Pure DC Brings a Fresh Taste to This Metro-North Railroad Station
“This is going to be Starbucks for juices. That’s what we’re going for.”
William McGhee had just finished watching an episode of “The Walking Dead” when he went to sleep and had an odd dream that he was strolling about holding an iced-cold drink and saw a sign that read Pure DC.
McGhee recalled in his dream exiting double doors and an employee uttering the words “have a good day, boss.” As he awoke completely bewildered, he began to analyze each moment that had played for him like a scene out of a movie. Thinking nothing of it, McGhee forgot the dream until it happened again a month later.
“I had the same exact dream,” McGhee, a Pelham resident, said, explaining that this time he realized that Pure DC is his wife’s Instagram username. “I thought maybe there was something to the dream then, but I forgot about it again but exactly a year later the dream comes back into my head.”
Taking his compounding inner thoughts as a sign, McGhee, who has worked as a property manager in New York City for 18 years, began to contemplate the idea of turning his healthy lifestyle into a business. But as he was researching different juice and smoothie concoctions while crafting his own favorite mixtures, McGhee got another sign, this time not in dream form.
As McGhee was grabbing coffee one morning from a shop at Pelham Station on his way to work, he began to admire the amount of foot traffic a quaint café could have positioned along the Metro-North Railroad. It was there he was advised to look up vacancies on MTA Real Estate.
“I went to that site while on the train and the first station that came up that had an opening was Croton-Harmon,” McGhee said. “I applied for it and leading up to the pandemic they reached out to me, and I told them my concept and that I want to share my healthy mixes with the community.”
Despite having no business experience in the health food industry, the MTA granted McGhee approval and on Apr. 1 he fulfilled his dream and opened Pure DC Juice & Smoothie Bar at the Croton-Harmon Train Station in Croton-on-Hudson.
‘We Just Lost Everything’
While the path to opening his first business seemed like a dream, McGhee was faced with uncertain reality when the coronavirus pandemic hit last March and every plan he had was put on hold.
“Out of all the horrific and sad situations that have come out the pandemic and the coronavirus; the deaths that we’ve seen; the uncertainty; waiting on the science to tell us what to do; buying up plastic gloves and masks; and now some of us are starting to travel again, I had realized that we just lost everything because we were completely invested,” McGhee said. “We were fully involved in this and put our nest egg into it buying product, buying the equipment.”
Furthermore, McGhee said contractors had been hired and paid to reconstruct the 321-square foot space that was no longer allowed to be built due to COVID-related restrictions. The leasing fee had also already been disbursed to the MTA.
But fate struck once again.
“The blessed hope that happened is that we were completely able to recoup every dime because of the Small Business Administration and the government funding grants that were available to small businesses,” McGhee said. “We recovered every dime that we put into this business, which was the saving grace.”
As restrictions began to ease throughout 2020, McGhee’s hope continued to be restored as the MTA allowed construction to resume. McGhee and his wife spent the remainder of the year redesigning what used to be Emtee Cleaners into an on-the-go juice, smoothie, and acai bowl bar.
‘Starbucks for Juices’
Prior to opening Pure DC, McGhee had been living a healthy lifestyle for several years that involved juicing and making smoothies. But crafting a menu to serve to others following a similar dietary routine or those just looking for something delicious and nutritious to grab on their way to work came as a challenge, especially when he hosted a tasting for family and friends.
“It was a testament serving a close-knit group of family,” McGhee said. “I had to put on a thick skin. They did not hide their fists at all, and then we came up with our final menu.”
After starting with a menu that consisted of about 50 items, McGhee whittled the offerings down to nearly two dozen options.
While daily specials are offered, the Pure DC menu consists of juices, smoothies and acai bowls, with the option to create your own bowl. Each item, which carries a fun name, contains a mixture of fruit, vegetables, spices, and natural plant-based compounds.
Juice combinations, like Good Vibes, features oranges, pineapple, carrot, lemon, and ginger, with the Mean Green Lemonade containing green apple, kale, spinach, and lemon. For those needing something on the sweeter side, the Vitamin Cure has carrot, pineapple, green apple, ginger and turmeric, and the Tropical Cure features kale, lemon, strawberries, and pineapple.
Not only does McGhee introduce his customers to new flavors and combinations, but he makes eating healthy enjoyable with a smoothie called the Bob Marley Jr. The drink has strawberries, blueberries, banana, coco nibs, peanut butter, and granola.
Those in need of a cheat day can refer to the PB&J smoothie, a drink that contains peanut butter, cinnamon, grapes, banana, and nut milk or if you’re in the mood for cereal the Cereal Bar should hit the spot. The smoothie features banana, blueberries, cinnamon toast squares, peanut butter, wheat germ and nut milk.
Along with juices and smoothies, each acai bowl offers a range of fruit, protein, and sweetness to satisfy your hunger. Pure DC also offers a 10 percent discount every Friday for MTA employees.
Additionally, customers can place their orders ahead of time online.
McGhee said he wants each item on his menu to provide the customers with enough energy and strength to power through their day as they navigate early morning traffic or the maddening rail commute to work, school or home.
“I want this store to be for the everyday athlete. I run upstairs to get to my train to get to Grand Central, to go from the East Side to the West Side; I’m the everyday athlete,” McGhee said. “I have to put those steps in, I have to walk, I have to have energy, I have to stand up on the train, I have to pole vault past other commuters. That’s the everyday athlete for me.”
Stressing that while a gym membership may not be attainable to all, everybody can choose to have a juice or another healthy option. He said he hopes to be the type of boutique that can provide fresh products in quality and flavorsome form.
McGhee added he is currently crafting his menu for the fall and winter months to appease all the seasonal cravings, like pumpkin, cinnamon, and cranberry, into juice and smoothie concoctions.
“This is going to be Starbucks for juices,” McGhee said. “That’s what we’re going for.”
The business is currently open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. but hours will soon extend to 7 p.m. While the establishment is closed on Sundays, plans are underway to open on Saturday.
‘There’s Never Enough Juice Bars’
As McGhee revels in the success of his latest venture coming to fruition, he has big plans moving forward.
“Our template right now is to be at the commuter rails as best as possible and mainly service Westchester County,” McGhee said. “I go into the city, and I see much more of the footprint of juicing and smoothies, but in Westchester there’s more leaps and bounds just to get a nice juice or smoothie.”
Currently, McGhee has his eyes set on a vacant storefront at the Hartsdale Train Station to open a second Pure DC location. While a bid is currently before the MTA, McGhee is optimistic this is a trend that will continue for years to come.
“There’s never enough juice bars,” McGhee said. “We’re looking to be that boutique juice bar in Westchester County that residents will know and love.”