Selling health in an urban setting

Anissa Adkins Eddie ’05


Winter 2013

Anissa Adkins Eddie ’05 and her husband, Jermale, were wondering what God’s plans were for them when they returned to Grand Rapids after a few years of ministry with a startup church in Port Arthur, Texas.

Anissa, a social work/Spanish major at Calvin with an MSW from the University of Michigan, landed a part-time social work position at an elementary school—while taking care of sons Malachi and Nehemiah.

Jermale, who worked at Calvin for a few years as program director for the multicultural student development office, was initially engaged with a local business college.

Both of them, however, had the feeling there was something new on the horizon.

“Jermale saw a co-worker drinking something green and got curious,” said Anissa. “That conversation led us from one discovery to another and is how we find ourselves here.”

“Here” is Malamiah Juice Bar, on the first floor of the new Downtown Market on Ionia Street in Grand Rapids. The Eddies own the enterprise (named after their two sons) and have been marveling how the Downtown Market has captured the attention of people in the area.

“We see God at work,” said Anissa,” weaving together all of the different experiences we’ve had leading up to this moment. So many amazing things have happened; you can’t tell me God wasn’t in this.”

Jermale followed up on that “something green” and began investigating the health benefits from natural juices. He was further inspired by the Joe Cross documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead—a testimonial about the health-invigorating power of fresh fruit and vegetable juices.

“I became energized by the health importance of juices. I concluded that if we became involved in this we would basically be selling health, not a particular product,” said Jermale.

“We also saw this as a unique way in which we could contribute to communities of color,” added Anissa. “Many communities are tied to traditional foods which are delicious and have deep cultural roots, but they aren’t always healthy foods. More balance in diet is needed.”

The Eddies with Governor Rick Snyder

In addition, the Eddies saw possibilities in building health education in neighborhoods and churches around their healthy diet concepts, as well as a chance to provide youth employment and mentoring to young people in urban neighborhoods.

They take great enjoyment in how Malamiah Juice Bar has brought both of their skill sets together—and how both are needed to be successful.

“The business is pushing me in areas where I need development, and the same has been true for Jermale,” said Anissa. “He’s the visionary and spokesperson and I’m the bullet points and details person—but it has been crucial for both of us to improve in the other’s strong suit.”

Through local funding and an innovative partnership with the Downtown Market, Malamiah opened on time and is thriving amid the excitement associated with the entire urban market concept. (Recently, Governor Rick Snyder visited the Eddies and their juice bar at the new market. See above.)

Anissa continues as a part-time school social worker and Jermale is now the director of education for the Grand Rapids Urban League. All of that activity—plus two young sons—makes for a busy lifestyle.

“Our hope for the business has always been beyond profit,” said Anissa. “We want people to be blessed physically and beyond. And, we want to leave behind a legacy of healthy living—for our sons and our community.”