After the visual effects studio where she worked in Los Angeles filed for bankruptcy, Berks County native Julie Stark spent the next year getting ready to open a raw, cold-pressed juice operation in Albany Township.
It’s been a sweet investment for someone who had been in the film and television industries for about 30 years when she lost her job with Rhythm and Hues Studios in 2013. Stark created computer-generated images and effects which pull together the final version of a film well after the camera-recorded moments are completed.
“I worked in the film industry for a really long time, and you could see that it was coming apart at the seams,” Stark said. “Foreign governments were offering tax incentives to the corporate-owned film studios to take their work to their countries [such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada].
“If you’re bidding on a film project, and a foreign country is offering a client potentially $10 million to take their work there, that’s $10 million you have to take out of your bid.”
A few months after the late 2012 release of “Life of Pi,” for which Stark contributed, talks of a studio shutdown began. (The film received several nominations for Oscars, later winning four of them.)
But before she left her film career, Stark and co-workers would chat about what kinds of new jobs they might take.
Stark, meanwhile, had turned to juicing to remain nourished during long hours of post-production work, buying the fruits and vegetables from local growers.
So, it was natural that she thought about juicing as her next profession, and, by 2014, she made it a reality.
Stark said she plans to eventually grow her own fruits and vegetables. For now, she largely sources tree fruit from County Line Orchard not far from her production facility and various kinds of produce from Eckerton Hill Farm in Rockland Township.
Eckerton Hill Farm is run by her brother, Tim Stark, whose heirloom tomatoes are sold at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan.
“The juices are made from nothing but fruits and vegetables – no additives, sugars, preservatives or fillers, and no heat for pasteurization,” Julie Stark said.
“As completely raw juices, the benefit is that the live enzymes and good bacteria are still alive in the juice,” she said. “They are what the body needs for a healthy gut.”
Stark makes year-round juices but also season specialty blends based on what is ready for local harvesting.
Some of Stark’s marketing is photographing scenes near her operation and adding branding through graphic design onto silos and a tractor. Often, customers ask how she maneuvered so high on the silos to paint them because the art looks authentic.
She uses these visuals online and also printed postcards of them, distributing them at cafes, yoga studios and health clubs.
Posting to Instagram has helped greatly, too, as well as paid advertising on Facebook.
Because nonpasteurized juices can’t be sold in grocery stores, customers buy from Stark at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Muhlenberg Township and the Allentown Farmers Market. She also sells at regional open-air seasonal markets.
GOOD START TO THE DAY
Dominique Caron has been buying Stark’s juice from the start and buys a dozen or more 16-ounce bottles weekly at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market, mostly Green Glow.
“I know it’s better for me health-wise,” Caron said. “… I feel lighter, like I’ve got a good start to my day.”
She calls the juices a week’s worth of salad in a bottle.
‘SHE IS A ROCK’
Todd Shifflett used to work with Stark at Rhythm and Hues Studios. A visual effects supervisor, he now works for the Los Angeles office of Pixomondo.
“She is a rock,” Shifflett said. “The hours and stress of visual effects production can really take a toll on a person’s life, and it’s important to have people around you who are focused, attentive to detail and can maintain a healthy sense of humor.”
Shifflett said he was conflicted when Stark left the industry.
“I knew that the visual effects community was losing a rock star, and, selfishly, I would miss working alongside of her,” he said. “But knowing that she would be able to pursue another passion, one with the potential for a healthier work and life balance, was something I was very happy to support.”