4 Suns Fresh Juice sees a new day after Easter reopening


Nixie Strazza/The Daily Northwestern

A mural depicting Owner Gabrielle Walker-Aguilar inside 4 Suns Fresh Juice. The recently reopened juice bar aims to provide the community with a cultural space rooted in health and wellness.

Nixie Strazza, Reporter

Between the burning incense and bowls of blended fruit, every aspect of 4 Suns Fresh Juice creates an experience for the five senses. When customers enter the shop, owner Gabrielle Walker-Aguilar wants them to feel like they landed on the beaches of Haiti. 

“You come in here and you smell vitality, you see culture and you hear Caribbean and Soul music or a documentary about eating well,” Walker-Aguilar said.

4 Suns Fresh Juice opened in December 2020 with a mission to meld Black heritage and mindful eating. But it closed temporarily on December 21, 2021, citing declining sales towards the end of its first year due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. After months of hibernation, the health food eatery resumed its blending and juicing operations with an Easter celebration on April 17th.

Walker-Aguilar said surviving the pandemic was made possible by an outpouring of community support. Residents contributed to a GoFundMe page throughout the early months of 2022, which allowed the shop to restabilize financially and work toward reopening. 

“(The community) gave me the chance to be present in the space by giving me grace,” Walker-Aguilar said. 

The juice bar, located across from the Robert Crown Community Center, hopes to broaden how Black culture and inclusion of traditional soul foods are expressed in the world of wellness. 

Following the death of her mother and two older sisters, Walker-Aguilar said she sought to better understand the link between diet and diagnosis, expressing healthy lifestyle choices through her juices and smoothies.

“Many of us do not realize how connected what we eat is to how we live,” Walker-Aguilar said. “Learning that you can reverse some things through what nature provides is a real eye opener.”

In 2018, before a brick and mortar store was financially feasible, Walker-Aguilar held pop-up juicing stations at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center with the help of her four sons — after whom her eatery is named for. Using whatever fresh fruits and vegetables she could find, Walker-Aguilar made healthy eats accessible to her native neighborhood. 

When a permanent location became possible, Walker-Aguilar opted for a shop closer to her childhood home in the 5th Ward. She wanted to share her extensive knowledge on wholesome eating, she said, with the community that raised her. 

“When I would find juice bars or healthy ways of living and eating, they were never in low income or predominantly Black and brown communities,” Walker-Aguilar said. 

Walker-Aguilar pulled from her own world travels and Caribbean roots to create a space reflective of the diverse makeup of the city. The art found around the shop, including a sprawling mural in shades of purple and green, depicts Black beauty and island vegetation, accentuated by plants hanging from the countertop. 

A loyal 4 Suns customer, Evanston resident Kelli-Ann Alcott first learned of Walker-Aguilar’s mission on Facebook before the location opened.

Alcott said Walker-Aguilar’s local upbringing and close ties to the community set her apart from other businesses. 

“That is where the potential for success comes from,” Alcott said. “If you understand your audience and provide what they need.”

Evanston resident Deshana Newman said 4 Suns Fresh Juice is breaking the mold on what Black-owned restaurants in Evanston can look like. 

Unlike the “seen on television” depiction of traditional soul food — fried chicken, grits and biscuits doused in gravy — Walker-Aguilar is instead providing a new definition of feel-good soul food in the form of smoothies with the longevity of the community in mind. 

“The location couldn’t be more perfect,” Newman said. “Especially when we get the warmer days there’s a patio for people to sit out and enjoy.”

Walker-Aguilar hopes to expand 4 Suns beyond fresh juices in the near future through indoor seating and an extensive dine-in menu.

In addition to smoothies and juices, visitors can purchase magnets, incense and essential oils in the store. As she returns to business and considers her future plans, Walker-Aguilar remains dedicated to fostering lasting connections between servings of her spinach banana Hulk Bowl and mango cinnamon smoothies.

“Evanston needed a cultural space rooted in wellness,” Walker-Aguilar said. “Not a bar, not a fried food place and not just grab and go. We needed a place to gather.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @NixieStrazza

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