Saturday, June 24, 2006
Smooth move: Moss opens juice bar in West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Randy Moss walked behind the counter in
a pinstripe suit with a red striped tie, traded his jacket for an
apron, took off his sunglasses and went to work making smoothies
for customers at his fruit-juice franchise Saturday.
Moss put his money where his mouth was, opening an Inta Juice franchise in his native West Virginia and investing in the company.
Hundreds of people turned out at the grand opening of the Inta
Juice store in Charleston to get Moss' autograph and try the
product the all-pro wide receiver first tasted while he was with
the Minnesota Vikings.
"Am I getting paid for doing this today?" Moss said, flashing
"Yeah, we've got minimum wage coming to you," replied Berkley
Fuller, executive vice president and chief business development
officer of Fort Collins, Colo-based Inta Juice.
The store sells more than 50 flavors of fruit smoothies and
fresh juices, along with healthy snacks.
The first smoothie Moss made, Luscious Lemon, was bought by Joe
Burgess of South Charleston for his wife, Carol, who returned a few
minutes later to get Moss' autograph on her cup.
"I think it's a great thing that he's doing. It's beneficial
for the community," Joe Burgess said. "He's putting his roots
back down in West Virginia. Right now Randy is trying to come back
and pay back the community."
It all started when Moss, now with the Oakland Raiders, and his
Vikings teammates would often visit an Inta Juice franchise in Eden
Prairie, Minn., near the team's headquarters.
His favorite was the Caribbean Blend, made with lime sherbet,
raspberry juice, strawberries and bananas.
"It's really the first one that I ever tasted," Moss said. "I
fell in love with it.
"By being so healthy and being able to taste the product, I was
overwhelmed. Whenever I figured out that I could have something
like this of my own, that's why I did it."
A year ago, Moss and his lawyer, Tim DiPiero, were visiting a
Florida business that makes a mask spoofing Moss and his trademark
afro. Moss told DiPiero he wanted to go try a smoothie at an Inta
Juice competitor's shop and the subject of Inta came up.
Moss, a Rand native, then directed DiPiero to call Inta Juice
about bringing a franchise to his native West Virginia. DiPiero was
skeptical at first.
"I said, 'I don't know. West Virginia, we're a bunch of people
who seem to like junk food,"' DiPiero recalled telling Moss. "'I
don't know if they'll go for this healthy food."'
But that made Moss, who shies away from junk food, even more
"I just think it's a good fit," Moss said. "We really didn't
have anything here in town for the people that tasted like this and
being as healthy as it is. So I just thought about investing and
bringing it back home."
Like DiPiero, Fuller wasn't so sure initially, either.
"My first reaction was a little bit of surprise," Fuller said.
"Why is Randy contacting us? What's he interested in?"
Moss went to Colorado to talk with company officials directly
and won them over. Not only did Moss start the process of opening a
franchise, he made an undisclosed, substantial investment in Inta
Juice, earned a seat on the board of directors and became involved
in marketing the company.
He even attended a soccer game for Fuller's daughter, which
showed Fuller that Moss is not like the oft-criticized football
player. Once someone gets to know him in person, "he really is
different than the way the media kind of makes him out to be,"
It turns out that smoothies were another way for Moss to smooth
out a rift with his home state.
Although he was a Heisman Trophy finalist at Marshall in 1997,
Moss hasn't been a hero in the community.
He spent a few days in jail for a parole violation in 1996. By
his rookie season with the Vikings in 1997, several articles were
written in which Moss criticized his home state and said he was
happy to get out of West Virginia.
But his image continued to take a hit.
There was his "I play when I want to play" comment with the
Vikings. He squirted an official with a water bottle in 1999,
verbally abused corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001 and bumped
a traffic control officer with his car in 2002.
In 2004, Moss was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his
pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during Minnesota's playoff win
and also drew criticism for leaving the field with 2 seconds left
in a regular-season loss against Washington.
But over the years, Moss has held annual autograph sessions for
children in Charleston and has taken several busloads of kids to an
Ohio amusement park.
"I think it takes time," DiPiero said outside Moss' Inta Juice
store. "Actions speak louder than words. We've never had so much
positive feedback than we've had from this. You can tell by the
turnout that the people are excited.
"I don't think there's any doubt that the healing's been going
on for some time and the repair is pretty much finished. I think
we're in good shape now. It's all positive."