A Leap of Faith

Joe Perez helps the people of his hometown of Corpus Christi achieve their fitness goals, one smoothie at a time, at Smoothie King-Corpus Christi.

By: Sarah Tindall // Photos by: Paul Marshall

 

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Joe Perez has spent his adult life helping people. He was intrigued at an early age how people from around the country came together in time of disaster when it came to wild fires.

While employed by the National Park Service, he was trained to be a national response wild land firefighter. His career choice allowed him to travel the country fighting fires by saving lives and property.

His fascination with protecting America’s treasures took him to a new high. He accepted a position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the same capacity. That move led him to become the Department of the Interior emergency response coordinator in charge of the mobilization of national resources to all risk emergency response, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and national threats to American soil.

Now, as the owner of Corpus Christi’s only Smoothie King franchise, Perez enjoys spending his days helping folks in his hometown reach their fitness goals, one smoothie at a time.

The two seemingly unrelated professions make sense when Perez explains that he experienced what many of us face: He was very fit as he made his way up the ladder with the National Park Service, working at Padre Island National Seashore starting at the age of 16 and then moving up to a wild land firefighter after he completed his education, before he got the desk job with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that derailed his fitness regimen. He, like most, got in his comfort zone, sitting in his office eating fast food for breakfast and lunch, not to mention, having a snack drawer.

The once fit firefighter was now captivated by the taste of greasy food, and before he realized it, he had reached a mind-blowing 35 pounds of overweight status. He was working long hours, picking up dinner on most nights for the sake of convenience.

Like most life-changing moments, it was a normal day for Perez when he discovered Smoothie King. “I was in the Houston airport, going on an emergency response assignment for the federal government, and the people next to me were going to get a smoothie at Smoothie King, so I followed them there. I was immediately hooked,” he says. “I attempted to get back on track by having a smoothie a day in my local Smoothie King in Lufkin, Texas. I became a regular while coming home to Corpus Christi at the location on Saratoga between Everhart and Staples.”
The rest is history; Perez and a friend were in Smoothie King one day when the owner approached him about buying the store. “I laughed it off, but a year-and-a-half later, after some negotiation, the store was purchased in April of 2008,” Perez explains.

Perez’s reasons were many. He is a single parent raising his son, and pursuing an extremely demanding career made it easy to take a leap of faith. He accepted a job with Department of Justice – U.S. Marshals Service to come home to Corpus Christi. He had already purchased Smoothie King-Corpus Christi, so he spent his evenings working his business.

He took a plunge and resigned from the U.S. Marshals Service to take on his business fulltime. Although he truly enjoyed his career choice, he felt it was time to spend quality time with his son, family and friends. His career kept him from spending as much time with his son as he’d like, as well as him from meaningful relationships with his family and friends here in town. “I lived out of my suitcase, traveling most of the year, and I had lost touch with my friends and family,” he says.

Owning Smoothie King has given Perez the opportunity to work with a product that he believes in, to contribute to the well-being of the folks in his hometown and to reconnect with family and friends. “I loved it the most when my son came to work at the store with me,” he says. “That’s when I realized I made the best decision.”

The products that he offers at the store are also something that motivates him to come to work every day. “I’ve always been into health and fitness, working out and eating healthy, and this was just the perfect fit for me,” Perez says. “I did a lot of intensive research, looked into the company and how it started and why, and I was intrigued by the concept of inspiring people to live a healthy lifestyle. I was interested in that, especially in this community in Corpus Christi. As a Latino, I witness the struggle my culture faces with issues such as diabetes and being overweight, and this was a way to give back to my friends and family and my community. It is something I feel passionate about.”

Smoothie King-Corpus Christi got off to a rocky start, with sales numbers placing it as one of the worst performing stores in the country when Perez purchased the franchise. But Perez persevered and took his product to the streets, literally, by attending local 5K runs, handing out samples, attending fitness fairs and pounding the pavement, letting all the locals know what he had to offer at his store. The hard work paid off. The store that started off as the worst performing out of 500 stores at that time in 2008 is eighth in the country out of 700 today.

And the company has grown and changed, as well. Smoothie King has become an athlete-friendly store, carrying products that help athletes reach their fitness goals, as well as giving them a place to find the smoothies that are fruit- and or veggie-based and make a great meal for anyone, whether their personal goals are to eat healthier or to achieve fitness milestones.

“We have 80 different types of smoothies – something for the very young to the weary,” Perez says. “Also we cater to folks struggling with diabetes, and cancer patients who can’t hold their weight and others on strict dietary restrictions because of their health. We also have products that the avid athlete loves, high in protein and helping to fuel workouts, as well as meal replacement for adults who want a healthy option for any meal.”

The store also carries at-home products such as the Gladiator, which contains 45 grams of protein, vitamins and amino acids with less than 2 carbs, meal replacement bars, cleansers and vitamins. The big hit this season has been the new veggie smoothies with kale and other superfoods, as well as the diet delight dark chocolate smoothies that will satisfy cravings while keeping you on track.

Perez has big plans for the future of Smoothie King in Corpus Christi. His third annual Fitness Challenge kicked off in January and helped hundreds of locals get their New Year’s resolutions rolling in style. He has plans for more locations in the Coastal Bend and the surrounding area, and he will then be able to even further impact the health of his hometown, one smoothie at a time.

 

For more information on Smoothie King-Corpus Christi, like them on Facebook (@smoothieking-corpuschristi), stop by the store at 5017 Saratoga Blvd. or email smoothieking581@yahoo.com.

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