Three well-known Greenville entrepreneurs have joined forces to expand a popular local restaurant brand into the growing Austin, Texas, market.
Carl Sobocinski, founder of restaurant group Table 301; Olivia Esquivel, co-owner and founding partner of Southern Pressed Juicery; and Krish Patel, CEO of Wireless Communications Inc. and owner of Soul Yoga, have combined their various unique areas of expertise to take Southern Pressed Juicery — and by extension, the Table 301 brand — to Austin this month, marking the local restaurant group’s first foray outside of the Greenville market.
“We never intended to open just one,” says Esquivel of the plan for Southern Pressed Juicery that opened at 2 W. Washington St. in Greenville under the Table 301 banner in 2015.
And, she adds, they certainly didn’t expect Austin to be home to the second store, which will be located in an expansive mixed-use development called The Domain — a mixture of national retail giants and local Austin brands. The store will open in partnership with Austin’s second Wanderlust Yoga studio, with Southern Pressed Juicery on the left and the yoga studio entrance on the right.
“We’ve been looking at other Southeastern cities for some time now, but Austin is definitely the next right move for us,” Sobocinski says.
When Esquivel initially approached Sobocinski about partnering with her vision for the first location, it didn’t take long for him to recognize the benefits of adding the raw, vegan concept to the Table 301 portfolio alongside local mainstays such as Soby’s and The Lazy Goat.
“After talking with some colleagues in the industry and digging a little bit more into the concept, I recognized there was both a need for something like SPJ in Greenville and an opportunity for Table 301 to add a new dimension to our portfolio in the health/wellness category,” he says. “The restaurant industry is continuing to move in this direction, and so it made sense for us to be part of that shift as well.”
SPJ, as it’s often referred to, with its 100 percent organic, raw, cold-pressed juices; superfood smoothies; energy bowls; and other plant-based foods, became a success in Greenville quickly, and Esquivel and Sobocinski have been scouting new markets for months.
“I’m even more confident than I was initially. Now that we have a firm brand established in Greenville, I feel prepared to bring SPJ to other markets,” Sobocinski says.
How Patel came to fit into the partnership is serendipitous, Esquivel says. Patel, who founded Wireless Communications in Greenville that previously owned Verizon Wireless stores in the Upstate and now has several stores in Texas, also owns Soul Yoga in Greenville and is managing partner of Wanderlust Yoga in Austin. Wanderlust is a nationally recognized yoga studio, and before Esquivel knew of Patel’s involvement in it, she recommended he look at its model of combining a yoga practice with a smoothie café concept.
After recognizing their similar goals for business growth, the partnership became a no-brainer.
“Personally, the decision to grow or not grow has been about relationships,” Sobocinski says. “Having a trusted partnership with Krish to grow outside this market into Austin makes it much easier to navigate a new city. I’m lucky to have a few other industry colleagues in Austin as well who are helping us get connected and become a part of that community as well.”
Esquivel says partnering with Patel is like stepping out with a friend, giving her the confidence they can work together to maintain the SPJ brand in a new, competitive market where juicing and raw, vegan cuisine are already fairly well established, though she sees an opportunity for growth.
Going into the new market with a partner already well-known and respected in Austin gives SPJ automatic credibility, she says.
“There are some great competitors in Austin, but I think there’s still room in the market for us,” she says. “We want to make an impact.”
One of Esquivel’s main requirements for partnering with the yoga studio is that customers in Austin will be able to experience the same level of customer service and environment as they do in Greenville. In other words, SPJ will not ever be a juice bar stuck in a yoga studio, nor does she want yogis putting their shoes back on after class while sitting next to a customer trying to enjoy a smoothie bowl.
“I don’t want to be somebody’s afterthought,” she says. “I don’t want the restaurant to feel like a yoga space.”
The Austin location will open with the same menu as Greenville, but as SPJ partners with local farmers, the offerings may differ based on Austin’s growing seasons.
Esquivel says she and Patel are continuing to talk about future dual stores in the Texas market.
“This is the first time in bed together, so we’ll see if we get married,” she says.
Esquivel and Sobocinski are continuing to look locally and around the Southeast for additional location options, but Greenville is still home regardless of the future growth.
“We’re proud to be a Greenville company,” Esquivel says. “We’re creating jobs and supporting Texas farmers and being a part of a community there. Austin is fun and exciting, but there’s no place like home. Home base is Greenville.”