By Morgan Bryce
Former Tuskegee University football star Keon Davis has always possessed a strong vision, not only on the gridiron, but for his future. The founder and owner of the popular smoothie business Smooth-N-Groove, the business has expanded to Opelika, and will soon be opening up its first storefront location in a new shopping mall just outside of Tiger Town Jan. 16.
Davis, an Anderson, Ind., native, was recruited to play football for Tuskegee out of high school. Following a successful football career that included three conference championships, Davis graduated in 2010, receiving degrees in both sales/marketing and business administration.
His wife Emily, whom he met at Tuskegee, was still in veterinary school at the time, so in order to stay close to her, took a job as a car salesman at a local dealership. Nearly a year later, he turned his old passion for blending sodas and other drinks together and turned it into a business venture.
“When I was younger, I was always mixing drinks … I’d take a Coke and mix it with a Sprite or a Sunkist and mix it with a root beer or something. I’ve always done that, but never thought anything of it before starting this up,” Davis said.
His father-in-law had owned and operated a smoothie business in New Orleans for years called Smooth Encounter, and Davis borrowed ideas from him, even inspiration for his new business’s name.
In September 2011, he opened a kiosk at Max Fitness gym in Auburn, working 13-hour shifts every day, and offering free samples to help build relationships with gym members and establish his brand, which he said proved to be a challenge at first.
“At first, nobody knew what I was talking about … I did a lot of hustling. Everybody that walked past, I was speaking to them, giving them samples … just to try to get them to come over and check it out,” Davis said. “Once I’d been doing that for a while, and people started trying samples, everybody was like, ‘wow, this tastes good.’”
After a lot of hard work and experimentation, the kiosk’s popularity grew, and with that came the opportunity to expand to Auburn University’s campus, and beyond.
In 2013, he bought a food truck, and set it up on campus, which soon became a hit. Davis attributed that not only to high quality drinks and smoothies, but the fun, family-friendly atmosphere surrounding the Smooth-N-Groove truck.
“Since the beginning, I wanted to give our customers not only a great smoothie, but a great experience. We are a smoothie business, and sell smoothies, but for us, giving our customers the best experience possible is what we’re all about … and while you’re having a great experience, get a smoothie or some food too,” Davis said.
In the last three years, the business has seen astronomical growth. Davis added another food truck, and has since had a presence at events in Atlanta and Birmingham. The company recently contracted with Walmart in an agreement that will add 150 Smooth-N-Groove kiosks to store locations in the Southeast, and after a deal with NASCAR, have food trucks set up at major races like Daytona and Talladega.
When it came to selecting a physical location to open his business, he said Opelika was the perfect place because of demographics and the rapid expansion of Tiger Town.
“We did a lot of research on our target market and our perfect customer … and all of that led us here to Opelika,” Davis said.
He said that the store will combine all the elements that his food trucks and kiosks have, and customers can expect to walk into a fun, family-friendly atmosphere with lively music, bright colors, large seating area, and wide menu selection, which will include their famous smoothies, juice bar, and sandwiches, all part of his plan to enhance the customer experience.
“We want this place to be like a modern-day ‘Cheers’ … you come in and it’s just a friendly environment, where everybody wants to go to. It’s not a bar, or restaurant or one specific thing … I just want it to be a place where people can go and have a good time and relax,” Davis said. “And our mission for our product is this: we try to make a healthy product taste good. When most people think about healthy stuff, they think about something bland … and what we do is take something like that and make it taste as good as possible, which might make you think you’re cheating but you’re really not.”
Davis said another major reason for his business’s success is the team of people he works with, most notably Quinton Foster, who has been assisting Davis in expanding the Smooth-N-Groove brand.
“We’re excited to have our store open in a great area like the Opelika/Auburn community. We’re growing, and it’s been great to be a part of that growth,” Foster said. “We work together all the time, and we’re together more than we are with our families … and even though he is the sole proprietor for this business, he sees me as both a friend and business partner. Our goal is to keep growing, and become not only the best smoothie company in America, but the world.”
For more information on Smooth-N-Groove, visit their website and Facebook page. The store is located at 2701 Frederick Road.