Smoothie King franchise gets company award

James Fenton
Smoothie King franchise owner Jason Simpson talks to his shift leaders Kody Begay, left, and Ciara Romero Tuesday at his store in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Smoothie King franchisee Jason Simpson recently was given a company award for best new store of the year in 2015.

Simpson took over the smoothie franchise in 2014, which has fared well, despite the economic downturn, partly because of the store's high-traffic location in the middle of town on Main Street, he said. He said that success has prompted him to start looking around San Juan County for a location where he can open a second franchise location.

"We're doing great. We've broken our sales record four times this year during this economy, this down time," Simpson said. "I just want to thank the community, the Four Corners area, for letting us help them live a healthy lifestyle and trusting us to help them."

Simpson, 38, said he credits the store's steady sales to the popularity of the store's roughly 50 varieties of blended fruit and vegetable drinks that can be customized with a variety of ingredients such as protein powder, a multivitamin, peanut butter or avocado.

Twenty-five of those drinks contain fewer than 300 calories, according to the menu, though some smoothies can top out at several times that amount.

Smoothie King shift leader Kody Begay makes a smoothie Tuesday at the store in Farmington.

A 32-ounce Peanut Power Plus smoothie, part of the Fitness Blends menu, ranges between 1,020 and 1,047 calories. By contrast, a 32-ounce Mangofest — a smoothie made with pineapple, mango and orange juices on the Slim Blends menu — contains 428 calories. Calorie amounts are listed on the menu beside each drink and online at the company's website.

Simpson said his store goes through 700 pounds of bananas each week, and sells an average of 200 to 250 smoothies a day, except on Fridays when a $5 special on medium-size drinks doubles that amount. A 20-ounce smoothie costs $5.29, a medium is $6.99 and The King, a 40-ounce smoothie, sells for $8.49.

Open every day, the franchise is located in the Plaza Farmington, 3554 E. Main St., Suite G, near Home Depot and IHOP.

Simpson said his 10 employees, who all go to school and work part time, help make the store successful.

"It's the team members working here and providing a great service," Simpson said. "They help inspire the community to live a healthy and active lifestyle, helping people with their fitness goals with smoothies, whether it be losing weight or healthy muscle weight gain, or our vegan guests who want a plant-based protein."

Smoothie King team member Precious Frank cleans the front counter Tuesday at the store in Farmington.

Smoothies, Simpson said, are "healthy fast food" and act as replacements for meals. His employees can whip up drinks such as the Gladiator (Smoothie King's signature Gladiator protein and choice of two kinds of fruit), Green Tea Tango (Matcha powdered green tea, choice of one fruit, protein blend, vanilla frozen yogurt and turbinado, or raw, sugar) or The Hulk, a drink designed for weight gain (butter pecan ice cream, bananas, weight gain blend, wheat germ, whey protein and vanilla).

Smoothie King Franchise Development Manager Chad Tramuta said in a phone interview that Simpson's store was honored at a March company conference in New Orleans for "catering sales, sales on extras and enhancers, upsize on smoothies and retail performance."

Simpson's store is the only Smoothie King in New Mexico, though older franchises, now closed, have operated elsewhere in the state, Tramuta said.

Simpson said smoothies are a popular drink in the area. In March, smoothie entrepreneur Jessica Godinez opened Smoothie World across Piñon Hills Boulevard from Piedra Vista High School.

Jason Simpson operates the only Smoothie King franchise in New Mexico and earned the company's best new store award for 2015.

Smoothie King was founded by Steve Kuhnau in 1973. Kuhnau opened the first Smoothie King as a vitamin shop in Kenner, La., a suburb of New Orleans. Wan Kim, a franchisee in South Korea, bought the company in 2012 and became the company’s CEO. Smoothie King now has more than 650 locations across the U.S., the Republic of Korea, Singapore and the Cayman Islands, according to the company's website.

"It's exciting to see what Jason's been able to do all by himself, establishing the brand in Farmington," Tramuta said. "For him to be out there, essentially all by himself, and doing such a good job, it's impressive. We're very impressed with what he's been able to do."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.