Story by Blake Blackmon
Images courtesy of Beejou
Beejou, meaning jewel in France, holds a whole new meaning for Columbus, GA as Uptown’s first locally brewed kombucha storefront. Run by husband and wife duo Suhyoon and Dan, Beejou serves up unique kombucha offerings all made without the addition of cane sugar. Honey gives Beejou kombucha its natural touch of sweetness and was part of the inspiration for including the word “bee” in its unique name. Agave kombucha is offered as a vegan alternative.
When you step into the impeccably put together storefront, you would never think it was a project that took over 300 hours of manual labor to complete. Beejou actually originated without the dream of owning a storefront, so the journey it has made from being a fun personal project to a legitimate business is in itself fascinating. After graduating from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, Suhyoon went on to practice her degree in photography. Eventually, she ended up in Columbus with her husband and continued to practice photography, however, she began to feel new interests rising. She found a new passion and interest in dietetics and about a year ago ventured to explore the subject further via a masters degree. Midway through, she realized a new interest in food technology. Before she could explore that further, someone gave her first kombucha starter kit which began the journey she never could have imagined. “I love food and I love dietetics. I believe in holistic food. I love science, and kombucha is the perfect meld of food and science,” said Suyhoon. What began as a fun experimentation led to higher and higher demand from friends and friends of friends. It eventually led her to seek out the legal route to selling her kombucha. She wasn’t necessarily seeking out a business so much as seeking to follow the law when selling her product as demand grew.
It was ultimately through the nine-week business course offered by the Chamber that Beejou began to form in her mind. Through persistent research and a bit of luck of timing, Beejou has become what it is now. A fellow classmate originally was seeking out the lease that Beejou now occupies. When they found it wasn’t a direct fit for them, they threw Beejou’s name in the mix. “It was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse,” said Suhyoon. The size was perfect and it was complete with a commercial kitchen. Before officially opening, Suhyoon ran sampling events to gauge the public interest and to give some education around kombucha. The reception was always way better than expected and that served as further encouragement to pursue the business. They started with a membership club and were floored by the reception when people who had tried the kombucha casually and who hadn’t even tried it yet wanted to support them and wound up joining. “That was amazing, and then COVID happened and I don’t know if people were going out of their way to support local business more, but people were buying and I was selling out on a weekly basis. It was amazing; the reception has been incredible,” said Suhyoon.
Despite COVID overlapping with the storefront opening, Suhyoon remains optimistic seeking out the positives in the wake of crisis. The slow down wound up being key to adjusting as a rapidly growing business to their demand. It doesn’t hurt that they have had an outpouring of local support. “We survived last month and that’s huge. To be in your first month during a pandemic and not have to worry about paying for power, that’s a good feeling,” said Suhyoon.
Part of that support is due to Beejou’s unique and delicious flavor offerings. The four staple flavors are: Lemon Ginger, Agave Sunrise, Seas the Day and ACV Detox. Each was formed from different bursts of inspiration. Lemon Ginger was originally created to honor her husband when he was deployed as they would often drink lemon ginger tea together. Along with the four flagship flavors, Suhyoon gives herself the opportunity to play and experiment by consistently having a rotational flavor available. “The rotating flavor ends up being just whatever my brain feels like,” said Suhyoon. So far they have collaborated with several local businesses and offered a diverse mix of flavors such as: a coffee kombucha using Fountain City Coffee beans, a matcha offering, a watermelon kombucha and most recently a blueberry rosemary kombucha made up of fresh-picked blueberries in collaboration with Maltitude.
Just starting out with kombucha? Suhyoon recommends Agave Sunrise which boasts a more juicy flavor than others. It also happens to be their most popular flavor. As for the more advanced kombucha drinker, Suhyoon recommends ACV Detox which has a more traditional, funky kombucha flavor. Whatever your preference, Beejou offers a variety that is sure to have something to suit your tastes and always has a new flavor on rotation to spice things up.
Collaboration has been key from the start for Beejou.“It was really important to me to collaborate because I want to support all these places I love downtown. I thought it was a fun way to get people to hear about us and to support the community because, especially right now, I think that is super important. These are all my friends as well, so I think it’s just a really cool way to support and it’s just been a lot of fun,” Suhyoon says, “We’ve collaborated with Ride On Smoothies, we have a Maltitude collab on tap now, we’ve done Fountain City Coffee, we are also in a beer at Chatabrewchee, we’re in a cocktail at Vertigo, and Stock Market is going to be doing drinks with our stuff as well. It's been really cool to collaborate with these like-minded, local businesses.”
The job has quickly won over Suhyoon as not only a personal business project but one that expands within the community as well. Despite the difficulties of running a new business, Suhyoon finds many outweighing positives: “As an extrovert, It’s great to get to talk to people all day and play with the flavors. I love that I get to share our kombucha with so many unique people, and I love that we’re building a community around it. It’s really important to me as a business and as a person to support other small businesses so we also do our vendor days where we highlight local small businesses. And we get to have fun!” ◼︎
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