When Thomas Nieto first got into the juice business in 2017, the year he started franchising Main Squeeze Juice Co., one of the companies he looked to for inspiration was I Love Juice Bar, a small juice chain based in Nashville.
Nieto noted that I Love Juice Bar featured some financial data on its website at the time. “We kind of used that when creating the financial models for Main Squeeze,” he said. “We’ve always kept an eye on I Love Juice Bar.”
So it's fitting that Main Squeeze has grown enough to buy I Love Juice Bar. Now with 28 locations in three states, Main Squeeze on Tuesday said it has acquired I Love Juice, which operates 23 locations. For the most part, Nieto said, the concepts don’t operate in the same markets.
“The stars have aligned,” Nieto said. “Call it what you want. The fact is, we didn’t have any overlapping territory. It was the perfect blend.”
Main Squeeze first opened in Lake Charles, La., in May 2017. It soon attracted the attention of Nieto, who has been involved in the franchise business for years. He grew a cell phone repair business to 78 locations before he sold that and started looking at other deals.
Nieto was apparently attracted to the brand’s selection of cold-pressed juice, smoothies, bowls, frozen and hot lattes and some food. Main Squeeze cold presses its juice, which Nieto says gives the juice a longer shelf life and doesn’t lose any of the fruits' or vegetables’ nutritional value.
“I was won over,” he said. “I was blown away by the concept, the design and the products. It was very similar to the Ray Kroc-McDonald’s story. But I promise I’m not an asshole.”
Nieto said his goal is to “bring a healthy eatery to all the masses.
“What we do is a big deal,” he said.
But to accomplish that, Main Squeeze must grow. Last year, the company started working with Conscious Capital Growth, an Arizona-based advisory and investment firm focused on the franchise sector.
The company in the months since then inked a 30-unit development deal with an operator in Arizona and opened locations in Texas and Missouri. But the current environment, with inflation and economic uncertainty, made growing through acquisition a better option. I Love Juice, therefore, was an opportunistic deal.
“You have to find a way to win in the market,” he said. “When the economy is strong and things are going well, you can hit on growth levers. When inflation’s high and the market is drier, you get growth and leverage through acquisition.”
The deal will expand Main Squeeze into additional markets, notably Georgia and Tennessee. Nieto was uncertain how many of I Love Juice’s 23 locations will be converted into Main Squeeze, but he did say the company plans to sell the brand’s five corporate locations to franchisees. “I don’t want to be in the business of running corporate locations,” he said.
Nieto also said the brand would spend just over $1 million to convert the I Love Juice locations into Main Squeeze units. I Love Juice doesn’t cold press its juice like Main Squeeze does, Nieto said, which will require some equipment. He said the conversion process will likely be done in phases over the coming months.
He is also confident the brand’s investment will work. “We know, based on these locations and our model, we’re confident the introduction of cold-pressed juice will bring in an entirely new customer,” Nieto said. “I’m confident we’re going to get a return on that.”
This may not be the last such deal the company does. Main Squeeze is apparently intent on expanding quickly through acquisitions and believes there are other opportunities to come. “We’re talking with other players,” he said. “This is not a one-and-done.”
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