Planet Smoothie Settles into Orbit at Cadence Downtown

September 11, 2014

Expect frequent crowds at Planet Smoothie, because ... yum.

Expect frequent crowds at Planet Smoothie, because … yum.

by Brad Poole

Downtown Tucson has seen an explosion of eateries in the past couple years. One after another, great restaurants have poured forth from our midtown cornucopia. But few of them are places to snag a quick snack or lunch. If that’s what you’re looking for, I have two words for you – Planet Smoothie.

The sleek new smoothie and frozen yogurt spot at 413 E. Congress, tucked into the bottom of the Cadence parking garage near the 4th Avenue underpass, offers an über-healthy, über-affordable alternative to gourmet burgers and mac and cheese.

Owners Michelle and Alonzo Williams, who won the company’s rookie store of the year for their Planet Smoothie shop at 7315 N. Oracle, are hosting a grand opening Sept. 13 for the Downtown store. They aren’t just trying to make money – they want to embrace Tucson and make us all a little but healthier.

Tucson's latest smoothie shop is tucked into the bottom of the Cadence parking garage just east of the 4th Avenue underpass.

Tucson’s latest smoothie shop is tucked into the bottom of the Cadence parking garage just east of the 4th Avenue underpass.

Planet Smoothie isn’t junk food. It’s real food, although there are touches of fun like gummi bears and sprinkles to top your frozen yogurt. They use organic ingredients when possible, and they have a wide range of healthy additions for your drinks.

“We have anything from spirulina to hemp seed that we can put in our smoothies,” Michelle said.

The menu includes a mind-boggling array of choices, starting with classic fruity ingredients like berries, mango, banana and peach. The lite smoothies – also very fruit-centric – are all under 300 calories, and the energy ones are designed to give you a boost when you need it.

“Each category represents a lifestyle choice or a choice for where you are in your day,” Alonzo said.

When they decided to open a shop, among the first decisions was whether to go franchise or purely local.

“That was a difficult decision,” Michelle said. “To go franchise means security. To go on your own means complete creativity.”

You'll find fruit, fruit and more fruit at Planet Smoothie.

You’ll find fruit, fruit and more fruit at Planet Smoothie.

In the end, Planet Smoothie’s corporate powers offered them wide leeway. They asked permission – and got it – to color a little outside the corporate lines. They went out of their way to make the Downtown shop a little more Tucson. They didn’t think their college-aged employees would like the style of the hats and shirts Planet offered, so they designed their own hipper, cooler ones. They didn’t think the customers would like the standard decor, so they picked their own, more eclectic styles.

Their menu is also a little more Tucson than other Planet Smoothie stores. They serve (gluten-free) baked goods from a local company, and their wheat grass is grown locally.

The local power couple has what Michelle called a “one-two punch” of business savvy. She grew up poor in Tucson, never went to college, then launched, nurtured and sold a legal document company. She is now semi-retired and brings what she hesitantly called “street cred” to the table. Alonzo brings the book smarts, although Michelle is clearly not lacking in smarts! He went to University of Arizona for both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is now a vice president for Family Life Radio.

Working at Planet Smoothie is much more than a job. The Williamses told their 15 employees, most of whom are college students, they plan to help them grow into whatever professions they choose.

“We’re going to mentor and develop you,” Alonzo said.

Planet Smoothie will be open for business Sept. 13. Stop in and say hello … and surely you will leave a little bit healthier than when you got there.

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