Cytotechnologist to Juice-ologist

Meet Damaris Pinedo of Just Juice 4 Life

Written by Leah Stacy, photos by Hannah Betts

Afternoon sunlight streams through the large front windows of Just Juice 4 Life on University Avenue in the city of Rochester. The scent of citrus tinged with spicy ginger fills the air. Forest green stools are lined up under a suspended wooden countertop, backdropped by the shop’s Instagram-famous tropical leaf wallpaper. Owner Damaris Pinedo, 38, enters the shop with a burst of energy to share the story of how her business was born out of a remarkable career shift.

The seed for Just Juice was planted almost a decade ago, when Pinedo was working as a cytotechnologist (screening for cancer) at Strong Memorial Hospital. She was also a caretaker for her cousin who had ovarian cancer. Pinedo was seeking a mental reprieve so she decided to try a 10-day juice fast.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I know that sounds cheesy, but I’ve always been the girl with the stomachache from digestive issues, reflux, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.” After the juice fast, “I felt stronger and more energized.”

She trained at a culinary institute, obtained her raw food certification and opened a food truck at the Brighton Farmers Market in 2012. The next year she quit her job at Strong to open her shop on Park Avenue.

“The juice speaks for itself,” she said. “I don’t really have to sell it because once people try it, the difference that they feel leads to repeat customers… with amazing stories.”

Pinedo is pleased with her space in a walkable strip on University Avenue. “It’s important to [be] in the city, because of the diverse backgrounds that come in,” she said. “I’m proud that I’ve created a space like that.”

Most of the produce is sourced locally, including Squash Blossom Farm in Naples, Fellenz Family Farm in Phelps and Wild Hill Farm in Bloomfield. Pinedo has a property in Naples where she harvested more than 500 pounds of apples last year. Just Juice 4 Life serves cold-pressed juices, juice “shots” (strong, small doses), juice pops, smoothies, juice cleanse kits and juice crates. The juices are organic, vegan and gluten free. Damaris suggests juice pairings for what ails you: Anxious? Try beets. Indigestion? Try celery and cucumber. Her website lists a full menu of magical combinations.

Pinedo knows juice won’t reverse genetic issues—but it can help manage them, and she’s the poster child for this. In May, Pinedo had a heart attack, the seventh person in her family to suffer one, but there was no heart damage—which she attributes to her lifestyle.

Mental health, stress and heart health are on her mind. “I was gone for four days in the hospital, and everything survived,” she said. “I think it was my body saying, ‘Hey, slow down, you don’t need to do everything.’”

Pinedo has been stepping back from full-time at the shop to create detox retreats (see website) and other projects. She would also love to start selling her products at hospitals and other wellness centers.

“I don’t want to lose sight of why I started the business and what it’s doing for the community. It’s a place people come and they feel it’s ‘their place,’ and I love that,” Pinedo said. “To be part of that in Rochester—such a supportive community of small business owners—it’s beautiful. I’m so happy that the journey started here.”

Leah Stacy is a multipotentialite who lives in Rochester:

Hannah Betts of Lives Styled is a photographer and interior stylist . She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband who is an artist and their 4 year old son. Follow all her work on instagram @livesstyled.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of the magazine.

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