It was over a nice steak and wine dinner in Australia that Jamie Stephenson’s professional mentor told her to ... find another career? Yes. It was summer 2012, and Stephenson was working as an assistant to a renowned portrait photographer. Part pep talk, part reality check: She told Stephenson she’d never find success behind a camera, and urged her to rethink her passions, values and goals as they spent the next 10 weeks traveling. “I was 30, and I was devastated. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Stephenson says.
Inspiration, though, turned out to be as close as the refrigerator. When the photographer developed digestive troubles that put her off solid food, Stephenson began whipping up the juices she’d learned to mix while living with her mother and stepfather, Walter. The photographer loved them and, by the end of the trip, Stephenson had drawn up a business plan for a juice bar.
“I came back from Australia with a full-on understanding that what I had experienced with Walter and my mother fundamentally changed my habits.”
It had taken a while for Stephenson herself to catch juice fever. Growing up in Las Vegas, the Okinawa-born Stephenson grew up thinking little of diet and nutrition. She loved Jack in the Box. “Those tacos are really, really good,” she confesses. But as she was preparing to do the cash-strapped-student thing at UNLV, her mom made her an offer: Stephenson could live with her rent-free if she stuck to a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and natural juices.
“I was submerged into her obsession,” she said. “I was quite frankly her guinea pig, and I wasn’t allowed to eat out.” Stephenson initially called her mother’s new diet “crazy,” but after a few months, she was a convert. She slimmed down; she had more energy. After nine months, the bad acne she dealt with for most of her life had vanished. Her mother’s new husband Walter, who had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, seemed to benefit as well. He went on to live another five years, a fact Stephenson attributes to her mother’s diet revolution.
When Stephenson returned from Australia in 2012, she immediately dove into books about nutrition and juicing. She bought a cold-press juicer, stocked up on vegetables and began obsessively testing recipes. In March, Stephenson opened the Juice Standard (juicestandard.com) in the west valley with her longtime best friend Marcella Melnichuk. Behind the counter, glass-door refrigerators hold bright, colorful bins of turmeric, carrots, apples and radishes stacked on shelves above rows of bottled juices in shades of green, orange and red. You may momentarily forget you’re in Vegas — which is part of the point.
“Vegas is all about excess and abuse,” says Stephenson. “There are a million places you can go in this town to get something bad to put in your body … but there was no place in town where you could go specifically to get something that’s fresh, that is raw, that is 100 percent organic, that is made with absolute care and consideration, and that was meant to serve your body.”