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Friday, February 9, 2007

The Jamba Era

Back in '97, life was not going as planned for yours truly. I was pretty much shifting through jobs because I still had no idea what I wanted to be doing (just before turning 21). I was living here in Sacramento for the first time, with my sister and brother in law. The strange part of it was that she thought it would be fun. So, my life as a third wheel began. It was actually a very fun time as I was introduced to some very cool people and started to really feel like Sacramento was my new home, which was a big deal.

As a Fresno boy, I was one of those guys who didn't really plan on leaving. I had the same friends from elementary school all the way through graduation and that was something I wasn't ready to let go of. Everytime I'd go back to Fresno after moving here, I would approach the sign for my exit and I still felt like I was going home and it was a long time before I started feeling that way about Sacramento.

I worked with my brother in law, who is a software engineer and back then was working on his own. I did the typical office help duties, invoices and such. I even got to tamper with some systems he was working on for some friends. This was my introduction into the world of computers and I was enjoying it. That was until Dan changed directions and moved into software alone and I was just not "wired" for that kind of work.

I went with my sister one day to a Jamba Juice for a smoothie. (why else right?) I had heard of smoothies before, but I had no idea that this kind of place existed. It was amazing, and I was hooked the second it hit my lips.

My sister thought it might be a good idea to apply there, so I did. That's when I met the woman who would be my manager at a new location. She and I talked and quickly formed a bond that has lasted 10 years, far beyond our days with Jamba. I told her that I was interested in management, but since I had no prior experience she told me that I'd start like everyone else but she'd keep me in mind when the opportunity came up. I trained at one store and took to the job very quickly. I was filling in for people left and right, which got me more money and helped me solidify my blender skills quickly. The manager at the training store was starting to regret not keeping me for his own, but knew that my manager needed people for the new store.

The new store opened and things were going great. I truly felt like this was a place where I could trive as a person and start to reinvent myself, which is exactly what I did. Not long after the opening of the store, I became a keyholder and took on some extra responsibilities. Time flew by and everything was great.

Then, after a few evaluations, our store was made a training store. Any retail food chain manager knows that it's a huge compliment. It means that the company finds your store to e an example for others to follow so you'll train the future managers. Two new hires were brought in and I was assisting in the training of them both. Things got social between one of them and myself and I found myself involved futher than I had thought would be possible. It was around this time that I was approached to become asst. manager of my store. I was training in the bay area, so she and I were getting closer. Casual dating turned into to a relationship. She lived in the bay area and got a new store out there, but the store was not going as planned for her and caused her much grief.

I knew that the regional manager was impressed by her during training so I made it known that she was available if there was a store in the area for her. Upon hearing of this, she immediately put her into a new store closer. That's when you'd think that everything started to progress for her and I. What I didn't know is that she was homesick to an extent that caused resentment for anything that didn't remind her of home in the bay. She would criticize things about Sacramento time and time again and hearing her bash my new home was not something I was in favor of. The decline happened fast, and we found ourselves living together physically, but emotionally she was very far away. I started going out and putting my life back in order waiting for her to move on. A phone conversation killed what was left and it was done. I was upset for a while, some of my friends and family saw it first hand. But I was not broken, and soon after I was back on my feet.

Work was changing with some new faces, including a new regional manager.

The dynamic of the store changed and I wish I could say it was for the better. Our team suffered a huge loss with the death of one of our newest members. We all attended the funeral and I read a poem I had written for his parents as a memorial to him. Some of the people in the store posted a bit of a shrine to remember him. We got closer as a group, but soon everything would change. Following some controversy revolving around the funeral my manager, my first contact at Jamba and mentor up to that point, was let go.

We were given a lot of answers but none that made much sense. At this point, the store was in complete disarray. Many of those who worked there literally just stopped caring about doing their job as they always had before. I arranged a meeting with the man that would replace my former manager. He was a very nice guy who had the opportunity to take a brand new store but chose ours. I guess he was up for a challenge! The first few months were scary. He was against anything that my former manager supported and many people were not conforming. To his credit, he was just trying to get the store back to what it once was, a fun place to work and a fun place for people to come to. People were let go, and feelings were hurt. A few months later, the store was doing better than it ever had. The people that mattered took to the new manager's style and all was well. The ones who objected were gone.

This is the point where I made a huge mistake. I had been talking to the new regional manager about getting a store of my own to run as manager. He recommended a manager down in Fresno who had asked about me after hearing of me through meetings. So, I took the opportunity to get back to my old hometown and be with my old friends in hopes of moving into my own store. It was during my time in this store that my sister was pregnant with my first nephew. I was working one night and got a call from my mom saying that my sister was in labor at the hospital and she was going up there. I arranged for the shift supervisor who was working to close up and I left with my mom. There was no way I was going to miss the birth of my sister's child. Apparently, after I left the store got a bit busy and no one was called in to help out. I was blamed for the incident and written up for it. It was at that moment that I knew I should never have gone back to Fresno. That manager was not the right person to help me in my goals. After that, I did as much as I could to make any negatives in that store into positives. Many of the people working there flat out hated this guy. I started to wonder why my regional manager had this guy picked as the person to develop me. Things went downhill and eventually I was gone.

In summary, I can tell you that the end of my time at Jamba was a huge low point in my life. However, there is not one second of my time there that I regret. I met some wonderful people, some of which I still talk to, 8 years later. I experienced pain, friendship, love, and it made me the person I am today.

As far as the company, it's a much different place than it was during my time.
The product is just as good, but the people are a little less colorful.

I may have left out names, but the events are all excactly as they occurred.
For any of the people who were a part of this experience and read this blog, thank you for being a part of this huge chapter in my life. Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

For anyone who has any questions about Jamba Juice, feel free to ask.
I'll tell you anything you need to know, with the exception of the recipes.

In the 3 years that I was with Jamba Juice I was rarely sick, always full of energy,

and in the best health of my life.

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