ITHACA, N.Y.—Empire Raw Juice and Smoothies is the latest to bring its operation to Press Bay Court on Green Street with a mission to provide healthy and easy on-the-go options.

Brian McCormick and Jay Jackson, the two behind the business, met at McCormick’s gym, Fit Happens, in Gloversville, New York. Both from in or near New York City, the co-owners said that Ithaca provided the change of pace that they were hoping to bring their business to.

McCormick and Jackson decided to go into business after working together at Uplift Cafe, the smoothie bar that goes along with the gym.

“I saw the way [McCormick] ran his business and the type of person he is, and it was a good match. He does things great that I don’t do great, that’s the perfect partnership,” Jackson said.

Working diligently over the summer to remodel the interior and build the counters they would need, the cafe is designed with a grab-and-go model in mind, with plans to add some additional seating later.

McCormick said that eating healthily has always been a priority for him and his family, and said that was the inspiration that drove him to open Fit Happens, Uplift Cafe and now Empire Raw.

Originally working in construction until pivoting to health-focused businesses, McCormick built out Empire Raw’s counter to be efficient and easy for staff to navigate.

Currently, both McCormick and Jackson are making the trip up at least once a week to get everything set for the shop’s official opening. Once a staff has been hired, the co-owners will split the week so they both get face time with the community and customers.

“I want people to come in and feel greeted and welcomed and at home,” McCormick said. “This area is just like that. The other business owners are great.”

McCormick and Jackson both have ties to the Ithaca area, and after some scoping, they decided that Press Court was the perfect place to open the shop.

“Each business plays off each other, I’ve never seen so much support from other businesses. It makes you feel good about investing in the community that supports each other instead of seeing them as competition,” Jackson said.

The menu is an adaptation of Uplift Cafe’s selection and will offer both designed bowls and smoothies as well as full customization of fruits, vegetables, superfood add-ins and proteins.

“These are addictive,” McCormick said with a laugh, Jackson adding that Empire Raw’s flavor combinations try to make some of the nutrients more approachable for the everyday consumer.

“It tastes great, you don’t actually taste the veggies that are in it. You feel like you’re cheating but you’re actually not,” Jackson said.

Another goal of Empire Raw’s is to offer “flagship” location flavors that nod to the colleges and other local symbols.

“We’re creating new things, the Ithaca, the Cornell, we really want to integrate the community with this space,” Jackson said.

Empire Raw will be available on all delivery platforms and will integrate a membership program in the next few months that offer additional loyalty rewards to customers.

Fresh-pressed custom juices and juice cleanses will be available to order, and refrigerated options will be available for quick access.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is the digital editor/reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Joining in November 2021, she has covered a wide range of topics related to local news. She can be reached at,...