Fending off audits with smoothies.

While it’s not every day that we encounter a business that whimsically combines two seemingly unrelated services, now and then you’ll stumble across that laundromat/nightclub or pet groomer/internet café (probably a bit more common before smart phones became ubiquitous). More often than not, these hybrid businesses recognize the opportunity to commodify multi-tasking. After all, why not groove to some tunes while watching your duds go through spin cycle? (If you get sweaty enough dancing, you might need to throw a few more things into the wash. The owners won’t mind.) Some of the more recent hybrid businesses, like the hipster bar-meets-arcade, simply take what once was an ancillary use and place it front and center. Bars and taverns have long featured a video game or two in the corner; the “barcade” concept simply takes a full-fledged arcade (historically more common in a family-friendly mall) and adds a liquor license.

It remains to be seen whether the nostalgia-driven barcade is anything other than a passing fad, as many hybrid businesses prove to be.   But now and then, a trend becomes the standard, like blue jeans 60 years ago. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the concept of pairing coffee shops with bookstores rose above novelty. Now it’s almost expected that a bookstore will serve sundry caffeinated drinks; I’d guess that those selling primarily new books (a struggling market already) might depend on the coffee aspect for a more consistent revenue stream. Then we witness the hybrid businesses that are virtually inseparable. Kinko’s began in 1970 as a copy shop serving nearby colleges (like USC), but then founder Paul Orfalea discovered a stronger business model (and one less prone to lawsuits from academic publishers) by running a 24-hour operation through a broader base of business and personal copying services.  It expanded to an international chain by the late 1990s, but only when merged with FedEx did it adopt the full range of shipping services. The Kinko’s name is no more (basically all FedEx Kinko’s have shifted the brand to FedEx Office), but the nation’s two largest private shipping companies, UPS and FedEx, now dominate that copying/printing/postal/businesses service market. When hybrid businesses get this successful, they set the new standard for services offered under one roof. These days, the surviving mom-and-pop copy shops must offer particularly niche, customized products if they’re going to compete with the titanic infrastructure of a FedEx.

Walking down the primary commercial street of South Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)    not so long ago, I encountered one of the most unusual hybrid businesses I had seen.IMG_7164

Beyond Juice sits within a tiny little storefront, offering potables from a wide variety of fruits, specifically emphasizing some hard-to-find tropical options.Hybrid businesses: Beyond Juice and income taxes.

Nothing too remarkable there, since high-end juice vendors have become popular among far more than just the nation’s Angelenos in recent years. But does Los Angeles have a place quite like Beyond Juice? Check out the neon lettering in the upper-left corner of the window.IMG_7166Income taxes. It’s a juice bar that helps its customers file their annual taxes. That must be the “Beyond” part.

Some hybrid businesses feature combinations that require a certain level of public sector policing, in the interest of health, safety and welfare. A customarily youthful venture like an arcade naturally can’t just start serving alcohol; thus, the barcades are fundamentally bars with liquor licenses that just happen to offer lots of vintage video games. Meanwhile, the emergence of cat adoption centers with coffee shops—wedded through the “cat cafés” seen in ever smaller urban neighborhoods—obviously require stringent health code standards to keep potential animal-borne illnesses away from food, as well as to protect the animals from hot coffee or human food not fit for feline consumption. But I’m not aware of what sort of permitting would keep taxes away from fruit juice.

IMG_7167

I stepped into the establishment and spoke briefly with the friendly owner. She explained that it’s a joint venture: the wife prepares the juices up front; her husband prepares taxes in a separate room in the back. But the seating visible on their Facebook page does allow consultation while sipping a mango-guava-açaî smoothie.

It seems to be working well enough: Beyond Juice has survived in a less-than-vibrant stretch of the road for at least a few years now. We’re probably approaching the busiest time of year for the back-of-the-house service. Obviously if an unfulfilled demand exists, why not fill it? Or better yet: why not create the demand that no one was aware even existed? With Beyond Juice, Daniel Defoe’s assertion that death and taxes are the only real certainty gets a more optimistic rejoinder. Try some juice, and live. And file those taxes.

14 thoughts on “Fending off audits with smoothies.

      1. AmericanDirt Post author

        Coffee shops are versatile, aren’t they? You can combine them with all sorts of other uses. Maybe it’s because at coffee shops, we’re never exclusively eating/drinking…they’re the perfect venue for multi-taskers. If a place like Vulcan featured videos that are so rare that they didn’t want the copies to leave the facility, they could combine a coffee shop/concession stand with little viewing stations, then get the best of both worlds. Then maybe through legal consultation–and tax preparation–into the whole mix!

        Reply
  1. Chris B

    Hmm. I know…combine a bakery, a meat market, a flower shop, a produce stand, a pet food store, a housewares store, and a cheese shop under one roof. Add toys, candy, clothes and beauty supplies. Throw in a coffee shop, popcorn cart, hot dog stand, pizza joint, and a takeout deli, with tax prep, money orders, cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor, a few tools and maybe even guns.

    Voila! Kroger Marketplace (or Target, or Walmart).

    /removing tongue from cheek

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirt Post author

      Bingo. Mega-supermarkets are kind of digging the graves of all the other category killers, aren’t they. Target has long had Starbucks nestled in a corner. Now even smaller grocery stores (like Giant, which is prevalent in eastern PA as you know) have unmanned little cafés, with free wifi and fake fireplaces. Kind of surprising, since there’s nothing monetizing the cafés at the Giant (i.e., no partnership with Starbucks or Seattle’s Best), but I guess they decided they were worth it.

      Reply
      1. Chris B

        Think about that list: everything a 1940 town center would have had. (I forgot the bank and the drugstore.) Now it’s under one roof in a “Towne Centre” well outside of town.

        …at least until they chase demographics and hop the store out one more suburb (and convert the old building to Burlington).

        (a la Target north of Greenwood Park)


        So these hyper-mashups give entrepreneurs a clear idea that “hey, you can mix lines of business for convenience”: everyone who drinks juice gets their taxes done!

        Reply
        1. Chris B

          Why else would IKEA sell Swedish Meatballs on site? Everyone who shops for cheap furniture for hours also eats lunch!

          Reply
          1. AmericanDirt Post author

            You’ve definitely pinned it down. The genius of IKEA is that it’s been able to compartmentalize those little “lagniappes” into a commodity unto itself. I’m guilty of swinging by an IKEA exclusively to pick up some of those cinnamon rolls–kind of hard to do, because “swinging by” an IKEA is a struggle. (They’re awful for a convenience visit). But then, an IKEA trip has become an event unto itself, almost like retail meets amusement park. I used to think Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops achieved much the same strategy, but judging from Cabela’s woes, the outdoorsman/indoor entertainment superstore seems to have oversaturated itself…unlike IKEA.

            Quick observation in metro Indy: the Target that left the Greenwood area (only to move further south into Center Grove) actually became Old Tyme Pottery, while the Cub Foods turned into Burlington Coat Factory. I visited both stores numerous times growing up.

          2. AmericanDirt Post author

            It may just be the fact that I followed Indy goings-on (and the opening and closing of businesses) long before I even understood the concept of a lease. I was only a kid, but I do remember the time when a certain thoroughfare that meandered through IUPUI campus was called Agnes Street. Does that ring a bell?

  2. Brian M

    How about a hair salon in which she offers late night unlicensed after-hours bottle service and strip shows that “merely allow her to thank her clients”. (Admissions is NOT free).

    But, throw in FREE MMA, as in two drunk young townies holding a fistfight in the middle of the street at 3:00 a.m.

    Entrepreneurship!

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirt Post author

      Hear hear! I think many of the windowless “Asian spa” massage parlors have already achieved what you’re proposing….the critical feature being their windowlessness.

      Reply

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