In the Limelight with Julie Stark
photo by John A. Secoges, Secoges Photographics
Albany Township resident Julie Stark moved back to Kempton from Los Angeles a little over a year ago for a fresh start – quite literally (freshness is a huge part of it). She returned to Berks seeking a change from her impressive career creating visual effects for the movie business and now wows crowds by crafting the very healthy, natural juice drinks she’s been enjoying for decades.
In addition to her credits as New York photographer, Oscar winner and veteran vegetarian, she can add entrepreneur because Stark Juice, which debuted last summer, has garnered rave reviews and diehard fans from every corner of our county.
Q: You grew up in Kempton? When did you move out west?
Actually between Lenhartsville and Kempton, only four miles from where I am now. I went to art school at Kutztown [University] and moved to New York City after graduation. I worked there for 10 years, in photography and television. While I was working for the USA Network I began doing digital compositing, which led to doing other visual effects. I then moved out to L.A. and worked for 25 years in the film industry.
Q: What was the last film you worked on?
It was Life of Pi, which won four Academy Awards in 2013, including one for best visual effects. I worked for the company that did the effects for that film. Ironically, two weeks after the Oscars, it shut down due to financial issues. It filed for bankruptcy and was later sold to a firm in India.
Q: Is that what led you to consider making a change?
It sure did. I didn’t want to leave the U.S. to continue working, which was what many people had to do to stay in the industry. I had always wanted to start a raw juice business. I had been juicing in my kitchen for years and have been a vegetarian since I was 14, so I’ve always been very interested in nutrition and eating well. Many of my friends encouraged me; they’d tried mine and thought they were better than most of the juice bars in L.A.
Q: Is it hard to make them taste great and still be packed with nutrition?
I’d always made them but truly started developing recipes when a good friend broke his jaw. I got creative and did some research to help him get proper nutrition and have tasty “meals.” As I devised recipes, I also started making smoothies and nut milks to add variety – and they taste amazing; they’re very popular – and his doctor said he’d never seen someone with his injuries heal so quickly. The juice and its raw nutrients do that, and more.
Q: How and when did Stark Juice start?
I moved back to Berks about a year and a half ago and was looking for a place to start the business. Then last summer a friend offered me the use of a barn she and her husband own, which had a commercial kitchen. It took some time to get the place up to code and pass rigorous inspections for food prep, especially unpasteurized goods, but I began selling last summer at the West Reading Farmer’s Market. I’ll be back there this summer.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve come full circle, being back where you grew up?
It’s been amazing seeing everything from childhood through new eyes, with new appreciation. The beauty – what I see each day, the farmland, the Blue Mountains and Pinnacle – is breathtaking. I think when you grow up in a rural place, you want to go to the big city, but I’ve come back and realized everything I needed was right here all along.