To Taras Strachnyi, the East Village is home. He has lived in the neighborhood since he moved from Ukraine when he was nine years old and he describes it as his “favorite place in all the boroughs.” It is not surprising, therefore, that he chose the East Village as the new location for BeQu, his Brooklyn-transplant juice store that stands for “Beyond Quality.”
Taras got an early start in the world of juices. In 2000, when he was fifteen years old, he started a summer job at Lucky’s Juice Joint, which would soon become Liquiteria. Even as a teenager, Taras recognized that “Liquiteria was at the top.” There were not many juice places in the city at that time, but even so, Taras recognized that Liquiteria’s consistency, cleanliness, and attention to detail put it above the rest. The summer job turned into an after-school job and Taras became a manager at the tender age of seventeen. He explained how he was exposed to a “whole new world of juicing, cleansing, and detoxing.” While his friends went off to college, Taras remained, learning the ins and outs of running a juice business and taking classes on the side. He says he had a great teacher: “The owner was an amazing leader,” he told me. “He didn’t like to be called the boss….he was just an amazing person.”
In 2008, Taras achieved his dream of opening up his own cafe in Brooklyn with his brother, Peter. He had no desire to compete with Liquiteria, so he opened in a different borough and split his focus between food and juice. After Liquiteria was sold to new management, however, Taras moved juice to the forefront and started looking at real estate in the East Village. In 2012, he moved to 9th Street. He holds true to the tenets of quality and service that he learned in his early juicing days, and it clearly pays off. He proudly informed me, “Many familiar faces from fifteen years ago at Liquiteria come to visit.”
What makes BeQu different from the many other juice shops in the city, in Taras’ mind, is the fact that they work in micro-batches. Where many companies mass-produce, BeQu makes four to five bottles at a time, so that they can pay attention to detail and prevent heat and light from getting into the juice. They also do cold-pressed juice on the spot and have close relationships with the twenty-five local farms that provide them with apples, celery, spinach, kale, ginger and other produce from Long Island and Upstate. “We still use the traditional method of making juice. It is that process that originally made these juices popular,” Taras proudly stated.
What I found most impressive is that Taras makes sure that every customer knows exactly what they are consuming. There is a story behind each product. “Every item I sell out of here has to be special,” Taras assured me. He told me that when the shop is not busy, he will take customers into the back to see how the juices are made. “We have nothing to hide,” Taras explained. He gives each customer a personal experience. “I’m very proud of that,” he said.