The fashion set often goes for juice over food. Their current favorite: Toms Juice, which is packaged in elegant, perfectly sized glasses that are adorned with a comic-book-style logo. They’re single-flavored, organic, and best served ice-cold.
Tom Wright, the 33-year-old, New Zealand–born entrepreneur behind the company, started the business in 2019 while working as a waiter. Since then, he’s landed it in every trendy fridge in Lower Manhattan. Two years ago, he opened his first storefront, in the East Village. Creative directors and stylists flock to the small store for photos to put on Instagram stories. Early next month, his ginger-lime shots will start lining the shelves of 500 delis, supermarkets, and stores across New York City.
Fashion has been a part of Wright’s world since he was a teenager growing up in Napier, New Zealand. After graduating from high school, in 2010, he took a job at Thanks Store, a men’s-clothing shop on the Bay of Plenty. In January 2013, he founded Shark Week, a streetwear brand that tapped into New Zealand’s skate culture. “It was very much D.I.Y.,” Wright says. “We were a bunch of friends having a good time.” Between shifts at another men’s-wear boutique, Good as Gold, in Wellington, he was selling his long-sleeve tops to stores around the country.
But Wright was restless. In 2016, when his girlfriend decided to move to New York, he went with her. “It felt like the right time for a change,” he explains. After traveling for two years between New York and Copenhagen, where his brother lives, he started looking for work. In 2018, he took a job as a waiter at a trendy, tinsel-light-clad Swiss restaurant in SoHo, where Eurotrash and people in the fashion scene mingle.
“People kept asking for fresh-pressed juice, and there was a gap in the market,” he explains. Popular establishments, such as Juice Press and Joe & the Juice, usually used large plastic containers with low-quality ingredients. Coming from Wellington, where farmers markets are ubiquitous and trash is recycled, he decided to make a simple product: organic, cold-pressed juices in glass bottles. “The format was important,” he explains.
“People kept asking for fresh-pressed juice, and there was a gap in the market.”
During the first few months, he sold juices out of his apartment, in Greenpoint, for $5 to friends and customers. When the restaurant where he worked temporarily closed during the pandemic, he was suddenly out of a job. “I was like, ‘Shit. What am I going to do?’ So I got a bike, and I signed up to one of these delivery apps.” On his first day, he picked up an $80 order from Juice Press and delivered it to “the perfect customer,” a juice aficionado who spent hundreds on it every week. “That was my first and last day doing delivery [apps].”
A few months later, Wright was delivering his own juice to dozens of customers a day, traversing the city by bicycle. “I was trying to make 500 bucks to scrape through.”
Soon after, he was regularly dropping off juices at the Supreme offices, on Bowery. The store manager nicknamed him “the underground GOAT.” Not long after, former Bon Appétit editor Alex Delany was praising his trendy outfits and juice, and designer Philip Post and artist Curtis Kulig became regular customers.The T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats with his logo, which he sells both on his Web site and in the East Village store, are on influencers all around SoHo.
Though success might be daunting for some, Wright seems perpetually relaxed. After all, he’s been a creative director before, and selling juice isn’t all too different from selling clothes. “Juice, fashion—I’ve been involved in everything from making product to retail to wholesale my entire working life. It’s all the same thing at the end of the day.”
Elena Clavarino is the Senior Editor at AIR MAIL