Uzima smoothie bar focuses on a healthy diet and a healthy mind

Uzima+Smoothie+Bar%2C+located+on+Fifth+Avenue%2C+held+its+opening+ceremony+on+Saturday.

Aaiush Jain | Staff Photographer

Uzima Smoothie Bar, located on Fifth Avenue, held its opening ceremony on Saturday.

By Julia DiPietro, Staff Writer

At Uzima Smoothie Bar, customers will come for a cold fruit beverage and stay for the positive and serene atmosphere. The slogan for Uzima Smoothie Bar is “defeating depression one smoothie at a time,” in alignment with its mental wellness standpoint. 

The store, located on 3400 Fifth Ave., opened in August. Family, friends, customers and community members came together Saturday to celebrate its formal grand opening. The celebration commenced with speeches, music, a bouncy house and lots of free smoothie samples to go around. 

The day began with a ribbon cutting ceremony led by Uzima’s two owners, husband and wife duo Mayan and Sheronica Marshall. Throughout the afternoon, customers flooded in to purchase different smoothies and drinks. 

Uzima offers a wide variety of smoothies, juices, acai bowls and health shots. There are lots of flavor combinations such as the crowd favorite, the “Love” smoothie, according to co-owner Sheronica Marshall, which has strawberries, mango and passionfruit in it. 

But their mission goes beyond selling drinks to customers. The business’s original name when it opened in 2019 was “Salud.” It went under a rebranding in February where the owners changed the name, logo and slogan and redecorated the store to focus on mental health in addition to physical health.

According to Sheronica Marshall, Uzima wants to devote their store as a safe space for students to spend time and relax.

“So many times people will come in and be like, ‘I had a really bad day’ or ‘I bombed a test,’ so we want them to come in and just exhale and share that. We wanna be that safe space to have those conversations and also have a smoothie,” Sheronica Marshall said. 

The story behind the rebranding comes from the store owners’ personal mental health battles which they struggled with for years. They found peace through their family, religion and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both physically and spiritually. Sheronica Marshall said she and her husband wanted to raise subject awareness to the public.

“We were dealing with anxiety and depression. We read about the illness and the combination of things we can do to battle and grow stronger, sleeping, eating well and discussing it,” Sheronica Marshall said. “Uzima came out of that journey of healing and our understanding of how to overcome it.”

Uzima is short for “Mti wa uzima,” which means “Tree of Life” in Swahili. The store’s new logo shows two large trees intertwined with outstretched leaves and roots reaching down below. According to co-owner Mayan Marshall, the logo represents the mottos and beliefs Uzima stands for. 

“Mental illness is not something you ever want to go through alone. The two tree trunks represent people and community. The most important aspects are the roots,” Mayan Marshall said. “They represent the inner person, those inner battles we go through that aren’t visible. A tree is nothing without its roots, it shows the challenges and adversity people go through in life.”

When a customer walks into Uzima, they will notice many interactive elements on the walls, such as colorful portraits of famous people with a QR code to scan and read about their mental health journey. Portraits include a range of actors, singers, politicians and other celebrities. Sheronica Marshall said they help remind customers that everyone faces internal battles no matter their occupation or status. 

“Demi Lovato, Prince Harry, you’ll see them in our store. Yes, they struggled with depression, but look at what they contributed to society. Those pictures are there to remind us that it’s not just us,” Sheronica Marshall said. “If we’re honest with ourselves, we may all struggle with that in our life, but knowing that gives us strength so we can endure.” 

There are also two decorated walls in the front and back of the store, which customers can write on with different Q&As on mental health, words of advice or say how they’re feeling that day. 

Gianna Benni, a sophomore communication sciences and disorders major, said the food and beverages sold at Uzima are not to be overlooked. She tried and reviewed their products on her social media.

“Uzima reached out to my Instagram food account and was incredibly kind. When I got there, they recommended I try the Grace smoothie, and I also wanted to try the Thrive acai bowl,” Benni said. “They were both amazing. Overall, Uzima was delicious and had impeccable service.”

Benni also said Uzima has also done a great job of providing a positive atmosphere for students. 

“The atmosphere was gorgeous and really inspiring, considering it’s decorated based on mental and physical health. There were quotes and beautiful decor all around the shop,” Benni said. 

Uzima is currently building up their social media presence to get their name out, according to social media manager Khalil Weathers.

“I post weekly doing product drops and lifestyle pictures, you’ll see that more in the coming weeks. It makes more of a community and showcases what’s actually going on here, which is something I’ve never seen before,” Weathers said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see someone come in and actually feel the difference, this just feels like a home.” 

According to Weathers, the store wants to use their social media to not only promote Uzima but spark conversations online.

“Reach out to us if you’re ever struggling with anything and you don’t have the strength to come in the store. We will be very happy to talk and help you,” Weathers said.

Mayan Marshall said being surrounded by so many universities is important to Uzima because the store wants to focus on helping Generation Z and shedding light on the subject of mental health. 

“I just want people to know, especially the students who read this who are going through a battle with mental illness, it’s more common than what you think,” Mayan Marshall said. “You are not alone, and I think once people start to open up more you’ll see it’s a big club. Once we begin to encourage one another, I truly think this generation is going to change it.”

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