The Eddies—Jermale and Anissa—thought they were starting a business. But in opening the Malamiah Juice Bar in the Downtown Market of Grand Rapids, they’ve started a lot more.
“I graduated from Calvin with a social work degree and had certain ideas of serving in the community,” she said. “When my husband talked about starting a business, that seemed like a diversion at first. Instead, our skill sets merged really well, and we’ve found a very valuable way to serve.”
Their business, named after their sons, was a leap of faith. Neither had much experience. It was their emerging vision to do something with mission and purpose that drove them forward.
“Our three values, ones that we want our kids to embrace, are excellence, integrity and kindness,” said Anissa. “We figured that if we keep this high standard and treat everyone that way, to do what we say we’re going to do, God will bless our efforts.”
Anissa sees their business as much more than making a healthy product—although that’s important. Malamiah employs numerous young people, and there’s been intentionality to offer jobs to overlooked communities and to provide mentoring to all of their employees.
“We’re very moved by what happens in the lives of the students we employ,” she said. “One who started with us during her last year of high school shared that our environment had become her sanctuary. That’s what we’re about.”
The couple have also been purposeful about making an impact beyond the juice bar, bringing health education into parts of the city that rarely get such attention. There are initiatives with women at an urban center, holistic wellness education in a number of schools and public events centered on health promotion.
Anissa sees her Calvin education as a springboard to her understanding of what Malamiah attempts to accomplish.
“Calvin gave me the language to describe what we’re doing,” she said. “It is taking all things and putting them under God’s glory. We’re making product, but we’re constantly analyzing how all of this serves God. I noticed how, at Calvin, every class, club and activity was embedded in faith. That’s our vocation, our calling.”
She is also very intentional about another aspect of the business: creating an environment that’s joyful.
In her view, there are many who make a good product, but far fewer who go beyond the sale and make a deeper connection with customers and community.
“The concept of joy is powerful to me,” Anissa said. “We want to create a culture that leaves an impression on the customer.”
Malamiah has certainly captured the city’s attention. The Eddies have just opened a second venue in Grandville, Mich. Life has been a whirlwind, she admitted.
With new baby Josiah joining older brothers Malachi and Nehemiah, Anissa will be backing off the pedal-to-the-metal pace somewhat. She said the “mom role” needs to be more prominent in the days ahead.
But she will stay integrally involved in the endeavor.
“One thing about our approach,” she said, “is that this is all very personal. This business is named after our kids so yes, it is quite personal to us. We want to stay accountable.
“There are things we’re more successful at than others, but Christ calls us to live well—which has so many meanings. We intend to focus everything under God, to build a reputation that honors him.”