Former pastor makes job transition – smoothly

Over the last decade, Sam Harris has gone from shepherding a flock of young believers to blending smoothies.

  • Wednesday, July 30, 2008 12:00am
  • Business

Sam Harris

Sam Harris says it’s all about people

Over the last decade, Sam Harris has gone from shepherding a flock of young believers to blending smoothies.

He said the career change has been surprisingly smooth.

Harris, now the owner of three Emerald City Smoothie stores in Kent, worked for seven years as an associate youth pastor in Vancouver before joining the health-drink company. In a way, he said, he still uses his ministry skills every day.

“I still get to work with people,” he said. “My passion is working with people. When I was a youth pastor, I spent a lot of time investing in the lives of teenagers and their families. And that corresponds here. I used to help people develop a closer relationship with God. Now, I’m helping my customers establish a healthier lifestyle.”

Harris, 41, said health is what Emerald City is all about, and it’s one of the reasons he’s so passionate about the fast-growing franchise chain. The company deals in smoothies that are “low in fat, low in refined sugar and high in protein,” he said, as well as a full line of nutritional supplements and vitamins.

“Our passion is health, offering a healthy smoothie that doesn’t just taste good, but is also good for you,” Harris said. “It’s kind of a one-stop health shop. People can come in, get a healthy smoothie, get a bottle of Vitamin C and get a jug of protein all in one stop.”

Emerald City now includes more than 60 stores in Washington, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and California, but Harris got involved early on, when it was just a small family business — his family’s.

“My father-in-law started Emerald City in 1996 in Federal Way with one store,” he said. “And people started coming to him telling him he needed to expand it.”

Harris moved to the area from Vancouver to begin Bible school to become a pastor, but he ended up joining his father-in-law, Tex Hefner, in 2000 to help grow the business and support his family of five. He worked to expand the smoothie chain and eventually bought his own store in Kirkland in 2002. He soon bought additional stores in Seattle, Redmond and Kent.

The founding family sold Emerald City to a group of investors in 2005, but Harris still owns and operates five Emerald City franchises: three in Kent, one in Kirkland and one in Seattle. His Kent stores are located at 1428 W. Meeker and 21110 84th Ave. S. His third just opened in June at 26027 104th Ave. S.E., and he plans on having a grand opening event toward the end of the month.

Harris said he invites Kent residents to try his stores’ smoothies, not just as a snack or dessert, but as a meal.

“People love them,” he said. “A lot of people actually use our smoothies as a meal replacement.”

As for his business future, he said three Emerald City stores will probably be it for Kent, but he hopes to open another Seattle store and perhaps another Kirkland location. As for his ministry, Harris said he stays involved by being active in his local church, but he hopes to return to shepherding someday.

“I’d like to get back to it full time someday,” he said. “But right now, I’m really loving what I’m doing.”

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