Marcus & Leron
cold pressed juice factory Freundsaft Freiburg interview

Leron and Marcus, both from the US, came to Freiburg in South Germany and started their own little factory FREUNDSAFT, cold pressing around 200 to 300 bottles of fresh juice every week. I met them on the opening day of their shop&cafe.

Janis: What exactly is it that do you do?

Leron/Marcus: We hunt juice recipes, gather all the ingredients for them and then squeeze fruits and vegetables to make really good juices! We use a cold pressed juicer - it's a hydraulic press - so it doesn't heat any of the fruits and vegetables we're squeezing. A lot of people believe, that this keeps all the enzymes and all the nutrients in them. Essentially it does, because heat degrades everything. Heat, temperature and time: the big killers of life.
Our working style is very casual and comfortable and depends on our friends. And sometimes that's really positive, because we get a lot for free, but sometimes it's really emotional, because people are putting their hearts into something and sometimes they don't feel like they're getting everything back of that.

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When did you start making juices?

The idea was conceived around May 2013, we started working on it around middle of July and our first market day was in September.

And it just went so well that you thought, you gonna open a cafe?

No – it didn't go so well (smiling), it's been ok, it's been mediocre at the markets, but we feel that we need a platform to professionally create juice, so that we can make more of it and make it at a higher quality. And also we feel that we need a place where people can come all the time comfortably to get juice and interact with us.

What's the neighbourhood like you work in?

Stühlinger used to be kind of a working class neighbourhood that has been transformed into kind of a upper- / middle-class...
..actually more hip..
yes, there's some hipper stuff coming and I think we're gonna keep that rolling with the FREUNDSAFT store (smiling). It's one of the major quarters into the city from the student quarters.

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Leron, you told me you grew up in Miami, and Marcus, where are you from?

I lived a third of my life here, a third of it in Norway, a third of it in the States, approximately (smiling). My parents are both Norwegian, they went to America and I was born there. So I've lived 13 years in Norway and the States, and I'm on my 15th here. Freiburg became home. So I bought an apartment and now we have the store.

What did you do before, roughly?

I started off chasing stupidity, money. I became a banker for no reason. I am very disillusioned with the job area; lot's of money, but not a lot of satisfaction. So I became a teacher. I've taught a lot of different things - basically I teach what I don't know, but then you learn it (smiling). So I'm still waiting to grow up, and figure out what I wanna do with my life, but I'm having a lot of fun in the meantime. It's very enjoyable, mainly, I think, because I get to hang out with a whole bunch of really cool, nice, helpful, ambitious and creative people everyday. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you're in that kind of environment. So I feel very lucky to know this guy, very lucky to know those people and I have a really good time with them.

How did you two come up with juices, why juices?

I think both of us love healthy foods and one thing I really love - and I think Marcus too - is fresh carrot juice, it's super delicious. We were looking for a project to do – really Marcus was looking for a project, I was looking to leave Freiburg I think - and I was reading the New York Times where I saw an article about juice, and so I was like: ok, I'm not gonna go to Cambridge, let's do juice! And I wrote Marcus: it's juice or something like that. And he was like: ok (laughing). And so then we started working on it – really uncomplicated! (everyone's laughing)

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What was the most difficult thing to manage so far?

It's people, ourselves included. Managing yourself, controlling your time, motivating the people around you especially, when you're not paying them very well (smiling) and motivating yourself, when you're not paying yourself - just organising people.

How big is your team?

There is sort of three core people: me, Marcus and his nephew. Then we have some young people who help at the market, we have a designer named Silke who's really pushing forward and we have Luna who is managing the store. And we have a lot of other people who come in and help from time to time.

Nice – that's quite a lot.

Yeah – I'd say there's five or six bodies actively involved in what we do, but not always the same five or six bodies.

So the most important investment for your business so far is the juice maker?

I think it's the store. And the juice maker.
It's a lot of things – you can't say one thing is the most important, putting all the things together, that's the most important thing!

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Do you have other jobs to support yourself?

Yeah – we don't really have another job, I kind of teach on the side a little bit but not significantly. We're just monitoring what we have.
Because this is so financially challenging for us, we've been doing a crowd-funding campaign. I don't think I've realised the financial amount this would cost. But then I thought, how this really builds our careers and develops us personally. It is a real challenge to open a store, so it's a huge experience for the people involved!

Where do you get the ingredients from?

In the beginning we sourced them from local farmers directly, but right now, for efficiency and economy, we get them from an organic food distributor. They bring in the mass majority regionally, from Kaiserstuhl or from Elsass, but they also source food from everywhere in the world for the more exotic things like ginger or pineapple, or whatever doesn't grow so well in this area. We like to offer people a combination of flavours and nutrition that aren't necessarily all available here, so we just try to make sure that it's fair, organic, sustainable as possible and then serve it up.

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What is your main goal (smiling)?

Raising conciousness. To get people to think about what they're eating and the consequences of what their food is for themselves and the environment.
I really like to see people's dreams or the things they do actually become real. So for me this was a way to show, that I can do it myself, that it's possible, I just picked any idea. So many ideas just stay ideas!

And where do you like to hang out, if you're not here?

He likes to be in his bed with his computer (smiling). There's a restaurant in the Vauban called KANTINE, it's a lunch spot, I could spend ages there. And I really like spending time at the ELEPHANT BEANS cafe, that's a nice little spot to just hang out and talk to the owner - and what is really nice, is the cafe around the corner, CAFE HUBER, quiche and cake there is fantastic, yeah, really love that one.
And I had some of the best coffees in town at JC's!

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Thank you Marcus Moe and Leron Katsir for the interview! To find out more about their juices visit their website here.

photography, interview & text: Janis Manini Claudia Kanga
April 2014