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Ones to Watch | By Lynne Miller

Jumpin’ Juice & Java
Iced coffee beverage from Jumpin Juice & Java

When he opened the first Jumpin’ Juice & Java shop in 1996, all Jeff Gabica wanted to do was make a living running the shop in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. He wasn’t planning on developing a multiunit chain with 17 stores across the country.

But before long, he was running five shops and fielding inquiries from people who wanted to open their own stores. Gabica created a licensing program, sold the original five stores, and continued to sell licenses to operators in other states. Today, licensees buy the rights to the Jumpin’ logo and product recipes, and Gabica provides consulting services to help the partners develop their stores.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be in business,” says Gabica, a former soap opera actor.

He believes the Jumpin’ concept, which offers specialty juice and coffee beverages and food under one roof, sets the chain apart from competitors.

“If you’re a juice fan, you can come to us,” Gabica says. “If you’re a coffee fan, you can come to us.”

Furthermore, Gabica believes Jumpin’s focus on quality has helped the chain distinguish itself in a market that’s grown increasingly crowded. The stores make smoothies from pasteurized juices and frozen fruits, which Gabica says offer consistent flavor, the same nutrients as fresh fruits, and the advantage of less labor. “You don’t have to constantly clean the juicers,” he says. “There’s lower risk of E. coli bacteria and no waste. It costs less to produce the drinks.”

The stores use premium nonfat frozen vanilla yogurt, which has less sugar and a flavor that’s superior to sherbet, Gabica says. To make sure customers get fresh-tasting coffee, the company maintains a coffee-roasting facility in Boise.

For breakfast, many customers simply order smoothies. The Berry Berry Good, a blend of blueberries, raspberries, orange juice, and bananas, is the top seller.

Another popular choice is the Maui Breeze, a mix of pineapple, coconut, and banana, which tastes like a piña colada. The concept also offers a peanut butter, chocolate, milk, and banana concoction known as the Sweet Dream.

In addition to specialty coffee drinks and coffee-based smoothies, customers have a choice of chai tea, chai smoothies, hot chocolate, Italian sodas, and milk steamers, which combine steamed milk with flavored syrup. Straight fruit juices are also available, and liquid nutritional supplements can be added to the beverages for an extra 50 cents.

The restaurants are designed to appeal to the senses. Customers inhale the aroma of freshly ground coffee and hear the soothing sound of running water coming from water fountains. New Age instrumental music creates a relaxing mood. The quieter sounds of typing and clicking come from customers using their laptops. Stores offer free wireless Internet. Televisions and couches encourage lingering. Coffee and juice colors influence the color scheme, which is made up of shades of gold, green, brown, and burgundy.

“We like to make a living room atmosphere out of it,” Gabica says.

The restaurants, which range in size from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet, can seat 20 to 40 people.

FOUNDER: Jeff Gabica
HQ: Boise, Idaho

For all the attention paid to comfortable dining, though, the stores mainly attract customers on the go. The eateries generate 80 percent of sales from carry-out orders. Sales are about 20 percent higher at the chain’s one store with a drive-thru window, Gabica says. The average check is $5.50.

Like many of its competitors, Jumpin’ added panini sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and other food items a couple of years ago, and the addition has paid off.

“A lot of our shops do about 50 percent of overall sales from food,” Gabica says. “It was a good move.”

To improve quality control, the company got into franchising in 2007. Yet with credit drying up for potential partners, franchising has progressed slowly. Jumpin’ is registered to operate franchises in Florida and California. To open one, franchisees can expect to spend $150,000 to $300,000, which includes a $30,000 franchise fee.

Lynne Miller covers emerging and newly relevant brands.