By Bella Butler EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
Steele Pressed Juice and Java has been fueling Big Sky with healthy blends for over a year now, but owner Jen Steele has been preparing for much longer. Before moving to Big Sky, Steele attended culinary school in Florida and worked on an organic juice farm in Hawaii where she learned about food medicine and the tremendous impact food has on physical and mental health. She also worked making sandwiches, smoothies and juices at a market, where she developed her interest in juices specifically.
When Steele arrived in Big Sky, she noticed an empty niche that she could fill with her passion.
“When I moved here, I saw a healthy, active community with zero healthy food and beverage options,” she said. “I was coming from Hawaii where fresh juice and smoothies are available everywhere, so I decided to go for it and open up the juice bar.”
Since opening Steele Pressed Juice, Steele has evolved from a farmer’s market stand to a bar in Compass Café to a stand-alone kiosk in the new park in front of the Wilson Hotel. She now serves juices, smoothies and coffee.
Explore Big Sky: What is the most challenging part about owning and operating a small business in Big Sky?
Jen Steele: “…I’m going to have to say that the most challenging part of owning and operating a small business has been finding a solid balance between work and play. The cost of living makes it difficult to hire employees at a pay rate that a start-up business can afford, meaning I’ve got to be there pretty much all day every day.”
EBS: What is your favorite memory as a resident/business owner in Big Sky?
JS: “So many favorite memories! But basically, the camaraderie and intimacy of a small town. You go somewhere alone; the mountain, the park, the store, and you end up on an adventure with friends and they’re the closest friends you’ll ever have. As a business owner, having local and seasonal customers [coming] to see me at the kiosk and congratulate me on the success and growth has been really cool.”
EBS: What is the mission of Steele Pressed Juice and Java?
JS: “My mission is to continue to contribute to happy, healthy lifestyles in Big Sky through food and beverage while also maintaining a small environmental footprint. I just want to create a fun environment for like-minded people to hang out and talk story.”
EBS: What conclusions do you make about the beverage industry in Big Sky and what do you do to accommodate this?
JS: “There’s actually plenty of places to get good coffee in Big Sky. My goal is to set myself apart by providing a coffee that reflects the healthier lifestyle that I’m promoting through juices and smoothies. To do that I am using organic coffee grown on small family farms in small batches. Additionally, I am using Kalispell Creamery milks to keep it local and the lowest sugar and ingredient nut milks available.”
EBS: What is most unique about running a business in Big Sky?
JS: “I think the coolest thing about running a business in Big Sky has been the support I’ve received. From fellow business owners offering advice, to community members helping spread the word, and friends offering to help out any way they can.”
EBS: Do you remember your first customer? Who was it/what’s the story?
JS: “My first customer was Shawna Winter. Before I started [as a vendor] at the farmer’s market, she ordered a 32-ounce jar of green juice and a 32-ounce jar of honey lavender lemonade. I remember getting ridiculously excited because she posted about it on Facebook and I was just like ‘This is really happening!’”
EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?
JS: “Honestly, I have a hard time looking that far into the future. I’m more of a go with the flow kind of mind set. Ultimately, I would like to figure out a way to work less, play more, and do the family thing. In the near future I plan to go mobile with a Juice Box on wheels, so keep an eye out for more on that!”
EBS: You’ve experienced a lot of change in the short time you’ve been in business. How do you stay flexible and adapt?
JS: “I like the challenge of change, so it has been pretty fun to be constantly growing and adapting.”
EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
JS: “Save your receipts.”
EBS: What is your favorite juice that you’ve come up with?
JS: “My favorite smoothie is the orange creamsicle which is banana, mango, carrot, vanilla, coconut milk, and orange juice. For a summer juice I’m pretty into the Upper Morningstar: It’s cucumber, lemon, ginger, and cayenne. It’s great on a hot day.”