbor Pharmacy, Ghamraoui opened Little Pharmacy of Milan and the Saline Pharmacy, both of which are businesses near and dear to Ghamraoui’s heart, and neither of which came without a lot of faith. Ghamraoui gushed about his community support in Saline, saying, “It is fulfilling and humbling. They gave me the time of day. If I showed you pictures of what the Saline pharmacy was, and what it is today, I don’t want to jinx it, but… God’s been good. They gave us a shot there.” And because they gave Ghamraoui and his independent pharmacy business when nobody else would, he is happy to give support back. “The Saline community knows me and I know them. It’s a smaller community, so when it comes to school activities, they do come to me and they ask me for donations. We donate to the police department, Saline social services, and other charitable organizations in Saline that know me. And they ask, “Why do you give?” and I say, “The community gave to me, so I am going to give back.”
After the success of the Saline Pharmacy, Ghamraoui honored requests from Milan patients to open an independent pharmacy closer to them, and within three years of the opening of Saline Pharmacy, the Little Pharmacy of Milan had its grand opening, but not without some challenges. “The people of Milan said, ’We love your service, we just wish it were closer to us.’ So, I incepted The Little Pharmacy—we started in a different location, then moved it to downtown, so now we’re much better off.” Now, Ghamraoui struggles with being present at each of his pharmacies—which is important to him and his patients equally—so he relies on his incredible team of 14 pharmacists across the three pharmacies to help keep everything up and running, as well as maintain the personal relationships built with each community. He said, “The Ann Arbor Pharmacy is my dream, but once it’s up and running, I do not want to grow another pharmacy because I do not want to dilute the patient-pharmacist relationship. Right now in Saline they say, ‘Where’s Ziad? We’d like to see him again,’ and the same thing in Milan. So, I am so grateful to my team because they took how I would do things and grew on it. I am so humbled by their owning of the businesses, as if I never left. And the patients know that I am watching from here. I have some of the best pharmacists working for me, and my technicians are some of the nation’s best trained, most honest, and most hardworking.”
Whether you happen to catch Ghamraoui on a day he is at the Ann Arbor Pharmacy or you chat with one of his trusted pharmacists, you can expect to be well taken care of. What the Ann Arbor Pharmacy provides is much more than just refills of your prescriptions, because the pharmacists there prioritize your individualized healthcare needs, and with this, access to internationally loved, high-quality products. Ghamraoui asks the people of Ann Arbor to remember, also, that not only will you receive more personalized care with an independent pharmacy, but you will be supporting your local community in the process. “The most important thing I tell people is support your local community businesses in general, and the local community businesses will take care of the community.” Knowing Ghamraoui, that sounds as good as a promise. Stop into Ann Arbor Pharmacy today and let them know I sent you—I promise you’ll be in good hands!
Visit Ann Arbor Pharmacy at 2418 East Stadium Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 or online at annarborpharmacy.com. Ann Arbor Pharmacy is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., and Sunday 12 a.m. - 4 p.m. You can give them a call at (734) 677-5555, or email Ghamraoui at firstname.lastname@example.org.