Words: Brittany Daugherty
Photos: Tanya Martineau
In the heart of downtown Colorado Springs, nestled in-between where locals stop for bagels and where they go to sip a handcrafted cocktail, is a bright, fresh and welcoming juice bar run by a local herself, the humble and gracious Nissa Wecks.
After leaving Colorado for a decade of adventures in Portland, Oregon and Hawaii, Nissa and her family found themselves drawn back to the Colorado mountains.
Nissa felt a tugging at her heartstrings to continue her family tradition of contributing to the downtown Colorado Springs community, dating back to her great-great grandparents who owned and operated the Crissy Fowler Lumber Company and her great grandparents and grandfather who owned Lee’s Clothing on Tejon Street prior to the well-known and loved Terra Verde boutique moved in.
Thus began the idea of Ola.
What inspired you to bring a juice bar into this community?
I was born in Colorado Springs and lived in Oregon and Hawaii for about 10 years before returning 15 years ago. My husband and I have been going to juice bars and juicing at home for years. Colorado Springs was overdue. It was also important for us to contribute in a meaningful way to our community. We moved downtown three years ago, and we want to see it thrive. We felt offering some variety and a healthy place to eat could only help our community.
What’s this juicing trend all about?
Juicing has been around a long time. Juice bars have been thriving in other places since the 70’s. While a juicing restaurant is new to our community, I don’t believe it’s a trend. That said, documentaries like “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” and access to information on the internet has exposed the benefits of juicing to a broader audience.
How would you suggest including juicing in your diet to get the optimal effect?
I would suggest juicing consistently. Cleanses can definitely be valuable, but I believe it’s important to understand why you’re doing a cleanse–what are your goals?–rather than doing a cleanse just for the sake of doing it. I think making a concerted effort to work more nutrient-dense foods into your day, and diminishing those things we know don’t serve our bodies, is a good practice – whether it’s done with juice or not.
What common traits do you notice among people visiting and revisiting Ola?
Our customers are unbelievably kind. It’s striking. Many customers comment on how calm and warm the environment is at Ola – even during a lunch rush. Customers are also interested in improving their health. Many have been eating well for a long time; some are new to it. Almost everyone seems enthusiastic about life and health. I learn a great deal from our customers and I love hearing their stories.
What can you say about your experience being a small business owner in this community?
What a thrill! It is so nice to meet and connect with new people every day. We truly have some great people living here. It’s also fun because my great, great grandparents were the Crissys of Crissy Fowler Lumber Company, and my great grandparents and then my grandpa owned Lee’s Clothing on Tejon Street for many years before Terra Verde moved in. I don’t want to be dramatic, but I kind of feel honored to carry on a tradition of sorts in downtown.
What do you think drives people to support Ola when they could whip up many of your offerings at home?
We go to the store, make the food fresh to order, and clean up! Who wouldn’t want that? (laughs) I also believe that the downtown community works hard to support local businesses. Some people complain that we don’t have enough variety in Colorado Springs, while others make sure to support variety when it appears. I get a strong sense that people want to see Ola succeed. We also have an incredible staff! Customers frequently make comments about how terrific our staff is, and people enjoy coming in and chatting with us.
Although Ola is well known for its juices and smoothies, what other offerings are available and how can you convince me to try them?
While our juices and smoothies are amazing, you’re missing out if you haven’t tried the food! We have rice bowls, quinoa bowls, huge salads, wraps, acai bowls and more – all made with fresh, organic, ingredients. Our food is colorful, healthy and made to order, so you know it’s fresh. Also, our kitchen is completely open, so customers can see us make their food. The acai bowls are incredibly popular right now, as well as the Rutledge salad and Nissa’s Rice Bowl. Many people, though, love to pick their own ingredients to build their own food.
What words of inspiration do you have for people considering starting a small business in this city?
There are excellent resources in Colorado Springs for people thinking about starting their own business. Terry Zarsky at Penrose Library is brilliant and has access to all the resources you may need to research and plan a business; the local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) is incredibly supportive and is great at connecting people and providing classes for potential business owners; and Robin Roberts at Pikes Peak National Bank works tirelessly to help small business owners.
What do you admire/appreciate most about Colorado Springs?
We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the people who come in to Ola are amazing. They’re intelligent, interesting and thoughtful.
What’s next for Ola? A North-end location, perhaps? (I’m crossing my fingers!)
We’re pretty passionate about contributing to downtown, so this is where our energy is going for now. We also want to fine-tune our operation before we even consider other locations. We get that question a lot, though, especially from North-enders, so we’re not ruling it out. And we appreciate the enthusiasm!
27 East Kiowa St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
P: (719) 633-3111