Three days after the grand opening of Cherry Pickin’ juice bar in NuLu, co-owner Lavell Wells was on a plane to Las Vegas.
He was gone for almost two weeks to work on a documentary for AMC Networks. While Wells was gone, Sydney Smith, his partner and co-owner of the juice bar, held down the fort.
The name Cherry Pickin’ and the hoops theme throughout the juice shop pays homage to the couple’s shared love of basketball. From the cherry-picking play on the wall inside the store to the names of the smoothies to the labels on the bottles of juice, every aspect of the juicery was carefully thought out, crafted and brought to life by the couple’s business partner, Katrina “Kat” Taylor, a Philadelphia-based graphic designer.
The juicery is a way for Smith, who graduated from the University of Louisville and also co-runs a sports marketing company called DOE Sports, to create her own legacy in the city where her father, Derek, won the 1980 national championship with U of L men’s basketball and her younger brother, Nolan, is now part of the coaching staff.
It’s a large undertaking for Smith and Wells as they look to create an inclusive space at Cherry Pickin’ while also balancing their careers in sports marketing and film.
“I think a lot of people are opening up to the space because they feel like it’s a space for them,” Wells said.
Basketball is all Smith knows.
Some of her earliest memories were of her father, Derek, coaching for the Washington Bullets before his death on Aug. 9, 1996.
As a teenager, Smith helped her stepfather, Curtis Malone, run the DC Assault AAU team. It ended in 2013 when Malone was arrested and eventually convicted for his role in a cocaine and heroin ring in the Washington, D.C., area.
Eight years later, Smith and her family were living in Durham, North Carolina, where younger brother Nolan was an assistant coach for the Duke men’s basketball team. They were looking for a production company to tell Malone’s story when Smith met Wells. The Queens, New York, native had been in the film industry for nearly a decade after graduating from Winston-Salem State University in 2011. Unlike Smith, he didn’t have a basketball background but was always a fan of the sport.
“Once I realized I wasn’t going to the NBA, I got straight to the money,” he said.
After college, Wells moved back to New York and initially pursued a career in the music industry. Being part of music video filming helped him realize he had more of a passion for film. He’s been part of documentaries that include “Fyre Fraud” on Hulu, “Murdaugh Murders” on Netflix and “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” on BET+ and Paramount+.
“We move as a pack,” Sydney Smith said.
Creating community and wellness
In moving to Louisville, Smith and Wells — continuing a health journey they began a few years prior — looked for local juice shops in downtown close to where they live. The only ones they found were at least 15 minutes away.
During one of their daily 3-mile walks around NuLu, Wells and Smith noticed a vacant space across from The Local Seltzery on East Main Street. And, just like that, inspiration struck the couple.
“The NuLu marketplace is such a great area. It’s where we were spending our time on the weekends,” Smith said. “So, we were learning the place, and we’re like, ‘Hey, let’s bring something a little bit different to the area.’”
Smith and Wells combined their resources and network to form a design team that consisted of all Black women, each of whom helped bring the store to life, starting with Taylor.
“Kat really challenged us to really bring this to life as far as like the colors, the concept and all of that,” Wells said. “We just kind of passed it off to Jocelyn — just said, ‘Yo, just run with it.’ She brought it to life.”
Jocelyn Williams, an art director who has done activations for Coca-Cola and has been part of set designs for Adidas’ collaboration with Ivy Park as well as BET’s Black Girls Rock, is a friend of Wells. She and Taylor came up with the design and logo for Cherry Pickin’. Louisville muralist Jaylin Stewart and her partner KeVon Dunbar rounded out the team by painting the walls inside the juicery.
Wells and Smith want their juice bar to be a place for those who fall anywhere between having a strict diet and those who dabble in the health and wellness space.
Eventually, they want to expand and host events, sell merchandise and start a running club. Wells still plans to produce documentaries while Smith runs her marketing company. In December, she’s holding a basketball tournament named after her father at St. Xavier High School. High schools from across the country are expected to participate.
Smith and Wells are still figuring out how to manage it all but are embracing the opportunity to fill a community need within the health and wellness space.
“We’ll do a lot of storytelling around different clothing drops, juice drops,” Smith said. “We’ll drop special recipes. … So our goal is to really make it a lifestyle brand. We want it to extend beyond Louisville. We want, when people land in Louisville, it to be a spot that they want to come and check out. They want to grab a T-shirt (and) they just feel welcome at.”
‘I was never gonna leave’: U of L assistant Nolan Smith on interviewing for NBA G League job
Reach Louisville football, women’s basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at [email protected] and follow her on X at @Alexis_Cubit.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Daughter of Louisville basketball legend Derek Smith opens juice shop
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