A.V. business owners struggle to survive

By Rene De La Cruz
STAFF WRITER

As Sherri Stoneman gave birth to her son, Brandon in 2006, her joy was quickly tainted when doctors discovered that she had uterine cancer.

“I was shocked when they told us,” said Stoneman, as she sat next to her husband, Terry, outside of the couple’s Juice It Up! shop in Apple Valley on Friday. “It’s been a rough go, but we’re managing.”

As the Stonemans move into their fifth year as franchise owners, the couple took a break to reflect on their eight-year journey of pain, joy and heartache.

In 2004, Sherri Stoneman began her quest to become an owner-operator of her own franchise, but in the midst of her struggle to get her dream off the ground, her son’s birth, cancer surgery and the failing economy took it’s toll on the family.

“On one hand, I was excited about my son, but I felt all alone while tying to get the store up and running,” Sherri Stoneman said. “My husband was working full time, and I was a new mom dealing with post-cancer surgery, building permits, water issues, inventory, training and a bunch of building delays.”

As the store opened on the busting corner of Apple Valley and Bear Valley roads, Terry Stoneman began to see the light at the end of the health and financial tunnel.

A year into her new venture, Sherri Stoneman finally got some much needed assistance from her husband, but help came at a terrible price.

“I lost my job in 2008, after 18 years at the glass plant in Victorville,” Terry Stoneman said. “We lost our insurance, and I couldn’t find a job.”

As the severe economy bore down on the couple, Terry Stoneman rolled up his sleeves and began to dive head first into the world of juicing.

“This is her store, I’m just helping out until I find work,” Terry Stoneman said. “We’re doing OK, but this business is seasonal.”

As employee Corinne Rueger, 20, fed the large industrial juicer a container of cucumbers, a wave of customers filled the small lobby and gazed at the large menu board.

“This is our weekly trip to get our smoothies,” said Kristi Heuck, as she accompanied a senior couple from the Sterling Inn retirement community. “They usually get the Congo Lime and I love the Passion Peach.”

In October, the store introduced a raw juice bar with a produce lineup that includes kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, carrots, lemon and ginger.

“Most people think it’s nasty to drink vegetables, but with the right ingredients they taste wonderful,” said Rueger, who started as an intern, and would like to someday be an owner.

“We’re still struggling, but not like we used to be,” Sherri Stoneman said. “We held it together with a lot of prayer, faith, hard work and juice.”

Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.